Month: March 2020

Answers needed for PPE concerns in home support

Increasingly concerned home support workers are worried that without adequate personal protective equipment and mandatory protocols for risk assessments, they may end up spreading COVID-19 around the homes and communities they work in.

The news that 21 hospital workers are now self-isolating as a result of exposure to NZ’s first person to have died from COVID-19 has raised additional concerns for the support workforce who say processes and protocols in their sector are not robust enough to cope with the complexities and challenges of self-isolation requirements.

Jan, a support worker from the South Island who doesn’t want her last name published, is worried about safety.

“I sometimes visit 20 or more homes in a day, I visit our over 65s and people with disabilities or other long-term conditions, and I am concerned for the safety and wellbeing of my clients, and myself,” Jan says.

“We cannot stay six feet away from those we support when we provide personal cares such as showering, we’re usually in close contact. I think there’s a misunderstanding about what we do – we want to continue to support our clients, but we don’t want to be responsible for community spread here in NZ.”

“I know support workers around the country talking about quitting the sector for good if these concerns remain, and I know many are talking about refusing to work in situations which they consider to be unsafe.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says that Jan’s concerns are being echoed across the board.

“Care workers worldwide share these concerns and, alongside other frontline health workforces, are calling for PPE to be made available to them,” she says.

“We’ve heard that there isn’t a supply issue here in New Zealand, but support workers currently struggle to access it, and the current advice to support workers is that they do not need it unless they are dealing with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Providers with PPE including masks must urgently pass them on to the support workers they employ. If they don’t have any, DHBs must act to distribute the PPE support workers need at this time.

“Unless something is done fast, this could become a public health disaster – clients are beginning to cancel their care, and ultimately if they become unwell they will end up in hospital at a time when our health system must be prioritised for those requiring COVID-19 and other urgent treatment.”

E tū has met repeatedly with Ministry of Health and DHB representatives to raise the concerns of support workers and is calling for urgent action on the matter.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Kirsty McCully 027 204 6354

Victory! Sistema workers off on full pay

E tū members at Sistema have secured a huge victory, with all production workers off work on full pay for the next four weeks.

Sistema claims to be an essential service and had originally told workers they would be working through the Alert Level 4 shutdown period.

The members were not satisfied with the lax approach to health and safety, so they left the building and refused to do anymore work on Wednesday, until they could be sure it was safe.

After a WorkSafe visit today, the company has now told workers that they will not have to report to work and will be on full pay for the next four weeks.

E tū member and production worker at Sistema, Ilisapesi Talanoa, has a lot of gratitude for her colleagues.

“A big thank you to union and non-union members for standing up for what’s right. You’ve stood up to protect yourself and your family,” she says.

“I’m so proud that everyone came together to fight for our health and safety. Our first priority is our people.”

Ilisapesi also has a message for all Kiwis: “Be safe, be kind, and much love.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says that this result wouldn’t have happened without the members taking matters into their own hands.

“Let’s make no mistake, this is a direct result of workers coming together to defend the safety of themselves, their family, and their community,” Mat says.

“Many Kiwis will remember the struggles that Sistema workers have been through. They’ve learnt that they have real power over their work lives when they stand up for each other.”

Mat says that the classification of essential services is quickly becoming a massive concern as the New Zealand workforce deals with the COVID-19 impacts and restrictions.

“There are two main issues. The first is the risk of employers dubiously claiming that they are an essential service because they are somewhere along the supply chain for actual essential services. We will need a lot more clarity around this in the coming days.

“The second issue is that those who actually qualify as essential services are often completely unprepared for working safely, such as by providing PPE and giving workers enough physical distance from each other.

“Both issues mean that unions and Government need to ensure WorkSafe, the Labour Inspectorate, and workers themselves are vigilant to ensure the virus can’t spread through unsafe work.

“Until then, workers around New Zealand should learn from Sistema workers’ brilliant example – to stay safe, we have to use our collective power. Every decision we make to slow the spread of the virus will save lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

ENDS

For more info and comment: Mat Danaher, 021 336 519
Sistema members may be available for interviews on request. Please contact Mat to arrange.

Sistema workers walk out over H&S concerns

Workers at Sistema’s Auckland plant have taken matters into their own hands today as the company refuses to take their health and safety seriously. They are now on a health and safety strike.

When workers have been asking about personal protective equipment (PPE), they have apparently been told to “wait and see” what the government advice is – despite clear regulations coming into force.

They have also been required to keep working on production lines, often standing less than a metre apart for hours at a time.

With this being clearly unacceptable, workers have now gathered in the carpark and some have gone home.

E tū organisers are assisting the workers, including by making sure that they are practising physical distancing while on strike.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the employer’s behaviour is despicable.

“E tū is appalled by the brazen lack of respect and common decency from Sistema,” Annie says.

“All workers have a right to healthy and safe work. It is as clear as day, from the government advice we are all receiving, that the conditions described by E tū members at Sistema are far from adequate.

“We have had many issues with Sistema in the past, but this is simply abhorrent. We completely support any of our members refusing to work in unsafe conditions – that is their legal right.”

Annie added Sistema’s behaviour puts us all at risk.

“This is not just about our workers, it’s about their families and communities. It’s about anyone who they may come into contact with. Sistema is putting production ahead of the health of New Zealanders. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Kiwis will die because of employers like this not taking COVID-19 seriously.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders are making gigantic sacrifices to keep each other safe. Now a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars is compromising that to try and squeeze a little bit more out of our overworked and underpaid members.

“New Zealanders have united against COVID-19 and are uniting against the small handful of employers who think their profits are worth more than our lives. We can now add Sistema to that list of disgusting businesses.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

E tū Support phone lines affected by national interruptions

Dear members,

With the significant announcement made by the PM this afternoon that we are on the way to ‘alert level 4’, we are experiencing an extremely high number of calls to E tū Support and we are affected by the nation-wide interruption to phone lines. We appreciate that there is so much uncertainly and many people will need to talk to the union about work arrangements.
If you can, please send an email to [email protected] instead of calling, or try calling later.

We appreciate your understanding and will continue to work to get everyone as well informed and represented as possible as the situation develops.

Stay safe out there.

Aviation package: workers await more detail

E tū welcomes the Government’s emergency package for the aviation industry, announced today.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says it’s one part of the right approach.

“It’s responsible to take care of basic infrastructure, and the package should stop the industry grinding to a complete halt,” Rachel says.

“However, we still don’t know what this means for workers both at Air New Zealand and in the aviation industry in general.

“Our priority is always working people, and we are looking forward to the specific support for our members from both the Government and the employers.”

Rachel added that we can’t forget how imbalanced wealth distribution is in New Zealand and across the world.

“We know that extreme global inequality has been driven by a select few hoarding most of the wealth. So, while the stock markets are taking a big hit, I doubt that the world’s billionaires are struggling to put food on the table.

“The top 1% didn’t create their wealth – their workers did that. If we’re to weather this crisis, we simply have to make fair distribution of wealth the top priority.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

COVID-19: Useful info for E tū members

Dear E tū members,

As you all know, COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a serious developing situation in New Zealand and across the whole world. We know many of our members are facing uncertainty, especially in their jobs.

Your union is acting quickly to support you with the best information and advocacy possible.

E tū’s position

E tū is advocating for the health and safety of our members, and for our members to keep their incomes and leave entitlements if they need to self-isolate, have time to care for dependents, or are sick themselves with COVID-19.

This means that you shouldn’t have to go to work if you are sick or if you are in danger of transmitting or catching COVID-19.

This also means you should get paid when you need to be away from work because of COVID-19, including when you are in self-isolation as directed by the Government or health officials.

Our first call is for employers to use their own resources to make this possible. We also recognise that the pandemic is huge, and that there is a strong role for Government to invest in our wellbeing and in our futures.

Now it the time to talk with your fellow union members at work about how you will respond to the pandemic at your workplace. Our voices will need to be heard at all levels of decision-making.

The Government package

The Government has released the first step in their emergency package to help workers and the economy through the pandemic. It is only a first step, but we welcome the support for all working people, whether they are employees, contractors, or casual workers.

What this means specifically for your job and industry will become clearer in the coming days and weeks. Click here to read our statement about the announcement today.

E tū will update you in the coming days. Remember you can call E tū Support on 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

General guidance from MBIE

  • If an employer requires an employee not to come to a workplace, workers should be paid. Paid sick leave (and anticipated sick leave) may be used if the person is sick or needs to care for a sick dependent. If paid sick leave is not available, special paid leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be used by agreement between the employer and the employee.
  • If an employee, who has been advised to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, can’t practicably work from home, then special paid leave should be considered. Other forms of paid leave can be considered (such as paid sick leave) and used by agreement between the employer and the employee.
  • Your employer has a responsibility to manage the health risks to workers and other people affected in the workplace and treat employees in good faith. They should plan ahead and work with workers and unions for likely scenarios of COVID-19.
  • If workers are sick with COVID-19 or have been advised to self-isolate under Ministry of Health guidelines for COVID-19, your employer must act in a way to contain COVID-19 and protect public health.
  • Workers cannot be allowed or required to come to workplace when they are sick with COVID-19 or if they have been advised to self-isolate under public health guidelines for COVID-19. If employers allow this, they are likely to be in breach of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • Employers might explore whether working from home is practicable during the self-isolation period. In that case, workers should be paid normally.
  • Contractor pay and leave is not covered by this guidance. Employers and contractors can agree to any payment arrangements they wish to.

COVID-19 package “A strong start”

E tū is welcoming the Government’s first phase of the financial stimulus package.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that the announcement is a strong start and will help some workers deal with the stress that COVID-19 (coronavirus) is causing in their work lives and beyond.

“We have now been assured that the Government is taking an appropriate leadership role in protecting New Zealand workers, businesses, and communities,” Rachel says.

“We particularly welcome the aspects of the package that support all working people, whether they are employees, contractors, or casual workers.

“It’s very important to get this right, as the gig economy sees more and more workers without the protections that they need.”

However, Rachel acknowledges that many E tū members will need further assurance that they will be looked after.

“The $100 million allocated for assisting with redeployment will be crucial for our members who are already facing redundancies. Redeployment needs to happen effectively, which means consolation with workers, unions, iwi, and the wider community.

“We eagerly anticipate the details of the package that will relate to certain E tū members, such as the over 5,000 E tū members at Air New Zealand. We urge Air New Zealand and other aviation employers to come to the party, as the Government has done.

“The Finance Minister has described the response as ‘swift, decisive, and compassionate’ which is exactly the right direction to be heading in.

“We will stay together in union and engage with the Government and employers to end up in the best possible position. This is the start of a very rocky road, and the voice of working people will be vital at every twist and turn.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

COVID-19: Air NZ cannot afford to lose valuable staff

E tū is urging Air New Zealand and all aviation employers to minimise job losses as the company announces they estimate 30% workers will be made redundant as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E tū, the largest aviation union in New Zealand with 5,200 at Air New Zealand, is holding urgent delegate meetings across the workforce to discuss the company’s announcement.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that mass redundancies will not be in the company’s long-term interest.

“Air New Zealand knows that their dedicated workers are the backbone of their operation. Our challenge to them is to hold fast to their commitment to high-wage, high-skill employment,” Rachel says.

“They have a choice in how they respond to this crisis and we call on them to work with people in our unions to find a way through that builds a future of decent work, skill development and a strong voice for the experts – the people who do the work.”

Rachel says that it’s not just aviation workers who will be affected by immediate economic impact of the pandemic.

“This is the start of a much larger challenge that all Kiwis will need to face together. Air New Zealand has an opportunity to lead by example and pull out all stops to keep workers employed in good jobs.

“As the largest private sector union in New Zealand, with over 54,000 members, we represent people across the many industries that will be affected by the economic effects of COVID-19.

“People working in hospitality and tourism will clearly feel knock-on effects from the border restrictions. Our members in healthcare, including aged care and hospital workers, are understandably worried about the months ahead.”

E tū is expecting the Government’s economic package announced tomorrow to minimise the impact of the economic downturn on workers in aviation and beyond as much as possible.

“Working people simply cannot bear the brunt of the incoming economic fallout. Our Government’s intervention must go as far as it possibly can to guarantee income for everyone affected.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

E tū is deferring our Delegate Forums due to COVID-19 (coronavirus)

You will all be aware of the fast-developing COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation. The Government has announced tight measures to contain the virus as long as possible before community-transmission takes hold.  We are playing our part in the public health response.

E tū is deferring our Delegate Forums that were going to be held during April until further notice.

Please advise your employer now that leave to attend your Delegate Forum is no longer required.

Delegate Forum remits and representation to our July 2020 E tū Conference
 
Our Delegate Forums include two important constitutional functions:

  • Delegate Forums can put remits to the E tū Biennial Conference scheduled for July 2020.
  • Delegate Forums elect representatives to attend Conference.

Over the next few days, we will be emailing you to call for remits and nominations for Conference representation.
 
Conference remits
 
Over the coming days, we will send you an email calling for any remits that you may want to have discussed at Conference.
 
Any remits that are sent back to us will be tracked to the relevant Delegate Forum that they are linked to.  Remember that under our rules our National Executive will be making recommendations to conference in relation to remits received.
 
Conference representatives
 
We will also email you to call for nominations from among delegates to represent their Delegate Forum at our Conference.
 
We will receive those nominations, including the required nominator and seconder, and track them to the Delegate Forum they are linked to.  Nominations must have a brief supporting biography.
 
We will then run an online voting process sending nominations and biographies to delegates linked to relevant Delegate Forums and receiving their online vote response.
 
Our Returning Officer, Christopher Gordon, has already been endorsed by our National Executive and can oversee the voting process.
 
There is no need to do anything now – we will email you separately on these matters over the coming days.
 
Thank you.
 
Bill Newson
E tū National Secretary