Month: September 2020

Workers celebrate Labour’s new workplace policies

The Labour Party’s Workplace Relations and Safety policy release today will see workers across the country being much better off.

Policies announced include doubling minimum sick leave entitlements, continued minimum wage increases, implementing Fair Pay Agreements, and job protection for security guards.

Mareta Sinoti, a cleaner at the National Library, says that the extra sick leave is desperately needed, “especially in winter as people always get sick”.

“I work in a public area where we are careful about keeping people safe, especially with COVID-19 we are always cleaning and sanitising workplaces as part of our job. 

“It will be better for everyone when Labour give workers more sick leave so that we can look after our health and our families properly.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that the next government needs to prioritise Fair Pay Agreements, in the first 100 days, as a part of our economic recovery.

“Workers’ wages must lead the COVID-19 recovery. Labour’s policy goes some way towards ensuring that we stop the ‘race to the bottom’ for some of our most vulnerable workers.

“Fair Pay Agreements are a big part of that picture. We are one of the few countries in the OECD without a framework for sector-wide bargaining, and we need to catch up.

“The experience of COVID-19 has reminded us that workers need to be properly engaged in decision making at every level. That’s what Fair Pay Agreements are all about.”

ENDS

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

More Air New Zealand redundancies proposed, but airline refuses to end outsourcing

E tū calls on the country’s national carrier to halt outsourcing in the wake of fresh cabin crew redundancy proposals.

On Wednesday, Air New Zealand announced its proposal to make around 385 cabin crew redundant by December, as part of its plans to cut staff numbers further.

However, the company is continuing to outsource work, retaining an agreement with a cabin crew hire company in Shanghai.

An E tū member who wishes to remain anonymous says the redundancy proposal is “devastating” for crew, with the state of the industry wreaking havoc on their ability to earn a living.

“Every time as cabin crew, we think we are going to get a reprieve and get back to doing what we love – we keep getting hit down.

“We’ve already lost 900 mid-to-long haul crew. We want to see Air New Zealand flourish and we want to save New Zealand jobs. Our goal is to see the airline bounce back as quickly as it can, so we can start getting our colleagues back,” they say.

“We constantly ask why the [Shanghai] base is still going, and it is something we will be trying to deal with through this process.”

Another E tū member, also anonymous, says the situation seems like “a rollercoaster ride that doesn’t seem to stop” and will inevitably create issues related to personal and financial wellbeing, particularly for crew that have spent most of their careers at Air New Zealand.

“Crew want to be able to move forward. Some feel this isn’t about the company getting into ‘revive mode’, but rather like a race to the bottom – trying to get crew on minimal salaries using the excuse of COVID-19.”

E tū head of aviation, Savage, says while crew can see the damage COVID-19 has done to the aviation sector, there is no operational reason for Air New Zealand to retain a crew base in Shanghai.

“The Shanghai base has always been about paying crew less and devaluing the role of cabin crew. Outsourcing is a barrier to raising standards in aviation and it needs to end.

“When the work comes back, it needs to come back to Auckland-based cabin crew,” he says.

“For the company to focus on immediate labour costs, without taking into account the bigger picture, is short-sighted and damaging to all aviation workers.”

Savage says the airline and the jobs it provides are a vital piece of New Zealand’s infrastructure.

“The Government’s new approach to procurement – to help create jobs for those most affected by COVID-19 – is something Air New Zealand needs to follow. Creating skilled jobs and training the future generations of airline workers and cabin crew is essential to our economy.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

Labour’s Living Wage policy “real victory” for low wage workers

E tū congratulates the Labour Party for saying yes to a Living Wage for all contracted workers in government.

The Government currently pays the Living Wage to all workers in the public service. However, the new policy would see contractors, such as cleaners, security guards and caterers, now included.

It was announced by the party’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson, Andrew Little, and Economic Development spokesperson, Phil Twyford, at E tū in Auckland on Saturday.

E tū member Rose Kavapalu, who has worked for 15 years as a cleaner on just above minimum wage, says she is so thankful to Labour for promising a Living Wage for her and all cleaners in the sector.

“I’ll only have to work one job, and I’ll have more time to spend with my family and my grandkids.

“With the Living Wage, I’ll be able to pay my debt – that’s why I had to move in with my parents because I couldn’t afford [to live].”

Fellow E tū member and security guard Fa’atalatala Matamu says it was 12 years since her last pay rise, before the Government delivered the Living Wage to all guards at the Ministry of Social Development from September 1.

“Before we were struggling, we had to work long hours. I’m humbled to stand in front of you today and say ‘thank you, Labour’ for the pay rise.

“Now I’m able to pay off all my debts – as I had been taking loan after loan, just to survive. Doing a job for so many years that wasn’t paid enough to afford my own home – I’m [now] looking at that one as well.

“I’ll be able to save money, to help my grandkids who I haven’t been able to spend much on, because of the low wage that we receive.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary and National Convenor of Living Wage Movement Annie Newman says the policy has been “a long time coming” for thousands of cleaners, security guards, and catering workers who currently live in poverty and work excessive hours just to make ends meet.

“In the COVID-19 recovery, the economy needs workers purchasing goods and services and that will only happen if they are paid a decent wage. Every dollar our members earn goes straight back into the local economy and that’s good for everyone,” she says.

“Finally, we are seeing a policy that values essential workers who are ensuring the health and safety of the rest of us during these difficult times.

“They are putting their lives on the line for us and should be receiving a decent income that enables them to be full participants in society – it’s only fair.”

Annie says the policy is a “real victory” for all the workers and the communities that want to put an end to a low wage economy.

“Once the Government shows leadership in paying a Living Wage to all their workers, we know standards will shift in other sectors across the board.”

ENDS

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

The Struggle for Relevant Daily Pay

By John Ryall, former E tū Assistant National Secretary

It seems obvious that if you are forced to have a day off sick you should be paid from your employer what you would have normally received if you had worked on that day.

However, this has not always been the case and it has only been through an amendment to the Holidays Act in 2003 that a separate right to sick leave of 5 days a year was created and that this was to be paid at “relevant daily pay”.

Not many people will realise though that 20 years before then the orderlies at Wellington, Hutt and Silverstream Hospitals fought for the same right.

The orderlies were then employed under the New Zealand Hospital Domestic Workers Award, which up until 1979 awarded them 10 days sick leave per year to be paid at ordinary pay.

The orderlies worked six days a week and their sixth day always occurred on either Saturday or Sunday at Wellington Hospital and at the other hospitals could occur on any day of the week depending on the roster. They were required to work the six days. If they were sick on any of their first five rostered days they would be paid eight hours at their ordinary hourly rate and if they were sick on their sixth day they would be paid nothing.

Despite the occasional grumble that they should be paid sick leave for all six days the roster worked well.

Award Sick Leave Changes

In 1979 the Hospital Boards agreed to a union claim to replace the Award sick leave clause with another one that appeared in most employment agreements in the state service. This gave the orderlies a more generous entitlement with an accumulation of untaken sick leave up to 365 days.

However, the more generous entitlement came with a catch. If you were a Monday to Friday worker and were sick for a week then you were paid five days sick leave but lost seven days from your entitlement.

Clause 14 (a) of the Award provided:

Where an employee is granted leave of absence on account of sickness or injury not arising out of and in the course of his employment he shall be entitled to full pay according to the scale set out in the schedule hereunder.

And clause 14 (d) provided:

Sick leave with full pay for each period allowed shall be reckoned in consecutive days inclusive of Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays.

Before the ink was even dry on the newly printed Award Wellington Hospital orderlies started complaining about the non-payment of sick leave on their sixth shift, which always occurred on either a Saturday or Sunday.

Their complaint was that if they were sick on a Friday and a Monday then the new Award removed an entitlement of four days, but they were only paid sick leave for two days rather than the three days for which they were arguing payment.

The Wellington Hospital Personnel Manager wrote to the Wellington Hospital Board Industrial Relations Manager Rino Tirikatene, who responded

Should Wellington Hospital conditionally require orderly staff to be permanently engaged on a six day shift weekly roster then each one of those six working days becomes applicable for sick leave with pay providing such staff have genuine sick leave and an adequate number of days entitlement

Issue Won’t Go Away

Despite this memo nothing was done and when I commenced work as an organiser in June 1982 the sick leave issue was still bubbling away.

The Wellington Hospital orderlies raised the issue again with the hospital management in 1983 but were told that they didn’t have to work the sixth day if they did not want to.

In 1984 the power dynamic changed with the election of some new active Wellington Hospital orderly delegates, who were not scared to take direct action to fix outstanding grievances.

A number of strikes were held over the re-negotiation of the Award and despite the head delegate Alan Wakefield being dismissed, the compulsory conference held to determine the outcome of his dismissal also heard stories of the orderly’s sick leave grievance.

In July 1985 the Wellington Hospital Deputy Director of Administration agreed to part of the claim. While the payment of sick leave for the sixth shift was not agreed, the Wellington Hospital Board would not in future deduct this shift off the orderly’s sick leave entitlement.

This move did not shut the issue down but gave it more steam.

In September 1985 the Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union wrote to the Department of Labour for their opinion on payment of sick leave for the sixth shift under the NZ Hospital Domestic Workers Award. Their response supported the union view that the orderlies should be paid.

The Department of Labour opinion, which was circulated far and wide across the Wellington Hospital Board workforce, shook the Board managers.

Union Proposes Disputes Committee

The union, picking up on this state of affairs, proposed to the Wellington Hospital Board that the union and board should urgently meet as a Disputes Committee, with an agreed chair, put forward both sides in the dispute and allow the chair to issue a decision which would not be appealable.

In November 1985 the Board wrote to the union and agreed for a Disputes Committee Chair to give advice to the parties but not to make a binding, non-appealable decision on the matter.

The Board though did agree that if any orderly was absent through illness on a Friday and a Monday then in future they would be paid at ordinary rates of pay three sick days and not two.

This offer was taken back to the Wellington, Hutt and Silverstream Hospital orderlies and was unanimously rejected. The demands had hardened up and there was going to be no settlement without the payment of overtime when sick on the sixth day and the orderlies threatened to go on strike unless their demands were met.

Wellington Hospital orderlies delegate Jock McMahon posed the key question:

“Why do we have to lose pay when we are sick? We are a hospital caring for sick people and we should be paid for our sick leave the amount we would have earned if we had not been sick. We don’t want to be forced back to work when we are sick because we cannot afford to be off work.”

The threats of strike action led to an early meeting of the Disputes Committee, under Chairman Jim Newman, but no resolution was arrived at. After some delay the chairman referred the matter to the Arbitration Court in June 1986.

The Arbitration Court heard the case in October 1987 and sought to answer two questions:

  1. If a worker employed under the Award is granted leave of absence due to sickness under clause 14 and if that worker is required to work a six day week as a team of his or her employment, does the employer have to pay sick pay for the sixth day?
  2. If the answer to the question is yes, is the amount the board has to pay defined as “full pay” under the same clause, the amount the worker would have earned had he or she been working that day?

The union was represented by lawyer Sandra Moran. It was the first time I had seen Sandra in action. She was relatively small, very well dressed and looked like she would not hurt a fly. However, she had a steely tone to her voice that cut like a rapier and her cross-examination was so ruthless the employer witnesses just wanted to agree with everything she said in order to quickly depart the witness stand.

The Court took just less than two weeks to deliver its judgement in writing, affirming that the orderlies were required to work a 48 hour week and when sick must be paid “the monies he or she would have received had he/she performed his/her normal work on his/her sixth day on the roster irrespective of the day of the week on which the sixth day happens to fall.”

Attention Turns to Other Workers

While the union focussed on organising around the six year’s backpay for the Wellington, Hutt and Silverstream Hospital orderlies and other workers (such as a group of Wellington Hospital cleaners who worked a six-day week), it also turned its attention to other workers who were not receiving “full pay” when they were sick. This included public hospital orderlies, cleaners and food service workers who were sick on public holidays and weekends (where it was not their sixth shift) both in Wellington and throughout the country.

The actions of the Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union to extend the case beyond the sixth-shift orderlies was not without controversy both within the Hotel and Hospital Workers Federation and amongst other unions.

While the words of Wellington Hospital orderlies delegate Jock McMahon portrayed a simple concept of sickness not automatically leading to a reduction in pay others saw the concept as too radical and challenging, perhaps because of the potential cost to the public health system of six-years backpay for tens of thousands of health workers, including doctors and nurses.

The Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union returned to the Labour Court in October 1988 on behalf of a weekend cleaner and a kitchenhand on a rotating roster that included work on the weekends. Both these workers were paid ordinary pay when sick on the weekends. They claimed that “full pay” included their weekend penal rates and other allowances in addition to their ordinary pay.

Judge Castle, who had also heard the earlier case, said in his judgement that extending the full pay argument beyond six-day workers was “inevitable” and ruled that it was not proper to interpret “full pay” as anything else than the “agreed contracted pay with the worker”.

Both the newly created Area Health Boards and the hospital contractors refused to settle the 1990 NZ Hospital and Area Health Boards Domestic Workers Award without the elimination of the words “full pay” from the sick leave clause, the abolition of the travel time clause and the removal of the union veto over the employment of part-time workers.

With the writing on the wall for the fourth Labour Government and the National Party already secretly drafting the Employment Contracts Act, the union conceded full pay providing all members received hundreds of thousands of dollars in backpay and the date for its removal was extended out to 26 August 1992, which co-incidentally was the day after the expiry of the last national award.

While hospital workers had to wait another 11 years before the fifth Labour Government amended the Holidays Act to allow for relevant daily pay rather than ordinary pay for sick leave, the change would not have been possible unless the Wellington Hospital orderlies had identified an injustice and fought for its removal.

Labour’s tax policy: “It’s about time!”

E tū congratulates the Labour Party for their tax policy, which will see the top two percent of income earners and multinational corporations paying a fairer share.

A new top tax of 39% will kick in for every dollar earnt over $180,000, and the party has committed to working with the OECD to find a solution to the issue of multi-national corporations not paying their share of tax.

E tū National Executive member and Senior Gardener at the University of Auckland, Jason Fell, is pleased with the news.

“I’m very happy. I think it’s a good start, and it’s about time!” Jason says.

“When you look at how long it has been since any progressive tax changes, it’s clearly the time for action. We need to slow down the inequality that hurts our communities across the country.

“And if you’re a person who earns over $180,000 and objects to paying a little bit more to help your fellow New Zealanders, well that’s just a joke in itself.

“I think taxation is the price that civilised communities pay for the opportunity to remain civilised. I’m happy to pay my fair share, and I’m pleased that those at the top will start paying a fairer share as well.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that the Labour Party’s policy announcements are off to a good start.

“A new public holiday and a fairer tax system are both excellent policies for workers in New Zealand,” Annie says.

“Our members in the media and communications industries will be celebrating the international cooperation to address the way that big digital platform owners, such as Google and Facebook, skirt local tax obligations.

“We are looking forward to more progressive policy from the Labour Party during this election campaign, including a recommitment to the Living Wage, Fair Pay Agreements, and a strong industrial relations policy that will improve the lives of working people their families.”

ENDS

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

Promise of new Matariki public holiday welcomed

E tū welcomes the Labour Party’s announcement to make a new public holiday in celebration of Matariki, the Māori New Year.

Official celebrations of Matariki would begin in 2022, to allow the party time to develop the necessary resources and organise public events around the day.

As Matariki follows the lunar calendar, the exact date would change annually but would always fall on either a Monday or Friday during Matariki.

E tū Co President Muriel Tunoho says the proposal is good news and important because it formally recognises Māori knowledge that is already celebrated in communities across Aotearoa.

“The announcement of recognising Matariki as a formal public holiday has been a long journey – one that is welcomed by workers, whānau, and our communities.”

National Convenor Te Runanga o E tū Sharryn Barton says the season is also a time to make a fresh start.

“For me, Matariki is a time of new beginnings and hopefulness as we emerge from the long winter months of hibernation. It welcomes the dawn of new promise and promises yet unfulfilled.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Muriel Tunoho, 027 618 5467

Proposed redundancies at NZ Steel will harm local and national economy, union says

Buying local and supporting local businesses is more important than ever, E tū says, in the wake of up to 200 redundancies proposed by BlueScope Steel.

On Thursday, the Australian-owned company who has New Zealand’s NZ Steel in Glenbrook and Pacific Steel in Otahuhu, announced its proposal to make between 150 to 200 workers redundant.

BlueScope aims to cut up to around NZ$54 million in costs, after their A$5.8 million full-year operating loss. However, they have now ruled out the closure of either Kiwi plant.

E tū member Lance Gush says members have a good collective agreement with strong terms and conditions to deal with the consultation process.

“Now it’s about maintaining what we can, working through the process to consult with the company, and minimising the impact on workers to get an outcome that’s good for everyone.

“We understand role we play in the structure of the local community and groups. We understand the business also needs to make a profit. We all want to be part of a successful business – it’s about how we do that together for the future.”

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says the consultation process will take around seven weeks, as the collective agreement means the company is required to go through an “extensive” process with members around redundancy.

“We’re arguing the company needs to maintain workers’ incomes, their hours of work, and by any means necessary, to minimise job losses.”

While it’s some comfort that complete closure is off the cards, there is a ‘supply chain effect’ when people lose their jobs, which will not only harm the economy but many New Zealand communities, Joe says.

“For every $100 it takes to make to steel, $80 goes back into our economy – that’s a huge amount, compared to the $5 return from imported steel.

“Any redundancies will have a supply chain effect which will impact many industries, including manufacturing and construction. We’ve got to support local as well – that means cafes, gyms, and other small businesses – this is what keeps our communities alive,” Joe says.

“We have to do whatever it takes to keep local businesses going – big and small – and support each other to get through this.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Grey Power, PSA and E tū launch campaign for home support with dignity

The unions representing home care and support workers have joined forces with the association for New Zealanders over 50, launching a campaign to fix our country’s fragmented and failing home support system.

Members of the Public Service Association and E tū have this week begun holding nationwide meetings, and have as a first step launched an online petition that calls on politicians across the political spectrum to take action.

The campaign is called “They Deserve the Best”, and further actions will be announced in coming weeks depending on Covid restrictions and the response from politicians.

Home care and support is publicly funded by DHBs, the Ministry of Health and ACC, but provided by a web of for-profit companies and charitable NGOs.

The petition urges politicians to overhaul the home support system and commit to:

·  Investing in home support services which enable high quality care and support for our most vulnerable, so people who need support services can continue to live with dignity in their own homes.

·  Decent jobs for home support workers. This means permanent regular shifts like other health workers have, hours and income which don’t fluctuate all the time, a proper wage for travel time, and genuine access to breaks so our jobs can be safe.

Donna Wealleans is a Tauranga-based support worker and PSA union delegate. Last week she was only offered two hours of work.

“I can’t explain what’s going on, but it’s clear the system doesn’t work. Our union negotiated a guaranteed hours agreement that means I’ll still get paid enough for last week to get by, but it doesn’t make any sense that I would get so few hours while other colleagues are given almost more than they can handle,” she says.

“It’s one example among many of how broken this system is. The only thing that keeps me coming back to this work is how much I care about my clients. They need support workers to help them keep living in their own homes, and that’s what keeps us going.”

Support workers have prepared a series of videos in which they share their experiences of the job and discuss what could be done to improve their lives, and those of their clients.

These videos will be released in the coming days on the PSA and E tū Facebook pages.

Napier’s Tamara Baddeley has been a support worker for about 20 years, but the E tū union member struggles to achieve work-life balance with the demands of a difficult and undervalued profession.

“It’s time for change, and frankly it’s long overdue. We are essential health workers and all we want is the respect and decent treatment that should go with that,” she says.

“All through lockdown, support workers went house to house, often without the PPE we needed to keep us and our clients safe. We are sick and tired of being treated like we’re expendable, and it’s time for the Government who funds our work to step up and fix the problems with it.”

Roy Reid is President of Grey Power in his home turf of Golden Bay, and Treasurer of the national organisation.

A Queen’s Service Medal recipient, his concerns about New Zealand’s home support system are informed by conversations with the former support worker who for years visited his wife at home for an hour every week.

“The same problems can directly impact on both support workers and their clients, some of whom are Grey Power members. I know of support workers who had to leave the job because they can’t tolerate the hurdles, hassles and injustices any more, and when that happens, a client can lose someone they’ve built a relationship with over many years,” he says.

“Our organisation is deeply worried by reports of home support clients having their hours cut. With some DHBs starting to propose significant overall budget cuts, we worry this could flow on to make life hard for the New Zealanders over 50 who rely on home support. It’s time to take a stand.”

Promoting inclusion and equality for all union members

E tū and its Komiti Pasifika group is calling on all members and their communities to come together in the wake of the latest COVID-19 lockdown.

Workers need to know that they should be able to get a test without being disadvantaged at work or having to use up leave in any stand-down period while awaiting test results.

E tū Food and Manufacturing Industry Council Convenor Gadiel Asiata says recent negative narratives centred on Pasefika families who have contracted COVID-19 are deeply hurtful and may make it harder for people to come forward to be tested.

“The current messages have only highlighted discrimination that has been present for generations. However, our community is a place where people love to congregate and come together as one.”

“New Zealand did not ask for this virus, no one did. There is no shame in getting tested if needed,” he says.

Gadiel says members should connect with their union if they are unsure about their rights at work and getting a test.

“We need to look after our aiga, our whānau, our families. In coming together, we are strong.”

E tū Komiti Pasifika coordinator and campaign organiser Fala Haulangi says the union has a zero-tolerance approach to racism.

“There is no place for discrimination of any kind at E tū. We work to be inclusive of every one of our members and their individual preferences and backgrounds.”

Fala says stronger rights for workers, such as Fair Pay Agreements, being paid a living wage and having 10 sick leave days, are key to creating more equal workplaces and societies.

“The importance of these issues has been highlighted again and again during COVID-19, as many of our members have continued to go to work as essential workers.

“E tū is here to support its members and will continue to advocate for decent jobs with no less than the living wage to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers and their communities.”

On Wednesday 2 September at 6pm, E tū will be holding a Facebook Live Zoom meeting for all Komiti Pasifika and E tū members, with guest speakers from the community, including Dr Api Talemaitoga and Manukau ward councillor Fa’anana Efeso Collins.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332