Month: April 2021

Support for health reforms but worker voice vital

E tū, one of the largest unions for DHB-employed and contracted health workers, aged care, community, and disability support service workers, welcomes the Government’s announcement to reform and centralise health services to achieve consistency in conditions for workers and better health outcomes for Māori and Pasefika.

E tū represents more than 15,000 health workers, including hospital workers directly employed by or contracted to DHBs nationwide, such as kitchen, cleaning, and laundry staff, orderlies, and security guards.

This also includes aged care workers, home support, and disability support workers.

E tū Co-President Muriel Tunoho, who also works in primary health care, says the establishment of a Māori Health Authority is a “huge” step forward.

“It’s never been done before and will prioritise Māori healthcare and outcomes in the context of the Crown’s Te Tiriti obligations.”

E tū Director in Health Sam Jones says although many of the details around the reform are yet to come, it lays the foundation and vision for a system that promises better outcomes for workers and patients alike.

“We support the Government’s vision and agree that there’s a better way to deliver on primary and community healthcare services.

“We’ll have a publicly-funded, centralised health system that will allow for greater consistency, including in decisions around procurement and employment.

“It’s our hope that the establishment of Health New Zealand will also lead to more equitable terms and conditions for the current DHB-employed and contracted health workers across the country.”

However, Sam says that worker consultation and union involvement will be crucial to getting the changes right: “Unions and workers absolutely need to be part of the transition conversation with the voices of these essential workers at the forefront, including regarding future announcements about disability support services.”

Sam says it’s also vital that structural reform of the homecare support sector remains a top priority, after a joint-union meeting with the Minister of Health last week.

“This remains a sector in crisis, and we want to see homecare support workers, who provide care for our vulnerable in their own homes, treated in accordance with the recommendations of the Health and Disability System Review.

“They should have secure salaried contracts that provide decent pay and hours, instead of the piecemeal reality which is placing many workers under unbearable financial and mental strain.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563

“Crisis” in home support demands urgent Government overhaul

Thousands of care and support workers help sick, injured, and elderly New Zealanders live at home with dignity, but they are denied the pay, respect, and security of hours necessary to do the same.

Two unions represent these workers, the Public Service Association and E tū. Alongside Grey Power, they are calling for urgent government action to fix the broken sector. On the evening of Wednesday 14 April, support workers will gather at Parliament to discuss their plight with Ministers and MPs.

Despite years of promises and major reforms with various degrees of implementation, a landmark new study by AUT Business School confirms home support workers remain at the bottom of the heap in New Zealand’s public health system. They’re burned out, they don’t feel listened to, and they’re sick of it.

The current chaotic mess of competing provider companies, with fragmented funding from ACC, DHBs and the Ministry of Health, must be comprehensively overhauled and replaced with a nationally consistent funding framework that guarantees secure hours, breaks, paid travel time and safe workloads.

E tū delegate Jenny Stewart, who has been a homecare support worker for 14 years, says she feels the sector is “in crisis.”

“We are feeling very worn out and stressed a lot of the time. We feel that we don’t matter to anyone [higher up],” she says.

“We’re going out in our own vehicles, unseen – an invisible workforce. Home-based support is a vital service, but it relies on a workforce that doesn’t have proper job security.”

Despite milestones like the Equal Pay Settlement, guaranteed hours, and an in-between travel time payment, Jenny says few hours are actually guaranteed. Hours may not be not replaced if clients die or go into care, and insufficient travel reimbursement means insecure, low incomes. Many leave the sector for “more hours and more money”, she says.

Workers use their own cars, own mobile phones, and frequently work without breaks. Time allotted for client care is also being cut, Jenny says.

“We are subsidising the whole sector. The Government needs to look at the issue with eyes wide open. The demand for home-based support is going to grow and it needs to be sustainable.”

PSA delegate Donna Wealleans has worked in the industry for a decade, and she is tired of seeing improvements undermined in practice by systemic failures.

“Guaranteed hours haven’t worked out for a lot of support workers. Some of us can’t take time off, while others still can’t get the hours we need,” she says.

Donna worries high turnover and deep levels of stress among her colleagues have created a “ticking time bomb”, which will ultimately put the clients they care for at risk.

“New Zealand can’t afford this to continue when we have an ageing population and a lot more people will need support.”

“It doesn’t need to be this way, it shouldn’t be this way, but the system has not been properly organised and funded by the Government. That’s where the buck stops.”

Grey Power National President Jan Pentecost says client care is being sacrificed under the current model.

“The quality of care clients receive is dependent on the employment model for our carers, and carers cannot keep battling to survive in a sector which treats them, and their work, as expendable,” she says.

“Grey Power wants a home support system which allows people to stay healthy and safe at home, and ensures providers have sufficient numbers of fully trained staff, and relief staff, to meet their contracted case load at all times.”

ENDS

Security guards’ job terms and conditions legally protected from July

Working life for Aotearoa New Zealand’s security guards is about to get a whole lot more secure, now they’ll be legally entitled to keep their job with its terms and conditions if another security company takes over the contract they’re employed on.

On 1 April, the Government added security guards as a category of employees to be protected under Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.

For security guards, this means maintaining the terms and conditions of their original employment, such as pay and accrued leave, even when their contract with one security company ends and is taken over by another.

The new legislation will come into effect on 1 July.

E tū delegate and security guard Jayson Ormsby says the news is a “great accomplishment” for those in the industry.

“I always found it odd that security work was never secure. I feel really glad and happy for those workers who will now be protected, who may have lost a lot of entitlements due to contract changes in the past.”

E tū Organiser Mat Danaher says the inclusion of security guards as protected workers under Part 6A is a really positive step forward.

“At last, security guards will have some certainty as to their pay rate and benefits when they are moving from one contract and employer to another.

“They’ll have access to the hard-earned leave they’ve accumulated and won’t have to start from zero each time a contract changes hands.”

Jayson says he hopes the new law will be the start of a better foundation of employment conditions for guards, who are also campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements or industry-wide regulation across employers.

“Security guards are usually paid different rates at different sites, and they don’t have control over the sites they are deployed to work at – Fair Pay Agreements are definitely needed.”

Mat says the Part 6A protection is the first of many changes that are needed in order to create real certainty and security in the lives of this group of workers.

“We see this as important milestone in working towards Fair Pay Agreements, which will stop the inevitable driving down of workers’ terms and conditions in a ‘race to the bottom’ as employers compete for contracts.

“All security guards deserve certainty in their employment conditions and to be paid at least the Living Wage, regardless of the site they are working on.

“These workers provide a valuable and important service, while also often facing personal risk on the job,” Mat says.

“E tū will continue to campaign with and on behalf of security guards to see them further protected and the industry transformed.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519

Community support workers wanted as researchers

What has been the impact of COVID19 on Community Support workers?

Are you interested in talking to other workers about their experiences?

In partnership with E tū and PSA unions, AUT Business School researchers are interested in hearing about the experiences of community support workers during the COVID-19 period, and the impact of these experiences on the wellbeing of community support workers.  We see community support workers as a core part of the essential workforce, and a part that needs their voices heard!

Our research aims to form recommendations in partnership with the workforce, to help initiate improvements in workers wellbeing, and to inform the response in any future disruptive events. 

The research is going to be conducted using a participant researcher approach, which means that community support workers, who have been trained by the research team, will be the interviewers.  This makes sure they have an understanding of what workers go through at work every day.

We are currently looking for people interested in being part of the project as participant interviewers. 

This would involve:

  • A training day, where you would be interviewed by the research team about your experiences, and trained in the interview process.
  • You would then interview three community support workers, recording the interviews on either your mobile phone or a digital recording device, at a time and place that suits you both. Each interview would last approximately one hour.
  • You would send the interview files to the research team.
  • After the research team has had the interviews transcribed and we have formed initial themes, we will have another meeting with participant researchers (possibly virtually) to get your feedback on our interpretation of what is being said by participants.
  • We will send you all draft recommendations to give feedback if you wish.

This work would be paid, with participant researchers being compensated for their time and travel in these activities. 

If you are confident in talking to others, and are wanting to be part of something that can potentially impact the wellbeing of the community support workforce, please contact us to find out more!

If you are interested in finding out more, please email Katherine Ravenswood: [email protected]

Victory for council’s contracted cleaners as Living Wage roll out begins

E tū welcomes the news that the roll out of the Living Wage to contracted cleaners in the country’s largest city has now begun.

From April 1, the first group of contacted cleaners at Auckland Council will now be paid at the current Living Wage rate of $22.10 per hour.

This follows on from the council’s commitment made in July last year to lift the pay rate of all contracted cleaners to the Living Wage rate during this term of council.

Today, Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand also announced that from September, the Living Wage rate will increase by three percent to $22.75 per hour for 2021/22.

E tū delegate Josephine Wiredu, who has worked at the council as a cleaner for the past two years, says to now receive the Living Wage is a “dream come true”.

“We’ve been waiting since 2012 for this dream to happen, and now finally, it’s here to stay. It’s going to change our lives for good.

“We do appreciate the mayor, Phil Goff’s, concern about the Living Wage. We are most grateful.”

Josephine says now she’ll be on the Living Wage, she plans to cut back her 55-hour, seven-day-a-week work schedule, so that she can finally spend Saturdays and Sundays with her children – something that wasn’t possible before.

E tū Transformational Campaigns Organiser Fala Haulangi says the beginning of the council’s Living Wage roll out is fantastic news, made possible by the dedicated campaigning of E tū members.

“I’m just so proud of our E tū cleaners and everything they have done for the Living Wage Movement since it first launched in 2012.

“They have been hard out campaigning all this time, including speaking in the media and sharing their personal stories, and have even faced backlash for doing so,” she says.

“They made sacrifices because they believed in the bigger picture – not just for themselves but for their whānau and communities.”

Fala says E tū continues to be committed to seeing the Living Wage reach all contracted workers, including groups such as security guards.

“We applaud Auckland Council for the actions they’ve taken to reduce inequality in our communities, and we hope they don’t stop there.

“E tū will continue to campaign until all our lowest-paid workers are paid at least the Living Wage.”

ENDS

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

Commendable increase to minimum wage but further rises needed

E tū welcomes the Government’s minimum wage rise and hopes its progression will continue to increase year-on-year to help lift more New Zealanders out of poverty wages.

From 1 April, the minimum wage will rise to $20 per hour – an increase of $1.10 up from $18.90.

The increase will benefit many groups of workers, including essential workers who are often the lowest paid, such as those in the cleaning, security, manufacturing, and aged care sectors.

E tū member Lavinia Kafoa says the increase will make a real difference to her pay packet, boosting it from what she earns hourly, which is just over the minimum wage.

“My rent is going up and I need to buy food for the kids – as single mother, it will really help me.”

E tū Team Leader Yvette Taylor says the rise is a commendable milestone, but the struggle is not over.

“This will make a substantial difference, but there’s still a long way to go before workers are receiving the Living Wage – the amount that workers need to truly survive and participate in society.

“We hope that the Government continues on this trajectory of increases to the minimum wage, to bring our national wage floor into line with what we know our essential workers need and deserve to live with choice and dignity.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, 027 585 6120