Month: December 2021

Carer’s legal victory shows need for employment reform

The father and full-time caregiver of a severely disabled woman has won his case in the Employment Court arguing that the Ministry of Health, and not his own daughter, is his employer.

The father, Peter Humphreys, was challenging the ‘Funded Family Care Model’, which sees people needing care considered the employers of those providing the care, even if they don’t have the capacity to carry out legal obligations as the employer.

Key to the case were issues like the minimum wage for time worked, the health and safety obligations of the employer, and who directs the work.

The Employment Court declared that Mr Humphreys is in fact employed by the ministry as a homeworker, and that his daughter could not have ever been his employer.

This means that the ministry has a range of obligations and liabilities, including to “remunerate Mr Humphreys appropriately for his work and in respect of health and safety,” the judgment reads.

Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the judgment is a great outcome.

“E tū congratulates the Humphreys family on their victory and stands with all people with disabilities and their caregivers as they fight for a fair deal.

“Families in the same situation as the Humphreys have faced ongoing discrimination on pay and conditions from the parts of government which fund vital care work. Often, a family member acting as full-time caregiver actually saves our health system a lot of money, because it lessens the need for other and more expensive service providers.

“For too long, the Ministry of Health has skirted their obligations as the employer, using a model that describes the person needing care as the nominal employer, even when they do not fund or direct the work in any way.

“This judgment challenges that way of thinking, and it’s a very good step.”

Rachel says that the relationship between funders, clients, and workers creates problems across many areas of employment in Aotearoa.

“The case has similarities with Prasad v LSG Sky Chefs, where E tū members successfully argued that their labour hire arrangement did not permit LSG Sky Chefs to dodge their responsibilities as the real employer.

“We see similar issues across sectors that use the contracting model, such as cleaning and security.

“The ‘funder’ is often a large organisation such as a corporate or even a government department, but they have a hands-off approach to the affected workers because of these ‘triangular’ employment arrangements.

“E tū continues to campaign for meaningful solutions to unfair contracting, by supporting legal actions, organising vulnerable workforces, and campaigning for minimum standards to be upheld through mechanisms like Fair Pay Agreements and social procurement.”


Fifth strike for rest home workers over proposed cuts to pay and hours despite staffing shortage

Tension is growing at a Northland town’s only rest home, as union members prepare to strike again with management refusing to back down on plans to cut weekend rates and making fresh proposals to reduce hours for some, despite bringing in unvaccinated workers when the home was short staffed.

E tū members working at the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home in Kaitaia have been in negotiations for a new collective agreement since March.

However, the trust refuses to remove problematic clawbacks, including a proposal to reduce weekend allowance rates from $5 extra per hour to $12 for a whole shift, which for some would mean losing thousands from their annual income.

Several E tū members are now also facing a possible reduction in their overall hours. However, in the past fortnight, the employer brought in unvaccinated workers under exemption to fill staffing shortages – a move members say neither they nor the residents were notified about.

An E tū member, who doesn’t wish to be named, says morale at work is at an all-time low and the situation is getting worse.

“Members are unhappy – the whole picture is unhappy. This has just been ongoing and ongoing and ongoing. The collective needs to be sorted and it needs to be signed.

“We also want to see our hours secured. It’s ridiculous and makes no sense why they would suggest cuts to workers’ hours when we are so short staffed already.”

The member says they are also seriously concerned about the lack of training and supervision for new staff.

Annie Tothill, E tū spokesperson and organiser at the site, says she believes the current situation could have been avoided, had the trust offered a fair settlement of the members’ collective agreement.

“Staff turnover is already high, and when workers feel disrespected and undervalued, it inevitably affects their commitment and desire to stay.

“That’s why fair conditions and pay are so important to retain safe levels of staffing and quality care for residents.

“In our view, it defies all logic and morality to propose a reduction in some members’ hours, when the management claims there is a staffing shortage and was prepared to risk having staff who are not vaccinated caring for vulnerable and elderly residents.”

Annie says strike action was not a decision that was taken lightly, nor without regard for the vulnerable residents that E tū members care for.

“They feel this is their only option to defend their current terms and allowances. It’s a last resort.”

Members would welcome a meeting with the board of Claud Switzer Memorial Trust to raise their concerns, resolve the current impasse, and come to a fair agreement on the members’ collective agreement, she says.

E tū members are also calling on the community to support them: “We need them to back us up and tell the rest home to sort this out.”

E tū members will be striking outside Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home, 71 South Road, Kaitaia on Thursday 16 December and Friday 17 December from 7am to 9am.


For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934

Aged care workers: Safe staffing must be mandatory in 2022

Workers at aged care home and hospitals across Aotearoa New Zealand will take action at their workplaces and at Parliament this December in the fight to win mandatory safe staffing.

On 9 December, union members from E tū and NZNO, supported by national seniors network, Grey Power, plan to present a parliamentary petition and an open letter with almost 7000 signatures, calling for safe staffing levels to become mandatory across the sector.

Current staffing guidelines are voluntary only, implemented at the discretion of each aged care provider. They are also woefully outdated, having been drawn up nearly 20 years ago in 2005.

E tū Community Support Services Industry Council Convenor and aged care worker Marianne Bishop says workers feel incredibly stretched and frustrated due to low staffing numbers, and they aren’t able to provide the level of care they’d like – an issue that has only been compounded during the Covid crisis.

“We want to be able to provide quality care and have quality time with residents. It’s not enough to just ‘do what we have time to do’.

“We hate not being able to answer bells quickly and not being able to check on residents more regularly, because sometimes when we do get there, it’s too late,” she says.

“If we were an older person or not able to do things for ourselves, how would we feel – having to wait half an hour, or an hour? If that was a member of our whānau, how would we feel?”

Marianne says to win safe staffing, aged care workers need the support of the whole country.

Grey Power President Jan Pentecost says that the organisation is 100% behind the push for safe staffing.

“We absolutely support aged care workers in their fight to win mandatory safe staffing, quite simply because many of our members and their families rely on staffing levels to be safe.

“But for that to happen, there needs to be mandatory standards in place.”

E tū spokesperson Jody Anderson says aged care workers and unions want to see a law setting down the minimum staffing levels that an aged care home or hospital must have in place.

“Our members and the residents they care for simply cannot wait any longer for this. They have been asking and campaigning for this protective legislation for more than a decade,” she says.

“In the meantime, the care they are being asked to provide gets more complex as workers are treating residents with higher needs, all with the same number of staff – a number that’s often all too low as worker shortages and lack of staffing laws bite.”

“We need everyone – aged care workers, their whānau, the family members of those in care homes, and our communities – to join together to send a strong, clear message to our Government: we need safe staffing and we need it now.”


For more information and comment:
Jody Anderson, 027 204 6370