Month: August 2022

Support worker wellbeing report exposes huge psychosocial impacts during pandemic

A report into the wellbeing of home support workers during the Covid-19 pandemic calls for urgent measures to address workers’ concerns.

On Wednesday, researchers from AUT led by Associate Professor Katherine Ravenswood and union representatives from E tū and PSA, who collaborated on the report, will meet with Minister of Health, Andrew Little, to seek commitments to take crucial action on its recommendations.

The Wellbeing of Community Support Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic is unique in that the research was conducted not only by the AUT researchers but also by home support workers themselves, who were trained to interview their peers.

The research, funded by the Health Research Council, reveals the huge psychosocial and physical impacts on workers, due to their isolation, marginalisation, insecure working conditions, financial stress, and poor communication from employers.

“Most people think all we do is make cups of tea and do housework. But I am showering my clients, changing dressings – things that require me to be very up close and personal,” one support worker says.

“Yet we had no masks, no gloves, or aprons. In those early days I spent a lot of time crying in my car.”

Many workers said they felt a sense of insecurity about their work hours, if they could continue to work, and whether they would retain their incomes.

“I was in one of the vulnerable groups, and we didn’t know whether to continue work or to stay home or whether I will be financially supported or not.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says decades of systemic undervaluation of this mostly-women workforce has had a profound effect on their individual and collective wellbeing.

“The reflections in the report are honest and cut to the heart. There is no mistaking the stresses these low-paid women workers felt, or the brave actions they took to protect vulnerable clients.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the research shows, where they could, workers consistently went the extra mile to make sure clients were protected and gaps in care were filled.

“There are lessons not only about the Covid-19 pandemic, but about how this group of workers has ended up so forgotten and unrecognised despite the enormous importance of their work, and about what can be done to change this.”  

The report’s recommendations include upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, introducing wellbeing centred employment practices to reduce issues like isolation and financial insecurity, recognising workers’ contribution and expertise, and developing a well-resourced sector to sustainably deliver care and support services. 

The report will be delivered to Parliament on Tuesday 30 August and presented to the Minister of Health on Wednesday 31 August.

“Struggling” Airbus engineers stand tall for better pay to protect industry

Aircraft engineers who work for Airbus, servicing New Zealand military aircraft, are continuing their strike action in an effort to secure decent wages now and for future aircraft workers.

More than 100 engineers working for the company out of Woodbourne in Marlborough and Ohakea in the Manawatū have been on strike for around six weeks, and last week filed notices for another two-week strike period.

Members’ ask is simple: a pay rise to keep up with inflation.

Their strike has meant not travelling to other work sites away from Woodbourne and Ohakea, no shift work, overtime, or doing work that’s outside their job description or that changes their current work patterns.

Alongside servicing civilian aircraft, the bulk of the work Airbus engineers do is for the country’s air and defence forces.

An E tū member, who does not wish to be named, says members feel their wages are falling behind with the rising cost of living, with many of the company’s engineers struggling to get by on what they earn.

“A lot of younger people with mortgages are really starting to hurt, on top of groceries, power, and other things. The pay rise we’re asking for is just so that we can afford to live.”

The strike action is also about addressing the attrition in the industry – where it was once seen as being highly skilled and highly paid, new workers are not coming into replace those who are retiring, they say.

“A lot of these guys are highly skilled with years of training and experience, and they not being valued.

“Airbus doesn’t seem to worry as they leave, but there’s not an endless supply of aircraft engineers. So, while this strike is about being able to afford to pay the bills, it’s also about retaining and attracting future workers.”

Their pay also needs to take into account the huge level of responsibility and stress that goes with the job, they say.

“There’s enormous pressure on you to ensure everything is done absolutely right, every time – to the point you could end up in court, or people may die as a result of mistakes.”

Another E tū member, also anonymous, says they’ve heard of members who are working second jobs to get by, and their partners as well.

“The guys with families are facing horrendous expenses, and those on single incomes are struggling too. I know of one who is having to sell off assets to make ends meet.

“The main thing that’s really driven this strike action is the company’s blatant disregard for its workers. It talks about people being its greatest asset, yet it’s not willing to reduce profit returns to shareholders to fund a pay increase, while its workers struggle.”

E tū Aviation Organiser Damon Rongotaua says New Zealand needs to recognise the value of its aircraft technicians and pay them accordingly if it wants to maintain a viable aviation industry.

“The engineers at Airbus are a vital part of our national defence and civil aviation infrastructure, as well as part of the Marlborough economy.

Depending on the type of maintenance work they are doing, engineers at Airbus can be paid significantly less per hour than engineers at other aviation companies doing the same type of work, Damon says.

“Members are driven and determined to improve pay for workers both now and in the future. From Aotearoa, they are leading the charge in terms of taking industrial action against Airbus.”


For more information and comment:
Damon Rongotaua, 027 591 0010

First strike in 25 years for packaging workers fighting for decent pay

More than 100 workers from two Auckland packaging companies are taking strike action to secure a decent pay rise and fair compensation for overtime.

E tū members from Visy Board New Zealand in Wiri and Charta Packaging – both owned by the Visy – are wanting to see at least a 10% increase on their regular pay in a one-year deal.

Members, whose usual work hours are 50 hours a week and with most working over this amount, also want to see overtime payments start before clocking the 50-hour mark.

E tū Delegate Reaaz Ali, who has been at Visy Board for more than 15 years and works six days a week on a 12-hour shift, says Visy workers want to see be treated fairly and with respect.

“Members want fairness from this big, multi-million-dollar company and to be acknowledged and respected for their work. We spend 90% of our time working – especially those of us on night shift, we hardly spend time with our families.

“We have kids, and we don’t see them – only in the mornings before they leave for school or at weekends,” he says.

“We don’t want to be doing these long hours, but if we don’t then we will struggle. We feel we don’t have a choice, and it’s killing our health as well.”

Another E tū Delegate, Manu Filimoekava, has been at Visy Board for 25 years and says it’s the first time workers at the company have taken strike action in that time.

“We are doing long hours to survive. I work around 64 hours up to 70 hours a week. We’ve got no time with family, no time with friends, no happy hour. It’s no life.”

E tū Organiser for Visy Board and Charta members, Ines Mitgutsch, says workers at the company are getting a poor deal in comparison to those who work for competitors.

“From my perspective, workers at Visy work some of the longest hours per week in the packaging industry.

“When overtime pay doesn’t kick in after 40 hours and there aren’t many allowances, it all adds up to conditions our members are now determined to improve.

“If they had higher base pay and received overtime for time worked above 40 hours, this would make a huge difference,” she says.

“The company needs to pay its workers fairly and come to the table with a decent offer.”

E tū members from Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging will be striking for 24 hours from 3.30am on Wednesday 24 August.

There will be a picket on Wednesday 24 August outside Visy Board, 235 Roscommon Rd, Wiri, Auckland from 5am-11am.


For more information and comment:
Ines Mitgutsch, 021 348 265

‘Just Transition’ plan in place as NZ Post closes mail processing centre

Members at a New Zealand Post mail processing centre will have nine months to prepare to transition into other work after the company announced the centre will be shutting for good next year.

More than 20 E tū members working at NZ Post’s mail processing centre in Manawatū will lose their jobs when it closes its doors in March 2023.

Members have signed a ‘Just Transition’ agreement with the company, which means they’ll have access to a range of support to assist them in finding other employment, redeploying, or upskilling.

Long-time delegate and worker Michelle Wallace says in the face of declining mail volume workers had known “the writing was on the wall” for a while, but the news is still a shock.

“There are a lot of long-serving members – some have been with Post since they were fresh out of high school.”

Michelle says while the details of the Just Transition process still need to be worked through, having a plan in place is very important to coach members through the change.

“Otherwise, people would be quite lost and distraught, but at least they’ve got options for support.”

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says it’s a tough time for the members, with declining mail volume, the rise of online shopping due to the pandemic, and automation all taking a toll and weighing into New Zealand Post’s decision to close the centre.

“We’re living in challenging times. Mail continues to decline at around 22 percent per year, and as a result, New Zealand Post has continued to reposition itself as a logistics business,” he says.

“With all these factors, it’s important that Just Transition processes are put in place that allow members to shift into other industries or into retirement if they prefer, with dignity and respect.”

While the company received $130 million as part of the Government’s Budget in 2020 to maintain and develop future services, Joe says it’s essential to continue to fund Just Transition processes for workers.

“As the economy changes with technology and climate change, we need Just Transition processes that give both businesses and workers the opportunity to move into other lines of trade and work with minimal disruption.

“We believe this will require long-term funding options and that Government involvement is essential.

“Creating and maintaining Decent Work for everyone and supporting those workers at the forefront of change is key to building communities with greater wellbeing.”


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

E tū to National: Don’t cut health funding!

E tū is appalled to hear this morning that National Party leader Christopher Luxon has reneged on a commitment to keep health and education funding at least in line with inflation.

Despite recent assurances, Luxon told the AM Show this morning under a National government, increases may fall behind inflation after all.

The back track has sent shockwaves through the health community, with many worrying that National will cut funding when and where it is needed most. Theatre orderly at Middlemore Hospital, Taatahi Phillips, says the pressures in the health system are already having a huge impact at his workplace.

“We are losing more and more staff, and we have another three nurses leaving our team in the next two weeks,” Taatahi says.

“It means we have to cover and do work that we might not have specialist training in.”

However, Taatahi says that while there are many reasons for the current pressures in the health system, there have been real improvements in the sector under the Labour Government.

“We still have a way to go, but we have had seen a massive pay increase under Labour. The old regime was broken, and they are fixing it. Labour might be getting the blame because everyone wants problems fixed tomorrow, but we are in a lot better position than we were.

“We are finally starting to see the positives of the new money that has been invested in the new health system. It might still be in the teething stage, but it is real progress.”

Taatahi says that he and his colleagues are very worried about what a National government would mean for the sector.

“We really do dread what will happen if National gets in. If we start going backwards again, well, I don’t know what to say. My daughter says ‘Dad, come over to Australia’. Any more cuts will just make the brain drain worse.

“People forget that under National last time, we actually had pay freezes. National took away everything. I was there, I know how bare the money was. Christopher Luxon will do no good for the country. He will make it worse.”

Taatahi says it’s not just a lack of funding that worries him about National.

“Take the Māori Health Authority. A lot of people of my generation know what it was like to feel like second-class citizens in our own country. Labour is finally doing something about this, and Luxon wants to undo it all – this just will not work!”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says Luxon’s comments today are just one example of the National Party not understanding the reality of challenges in health funding.

“We actually need more than just keeping up with inflation in health funding, given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the much-needed improvements to health infrastructure, and the changing demographics in our population,” Annie says.

“To indicate that funding won’t even keep up with inflation is just astounding and will amount to cuts to the health system in real terms.

“The final insult is that National’s gutting of the health system will be to pay for a wildly irresponsible tax cut plan, that will give top earners tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Annie says there is a common theme of the National Party opposing anything that will help the people who need it most.

“Luxon’s National Party opposes minimum wage increases, Fair Pay Agreements, the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, the Cost of Living Payment, and many more Government initiatives designed to help working families get ahead.

“The contrast could not be clearer.”