Month: November 2023

National Government cancelling Fair Pay Agreements will increase inequality

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, says the new National-led Government’s 100-day plan announcement that they will repeal the legislation for Fair Pay Agreements is a giant step backwards.

Fair Pay Agreements were set up under the previous Government as a mechanism for sector-wide collective bargaining, establishing new minimum pay and conditions that would apply to every covered worker. The law provides full democratic participation from both workers and employers and is similar to sector-wide bargaining processes used around the world, such as Australia’s modern awards.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu, who has been a key member leader in E tū’s campaign for Fair Pay Agreements, is hugely disappointed.

“It just feels like a slap in the face, it’s completely disrespectful and stupid to cancel our Fair Pay Agreements,” Rosey says.

“Us security guards and our brothers and sisters in cleaning really need improvement in our industries. That’s what Fair Pay Agreements are all about. We need better wages, we need better job protection, and we need proper health and safety. They’ve taken it all away.”

“That’s just the National Party for you though, that’s what they do. Whatever we are able to win, they’ll just rip it away.”

E tū National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the decision will mean workers who have initiated Fair Pay Agreements are missing out on a huge opportunity.

“Fair Pay Agreements were the best improvement to employment law in decades,” Rachel says.

“The mechanism was carefully developed to give workers a real chance at finally winning better pay and conditions. E tū members in cleaning and security have long faced a working life of low wages and inadequate conditions, especially relating to key issues like health and safety, job security, and opportunities for career progression.

“We know that low wages are the key driver of inequality, and workers in industries like cleaning and security suffer the consequences. By removing Fair Pay Agreements before the first ones have even been negotiated, the Government is attacking the most vulnerable people in Aotearoa’s workforce.”

Rachel says this is a poor start for the new Government.

“This decision adds to many more that demonstrate the Government’s backwards priorities. They have announced the return of 90-day trials for all, despite evidence they threaten job security without any meaningful benefit to business or job opportunities.

Further, Rachel says the proposal to remove peoples’ rights to challenge their employment status as contractors in the Employment Court will lock in exploitation and severely constrain the access to justice that is fundamental to our democracy.

“E tū is also deeply concerned about National’s attack on working people on a range of fronts, including through its tax policy. It is galling that this government will remove our world-leading smokefree initiative to help pay for tax cuts for landlords and those already well-off.”

Journalists reject Deputy PM’s comments about the media

In light of the Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ recent comments about the media, a group of journalists who serve as E tū delegates say these claims are misinformed.

Mr Peters has claimed the Public Interest Journalism Fund was a government “bribe” – which is a well-known but incorrect claim made amongst those who peddle conspiracy theories. He has further doubled down on that by saying he is at “war” with the media. We strongly reject claims of a bribe.

Journalism was just one of many industries that got government help as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was never any expectation tied to the Public Interest Journalism funding to cover any one topic, or in any one way, and there were clear and well-publicised conditions for the work produced.

While journalists strongly reject Mr Peters’ claims, we will all continue to cover him, New Zealand First, and all parties in an unbiased way. The media has an important role to play in a democracy, holding politicians to account and acting as a watchdog for the community. 

Journalists at the front line doing their job have faced strong and sometimes unusual pressures recently from people acting on strong views, to limit reporting or the how stories are told.

By spreading misinformation and supporting conspiracy theories, Mr Peters is placing journalists at risk. We urge Mr Peters, as well as other senior politicians and public figures, to support and protect our independent media, not attack it. 

The Post and Stuff delegate Tom Hunt said it was ludicrous to label PIJF a bribe.

“Many of the PIJF journalists were also union members and were bound by E tū’s journalistic ethics, which enshrines editorial independence from outside influence.  

“The Media Council also has principles saying publications should be ‘bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance’. Furthermore, media companies have their own standards which enshrine independence. 

“Taking aim at these journalists who are now, or will soon, be facing the end of PIJF funding is a cynical cheap shot.” 

RNZ delegate Phil Pennington said RNZ journalists strive every day to meet the demands of their stringent editorial standards, standards shared with many other media organisations.

“Our journalists’ daily work helps support and protect an environment of free debate and wide-ranging input, and we hope and trust all our political leaders’ efforts do, too.”

Another experienced journalist told E tū that Winston Peters’ attack on the media was reminiscent of how Sir Robert Muldoon behaved. He attacked unionists and journalists, infamously refusing to allow journalist and cartoonist Tom Scott to attend press conferences.

Industrial action to begin at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare

Workers at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare’s manufacturing site in Auckland have voted to take industrial action, beginning tomorrow, as the company refuses to improve their offer which includes insufficient pay rises and a loss of important conditions.

The current offer from the company includes the removal of overtime pay for working on weekends, and shift pattern changes that will further reduce overtime pay for many workers. The pay rises offered do not make up for these changes, sitting around the rate of inflation, meaning workers aren’t able to get ahead.

E tū members will be picketing outside the factory in the mornings and afternoons from Monday to Friday this week. The union will give notice of an overtime ban, to begin in two weeks. If there is no improvement to the offer, members are prepared to take strike action and stop work completely.

E tū delegate and engineer Chris Burton, who first started with Fisher & Paykel 38 years ago, says the company’s actions do not match its good reputation.

“It’s a real shame that one of New Zealand’s greatest companies is behaving like this,” Chris says.

“They have got a long history of doing the right thing, and over the years I have been able to do well myself, but that’s not a luxury many of my colleagues are afforded.

“There used to be a culture of lifting people up through development opportunities, and proper investment in staff. We trained a lot of people. But they now have some ugly agendas and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare just aren’t doing that to the extent they should be.

“There are over 3,000 people at the Auckland site. We should expect a company like this to give something back to the wider community, and not just tokenism.”  

Chris says the people worst affected by the proposed deal are those who are doing it hardest.

“They are playing on people’s hardship. I think it’s extremely cheeky to come to us with something like this while many are in financial stress, with rents, mortgages, fuel, and everything else getting so much more expensive.

“The reality is that a majority of the staff on lower wages are women. They claim to pay attention to diversity and inclusion – here’s a real opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and show the rest of the country how to get real results in closing the gender pay gap.”

Chris says it’s particularly disappointing that the company are taking this approach given it is a highly profitable business.

“We were one of the few New Zealand businesses that did well during the pandemic, due to the increased demand for healthcare products. When you are posting record profits year after year and then you come calling for the lowest paid people in the organisation to take the biggest hit, that’s not good enough.”

Future uncertain for NZ Post workers across the country

An estimated 750 people could lose their jobs at NZ Post if a proposal for major changes at the state-owned enterprise goes through as currently signalled.

The radical changes would see the end of the nightshift at the Christchurch Mail Centre, with some members losing up to 30% of their pay. The International Mail Centre and Auckland Operations Centre are facing a ‘dumbing down’ of their roles which would also see their pay reduced and could potentially impact future redundancy compensation.

Further, NZ Post are proposing to move their delivery workers into a contracting model, meaning they would not get the benefits and protections of being directly employed.

Christchurch Mail Centre delegate Nelson Tainui says the workers are feeling the pressure.
“As with all change, it’s the fear of the uncertain, and what it means for everyone’s own individual circumstances,” Nelson says.

“It’s the initial stages of a business-wide change, the breadth and depth of which is still to be determined. We are just one cog in a rather large machine.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says NZ Post isn’t living up to their social responsibility as a state-owned enterprise.

“NZ Post should be modelling the best practices as a large employer delivering an essential service for Aotearoa New Zealand,” Joe says.

“Instead, they want to join the ranks of the bottom-feeding courier companies who exploit their workers to provide the services at the lowest possible cost.

“It’s particularly galling from a state-owned enterprise, because they should live up to a responsibility to their workers and the wider community by making decent work a priority.

“E tū members have a long and proud history of protecting NZ Post both in the interests of the workforce and to maintain delivery of an excellent service. We will be fighting to protect Post once again.”

Unions welcome a new model for employing staff in the water sector

Members of AWUNZ, E tū, and the PSA have endorsed a multi-union, multi-employer collective agreement that will help improve water services, overcome critical staff shortages, and ensure decent workplaces for everyone working in the industry.

“This is a historic opportunity to work collaboratively with the incoming government to build a workforce that will improve public health,” says Blake Monkley, AWUNZ lead organiser.

“This collective agreement provides career pathways that can attract people to an industry that desperately needs to attract and develop a skilled workforce.”

“Events including widespread flooding, the recent cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Queenstown and sink holes in Auckland show an industry in crisis,” says Ian Gordon, PSA National Sector Lead.

“To respond to this crisis, the country needs a skilled, sustainable water workforce. Without the provisions of this agreement, the industry will keep losing skilled workers it already has and won’t be able to recruit and develop new ones. This agreement is a huge victory for workers and Aotearoa.”

The benefits for workers are clear. “A national employment framework will create clear career paths that will draw people to the industry and keep them there. It will allow the industry to focus on training and developing staff across the industry instead of in isolated pockets,” says Amy Hansen from E tū.

“While negotiating this agreement, it has become increasingly apparent how damaging a fractured approach to employment relations has been to retaining and developing the workforce we need.

“The incoming government needs to recognise how essential the provisions of this agreement are, and it needs to treat workers justly as well, no matter what happens with the water reforms.”

The Amalgamated Workers Union NZ (AWUNZ), E tū, and the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA) represent workers across water management, including technicians, engineers, electricians, administrators, fitters, reticulation workers water, and wastewater treatment operators, local and central government officials, and more.

For two years, the unions worked with members and non-members in the workforce, and the Department of Internal Affairs, to find best path forward. The membership of all three unions have now endorsed this approach by supporting the proposed agreement.

Some useful numbers

  • There is currently a shortage of skilled staff with vacancy rates sitting at approximately 15% across the industry
  • Economic analysis projects that the industry will need 6,000 to 9,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
  • Unions in the sector represent approximately 1850 employees across a wide range of occupations.
  • There are currently 87 collective agreements covering impacted workers with a wide range of different conditions.


For more information please contact Hamish McCracken (AWUNZ)
Phone: 0212885609