Article Category: August 2020

E tū organising

Uncertainty for workers across the aviation sector

Uncertainty is the biggest challenge facing E tū members in the aviation industry, as workers deal with the fallout from border shutdowns and flight cancellations across the world.

Border workers and ground and cabin crews are dealing with everything from redundancy to reduced hours, redeployment, and retraining, affecting up to 3000 members.

E tū delegate and cabin crew member Stacey Morunga, who will be back on her first international flight in August, says the cuts have been “brutal to say the least”.

“It was a massive loss of our workforce, and it’s really bittersweet for the ones who have remained. We’ve never been through anything like this.”

She says it’s difficult not knowing what will happen next, especially now the nature of international flying and tourism has changed so drastically, with air travel set back “decades” now that it’s for essential reasons only.

However, crew in the sector still remain heavily unionised, with 98% of those in widebody fleets a part of E tū, Stacey says.
“Crew know that they can lean on their union and that really means something.”

For E tū delegate and Menzies worker, Matthew Clarke, the changes meant his hours went from 45 hours a week down to just 4.5 hours.

Now, he is being made redundant as his department shrinks from 180 staff down to just 20. Around 30% are permanent redundancies, with the rest furloughed for up to two years.

Matthew, who once worked full-time as a frontline supervisor in passenger services, says it is enormously difficult not having stable employment.

“Flights may be 70% back to normal by the end of 2021, but how do we get from now to then? We’ve been caught in this position where there was very little we could do – except keep hoping that things will turn around.

“The emotional turmoil it’s caused us has been heart-breaking.”

Campaigning for mandatory staffing ratios in aged care

Equal Pay campaigner and former rest home carer Kristine Bartlett (left) and E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo (second from right) at the #safestaffingnow launch in Wellington

‘Deliver safe staffing for our seniors’ is the key message residents in rest homes and those working in the aged care sector are calling for this election.

On July 21, with the support of Grey Power, E tū and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) launched an open letter to Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to push for mandatory staffing levels to ensure a minimum and increased ratio of carers to residents.

Aged care workers, E tū delegates, and MPs gathered at Woburn House in Wellington to kick off the start of nationwide actions for the #safestaffingnow campaign.

E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo says not having mandatory and adequate numbers of staff in rest homes and hospitals means poorer outcomes for residents and carers.

“For us, rushing around means that we do tend to miss a lot of things. Sometimes when we’re short-staffed, residents end up missing out on showers, for example,” Sela says.

“Residents feel rushed, like they’re not valued, but they don’t want to complain as they know it will fall back on us.”

Back in 2010, Labour, the Greens and Grey Power produced a joint report that recommended minimum staffing levels for nurses and caregivers become mandatory. However, they are still voluntary.

Sela says the needs of many residents are much more complex now, meaning their care takes more time and staff need more training.

With three-quarters of New Zealand’s COVID-19 deaths connected to residential aged care facilities, the urgency of the situation has only increased.

Go here to show your support for safer staffing.

Tiwai Point smelter workers need a just transition

E tū member Cliff Dobbie with delegate Owen Evans. Photo credit: Stuff Limited

E tū delegates met Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson after news of the proposed closure of Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point smelter in Bluff.

In July, the company gave notice to terminate its contract with electricity supplier Meridian Energy in August 2021. The closure would mean around 1000 redundancies, as well as a flow-on effect to an estimated 1600 workers who will be indirectly affected in the local economy.

E tū delegate Owen Evans says the Government said there would be no more “handouts” to the smelter but there would need to be a transition plan in place for the region.

“I think the closure will be a lot harder than people think it will be. There are a lot of high-paid people at Tiwai. An extension would allow people not just to chuck in their job and take the first one that’s going, but to upskill themselves and go into something else.”

A lot of Tiwai’s current employees also have a trade, which may make transitioning a little easier if they go back to their old jobs, Owen says. Meanwhile, many workers are left in limbo to assess what their next move will be.

E tū has met with Rio Tinto to find out about timelines for the possible closure and members’ rights around redundancy, while advocating for a ‘just transition’ for members.

Temperzone protests gain community support

E tū delegate Pena Tamamasui takes to the megaphone at a Temperzone protest

The plight of Temperzone workers has caught the attention of the media and local community, as they protested for the right to their leave. During level 4 of the nationwide lockdown, workers at the South Auckland manufacturing company were asked to use their leave or go without pay.

This injustice inspired a strong response, with workers picketing several times a week, including in their lunchtimes, after work, and on weekends, outside the company’s premises during May and June.

E tū member Veenal Raj says except for two public holidays and two workdays, he was left without pay during the lockdown as he didn’t have any leave.

“Luckily, I did have a little savings, although I had to use them all. After we came back from the lockdown, there were a lot of people who had nothing left,” he says.

Veenal had to apply for a Jobseeker benefit, which was “nowhere near” his normal income level. The company did not apply the wage subsidy as promised until mid-May, around the same time it announced it would make 85 workers redundant.

E tū delegate Pena Tamamasui says he has been informed that leave will not be reinstated. However, E tū believes leave should be reinstated or workers compensated.

“Our members really want to see Temperzone treat them fairly and come to the party with their requests – leave and loss of wages,” Pena says.

Support for the workers has been “overwhelming”, with more than 12,000 signatures on an online petition.

Pena says: “I’ve been completely blown away by the amount of support, especially from local community organisations, that have turned up at the Saturday pickets – especially the youth. It’s been heart-warming to see their videos on Facebook.”

Personal grievance claims filed for Carter Holt Harvey workers

Northland workers at Carter Holt Harvey feel they’re bearing the brunt of their company’s ‘bad faith’ behaviour after they had to use up their leave during lockdown, before two-thirds of their colleagues were made redundant just weeks later.

In May, the company proposed to cut its production roles from 241 down to 77 at their Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) plant at Marsden Point, as part of a plan to abandon export sales and focus on domestic supply only.

Despite LVL receiving around $2.2 million in wage subsidies in the first week of April, workers had to use around two weeks of their annual leave during levels 3 and 4 of the lockdown or go without pay.

E tū member Steve Meredith says the company’s actions showed the “strongest case of bad faith operating”.

“It’s pretty disappointing that Carter Holt Harvey took a global pandemic as an opportunity to basically balance their chequebook when it came to their wages and outgoings.”

Steve says the redundancy process had also been problematic, with some workers who were kept on preferring to take voluntary redundancy to save their colleague’s jobs, while redundant workers faced losing their redundancy packages if they took up the offer of a new job before the end of their notice period.

“The company is unwilling to truly collaborate or communicate with us,” Steve says.

E tū is taking cases for Carter Holt members at Marsden Point, as well as in Tokoroa and Nelson, where leave was also harvested during the lockdown.

Home Support workers winning the fight for PPE

Home support worker and delegate Tarsh Dixon quickly got involved in a global campaign for adequate PPE

Home support workers in New Zealand became part of a global movement when they fought for their right to personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The #ProtectHomeCareWorkers campaign in conjunction with UNI Global Union saw E tū members making international links with support workers in Australia, the United States, Spain, Switzerland, and Ireland, to demand adequate PPE, decent pay, and respect for their work.

In April, a survey by E tū showed that more than half of the country’s workers in the sector lacked adequate PPE.
E tū delegate and Community Support Services Industry Councillor Tarsh Dixon, says it quickly became apparent in early March there were no adequate procedures in place to secure correct PPE, with orders in some cases not getting through until New Zealand had moved into level 3.

“In the beginning, masks were really scarce. At the time, I barely had 10 masks – all from jobs with previous clients.”
Tarsh quickly got organised with other home support delegates to come up with actions and plans, and the campaign for PPE was successful.

“It was really awesome being part of that, the whole movement, and just amazing having conversations with home support workers all over the world about how they were dealing with it, and then organising together for change. Our issues are the same worldwide,” Tarsh says.

While some members felt well supported by their providers during COVID-19, Tarsh says she still doesn’t think her provider has a robust pandemic plan in place.

“Some support workers are still quietly stockpiling PPE with their own money, but it should be delivered to us so we can just get on with our work.”

E tū is calling on the Government to increase funding to the home support sector, so workers have decent jobs with regular shifts, hours and income which don’t fluctuate all the time, fair pay for their travel, and proper paid breaks.

Easier for workers to assert their rights under new amendment bill

For rest home carer and equal pay campaigner Kristine Bartlett and female workers everywhere, the sun was shining in the wake of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill.

The amendment, which was passed at 11.59pm on July 23, will now make it easier for workers to raise a pay equity claim and help parties reach a settlement without going through the court system.

It’s welcome news for Kristine, a former rest home carer, who fought for years to secure the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement in 2017.

The settlement confirmed that the low rates of pay in the care and support sector were the result of systematic, gender-based discrimination. It led to a pay rise for those in the sector, later extended to mental health and addiction support workers.
Kristine, who is newly retired, says the new amendment “hits the nail on the head”.

“The sun is shining down on me today. Now those low-paid women workers can fight for their rights without going to court. We’ve finally done it in the year 2020.”

Kristine says although it took her a while to understand the case she was fighting, when she did, she wondered why it hadn’t been done “donkey’s years ago”.

“I’ll never forget the first pay on my site and the look on the workers’ faces when they got that pay increase – their whole lives changed.”

Win for Sistema workers after lockdown walk-out

Collective action was the key to victory at Sistema, a food storage container business, when all production workers were given four weeks off on full pay during the level 4 lockdown.

Unsatisfied with the lack of PPE and social distancing on the production line, workers staged a health and safety strike, walking off the job the day before the lockdown was due to start.

Sistema workers walked off the job over poor COVID-19 health and safety systems

E tū delegate Delphine Muraahi says the walkout was “chaos”, with workers initially being told they would need to use their annual leave if they didn’t want to come into work.

“It was all about health and safety at the time, because we were watching people dying of coronavirus, and we didn’t feel Sistema was taking it seriously,” she says.

However, after a visit from WorkSafe, Sistema confirmed workers would not need to report to work during level 4 and would not lose any of their wages or leave.

Delphine says on their return to work, the factory has been made much safer.

“They had everything: sanitisers, gloves, masks, hand towels, markings on the floor. They also made their own divider shields, which they put up between most of us.”

Listening to the voices of South Auckland to build better communities

E tū members and interns Matthew Clarke (left) and Simon-Peter Toleafoa (second right) with E tū president Muriel Tunoho, Te Ohu community organiser and E tū member Jo Vicente-Angeles, and Living Wage accreditation coordinator and E tū member Felicia Scherrer

A new ‘listening campaign’ is now underway to bring together the voices of the South Auckland community and learn about what matters to them.

There are nine interns, including two E tū members, working part-time for five months with Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga to find out which issues concern South Auckland communities most.

Hailing from South Māngere, E tū member Simon-Peter Toleafoa says mental health, particularly for youth, and financial literacy, are common themes.

“I’ve seen a lot of injustice in Māngere. Te Ohu is something I can do now for the community and add some input into making change.”

E tū delegate Matthew Clarke says so far he’s frequently spoken to parents wanting a better neighourhood for their children.
“We want to have a community-focused approach to work on those issues to empower them to make a real difference.”

Once the listening campaign is complete, Te Ohu interns, community leaders, and sponsoring organisations will come together to work out the issues of common concern and what sort of action to take.

Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga was formed in 2018 and is supported by Auckland faith, union, and community organisations to address the causes of poverty in families and communities.

Post-lockdown wins for New Zealand Post workers

Despite COVID-19, there have been significant wins for our members at New Zealand Post, where all workers will now start on a rate above the statutory minimum wage and the bereavement clause includes ‘whāngai’ (Māori customary adoption).

E tū delegate for the last 12 years, Missy Moreau says everyone is “ecstatic” about the results: “We got some good gains for our people, while keeping our collective intact. All and all, we came out of this agreement in a really good space.

“When we come into big gains like the ones we’ve gotten, we appreciate what it means to be part of a union.”

The bargaining team doing the hard yards back in March

Trust grant brings new organiser on board

Little did Gwyn Stevenson know when he started working at a dairy factory eight years ago that his role as a dryer operator would lead him into the world of unionism. The Balclutha local was based at a factory in Clydevale, where he worked on making milk into batches of infant formula.

During his first off-season, Gwyn noticed that his company was “giving us a run around with pay”. So, he decided to organise a meeting with the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union, with 25 of his fellow workers signing up in one go.

“Then the organiser said, at some stage, someone will need to step up and become a delegate. I didn’t have any idea what it really meant, but I said I’d give it a go, and found myself quite enjoying it.”

Now Gywn himself is training to be an E tū organiser, thanks to a grant from the Otago Southland Furniture Workers Union Trust.

Retiring organiser Mike Kirwood, along with Bob Batchelor and John Edie, established the trust, which is a legacy from the Otago Southland Furniture Workers Union, to support projects that would benefit union work in Otago and Southland.

So far, the trust has donated more than $20,000 to various union causes.

E tū’s new worker-led health and safety programme

Workers’ voices will lead the way in E tū’s new health and safety programme for Māori, Pasefika, and migrant workers in manufacturing.

E tū Runanga Convenor Sharryn Barton says with the high rates of injury for tāngata whenua, she hopes the programme will provide an opportunity for workers to connect with their cultural values at work.

E tū members Augaaso Day Sepuloni (left) and Masi Uati (right) will be participating in the worker-led programme, along with E tū Food and Manufacturing Industry Council Convenor Gadiel Asiata

“Health and safety is based in manaakitanga, which means looking after people, your family, and the place you’re in. We need to recognise that we all have mana, and how well we look after others also determines our own wellbeing.”

Funded by the union and a Workplace Injury Prevention grant from ACC, the new worker-led leadership programme aims to address the high rate of workplace injuries among these groups in the sector.

Named Ngā Puna Whai Oranga, it begins with a series of hui for up to 150 members, from August to November, followed by workplace workshops until the end of 2021. E tū plans to continue the programme until 2027.

A worker in the manufacturing industry for 18 years and the Women’s Committee Convenor on E tū’s National Executive, Wheeti Haenga says she’s really excited about the course and rapt that ACC are supporting the programme – a “big stride forward” for Māori, Pasefika, and migrant workers.

“We’ve never had a mentor for Māori or Pasefika in my workplace, and I think this programme will really help to bring our people – particularly our young people – together.”

E tū Food and Manufacturing Industry Council Convenor Gadiel Asiata says the programme has been “long-needed” in the manufacturing industry.

“We don’t want just a ‘tick-box’ exercise or flyer-on-a-noticeboard-type approach. Instead, we need processes that are championed by both employers and employees, with strong worker role models,” he says.

Massive Living Wage victories!

MSD guards finally win the Living Wage

Security guards who work for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) across the country are thrilled today to learn that they will finally be moving up to at least the Living Wage of $22.10 per hour.

The Government announced in August around 400 guards will be paid at least the Living Wage from 1 September 2020. It comes after years of campaigning for public service workers who are employed by contractors to be paid at least the Living Wage.

MSD keep Work and Income offices across the country safe and secure. They are often posted outside Work and Income offices for hours at a time, in all weather. E tū member Robert Duston says it can be a hard job, but one he enjoys.

“I like being able to help less fortunate people have a good day and feel that they’ve had a good experience. Yes, the Living Wage has taken a long time, but I’m really happy the Government has recognised we’re worth it.”

Robert says: “It’s my 50th birthday next year and earning the Living Wage for me means that I can start saving to go on a holiday and not have to worry about paying bills along the way.”

E tū members call on Government parties to honour their Living Wage promise

In the 2017 general election campaign, all three parties that make up the current Government made a commitment to “support and promote changing government procurement policies to ensure that all contracted workers, who are delivering a regular and ongoing service to the core public service, move to the Living Wage within the next term of government”.

Despite this, many workers employed by contractors that deliver government services are still on the minimum wage.

E tū members put together a video outlining why getting the Living Wage is so important for them and their families. As E tū cleaner Robert Chong-Nee says: “I work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I need to pay my bills. I need to spend time with my family and friends, but I can’t do that.

“I’m asking the Government to honour their Living Wage promise. Please, that’s all I’m asking.”

Auckland Council cleaners secure the Living Wage after a long campaign

After eight years of campaigning, Auckland Council cleaners have finally won the Living Wage. In July, the council voted to pass their emergency budget which means by the next council election in 2022 all our members will have moved to no less than the Living Wage, currently $22.10 per hour.

E tū has been a big part of this community campaign, and member Malia Langi is relieved and happy the Living Wage will now be a reality for her colleagues. A cleaner for six years, Malia says: “Now there’s no more worries. I feel relieved now it’s been passed – everything that we were working and campaigning for the past eight years.”

E tū members with government ministers at parliament to celebrate MSD guards winning the Living Wage

E tū’s political policies for the 2020 General Election

Employment relations system

The current system is broken. Workers do not get the collective rights they need to negotiate decent wages and conditions or to have a voice in the future of their work. We need new laws to protect workers and strengthen unions.

Fair Pay Agreements

New Zealand is one of the few countries in the OECD without law that creates industry standards for workers. We need to be able to bargain across sectors for decent pay rates and work conditions.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says: “Security guards feel undervalued because the mahi we do is not reflected in our pay, due to the undercutting in the competitive market in the security industry. A Fair Pay Agreement will be a game-changer. And not just for me, or my colleagues, but for all security guards in the industry.”

The Living Wage

Poverty and inequality in New Zealand have reached a crisis point and it keeps getting worse. People need wages that are high enough to pay the rent, feed their families, cover other expenses, and leave enough left over for participation in the community. E tū calls for the Living Wage to be the wage floor for all workers across the public service and state sector, including contracted workers.

Police station cleaner Rose Kavapalu says: “Being an essential services worker at the police station, all of a sudden people realise how important your job is. I’d rather not be at work as I have many family commitments, but the police officers really need us to keep the place clean and free from COVID-19. So, I am happy to do the work, but honestly, I deserve more than the bare minimum.”

Social procurement

‘Procurement’ is the process used to choose which contractors deliver services. Usually, cost is the main thing that organisations consider and choose the cheapest option. This means that companies use low wages to stay competitive, resulting in a ‘race to the bottom’. The Government must recognise it has a responsibility to all citizens, including the workers employed by their own public service contractors. Considering the wider societal consequences of these decisions is known as ‘social procurement’.


E tū has a very diverse membership across the healthcare industry, including in aged care, home support, disability support, and hospital service workers. Many of the problems in the industry relate to privatisation, ongoing underfunding by successive governments, and decisions made to maximise profits instead of maximising health outcomes. E tū calls for a comprehensive rethink that addresses these issues.

Just transition

The ‘just transition’ concept is simple: the costs of the necessary changes that deliver all of us a more stable climate must be spread evenly and not fall heavily and disproportionately on workers and their communities. Workers from industries like oil, gas and coal, who have helped build the prosperity that the country has enjoyed, deserve the certainty of pathways into decent, well-paying jobs in new industries. Since COVID-19 hit, the need for a just transition approach on a much wider scale is now clear, as huge changes come to aviation, tourism, hospitality, and many other sectors.

Broader policy areas

While employment-related issues are a key focus for E tū in this election campaign, we are calling for some wider reforms that will help workers (and everyone else) including:

  • free dental care for all Kiwis
  • proper housing reform, including an expansion of state and social housing programs
  • an infrastructure upgrade as part of building strong communities, such as better public transport.

Labour Leader and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses around 100 E tū members in Auckland at our union’s official Election 2020 campaign launch in July

2020 General Election political party positions

These judgements are made on the basis of the parties’ 2017 manifesto and their voting records in parliament on these issues. If no 2017 policy exists around this issue and previous voting record cannot indicate whether parties would support the policy or not, then it is left blank.

E tū organiser Ibrahim Omer is running for parliament

E tū organiser and social justice activist, Ibrahim Omer, is well-placed on the Labour Party list for the 2020 election.
Ibrahim fled his home country of Eritrea, in East Africa, as a teenager. He was escaping a violent and oppressive regime, in a country where there were no real opportunities for work or education. He just wanted a decent life, so he made the difficult decision to make the dangerous border crossing to neighbouring Sudan.

After three years in Sudanese camps, he was finally welcomed to New Zealand as a refugee. He moved to Wellington, and did minimum wage work to pay the bills and save some money, sometimes working up to 90 hours a week. In 2011, he joined E tū and got heavily involved in the Living Wage Movement, campaigning for cleaners at Victoria University of Wellington to be paid a Living Wage.

The next few years were a whirlwind. He realised his dream of going to Victoria University, studying politics and international relations. He became the Chair of ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, an advocacy service for former refugees in Wellington. He was appointed to the Living Wage national governance group, and became a full-time organiser for E tū. Now, in 2020, Ibrahim is ready to take his voice to parliament.

The Election 2020 campaign: Real change starts with us

Real change starts with us. That’s the name given to the E tū Election 2020 campaign, because we know that the political change we need simply won’t happen without us. We know that we need to campaign and organise in our workplaces and communities to get our issues on the political agenda.

E tū has committed to an ambitious plan that includes member-to-member phone calling and face-to-face conversations, lobbying candidates directly about our most important issues, and supporting the politicians who are committed to helping New Zealand workers and their unions.

E tū members began our election calling during the lockdown by holding virtual phoning sessions online

E tū members who worked through the crisis

While millions of Kiwis stayed home to stay safe during the COVID-19 lockdown, thousands of E tū members were delivering essential services to keep the country going. We can be proud of the contribution E tū members made in care work, aviation, cleaning, manufacturing, security, communications, and many other sectors and industries. Here are some of their stories.

Inu Salvation, hospital cleaner, Hamilton

Inu Salvation

My job at Waikato Hospital is cleaning infection rooms. During the lockdown, I was placed in the COVID-19 emergency zone. That meant constantly sterilising everything, all the time. It was actually pretty cool, but it was very tiring because of the amount of PPE we had to wear. It got pretty sweaty.

I think it was handled quite well by the hospital. Every little runny nose was taken seriously. People weren’t waiting long for treatment at all. It was all pretty on point. The COVID area that was set up is still there as a respiratory area. While the risk isn’t as heightened now, we’re ready if anything changes.

I think, as a whole, it was everyone just doing their own thing, that’s how we beat COVID. Everyone just smashed it out.

Ross Langford, Aviation Security (Avsec), Christchurch

Ross Langford

My wife, Helen, and I have worked for Avsec for about 30 years. Our experience at the airport was everything normal one day, and totally different the next. The lockdown happened so quickly – we still fronted up to work but there weren’t any passengers. So we did a lot of extra stuff at the beginning, e-learning modules, and so on.

Then the isolation hotels came on stream. Avsec workers were deployed as security at the hotels and doing reassurance patrols for the police, just making sure that people weren’t out and about, and that social distancing was being adhered to.

It was a little bit scary at the hotels. Everyone was pretty apprehensive. Would we be exposed to COVID-19? Some people couldn’t work because they or their families had medical conditions. I would come home and get undressed in the garage, go straight to the shower, and wipe down all the surfaces we touched in the car and house.

To be honest, I think there was a bit of anxiety for anyone working through the lockdown. I would have been quite happy to stay home and stay safe, and I think a lot of essential workers in many other industries will have felt the same.

Sisi Palu, home support, Auckland

Sisi Palu

Everyone did their best [during lockdown], but at the same time we were scared of COVID-19 and so were our clients. We were going from house to house, doing our part to look after our clients, and then home to look after our families.

Some clients did the lockdown with their families, and so they didn’t need as many visits. But many were alone and us home support workers were the only people they saw. We needed to be there for them.

I was lucky that my employer provided us with the right protective equipment. We had masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, and enough of everything we needed. I know that some of the other providers couldn’t do this for their workers.

One great thing was the special queue for essential workers at some supermarkets. It was helpful for our own shopping, but it was especially useful when we needed to get groceries for our clients. When you only have one hour to do everything for a client, you can’t spend the whole time in line at the supermarket.

I think us caregivers all did a great job during lockdown. Not just home support workers, but people in residential facilities and hospitals as well. Now we’re just happy that things are mainly returning to normal.