Article Category: December 2019

E tū organising

Sector agreements settle

Our sector agreements in general manufacturing and in plastics manufacturing use the strength of many workplaces to maintain basic standards for members at a wide range of companies.

From five-worker engineering shops to factories with more than 100 workers, the members come together to bargain from a position of strength. Through almost thirty years, and under laws that have been designed to destroy our ability to stand together, the Metal and Manufacturing Industries Collective Agreement and the Plastic Industry Collective Agreement (the “Metals” and the “Plastics”) have endured.

Both of these agreements have recently settled, moving towards their fourth decade in force. That’s quite a history of maintaining sector standards. Agreements like these will be complemented by Fair Pay Agreements when we win those.

It is always tough, negotiating with a group of employers and this year, like all the others, the settlements are hard-won.
The Plastics this time delivers a lift in pay for the lowest paid workers. Delegate Tex Wilson says the sticking point was the need to really lift the wages at the bottom of the scale. When the minimum wage goes up, the going rate goes up, and this was a major focus of the bargaining.

“I’ve been to 12 different negotiations and this was the worst,” Tex says, while adding that the team got the best deal they could. “All the new workers will get a higher rate,” which he says they are happy with.

The Metals also settled, for one year, with pay rises of between 3% and 3.7%. There is a margin of 50 cents above the minimum wage in the lowest printed pay rates in the document.

Guaranteed hours fight at Woburn care homes

E tū members at neighbouring care homes in Lower Hutt have been taking on their bosses over guaranteed hours and 24/7 availability. As this magazine goes to print, members at Woburn Masonic are taking strike action over rostering they say is like the availability from now-unlawful zero hours contracts.

Woburn Masonic picket line

Delegate Jackie Crown says her shifts vary and she doesn’t know what shifts or days of the week she’ll be rostered on for. Like her workmates, Jackie doesn’t know from roster to roster what she might be earning, making it hard to pay the bills. It comes with a big personal cost, too.

“For me, I’ve missed a lot of milestones like birthdays and family occasions. I’m the one that’s not there. I even missed my father’s memorial service,” Jackie says.

Next door, Enliven Woburn caregivers face a similar situation with management cutting most members’ guaranteed hours and offering those same shifts back to staff, who must compete for the extra shifts to make up their losses – exactly what happens at Woburn Masonic.  Shifts could be at any time during the 27/4 operation of the facility.

Like Masonic members, Enliven members are taking action at work, signing petitions, wearing stickers and yellow ribbons, and winning the support of residents and family members. E tū is also taking court action, with a court date sought in early 2020.

The members are standing together, determined to win rosters that give them a life and protect the care standards of the residents.

Delegates drive winning deal at SkyCity

E tū SkyCity Auckland members have won a great new deal following pay talks this year which will have all staff earning a minimum of $20 per hour plus allowances from December 2020.

The biggest increases are for lower paid workers. Their rates will rise in December this year and twice in 2020, with overall wage rises of between 11% and 21.9% depending on the department.

Our E tū SkyCity bargaining team

Bargaining team member Pam Lanumata says the members are delighted, especially those on lower pay. Members like Pam, who already earn the Living Wage (currently $21.15) or above, got pay rises of 3% this year and 3% next year.

Pam pays tribute to her fellow delegate and former bargaining team member, Michelle Crooks, who pushed for the Living Wage at bargaining last year. Michelle describes the deal as “fantastic” and a step towards the Living Wage for all E tū members at SkyCity.
“They were ecstatic! And our tradies did really well too. They’ve been fighting for years to get their pay to reflect more what the industry gets,” Michelle says.

SkyCity electricians won a big lift in pay, after three days of strike action in September in support of their wage claims. Delegate Neil Fudger says once back in bargaining, the union and SkyCity worked to get an agreement. The members have won a pay rise of $4 an hour on paid rates, with an additional $1 an hour due to be paid this month.

“They’re pleased. It was a great team effort to get the matter resolved,” Neil says.

The members won a raft of other benefits, such as overtime of time and a half for all hours over 40 per week, which used to apply on weekends only. There are increases in the shoe and tool allowances and table staff will now have their uniforms laundered.

Also included is a 25% lift in the unpleasant duties allowance to $300 gross a year. Michelle says that’s thanks to long-time bargaining team member, Mina Chiswell, who sadly died during this year’s talks. “Mina was our cleaning services delegate and unfortunately unknown to us, she was unwell and she passed away during bargaining,” she says.

“Mina would fight like a tiger for our cleaners. She would be so proud! And we make sure when we talk about the unpleasant duties allowance, we talk about Mina. She really fought for that allowance.”

These great results reflect the solidarity of the E tū membership and bargaining team. “Yeah, we are quite strong, I think because we’ve been around each other for a very long time, for most of us over ten years, and we make sure we’re on the same page,” Michelle says. “If someone sees something wrong, we’re quite quick about having those conversations.”

IDEA settles

After nearly a year involving a marathon series of talks, strikes, mediation and facilitated bargaining, the IDEA Services collective agreement for support workers and administration staff has settled. Members ratified the deal in late October with 83% voting in support.

IDEA Services bargaining team delegates at facilitation

IDEA Services: sign of the times for members

“If you look back, we’ve beaten some of those claw-backs they wanted,” says Southland delegate Gordon Cambridge. IDEA Services has also agreed to work with E tū to lobby for more funding, “so both parties are talking which is a bonus. I think most people are positive.” he says.

There is a solid pay rise of 7.7%, including backpay for administrators and service coordinators and a pay rise for scheduling coordinators, who are covered by the agreement for the first time. There are also training and orientation wins for RIDSAS workers, who also won a new allowance of up to $70 a week.

The deal also sets out a process for the disestablishment of the senior support worker (SSW) role with a buy-out for two categories of SSWs due to be completed by 20 December. Our delegates remain unconvinced IDEA Services can effectively run its facilities without these highly experienced workers who shoulder big responsibilities.

Gordon says: “I think there’s a long way to go to see if what they’ve done with the SSWs works, and if in a couple of years, they’re not back in some shape or form. Watch this space. I think they’ll be back.”

You can find more details about the settlement here.

Assault on guaranteed hours

Two years ago, home support delegate Jenny Stewart was invited by the Access chief executive to Wellington to discuss improving the implementation of guaranteed hours. This was quite a contrast to bargaining this year, which saw Access aggressively seeking changes to the very good guaranteed hours rights and protections clause in the Access Support Workers Collective Agreement.

Jenny says the bargaining, which involved both E tū and the PSA, was “a tough six months fighting to keep the guaranteed hours rights and protections we already had. In the end we have kept those rights and going forward into 2020 we will be keeping up the pressure on Access to finally start complying with the guaranteed hours clauses in our collective agreement.

Access Support team support the Day for Decent Work!

“We need to build our strength to win better rosters, including proper guaranteed hours, so members have secure work,” she says.
The bargaining team was struck by how keen the employer was to keep the bargaining team delegates away from the bargaining table.

“We decided this was because the delegates voices at the table are persuasive.

“Because we do the work every day, we have real credibility and we could call Access out by providing the facts about the work we do. We need more delegates to support members winning at work so we hope some members out there will step forward to do this important work with us.

“Although the bargaining was hard work, we are celebrating having won additional sick leave for union members only,” Jenny says. “We are also looking forward to seeing the results of a ‘self-rostering’ trial which will be run next year. Home support workers are very isolated and we hope that this trial may help to find some ways where small groups of workers can support each other,” she says.

Union summer shines at Summerset

Hundreds of workers at retirement village operator Summerset are celebrating a ground-breaking deal which will lift weekend pay rates by 25% in the New Year.

The deal, currently being voted on by our members, means weekend rates will be paid at time and a quarter, replacing a flat rate of $1.20 an hour.

“Weekends are always a challenge for some staff, who have to spend time away from friends and family, so getting the extra pay is going to make a real difference,” says Taranaki delegate Marie Price.

As well as the weekend rates increase, the Summerset deal also sets a new industry standard for caregivers’ pay. They are covered by the five-year equal pay settlement but there is no increase scheduled next year. However, Summerset was smart enough to agree to a 1.5% increase from July 2020 for carers.

Whanganui delegate Pauline Mullins says her workmates are thrilled with the increase.

“Negotiations are never easy, but Summerset showed they were listening to their workforce,” she says.

“These retirement villages look good and are great for those who can afford them. But it’s the quality of the care that underpins the villas and apartments. It’s going to be a good summer.“

With Summerset now settled, E tū will be expecting other care sector bosses to match the deal. Watch this space.

Solidarity wins at Te Wiremu

Our members are still fizzing with excitement after their very first strike, at Gisborne aged care home, Heritage Lifecare Te Wiremu.
For nine months, the employer refused to bargain with them, then at pay talks in August, they offered nothing. However, the members weren’t prepared to take no for an answer. “Everyone had had enough,” Josie Culshaw says.

The members voted to strike, walking out for two hours a day over two days and hitting the picket line to get their messages across.
“It was the first strike for everyone, including me, and I’ve been there 10 years,” Josie says. She says the staff included “some very shy members” but on the second day, “they were dancing around with their signs! It was great.”

What’s inspiring is that this was a show of solidarity. Despite the caregivers having already won decent pay rises thanks to the equal pay settlement, they walked off the job to win better pay for the laundry, cleaning, and kitchen staff, who only earn the minimum wage. Josie says everyone onsite also supported them in a fantastic show of solidarity.

“The nursing staff and everyone else, even non-union, were there to support our cleaning and kitchen staff. It was that combined strength,” Josie says.

In the wake of the strike, with no response from the employer, the members voted to strike again, forcing the boss back to bargaining and eventually a deal was reached. The overall pay rise was 3.4% for most workers but it wasn’t just the money that mattered. The members won respect and showed the employer they will support each other for fairness.

Josie says the strike and the resulting victory have lifted spirits and built a real sense of solidarity among the staff. “Now, everyone supports everyone else,” she says. “We really pulled it off and we’re so proud of everyone. People are happy. Everyone was asking ‘when’s the next one?’”

Tasti members win satisfying deal

Our members at Tasti Products have stood tall in their fight for a decent pay rise, imposing an overtime ban during bargaining this year that went on for six months.

It was worth it. They’ve won an 18-month deal, with an across-the-board pay rise of 90 cents an hour, which is significant. The increase is back-dated to 2 July this year. As with many of our wage talks, the bargaining team was pushing for the Living Wage and that remains the ultimate goal.

Meanwhile, delegate and bargaining team member Thelma Henry says the result reflects the strength and solidarity on site.
“This is the best increase we have ever had here at Tasti and I have been here since 1993!” Thelma says. “Our members’ strength has delivered a great outcome for all of us.”

Sweet taste of success for Tasti members

Solidarity foundation of Sanford success

Our members at Sanford Bluff and Havelock sites are celebrating big wage rises following pay talks this year.

Our Bluff members have campaigned over several years for the Living Wage and that bore fruit at both sites this year, with increases our delegates call life-changing for many.At Bluff, this year’s settlement is a great step on the path to a Living Wage. Many received pay rises of 20%. Delegate Linda Bevin says new workers, who were formerly on the minimum wage, will start on $19 an hour and there’s a pathway to the Living Wage.

Sanford Havelock bargaining team: (left to right) Lavina Rickard, Dan Paget, Karen Solomon, Stu Borrie and Lynette Ashby

“It’s been a long haul,” she says. “They’ve been on minimum wage for a very long time. So, now there’s freedom to get groceries, you don’t have to choose between that and the power bill. It’s making a huge difference.”

At Havelock, members also won big pay rises at bargaining in November. As at Bluff, there’s a lift in the minimum starting rate from the minimum wage of $17.70 to $19 an hour. There’s a top rate of $25.50 for factory members and in the ropeyard, where workers have joined the agreement for the first time, wages lifted from a low of $17.70 to a starting rate of $21 and a top rate of $27 depending on skills and experience.

“That’s a huge increase. It’s life-changing for some people,” says ropeyard delegate and bargaining team member, Dan Paget, who expects his pay to increase by about $100 a week thanks to better pay and overtime provisions. “That’ll make a huge difference in my life,” he says.

Members are also keen to address the inequalities between the Havelock site hours of work, which set the ordinary hours in the factory at 48, and the ropeyard at 50, down from 55 hours. All other Sanford workers have ordinary hours of 40 per week.

The deal includes important union access rights, as well as paid time for the members to attend monthly Workplace Organising Committee meetings. A joint consultative committee of members and management has been established and there is a new tangihanga leave clause.

This is a great result at a site where an organising drive saw membership double since the last talks. “The delegates have worked hard and a lot of our members have done the recruiting as well,” Lavina Rickard says, who also pays tribute to Sanford Bluff members for the work they’ve done to lay the foundations for the deal.

“We must thank our Bluff members because they’re the ones who set the rates for us and did all the hard work,” she says.

Linda says moving Sanford to an accredited Living Wage Employer remains the goal, an issue that will be addressed again at bargaining next year. “We want a full Living Wage!” she says.

Mining and the green economy

E tū mining delegate Mark Anderson is facing a job hiatus of up to 15 months from his job at OceanaGold, which mines gold beneath the Coromandel town of Waihi. OceanaGold has plans to expand but until that work begins, work will be suspended at the surface workshop onsite and at the mill, where Mark works.

It’s a challenging time for Mark and his co-workers, but he says this isn’t unusual in the mining industry.
“When I started 12 years ago, the life of the mine here was 18 months, and for a long, long time we worked under that sword of 18 months to two years of mine life. That’s very normal,” he says.

Fortunately, the hiatus is temporary, and Mark says OceanaGold’s expansion plans mean relatively secure work for local miners in the years ahead.

“It’ll be a year to 15 months and then we’re coming back, and then I’ll hopefully work there until I retire,” Mark says.

Originally from the US, Mark moved with his Kiwi partner from Holland to New Zealand, eventually finding work at OceanaGold. Within a year he was elected as the delegate.

“It’s pretty important. We serve a definite role, but I think since I’ve been the delegate, that’s expanded, with guys coming to us with questions or concerns a lot more, whereas before, they’d go to HR and not through the delegate, who was just there for bargaining. So I’ve tried to put more of a personal role into it, you know, having more of a feel for issues affecting our members.”

Mark is the convenor of the mining sub-industry in E tū’s Engineering, Infrastructure and Extractives Industry Council and says meeting up with the Council delegates is a highlight of his role.

“They understand you’re dealing with a mixed bag of people. But you do your best for every member, because they need to know the union will be there for them, so you make sure you give the best possible support that you can,” he says.

The decision to grant OceanaGold the consent to purchase land for expansion was controversial and mining is a frequent target of protest. Mark defends the industry, pointing out gold is part of the green technology revolution.

“Gold is important for technology, it’s used for a lot of things. Waihi, in fact, produces more silver than gold, and silver is valuable for making solar panels. So the question I ask is, how do you power a green economy without mining?

“How will you get the nickel and lithium for EV batteries, the tungsten that goes into wind turbines, how do you get that out of the ground, how do you get that manufactured? All those things that will drive green technology still have to be mined and preferably under the best environmental standards, which is what we use here in NZ.”

“You have a mine in the Congo with 35,000 slaves getting cobalt out of the ground. It goes into the market and into electric vehicles for people who think they’re creating a better world. But is it OK to push it out to other places so people here can say, ‘we don’t support mining’?”

He says a secure future for the mine is also good news for the community. “You take those people out of those communities, you hurt them in more ways than just money. Small towns depend on people running stuff.”

Ending the year on a Living Wage high!

E tū members were loud and proud as they participated in Living Wage Week in November.

On Monday, Victoria University cleaner Rebecca Kuach attended the Auckland launch of “My Life To Live,” the photo exhibition of refugee background workers.

“Telling my story through the exhibition was very empowering for me. It was nice to be there for the Auckland launch and share my story with Living Wage supporters,” Rebecca says.

On Tuesday, workers at the National Library in Wellington held a solidarity morning tea, to celebrate the hard work of workers employed by contractors, such as cleaners and security guards, and support their call for a Living Wage for all workers in the core public service.

Rosie Ngakopu, an E tū security guard at the National Library, really appreciated the support.

“Solidarity is strong in the hearts and minds of working New Zealanders,” Rosie says.

Delegations of E tū members also met with MPs and ministers over the week to remind them of the promises they made at the last election, particularly that they would “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,” which was a commitment made by all three Government parties in the 2017 election campaign.

Members put the case for the Living Wage to Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson; Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni; Minister of Economic Development, Phil Twyford; and Minister of State Services and Education, Chris Hipkins.

Minister of Economic Development Phil Twyford (centre) hears about Living Wage and social procurement

As well as our members getting active, there were some big new accredited Living Wage Employers announced, including ANZ Bank and Queenstown Airport Corporation.

Fiona Lawson, who works at the airport for an airline, hopes this will encourage more Queenstown businesses to get on board.
“It’s exciting to have the airport take such a significant step for their workers, and hopefully it creates some momentum for the Living Wage in Queenstown,” Fiona says.

“It’s time for the Queenstown Lake District Council to commit to paying all their staff the Living Wage, like other councils across New Zealand are doing. We’re also calling on other businesses like hotels and restaurants to do the same, as many frontline staff are paid below the Living Wage.

“It’s been empowering to see what local Living Wage networks have been able to achieve for low paid workers. I loved visiting the Bluff Living Wage team this year and found their work inspiring. People deserve better wages, and this is how we get them.”

E tū members meet with Minister of Finance Grant Robertson (centre)

The local elections in October also saw some great victories for local Living Wage networks. In particular, Hutt City now has a Living Wage activist and E tū member, Campbell Barry, as mayor.

“I’ve made an absolute commitment that Hutt City Council will be an accredited Living Wage Employer this term, which means that all workers, including contractors, get at least the Living Wage, and I want to get that done sooner rather than later,” Campell says.
“We’ve already had some Living Wage wins this term, with the street sweeping contract requiring payment of the Living Wage. We’re gonna keep this going.”

2020 is bound to be another big year for our community movement for the Living Wage. If 2019 is anything to go by, E tū members will once again lead the charge!

A full house for the My Life To Live photo exhibition launch in Auckland

Remembering the Erebus tragedy

Butterflies took flight over the Erebus Memorial Garden at Auckland Airport as aviation members, former crew, friends and family gathered on 28 November for a special service to mark the 40th anniversary of the Erebus disaster.

Twenty crew including 15 cabin crew lost their lives when Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into Erebus, killing all 257 people on board. It is New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime disaster, and the deadliest accident in Air New Zealand’s history.

The well attended service saw the laying of wreaths, including one by MPs Phil Twyford and Marja Lubeck, formerly E tū’s head of Aviation, who read a message from the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Te Akitai Waiohua kaumatua David Wilson Takaanini blessed the garden of 20 native plants – one plant for each crew member. Relatives and colleagues of crew members killed in the tragedy were invited to sprinkle the plants with water from snow melt from Mt Erebus, provided by Antarctica New Zealand.

E tū Life Member and former cabin crew member, Grahame Clark and his wife Raewyn, read out the names of the crew members who died, before 20 monarch butterflies were released. A minute’s silence at 1.49pm (12.49 NZST) marked the time of the crash, with many visibly moved by the moment. An audio recording was also played of the waiata ‘Ex Erebus’, performed by Miriam Clancy, the niece of crew member Marie Wolfert.

Grahame and Raewyn were prime movers in establishing the Airport Memorial Garden in honour of the fallen crew. Grahame remembers the day of the disaster vividly. “It’s something you never forget,” he says.

He remembers joking around with the ill-fated crew ahead of their flight, the initial shock when the flight was reported missing, then the terrible news that the wreckage had been found. “It was pretty traumatic as you can imagine. You were just numb,” says Grahame. “At that time, imagine, 40 years ago, we were like family. Everyone knew everyone else. We lost really close friends. Everyone knew someone on that flight.”

In the words of the waiata Ex Erebus: “Where our tears meet the snow, you will never grow old on the mountain of hope.”

The day also marked the 11th anniversary of the crash of an Air New Zealand A320 off the coast of Perpignan in France in 2008, killing five New Zealand aviation workers, including Air New Zealand engineers Murray White, Michael Gyles and Noel Marsh.

May we never forget. We should always remember the people we lose at work and the importance of a true safety culture.

Big payouts for CHH members

Workers at Carter Holt Harvey’s (CHH) Wood Products plants around the country have received big payouts for holiday pay arrears, thanks to the tenacity of our fabulous team of delegates and members there.

“It was us delegates as a group that pushed and pushed and in the end we got the backpay,” says CHH delegate Wheeti Haenga, who is also the Convenor of the E tū Women’s Committee.

The push for arrears goes back to 2006, when the issue was first raised by the delegates, who realised holiday pay wasn’t taking into account longer than usual working days or various shifts, which meant workers weren’t paid what they would have received if they worked the day. “And, if you do a lot of overtime, which most of our workers do, then they would be owed even more,” Wheeti says.

Convinced they were right, the delegates raised the issue at every bargaining. They were met by strong resistance but they hung in there and, in May, E tū requested the relevant records and the company conducted a nationwide audit of holiday pay, “and we won!”
Since then, CHH has been paying arrears across all its sites, dating back to 2011. Some people got back pay in excess of $15,000.

“Some of our workers came to thank the union,” Wheeti says. “We’ve had people say, ‘Wow, we never thought we’d get this. Thanks so much!’ It’s a great windfall and so close to Christmas.”

Wheeti says she is determined to ensure everyone gets what they are owed, including tracking down the families of workers who have died. “One guy died of cancer and he was there for 15 years. So, they owe these families. We want everyone to get something.”

Meanwhile, E tū has successfully pursued back pay for holiday pay arrears at many other sites, including Contact Energy where one member was paid out more than $30,000. We have also worked with the Ministry of Health to develop a process for paying arrears to DHB workers, agreeing on a two-year programme with payouts set to benefit many of our members.

There’s much more to come for E tū members. With Holidays Act non-compliance affecting a massive portion of the workforce, members can expect more wins on the horizon.

FPAs: Delegates intensify lobbying

OCS cleaning delegate Rose Kavapalu works two jobs to make ends meet. At one job, her hours have just been cut from 50 to 25 a week and so she works a second job at night.

“It would be nice to have just one job. We’re still living day by day, so when will our saviour come?” asks Rose.

Rose was speaking after consultation meetings in Wellington and Auckland last month by Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway on progress with Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs). FPAs would set minimum pay and conditions across entire industries.
This would be a game-changer for many E tū members, especially cleaners and security guards, who are often exploited by the ‘race to the bottom’ as they bear the brunt of contractors cutting costs to stay competitive.

Rose says while Minister Lees-Galloway supports FPAs, it’s taking a long time to get them in place. Cleaning and security members have been meeting Labour MPs and intensively lobbying NZ First MPs to win their support, including Fletcher Tabuteau, Clayton Mitchell, Jenny Marcroft, Tracey Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who assured members he supports a fair deal for security guards and cleaners.

Our delegates meet Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin (centre)

For security guards, like delegate Lewis Madar, there’s a lot at stake. “The bosses can have their Christmas and enjoy their lives, but for us it’s about making ends meet,” he says, pointing out the great gulf between the lives of the “haves” and the “have nots.”
In October, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released a discussion document to get feedback about the different options for designing the FPA system. About 500 E tū members made submissions, asserting that a proper FPA system needs to be robust.

The vast majority of members who used our online submission tool agreed a decent FPA process should ensure unions are the representatives of workers at the bargaining table, that standards are national and not regional, and all workers have the right to paid meetings to vote on the agreements.

In his submission, E tū’s Public and Commercial Services Industry Convenor, Jason Fell, puts it very well: “Fair Pay Agreements are needed to address the inequality that has resulted through not having any fair standards set for wages, especially in low income employment,” Jason says.

“Companies compete for contracts by lowering their quotes at the expense of workers’ wages, with no concern for their employees. Good companies, who would like to pay their workers a fair and liveable wage, can’t compete against those who are driven by profit at the expense of their employees. The only way to address this is through legislation to ensure minimum standards of fair pay.”

Globetrotting delegates

Our E tū delegates Mele Peaua and Nirmala Devi have taken a message of global solidarity to delegates at two key events in the United States this year.

“Inspiring!” is how Nirmala, a delegate at LSG Sky Chefs in Auckland, describes her trip in August to Dallas, where she joined striking LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet airline workers who are fighting for a union contract with healthcare and a living wage.
Nirmala spent time with the picketers and spoke to other delegates from across the US.

“I was so impressed, I gained a lot of experience, especially on the picket line. What they want, they stood up for,” she says. The workers earn less than $14 an hour. “Such low rates!” she says.

Speaking to about 200 delegates, who met in support of the workers, Nirmala shared E tū’s story of our successful court case against LSG Sky Chefs, which forced the company to abandon its long-term use of labour hire workers, who earned less than their permanently employed work mates.

“That was fantastic,” Nirmala says. “There was a lot of interest in that case, because they’re all in the same boat. We all have the same common issues, so the question is, how can we build strength in our industries?”

Hutt Valley cleaning delegate Mele Peaua also shared her story of member activism with delegates at UNI Global’s conference in Chicago in October, marking 20 years of its Property Services sector, which covers cleaners and security guards.

Mele received a standing ovation for her speech that focussed on the E tū contract cleaners’ fight for the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements, to help workers in industries like cleaning where contracting drives down wages and often means cuts in hours for workers.
“At the end of the day, the cleaners are the ones where they are chopping, chopping, chopping,” she says. Mele also spoke about the impact of her and her husband’s long working hours to make ends meet and the effect on their family life.

“I said, we work all those long hours. I come in, he goes out. I never see him. We’ve missed time with our kids and I said at conference, I regret that because I was never there for them.”

Mele and Nirmala also learned how bad it can get for other workers globally. Mele spent time with delegates from Africa where workers earn as little as $200 a month.

Nirmala Devi on the picket line in Dallas

Both women agree building strength in their industries is critical to winning better pay and conditions, and for Mele, Fair Pay Agreements to alleviate the cleaning industry’s low pay rates.

“We have to really stand up for ourselves,” Nirmala says, “and be strong and confident, and then we can all get there. I was really impressed by what they’re doing there in Dallas.” Echoing the chants and placards of the Dallas workers, she says “one job should be enough!”

Campaigning for Justice

E tū members have been at the forefront of campaigning for justice for workers and their families since we formed as a new union four years ago. We have campaigned around big issues of equal pay, Living Wage and local and central government elections and we have campaigned on and across sites, taking strike action up and down the country for better collective agreements.

E tū member leaders have been on the front line of these campaigns as the voice of workers. Transformative change demands leverage, usually beyond individual workplaces so we have sufficient power to influence decision-makers. That’s why we reach out to other civil society organisations that share our concerns, whether they are unions, faith-based organisations or community groups. Organising for real change is not about the power of your argument but the argument about your power, as the old adage goes.

Big wins also take organised pressure and that’s why we are active in alliances, such as the Living Wage Movement and the emerging Auckland alliance, Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga. Organised people and a plan that targets the right decision-maker, with the right action, is a big part of the secret to winning. By uniting with our allies in the Living Wage Movement, E tū’s members are securing the Living Wage at councils around the country.

Organising for a win starts with a feeling that something needs to change. A campaign starts with us listening to each other’s stories about our lives now and listening to our vision of what life could be.

Then we understand that we are not alone and that, together, we have a vision to aim for.

We look around in this country and across the world for a sense of who else we stand with. E tū is part of an international labour movement and we are affiliated to Global Union Federations that connect unions around the world working in the same sectors. These connections let us learn from each other and work together. Unions around the world, including E tū, lent their skills and their megaphones to children in the recent school climate strike. Beyond single days like that, unions around the world have won victories that can give us a practical vision for making a better world right here.

We know that the countries with the greatest equality are countries with the strongest unions. A significant practical structure that supports equality and justice is collective bargaining that is organised beyond individual workplaces and even beyond large individual employers. Bargaining across a whole sector lifts whole communities out of poverty. Many countries have sector-wide bargaining and those are the countries where people are the happiest, most equal and healthiest in the world. Denmark is the happiest country in the world and has the third best equality. It has a similar population to New Zealand, and 80% of its workers are covered by collective bargaining, all of which is negotiated at sector level. In New Zealand, fewer than 20% of workers are covered by collective bargaining, and in the private sector it is about 10%, none of which is formally part of any sector agreement.

International bodies like the OECD have recognised that sector-wide bargaining creates better outcomes for countries. We know that it creates better lives for working people.

Our current labour laws hold us back from sector bargaining. We do not have the practical structures to help us reach our vision.

At the last general election E tū campaigned for a new law to give us sector bargaining through Fair Pay Agreements. Labour and the Greens supported us. Right now, we have the chance to be active in ensuring it is a good law that provides our members with decent lives through a floor of minimum standards, such as health and safety, training, hours of work and liveable wages. Already we have organised delegations to MPs and ministers, attended consultation meetings, written hundreds of submissions, and used our influence across the political spectrum so we can get the best legislation possible. Your involvement is essential in the months ahead if we are to win the most radical change to employment law in decades and deliver real transformative change in the lives of our members.


National President nominations

Elections for the E tū National President positions will be held at the union’s Biennial Conference in July next year. E tū has two National Presidents in acknowledgement of our union’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Nominations are called for both these positions:
National President
National President (Maori)

Any person who has been a financial member of E tū for 12 months is eligible to put in a nomination for a National President position, which must be signed by a mover and seconder, both of whom must be financial members.

Please send all nominations to the Returning Officer, Christopher Gordon, at by 4pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

E tū Biennial Conference remits

Under the E tū Rules every financial member is entitled to put forward any policy they want considered at E tū’s Biennial Conference.

Proposed policies need to be presented in the form of a written remit which sets out what you want the union to support and what you want the union to do.

All policy remits must be sent to the National Secretary, Bill Newson, at by 4pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

National Secretary nominations

Elections for the E tū National Secretary position will be held at the union’s Biennial Conference in July next year.

Nominations are called for this position:
National Secretary

Any person who has been a financial member of E tū for 12 months is eligible to put in a nomination for the position of National Secretary, which must be signed by a mover and seconder, both of whom must be financial members.

Please send all nominations to the Returning Officer, Christopher Gordon, at by 4pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

Coming up in 2020

E tū has active networks of Maori, Pasifika, women, and youth members.

These networks will all be holding hui, fono, conferences and other events ahead of the E tū Biennial Conference in July 2020.

Each will also elect a convenor, who will sit on the E tū National Executive.

If you are an E tū member and would like to be active in any of these networks, please email one of our Assistant National Secretaries, Rachel Mackintosh or Annie Newman, at or and they’ll let you know the opportunities for involvement.