Article Category: December 2021

E tū organising

The sound of solidarity: bargaining at NZSO

Instruments, tours, performances… It’s not your regular workplace nor your regular collective.

However, the country’s only full-time and salaried orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), is a heavily unionised workplace – most of its 90 musicians are members of E tū.

In November, the bargaining team began negotiating their new collective which has a strong worker voice.

Delegate Lyndsay Mountfort says musicians are “slightly unusual employees” in the traditional sense.

“For example, a lot of what we’ve got in our collective are things like professional and artistic issues, about standards and wanting to retain a level of control for our members.”

One element of the collective that’s being reworked is around managing musicians’ performance during their orchestral career, which can be long, as they tend to settle into an orchestra and stay.

“We’re trying to replace previous processes to be lighter in touch and support players to maintain their standards.

“In most workplaces, that’s something that’s monitored by managers, but with us, we do it ourselves,” the longtime delegate says.

“We have very long careers, and it’s very much a big family – you can end up with people playing alongside their own kids!”

Taking a bow at Baycourt Theatre in Tauranga PHOTO: Latitude Creative

They’re also reviewing the symphony’s audition policy to reflect how the process happens in reality.

In orchestras around the world, a “trial period” is seen as a normal and critical part of the hiring process to make sure the fit for both parties is right, Lyndsay says.

As NZSO often recruits players internationally, new musicians may want to have played with the group in person before accepting the job, in a new city or a new country.

Players also have regular opportunities to talk with the orchestra’s board and meet with its executive around once a month.

So how does this group of musicians manage to work so closely, year after year, with high levels of trust? It’s all about solidarity, Lyndsay says.

“It’s the way we have to work – partly the environment here, as it’s the only full-time salaried orchestra in the country – and when you’re performing, it’s a team activity.

“Particularly as [in normal times] we tour more than most orchestras – sharing planes and buses, socialising and eating together. You kind of need to get on!”

Workers unite for safe staffing action day

Aged care workers are continuing to push the Government to update the current staffing recommendations and make them law.

In December, members from E tū, NZNO, and Grey Power are presenting a parliamentary petition and open letter for mandatory safe staffing to Parliament, with actions taking place at rest homes and aged care hospitals around the country.

Current staffing guidelines were set down in 2005.

They are not only woefully out of date, but are not mandatory either.

E tū member Mokasehina Vaetoru, who has 10 years of experience working in aged care, says safe staffing is about improving the lives of residents and workers.

“Everyone has the right to proper care, and having a safe number of staff means a better quality of life and quality of care for residents.

“We need a new policy that not only protects the staff and guarantees safe care for residents, but provides a minimum number of staff on the floor,” she says.

E tū member Mokasehina Vaetoru (third from left) with other members at David Lange Care Home

“Safe staffing needs to be mandatory – the residents are suffering daily and workers are injuring themselves under pressure.”

The joint campaign will continue into 2022, until aged care workers win!

See for more.

Win for two groups of Geneva community care workers

It’s a double win for Geneva members working in home and community support, and residential community living, with two collective agreements settled at the same time covering hundreds of care workers around Aotearoa.

After the hard slog of bargaining, there are some great and precedent-setting wins achieved by the bargaining teams led by delegates at Geneva.

Union members now have more sick leave than the Government’s minimum, with a union-only premium being negotiated, more bereavement leave (also for union members only), and cultural leave in line with commitments to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Geneva community living delegate Isaac Otineru says both collectives have “lots of goodies” for members, thanks to the hard work of the delegate teams.

“We’re really stoked for the outcome and what’s in it for our people in the long run,” he says.

Geneva home support delegate Colleen Frost says the bargaining process was a positive experience.

Member Colleen Frost (right) with the E tū and PSA Geneva Home and Community Support bargaining team

“We’ve more than doubled our union membership at Geneva since our last collective was settled.

“This time around, it was great to be able to make progress and create change in our sector – care is our future.”

“We rely on that pay”: Rest home workers strike over proposed cuts

Members at the only rest home in a rural Northland town took matters into their own hands after being threatened by their employer with potential redundancies if they didn’t accept the terms of their new collective.

So far, members at Claud Switzer Rest Home in Kaitaia have had two short strikes with more planned for December, in an attempt to get their employer to listen to their point of view.

The home, run by Claud Switzer Memorial Trust, has proposed cuts to members’ allowances, such as extra pay for working on weekends, along with other concerning clauses around job security, wages, and medical issues.

It also put out posters outlining a grey future if the members didn’t accept the new collective: no new building or refurbishments, leading to a reduced number of beds and then redundancies.

While strike action has led to some movement from the trust, the proposals around worrying cuts to weekend pay and others haven’t changed.

Longtime worker at Claud Switzer and E tū member Kam Wijohn only works weekends so she can care for her grandchildren during the week.

She estimates that she’ll be potentially losing thousands from her pay per year if her weekend allowance is reduced in three years’ time from an extra $5 per hour down to just $12 for the whole shift.

“My husband is on minimum wage. That’s why we compromise – he works during the week while I care for the grandkids, and I work the weekends.”

Workers say not having extra pay for weekend work will affect their budgets and staffing levels

“We have mortgages, we’re trying to pay for our own homes. To have that cut in pay would be really hard – we rely on that pay.

“We feel that our employer isn’t listening to us,” she says.

Staff turnover at Claud Switzer is already on the rise, and members say the roster is full of gaps, with weekend work being some of the hardest shifts to staff.

Members have said they will continue to strike until they get what they need from the trust.

And while it’s the “hardest thing for us to do to walk out on our residents,” E tū delegate Margaret McQuade says being on the picket line wasn’t all bad.

“Our members really enjoyed being out there together and feeling like they had a voice.”

Being on the picket line created a feeling of solidarity

Ready for take off at Jetconnect with new collective

After more than three years of on-again off-again negotiating, cabin crew at Jetconnect finally have a collective agreement.

Jetconnect, a subsidiary of Australia’s Qantas, has come under fire during the Covid crisis with cabin crew on a Special Leave Without Pay ‘furlough scheme’ for much of the year, having to find second jobs to survive. During the recent lockdown, the company was also ineligible for the wage subsidy.

But having been through such tough times, members are celebrating having a new collective agreement.

Delegate Andrew Reilly (left) with Jetconnect members

From a six percent pay rise over three years (including backpay) and a bonus payment that’s three years overdue, the team is positive about their gains, says long-time delegate Andrew Reilly.

“A lot of members are relieved that we have an agreement and that things are starting to move forwards again.”

Members’ base salary will start again in December, and they will now have eight or 12-hour reserve periods to ensure clearer rest periods.

Andrew says many members had to pick up casual jobs during Covid, which meant they worried about inconveniencing their new employers each time flying restarted at Jetconnect and they went back to their old jobs.

As the only remaining member of the original bargaining team and now a moonlighting hospital orderly, Andrew says he’s grateful to still be on board.

“I like to be positive – we have been lucky. We were stood down and told to hang around, but most got good jobs. There is still a lot of unease, but it will be great to be back in our uniforms.”

Putting the heat on to put up pay

Most weeks, factory workers at Argus Heating do overtime, making industrial electric blankets used to keep things like food at a stable temperature when it’s exported.

They might expect to work a 12-hour day during the week, plus a 10-hour day on Saturday, and a few extra hours on Sunday.

Now E tū members will not only be cutting back, but getting paid more for the hours they work – with time and a half pay on the weekend and a normal 40-hour work week.

E tū delegate Katrina Michie says members have been prepared to take strike action since April if the deal didn’t come through.

“We’ve fought long and hard to get it, and I’m very glad that management did change their mind.”

Members were prepared to strike for their overtime pay

New delegate Nu’u Fata agrees: “Every year towards summer it’s always busy and we’re always working hard, long hours, so I think getting overtime rates is a good reward and extra money.”

Katrina says most of the production team are now union members.

“Everyone wanted changes to be made, and thought the union would be a good idea to help make change.”

So what’s next on the cards? “Sorting out redundancy pay – that would be nice.”

Cabin crew rostered together again after 10 years

After almost a decade of segregated rostering, two groups of Air New Zealand A320 cabin crew will crew their first rostered flights together from next April.

Since around 2013, following a restructure, the company’s short haul cabin crew have been divided into two groups on separate rosters and ‘schedules’ of a shared collective agreement.

It meant that existing workers – who were designated the ‘Schedule 500’ cabin crew – retained their terms and conditions. It was also agreed that the two groups of workers would not be rostered on together (except if required in exceptional circumstances).

Meanwhile, newer workers – known as the ‘Schedule 400’ Cabin Crew – joined a new schedule inside this collective agreement, with differing terms and conditions that they fought to improve in the following years.

Now after years of negotiating for a variation that would bring the group under one roster, a successful variation vote was achieved.

Both groups of cabin crew will now fly together, while still retaining their respective terms and conditions.

The variation also includes improved conditions to help crew to maintain work life balance, as flying begins to ramp up and borders open.

With around a 70 percent majority vote from both schedules, delegates say members are excited for this change.

“It will be a big change of dynamic to how we have been working and we’re looking forward to this new way forward,” says long-time Schedule 500 delegate Suzanne Aull.

The change also means the Schedule 500 crew can return to flying international routes again.

A Schedule 400 delegate, Josh Nicoll, who’s been with the company for around six years, says he believes coming together is the right thing to do.

“It does help the company, but for our crew, it’s the start of a new dynamic of flying and represents new beginnings for our fleet heading into 2022.”

Creating the factories of tomorrow

Lavina Rickard didn’t expect to end up working in one of Aotearoa’s most well-known wine and food regions. But as a team leader at Sanfords with decades of experience behind her, she’s playing a role in reshaping the future of manufacturing for workers.

How did you come to be working in food production?

Marlborough is a food-producing district, so in terms of work, it’s mussels or it’s wineries. I’ve now been in the sector for 26 years.

What’s involved in your role?

I’ve been a team leader for the past 15 years – first on the processing shifts, then around 2010, I transferred to the sanitation shifts. We clean the factory and the machinery. It’s the most important shift at the Havelock site – Sanford’s only mussel site. If the hygiene specifications aren’t met, then the processing shift can’t work. I’m also a health and safety rep, fire warden, and first aider. The variety of ‘hats’ I wear are due to the different job titles I’ve held. I’ve also been an E tū delegate for more than 10 years!

Can you tell us about any unusual parts of your work?

It’s out of necessity that I work my shift from midnight to 6.00am. The hours suit me better in relation to my personal life.

Where are you originally from?

I grew up in Whangārei and came down to Blenheim at 17 to find employment. Then I studied at AUT (then AIT) in Auckland and carried on at Lincoln University. Two years in, I fell pregnant and have spent the last 26 years supporting my three children.

How did you get involved with the union?

I’ve always been union – even before Sanfords – and my family has always been union. For me, it’s just about supporting each other, and making sure workers are treated right. Being in this industry for as long as I’ve worked in it – I’ve come from the ‘bad old days’ – I know how important it is to look after people.

You’re now doing work on the Government’s Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for advanced manufacturing. What’s it all about?

The ITP is a government initiative that involves workers, union, Māori, business leaders, academics, and scientists, working toward a goal to improve the lives of all. That means better paying jobs for current and new workers in the industry, better jobs and career opportunities. It’s also about decent working conditions, which will be beneficial not only for the workers and their families, but also their communities.

The Advanced Manufacturing ITP is about lifting the ‘manufacturing profile’ from hard, labour-intensive work, to an industry that future workers can forge a great career path in. It’s about attracting a diverse workforce and talent that stems from all different walks of life, to use their skills and experience to create a more innovative, sustainable, connected industry, based around a ‘Just Transition’.

How will workers be affected?

To cope with the fourth revolution of industry – ‘industry 4.0’ a.k.a. the ‘smart factory’ – businesses will have to invest in the upskilling (preferably transferable skills) of their workforce. There needs to be a focus on building a solid foundation first. Basic literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy will enable workers to cope with the changes and advances in manufacturing.

What do you like to get up to in your free time?

I don’t have much free time with work and family commitments, but I do enjoy fishing. A great downtime activity and a chance to catch up with my sister, who has as busy a schedule as I do. My siblings and I were brought up around the sea, so we all indulge in a variety of sea-related activities.

Working for the future with our Runanga

Creating decent work and a world in which all workers are valued for their contributions is a future that Sharryn Barton would like to see.

Sharryn, the convenor of Te Runanga o E tū, and E tū co-president Muriel Tunoho are part of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) Runanga on the Government’s Future of Work Forum.

Set up in 2018, the Forum is a tripartite group made up of Government, business, and unions to plan and then create the future of work in Aotearoa. The Forum looks at how we can have a decent future in the face of climate change, globalisation, and technological advancements.

Sharryn says having Runanga from different unions in the forum is important, as it means all workers can be represented.

“When changes to the economy and employment happen, Māori workers are affected. Just like in 1991 when the Employment Contracts Act came in and led to widespread redundancies in industries like forestry and the freezing works.

“Today, many of our people work in industries like cleaning, security, and care work. But everything’s going to be digitised, so we’ll be training everyone up to work in a digital world,” she says.

“That’s ok, but we still have to have work that workers enjoy doing. And we’re still going to need jobs like cleaners and security guards.”

Some jobs aren’t seen as important, even though their value is clear, Sharryn says.

“A job is about more than pay and the role that you do. It’s about valuing the contribution that everyone makes to their community and environment – be it as a doctor, a nurse, or a cleaner.”

However, Sharryn says, jobs need to be decent jobs with room for family life, with workers able to do one job – not two or three – to make ends meet.

“I think we need to reprioritise our values and decide: what are the things that are really important to us? What do we do to build a healthy and sustainable future?

“The greatest asset is the people – you can’t make money if you haven’t got the people to produce the product.”

See the ‘Future of Work Tripartite Forum’ on for more.

Our week of Living Wage wins

E tū members once again led the charge this Living Wage Week in November. We celebrated some awesome victories and kept the pressure on with our campaigns for even more E tū members to win the Living Wage (currently $22.75).

One massive win was the Government announcement that all cleaners, security guards, and caterers who are employed by contractors in the public service will now get at least the Living Wage, as the service contracts are renewed. They will have guaranteed annual increases in line with the labour cost index, which is one way of measuring average wages, and adjustments will be made to keep pace with changes in the independently calculated Living Wage rate.

For E tū delegate and experienced Living Wage campaigner Mele Peaua, the biggest advantage of the Living Wage is simple – more time with her family.

“Because the Living Wage helps so much with the cost of living, it means you only need to work eight hours and then go home,” Mele says.

Another big victory was the Hutt City Council (HCC)becoming Aotearoa’s third accredited Living Wage council. E tū members have been organising for this win since the Living Wage Movement started. Our co-president Muriel Tunoho, who has led this charge since the beginning, said it was a proud day for the local movement.

Spotless catering workers present their petition for Living Wage increases

“It has been a long journey! We overcame every obstacle because of our network’s determination and the courage of HCC cleaners and E tū members to keep telling their stories,” Muriel says.

“This is what community power can achieve to build a more just society together.”

Spotless catering workers who make the food for the Government’s school lunch programme had started on the Living Wage, but hadn’t had their pay increased to reflect the new rate this year. On Living Wage Week, our members went straight to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, to share their stories.

As Minister Wood said at the meeting: “The healthy school lunches initiative was set up for the wellbeing of our communities, and that should also include those people who are performing the mahi.”

E tū members joined our allies in the Living Wage Movement to host an online forum about Fair Pay Agreements, which will be a vital tool for winning the Living Wage across whole industries. E tū leader Iunisi Faingaanuku shared a message of solidarity with her cleaning colleagues.

“To all my co-workers – school cleaners, commercial cleaners, and hospital cleaners who look after the wellbeing and health and safety of New Zealand – my heart goes out to you all,” Iunisi said.

“We deserve more than the minimum wage and a ‘thank you’. We don’t want our children and grandchildren to go through the struggle we are going through now.”

Southland needs a Just Transition

Southland is gearing up for change. Like many of our regional communities, all sorts of global and local forces mean it’s time for a rethink in the region.

Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is one of the biggest employers in the region, and it provides hundreds of jobs at the smelter and at the local businesses that work alongside it. The company has announced plans to close the plant 2024.

What will that mean for the Southland community? While change in the New Zealand workforce is inevitable, we know that it’s often workers and their communities who unfairly bear the brunt. To combat this, E tū campaigns for a Just Transition – ensuring that communities are protected.

E tū members at Tiwai Point know that just sitting by won’t help anything. This is their future, and the future for their community. That’s why they’ve been organising to make sure their voices count, and their interests are prioritised, whatever happens.

To get the ball rolling, E tū held meetings in November, with all union and non-union workers at Tiwai welcome. Delegate Tony O’Driscoll took a leadership role in organising these meetings and says he’s hopeful for the future.

“Everyone who went to the meetings was pretty positive, I’ve been getting some good feedback,” Tony says.

“Membership is growing, and hopefully we get a threshold to do some serious negotiation with the company. We want to concentrate on health and safety as well as everything else.”

Another exciting development is E tū’s new partnership with Murihiku Regeneration, a project by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, focussed on a prosperous and sustainable future for people in the Southland region. E tū Co-Presidents Muriel Tunoho and Don Pryde visited Southland to sign this historic deal.

Don says it’s very important for unions, iwi, and all community stakeholders to work together for a Just Transition.

“It’s about the future for everyone, so that’s why we all need to be involved in these discussions,” Don says.

“I’m proud that E tū is once again on the cutting edge of new ways of working with our community partners. That’s how we’ll make sure we really get a say in the future of our regions.”

Tiwai members get down to business

Next steps for Decent Work

More E tū members are diving into our new Decent Work campaign that brings together the different strands of E tū’s campaigns like the Living Wage, Fair Pay Agreements, a Just Transition, and more.

We’re gearing up for the Decent Work Summit: Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora! in February 2022, which will bring together E tū member leaders and our community allies, business, and academics to discuss Decent Work and plan for the future.

We will also host a Decent Work Jobs Expo – a great opportunity for members to see what other work and training options are out there. Aucklanders can keep an eye out for your invitation!

E tū Decent Work Charter

“Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”

International Labour Organisation


E tū leaders get behind vaccine drive

Activist and community leader Gadiel Asiata was on a Zoom call about keeping his community safe during Covid when he realised: this was the perfect organising opportunity.

So the E tū National Executive rep put on his “organising hat” and proposed a committee.

A day later, he found himself on the very committee he’d suggested. His task? To connect with Samoan young people with a vaccination drive.

“This was one voice that wasn’t at the table. So we set up a Zoom and did a call-out to the youth of Manurewa. Within two days, we had a social media team and a promotions team.

“I was so overwhelmed by the talent that our young people have.”

Their first event in October was organised in a local carpark with a target of reaching 500 people over two days. But they almost tripled the number, with vaccination rates hitting more than 1300.

The other two events have also been a huge success, with more than 800 people turning out.

E tū delegate and Te Runanga member JD Rawiri says he wanted to protect his mokos and his daughter, who got sick with the virus while overseas

Pacific Health provided all vaccination services and security at the events, with the Cause Collective supplying meals and giveaways to those who got a shot.

Gadiel says the key to the drive was creating a community feel.

“The night before our event in Randwick Park – quite a gang-oriented area of Manurewa – we made our presence felt in the community by doing a community barbeque, giving out flyers, doing a mail box drop and talking to local kids.”

Being able to offer hot meals and creating an environment people felt comfortable in also helped, he says.

“Our job is to mobilise our community and bring people to the vaccine, but we’re doing this for everybody – every New Zealander.”

Bringing the community together at Randwick Park

Three cheers for our essential workers

Lifewise homecare support workers, who provide essential care at home to those in the community who need it, won their first collective in April, after four months of strikes and pickets on the roadside


Our postal workers have kept the wheels of our society turning during long periods of lockdown. Workers in Auckland celebrated World Post Day in October.


E tū members work right across the aviation industry – one that has been hit hardest by COVID-19. While too many members lost their jobs, many have remained as essential workers at the very forefront of COVID-19 health and safety issues, such as PPE, vaccinations, and border control.


Getting into the spirit at a Ngā Puna Whai Oranga hui – E tū’s new worker leadership programme in health and safety, sponsored by ACC. E tū ran six successful hui for manufacturing workers this year and the programme continues in 2022 with workplace workshops.


This year, E tū launched our network for migrants and former refugees. Essential work is a key part of the programme – many of our fellow members from those communities work in all sorts of essential jobs. We are lucky to have them supporting and protecting Aotearoa.


Rosey Ngakopu is a security guard who has worked in a number of roles right through the pandemic. She’s also been a union and community leader in our campaigns for Fair Pay Agreements, the Living Wage, and income-related rent subsidies. Go Rosey!


IDEA Services workers, like these delegates, look after people with intellectual disabilities and help them to live happy and meaningful lives. That doesn’t stop over lockdown, and E tū members can be proud of IDEA Services workers and others in the community support sector for their important service.

Editorial: Bring on 2022

Welcome to this final edition of our union magazine for 2021.

It has been another challenging year confronting the global pandemic and I know that all members deserve to look forward to some form of summer break.

I acknowledge and thank all our E tū members who have worked in a wide number of essential and border-facing roles, serving the wider community so tirelessly during these worrying times.

I know that members elsewhere will join with me in acknowledging our Auckland members who have endured our longest lockdown.

We all need that summer break. When I was writing the introduction to the last edition of our magazine, I described the deep democratic structures of E tū and I was looking forward to engaging with members in our E tū Biennial Membership Meetings.

However, the lockdown forced us to cancel those nation-wide meetings. I am pleased to report that our union democracy has continued throughout the lockdown period with our National Executive, Industry Councils, Runanga, Women’s Committee, Komiti Pasefika, and Trades Reference Group meeting online.

During September, we held our Regional Representative elections online. I congratulate our North and South Island Vice Presidents, Mischelle Moriarty and Ray Pilley, and our Northern, Central, and Southern Region Representatives, Gadiel Asiata, Angelique Kerr, and Nikki Twine. My thanks and best regards to the other candidates who put themselves forward for election.

I look forward to meeting delegates in real life at our regional Delegate Forums next April and our Biennial Conference in July 2022.

We always understood that we were in a race between the Delta variant of COVID-19 and mass community-wide vaccination. E tū supports the vaccination campaign as part of a range of measures to maintain personal and collective safety.

COVID-19 is spreading, and it will be with us for a while, some say years. Community-wide vaccination is the key to protecting the broadest possible number of people as we manage the effects of continuing cases.

Union principles of collectivism and solidarity, and health and safety at work, support the union’s recommendation to members to be vaccinated if possible.

E tū is also concerned that the individual right of members to refuse a vaccination can have the consequence of potential risk to employment in some cases. Testing in law has so far upheld the requirement to be vaccinated in order to retain employment in mandated roles, and cases will continue to test the full impact across industries and workplaces.

Some people are fundamentally opposed to vaccination. For others, change and disinformation brings anxiety and hesitation. The union is here to help advise all members, and to make sure all members can get accurate information.

We finish a tough year with hope and aspirations to be “rebuilding better” in 2022, taking a strong stand for a wages-led recovery, decent jobs, and health and well-being.

We will continue to advocate for better wages and work conditions through Fair Pay Agreements, better protection against exploitative “dependent contracting” work arrangements, and health and safety representative rights, especially in smaller workplaces.

Our union has always looked to the future needs of working people, and I am proud of our union’s role in facilitating the Decent Work Summit: Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora, to be held in February 2022 and our Just Transition engagement in the Southland and Taranaki regions.

Members will be interested to read about our partnership agreement with the Murihiku Regeneration Project – made up of Ngai Tahu hapū – to ensure decent work outcomes in Southland well into the future.

Another tough year comes to a close and we stand together for a better year ahead.

Please take the time to read our magazine and, on behalf of our National Executive, I wish you and your families a safe and relaxing holiday period.

Thank you for being an E tū member.