Article Category: May 2019

Marianne latest Life Member

Congratulations to our newest Life Member, Marianne Bishop!

Marianne, an aged care support worker and long-time E tū activist, received her award at the Delegate Forum in Wellington last month, with Marianne winning the accolade of a standing ovation from her fellow delegates.

It’s a testimony to 30 years of outstanding union service, although Marianne says she’s the one who feels honoured. “It was very special. I’ve seen lots of other people receive Life Membership and felt very proud of them. I never thought it would be me. It’s a privilege.”

Marianne says her union work is driven by a compelling sense of justice.

“I’ve always had a strong sense of right and wrong and once I’d decided what I thought about something, I wouldn’t back down on my principles. It was about justice.

Marianne has represented E tū at public events, parliamentary submissions and most recently, as opening speaker at the InSafeHands campaign launch. She admits it can be scary, but says it’s also a highlight of her union work. “Just seeing changes go through that you’ve talked about, it makes you feel good you had a say, that you’ve contributed, instead of letting others do all the work,” she says.

E tū organising

Challenging behaviour at IDEA

Seven months into bargaining for a new collective,a second wave of strikes by 3000 union members at IDEA Services, the operational arm of IHC, is due to start this month.

In nationwide ballots, support workers voted overwhelmingly for up to seven separate strikes to reinforce their message to IDEA.

Bargaining team members Gill Moore from Northland and Gordon Cambridge from Southland were among hundreds of members who went on strike for four hours on 1 April, and are ready to do so again.

“Every day we go the extra mile for the people we support at IDEA, but management seems to have closed their ears and eyes to our concerns,” says Jill.

Gordon agrees. “IDEA staff are incredibly loyal to the people they support. But we don’t see that returned by IDEA.”

The dispute was initially about pay, with delegates pushing to restore $22 million of seniority margins as well as weekend and overtime rates axed by IDEA in the 1990s. However, when members reduced their asking price for weekend work, IDEA said it wasn’t about the money.

“They’ve told us this is about the principle that weekend work was the same as working Monday to Friday,” says bargaining team member Anushiya Sethupathy. This has angered many members. As the weeks have unfolded, IDEA has also pushed hard to try and force workers to move between worksites.

For many, the last straw has been a claim by IDEA to gut hard-won health and safety rights.
Bargaining team member Nic Corrigan says one of the big dangers at work is client-initiated violence, also known as ‘challenging behaviour’.

“We have repeatedly asked for a conversation around safe staffing, and management’s solution is to remove the reference to clients altogether. That’s what I call ‘challenging behaviour’!” says Nic.

During the bargaining, delegates tabled three respected surveys that highlighted the levels of workplace violence over the last 20 years. IDEA has yet to respond.

Fuji Xerox targets members

Fuji Xerox members are standing strong, determined to settle their collective agreement, with back pay, as Fuji fights back with anti-union tactics and the targeting of our members. Several have faced disciplinary action in the wake of five full days of strike action in March.

The strikes, which included a picket on a cricket pitch, are a measure of how strongly the members feel after Fuji Xerox offered a tiny 2% pay rise, which they refuse to back-date to July last year when their collective agreement expired. It is now close to a year since they have had a pay rise, and the nub of the dispute is a claim for back pay for 2018.

Fuji Xerox strike

With talks at stalemate, in April our members sought mediation. Fuji Xerox has dragged its feet, but members hope to meet this month.

“We want to be able to talk to our employer, to get an acknowledgement that pay offers have been too low. Not just this year, but all the time. We want 2% for 2018 and 2% for 2019. That means we’re owed back pay,” says delegate Rav Kumar.

Meanwhile, union members allege Fuji Xerox has been acting in bad faith, discriminating against union members by offering higher wages to non-union members.

That doesn’t deter Rav: “We’re all standing strong. We believe in the union for getting fairness into our workplace.”

It’s clear Fuji Xerox expects its workers to pay the price for its own scandalous losses through accounting irregularities – a massive $285 million dollars worth! In 2017, the company was banned from holding government contracts, which at the time were worth about $70 million. That ban has been lifted and cash flow is also improving. It’s a sign of a return to financial health, so the workers deserve their fair share.

Renewal for big manufacturing MECAs

Members covered by the Metals and Plastics Multi-Employer Collective Agreements (MECA) are being urged to get involved in the campaign to improve both agreements. Members met earlier this month for mass meetings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to endorse claims ahead of bargaining in June and July.

The two MECAs are the primary industrial documents for members in the manufacturing and engineering industries. Both documents expire this year.

Training modules have been reviewed and payments for qualifications are under review now. Delegate Peter Heatley says the goal is for the two agreements to include the best of both documents.

He says a key focus is upskilling the workforce. “We’ve got to become more skilled at what we do because it’s not just good for workers, it’s also good for the industry.”

Peter says there also needs to be recognition of any extra qualifications gained by the members. “As you go up the scale, payments need to increase. That’s important.”

We’ll have more details on these key negotiations as they progress, on Facebook and our website.

DHB MECA money chase by members

Hutt Valley DHB members with their petition!

Our public hospital members celebrated when the new District Health Board (DHB) Multi-Employer Collective Agreement was ratified last December, meaning big pay rises. But it has been hard work for many getting the money after some DHBs proved to be tardy payers.

Back in February, our members at the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs decided they’d waited long enough. They launched a petition calling on the DHBs to pay up! After all, members at the Auckland DHBs – the country’s largest – were paid within weeks, so why the wait?

Long story short, everyone signed: orderlies, kitchen workers, and cleaners. The petition was presented to Human Resources and the response was swift. A letter went out to members with an apology and a date, 28 February, for the new pay and back pay. Great work, everyone!

Cleaning member Renna Whatuira-Tangipo is proud of what she and her workmates achieved.

“I felt relieved to know what was going on, because we’d had no information whatever, especially when other DHBs had their pay. We’re just really excited that it’s finally been done, and we have been recognised.”

Cleaning supervisor Maria Turahui is proud of her staff, and says when it comes to the union, “they’re solid!”

Meanwhile, OCS, the hospital contractor for the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay DHBs, refused to settle, saying the DHB hadn’t guaranteed the money. The DHB denied there was any problem. To break the stalemate, members voted to strike!

Wairarapa delegate Kerry Hargood says he and his co-workers thought the money would be paid out by Christmas and feelings were running high: “A lot of people were desperate for the money,” says Kerry. Then, with the strike just hours away, a proposed settlement was reached. Kerry says his co-workers were delighted. “Even the doctors were high-fiving us!

“It was a great effort from the team. It was a lot of stress on people and the relief hasn’t come soon enough for some of my workmates,” he says.

For Kerry, the big treat is new shoes: “Not $20 shoes, not $30 shoes. I’ve got size 15 feet and I have to order them; they cost about $200.00. I’ve never been able to afford something like this. That, and a new raincoat,” he says.

The last to receive the back pay were our members working for hospital service contractor, ISS at Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Southern and West Coast DHBs. At Easter they were still waiting, so they also organised petitions which were sent to all ISS senior managers with messages about the hardship payment delays were causing.

Within hours of receiving the petitions and a letter from our legal advisors, ISS agreed to pay the back pay at the next pay day. Now that’s a result!

Unsafe staffing campaign launched

A survey of E tū and NZ Nurses Organisation members has revealed both the despair of carers and the poor quality of care for many residents as a result of understaffed care homes.

The survey results are included in the report, In Safe Hands, officially released at the launch of the Insafehands campaign in March. This calls for a review of current, voluntary staffing standards, and for higher mandatory staffing levels.

The report shows just one in ten staff believe their rest home is staffed for quality care, with many carers worked to exhaustion as a result of heavy workloads.

Caregiver and delegate Ronnie Smith, who attended the launch, says many carers, particularly on dementia wings, are going without breaks. “They’re finding it very stressful. Residents aren’t getting as much quality time as you’d like to give as you have to go through things so quickly.”

The report says care is often rationed, with residents missing basic cares such as regular showers. Residents also ration their own care. In one tragic case, a man died of a wound infection because he didn’t want to bother his carers. Members in some facilities report staffing by just two carers for up to 60 people, on some shifts.

“If we had safe staffing it’d be so much better for the residents and for staff. They wouldn’t get sick and stressed, and mistakes happen too,” says Ronnie.

Meanwhile our members are distributing postcards urging safer staffing ratios, with families and friends asked to send these to MPs to give the campaign a push.

“I’ve got everyone to sign the postcards and get them sent out,” says Ronnie.


Auckland Council still a Living Wage target

Malia Lagi, delegate and Auckland Council cleaner, helps clean the 13 floors of the Auckland Council building, including Mayor Phil Goff’s office. As a council contract cleaner, she earns just above the minimum wage. By contrast, her directly employed council workmates all earn at least the Living Wage.

“We clean each floor, day and night.” Malia says. “We do the same job as other cleaners but they earn the Living Wage and we don’t. It’s not fair. Our pay is not enough for our families to live on. That’s why it would help my situation if we had the Living Wage.”

At the launch of his 2019 election campaign, Mayor Phil Goff said a Living Wage for contracted workers was on his agenda for the next term.

With local body elections this year, the Living Wage will again be a campaign focus for E tū right across the country.

Malia says costs are rising, and like all parents, she wants to be able to support her children’s education and maybe even own a house one day. She’ll be out campaigning for and promoting candidates who support the Living Wage for council contract workers like herself.

“It is important to get out and to campaign for that. I will be happy to do that, to push more, to make people think about what we need.”

2019 Living Wage rate unveiled!

Seashore Cabaret in Petone, Wellington, a new accredited Living Wage Employer, hosted this year’s announcement of the 2018/19 Living Wage. The Living Wage has risen to $21.15, an increase of 60 cents.

It’s good to see another hospitality employer joining the list, as this is an industry which generally pays very low wages. These businesses are among the loudest critics of increases to the minimum wage, though they also complain they can’t find staff. Spot the connection!

By contrast, Seashore Cabaret workers earn the Living Wage, helping the business with attracting and retaining staff, along with other benefits. The owners also say they’ve made a profit from day one. It’s something other businesses could learn from.

Taranaki embraces Just Transition debate

This month Taranaki hosted the inaugural Just Transition Summit, marking the beginning of a national debate on the pathway to a low emissions economy. Ahead of the Summit, our Taranaki members helped shape the debate in the region, where oil and gas have long underpinned the local economy, supporting jobs and a host of businesses and industries.

“The local community is embracing the Just Transition message,” says Toni Kelsen, E tū delegate and energy consultant.

“Oil and gas have been good to Taranaki. It’s been good in terms of work. Now it’s about providing a good future for our kids. It’s about my grandchildren, that’s where I’m coming from.”

As a soon-to-be first-time father, delegate Sean Hindson also feels an urgency about the future.

“Oil and gas – we still need it for the moment. But that will change,” he says.

“We’re still in a talking phase, but I’m looking forward to some substance coming out of that and I’m hoping all of our work will be taken on board. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were trailblazers globally and people took this and ran with it? It’d be brilliant,” says Sean.

Just Transition photo-shoot: Toni Kelsen

Tyrell Crean, local delegate and Central Region Representative for E tū’s Youth Network, also reports a positive mood in the pre-summit workshops and community hui: “They all want change to happen and it’s good to see all the positivity. There are young people involved and there will be heaps of support for this to continue. There are a lot of good ideas about what should change.

“People are thinking about the future,” he says. “As mentors, we’re the ones who have to drive it for the next generation. I want it to turn out well for my kids.”

Toni is a big believer in a few simple things done well, like public transport for school kids, so there are fewer cars on the road. “Normally it takes me 20 minutes to get to work. During the holidays, it’s ten minutes. And there’s usually just one child per car.”

For Tyrell, a priority is a more flexible and affordable industry training system. He says cost is a huge barrier to education and training.

“At the moment if you want a new pathway, your job turns into a training wage and that stops people. It comes down to money and if it’s affordable, people will do it.”

Sean says the debate is unlocking people’s imaginations. “This Just Transition thing, I love it.
I love being part of it,” he says.

All of our delegates agree that we can’t keep doing things the same way we have been for decades. “It’s just not sustainable,” Toni says.

Member profile: Shine a light on ignorance, says Mobeen

According to his official records, member Mobeen Khan’s name is Michael. It’s what he was called when he started school, because his real name was too foreign.

“I was given an English name,” Mobeen says, “and it’s actually been put on everything with my name on it. My name wasn’t English enough.” Aged 5, he learned he was ‘other’ because he’s Muslim.

Mobeen knew four of the 50 people murdered in the Christchurch mosque atrocity, which remains a deeply personal loss. However, he wasn’t surprised. “I saw this coming,” he says.

He’d done an informal survey of how people responded to the word Muslim: “The next word would be ‘terrorist’.”

He believes media reports linking Islam and terrorism is one reason why.

“The name of the religion has been hijacked. What the terrorists do is abhorrent, but people have literally made the connection by osmosis.

“Muslims have been here for over 100 years. But after 9/11 and all the finger-pointing started, I got an anonymous phone call saying, ‘We’re going to get you for that’.”

He is grateful for the support of New Zealanders following the Christchurch tragedy and says the union responded “brilliantly”. However, while New Zealanders have rallied in huge numbers in support of our Muslim community, ugly messages of hate and bigotry have also emerged.

“All the negativity that’s bubbled to the surface, rightly or wrongly, we now have to deal with it somehow,” says Mobeen. “If we don’t, we can’t move forward.”

Delegates at our recent Delegate Forums said racism must be called out in workplaces wherever it occurs, and Mobeen agrees. “It’s a start,” he says, but it’s not enough. He says ignorance about Islam is a huge problem.

“It can be wilful or unintended, but it destroys our democracy and our humanity. If you say the ‘other’ doesn’t belong or doesn’t have to be here, that’s not democracy. It’s up to each and every one of us to make it better. Because we, as a community, have paid with our dearest blood.

“There are lovely, beautiful people here, but if you scratch that thin veneer of civilisation, you don’t know what you’ll find. If people want to know us, the hard questions have to be asked and they have to be answered,” he says.

Mobeen’s formidable grasp of history shines a bright light on the stereotypes and bigotry which allow people to view Islam through a distorted lens. His message is that knowledge overcomes the darkness of ignorance.

He harks back to the great civilisation of the Moors, from 711 to 1492, when Muslims ruled an empire remarkable for its learning, and tolerance for other religions.

“If the Muslims back in the day in Spain could work together with all the groups and religions, why can’t we do that? We need to make the time to know each other better,” he says.

Christchurch terror: the aftermath

Member’s sky-high hug

It was the hug that made world headlines after a photo of the Prime Minister comforting a woman at a Wellington mosque was beamed onto Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building.

The woman was then E tū member, Naima Abdel. After a week of shock and fear, she’d come to the Kilbirnie mosque to sign up as a volunteer, “and then Jacinda turned up.”

“She was very comforting. It was a really emotional morning. Everyone was hugging and crying. Every new face meant new tears. [Jacinda Ardern] was just a part of everyone else, crying… she held me really tight and she said: ‘We will go through this together,’ and it was just so comforting and amazing.”

Naima believes New Zealand’s “amazing and heartfelt” response to the tragedy brought healing and that many Muslims feel more secure here. “People have felt able to walk around as part of their community,” she said.

E tū crew support police

Chef and E tū delegate Jodi Haua heads the Compass/ESS catering team at Burnham Military base, which has catered for about 300 police and soldiers who have come from all over the country.

“We were all with the Muslims. The nation had their best interests at heart. Our job was to support the police and soldiers, providing breakfast, lunch, tea, and accommodation.

“We could see the emotional effects on the police and the strength they needed to get out there and fulfil their job and we also saw how draining it was on them, to witness what they did. But they came back to comfort food and that gave us satisfaction. The police thanked us every day for what we did.”

Hope amidst grief

Taranaki delegate, Sean Hindson, who is a member of E tū’s Just Transition team, is expecting his first child and it’s given him a fresh sense of urgency about action on climate change. He notes that the mosque massacre occurred the same day as student demonstrations against climate change. For him, the protests are a sign of hope amidst the despair.

“While you had this guy full of hate and violence, the youth and the future were peacefully protesting for the good of everyone. The world isn’t full of hatred. It’s full of compassion and caring.”

Delegate Forums put members in the driver’s seat

Our annual round of Delegate Forums have just wrapped up, with thousands of E tū delegates converging up and down the country to discuss union and workplace issues.

The jam-packed agenda included a listening workshop, giving delegates the opportunity to discuss what is important for themselves and their workplaces, families and communities. The feedback will inform our union’s democratic decision-making at the highest levels.

Cost of living was a significant concern for many of our members. With skyrocketing rents and poor wage growth across many sectors, delegates like Paula O’Reilly said we needed action now.

“I’m thinking of how people can’t afford to make ends meet. We need the Government to think of the ones on low incomes before the ones on big incomes,” Paula said.

Delegate Forums began just after the Christchurch atrocity, which remains heavy on our hearts and minds. Wellington delegate Kadin Smith shared some tips about addressing intolerance in the workplace.

Linda Bevin

“When you join a union, you understand it’s not about you. It’s about everybody, being inclusive of everyone’s background, their beliefs and in the workplace,” Kadin said.

“As a delegate, you set the precedent of how you want the union to be, and the work culture, whether it’s having a conversation with a friend, or writing a letter, or saying something discreetly to someone. It’s about acting, because silence is also an action and we want to be on the side where you’re fighting bigotry and you’re fighting racism.”

As local elections are just around the corner, we invited local candidates to each Forum. The candidates, many of them E tū members themselves, gave us their pitches and encouraged delegates to get involved.

Linda Bevin, Invercargill delegate and local Living Wage community leader, called on her candidates to support the payment of the Living Wage for all council workers. Linda knows the power of a union community standing together, as she plays a leading role in campaigning for Bluff to become New Zealand’s first Living Wage town.

All E tū members can now look forward to our Biennial Membership Meetings, which start in September this year. This is another chance to get involved with union decision-making and other activities.


In remembrance

Mohamad Moosid Mohamedhosen

Our union remembers Mohamad Moosid Mohamedhosen who died in the terrible attacks on the two Christchurch mosque attacks on 15 March. Mohamed was killed in the attack on the mosque in Linwood.

His family has provided a moving testimony to Mohamad which you can read by clicking here. It reveals a man who came to this country seeking peace and adventure. Well-liked by all who knew him, his family describes him as “an idealist who stood for fairness, justice and perfection” – values we share. We are proud he chose to join E tū and we send our condolences to his family as well as our thanks for sharing details of Mohamad’s life with us.

Vale Neil Couling

E tū life member Neil Couling has passed away after illness. Neil was an Engineers Union, EPMU and E tū delegate at Kinleith Pulp and Paper Mill since 1981. He was an EPMU National Executive member and Senior Vice President. E tū National Secretary Bill Newson said that Neil “played a key governance role as his union faced the challenges, changes and transformations of strategic unionism. At the heart of his hard-working consideration and input was the respect and dignity of working people.”

Our condolences to his wife Aroha and to all Neil’s family, friends, and union comrades, particularly to Neil’s daughter, Stand Up Co-convenor and NZNO organiser Christina Couling, and son in law, E tū organiser David Kennedy.

Editorial: Pride and sorrow

Welcome to this latest edition of our union magazine and thank you for being an E tū member.

As I write this, I am aware that many of our E tū whānau are still struggling with the sorrowful aftermath of the deadly assault on the two Christchurch mosques on 15 March, which resulted in the deaths of 50 Muslim men, women, and children. This has rocked the city and indeed the country, as witnessed by the powerful public response as tens of thousands of people turned out for vigils and services to show their support for our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Our members are no exception. This tragedy has touched our union in a personal way. Firstly, I want to acknowledge E tū member Mohamad Moosid Mohamedhosen, who was among those murdered in this terrorist attack on people at prayer. Other members and staff have also been directly affected by this atrocity.

I write with pride as well as sorrow. In this issue, you will read about our members who have been working to support the many services involved in dealing with this tragedy. I would like to thank our E tū members at the hospitals that have worked around the clock to make sure the victims get the best care possible. This includes security, orderlies, cleaners, food service workers, and trade staff. Others have provided support for the emergency services working in the wake of the atrocity.

The tragedy and the country’s response was fresh in the minds of our delegates who turned out in strong numbers to our 21 Delegate Forums around the country last month. The Forums observed a minute’s silence in commemoration of those murdered and injured, and we have been discussing what we can do as a union to call out racism and bigotry to ensure all working people feel included and respected at work.

I believe New Zealanders have a keen collective sense of respect, tolerance, dignity, and a fair-go for all. This has really shone through in our nation’s response. I have also received a huge number of messages of support from across the global union movement, expressing the solidarity of working people across the world.

As we respond collectively, this is surely a reminder that we are at our best when we work together in union. Our strong delegate network is testimony to that. They are at the heart of our strongly democratic union.

It is important the Government continues to deliver policies which improve your working lives. Meaningful lives with decent work and pay are vital to creating the strong supportive communities we need to promote tolerance and acceptance. It’s about what’s fair.

On 6 May, a range of laws took effect which will shift the balance in the direction of workers. These include the right for the union to visit members in a workplace, obligations on employers to show good faith in collective bargaining, the return of rest and meal breaks, fairer provisions for new employees, reasonable time for workplace delegates to fulfil their roles, and fairer outcomes for unjustified dismissals.

Together with initiatives such as the significant increases in the minimum wage, these are meaningful improvements for New Zealand working people and mean we are better able to represent the interests of our members. Ahead lies the campaign to secure Fair Pay Agreements.

While we will no doubt witness an hysterical and ill-informed assault on these plans from key employer groups, the fact is that overseas economies that are most successful at distributing the wealth created at work often have a system of industry-wide minimum pay rates and conditions negotiated by employer and unions. This is key to driving up real wages.

We are also pleased to be included among the signatory parties to the Construction Industry Accord launched by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 14 April. This involves a whole-of-industry approach to addressing issues threatening the sustainability of the sector, including employment and income insecurity, health and safety issues, and migrant worker exploitation.

I want to close by recognising our Taranaki region delegates who have been very involved in the organisation of the Just Transition Summit held in New Plymouth on 9 and 10 May. The Summit is an important step in developing support for working people and their communities as we transition over coming decades from ‘carbon-heavy’ industries and into new carbon-neutral, high value jobs.

Thank you again for supporting our union by being an E tū member.