Article Category: September 2021

E tū organising

LSG’s airline catering workers take a stand

Struggling workers have to choose between rent or petrol, and some even rely on foodbanks to get by: this is the reality for many workers employed at major airline catering company LSG.

When COVID-19 hit in March last year, its workers took a further hit as the aviation sector went into meltdown, with the future still uncertain.

LSG’s workforce shrank from 900 to around 300. In order for the remaining jobs to stay, E tū members made huge sacrifices.

They gave up their full time hours. They gave up their penal rates, overtime pay, and temporarily put their existing redundancy clause in their collective on hold.

The variation permitting this change to their terms and conditions was renewed once before and was due to end in April, yet the company wanted to extend it further. This time, LSG workers said, “No.”

After a full day at mediation, there was hope on the horizon for members.

A few of their parked terms and conditions were restored and pay for a minimum of 35 hours a week was guaranteed (up from 30 hours per for the past seven months). At heightened Alert Levels, the company is still continuing to pay workers for 35 hours.

E tū members also received a one-off cash payment equal to their union fees until the end of November.

An E tū delegate who comes from a family of unionists and prefers not to be named, says saying no to the variation has set the stage for bargaining, which puts a pay rise for workers front and centre.

“We haven’t had a significant pay rise in years. The chefs’ [pay] alone was frozen 5 years ago.”

Nobody can survive on the minimum wage, she says.

A shortage of drivers also meant that the company put up the wages for drivers, but not for other workers. The delegate says that has to change.

“For the last 18 months, we have helped this company. We have met them more than halfway. It’s about time that they started giving something back.

“We’ve had a win, but now we just have to keep working to get where we need to be.”

Holding onto collective power at Jetstar

Despite the impact of the pandemic on aviation, Jetstar’s domestic and Tasman crew members have quietly continued to organise to win back their terms and conditions.

Like the LSG workers, Jetstar members also said no to a continuation of a temporary variation that they agreed to a year ago.

The variation meant all workers would take ‘special leave without pay’ each month and opt back into work if it was available.

However, with the Trans-Tasman travel bubble on hold again and no flights in and out of Auckland, E tū delegate Katherine van der Spek says Jetstar is pressing for a return to the variation and were now asking crew to use their annual leave instead.

“Lots of people don’t have leave left, and those who do want to use it to reunite with family,” she says.

“Everyone who doesn’t have annual leave left, effectively has guaranteed work. But once everyone’s leave has been exhausted, there is a risk they’ll start with redundancies.”

She says many members want the special leave without pay variation to be on volunteer basis only. They hope to come to an agreement with Jetstar soon.

“We understand the position that they’re in, but we are also trying to protect everyone’s financial stability and ability to live,” says Katherine.

Even so, the Jetstar delegate says members feel like they still have some collective power: “The vaccinations are going to open [travel] up and the lockdown seems to be working. Hopefully, it will get better from here.”

Aged care workers stop work for #safestaffingnow

A member speaker at the Dunedin meeting

E tū’s joint organising campaign with nurses’ union, NZNO, got off to a great start at the beginning of August.

Stop work meetings were organised in regions and cities around Aotearoa New Zealand for union members, seniors’ advocacy group Greypower, and local MPs to come together and discuss the impact of unsafe staffing levels on aged care workers and their residents.

Three meetings – in Invercargill, Dunedin, and New Plymouth – were held before COVID restrictions meant meetings would need to move online.

E tū member Candy Hopson spoke at her meeting and says she felt good about sharing her story.

“I’m very grateful that I did it. Our local MP came to the meeting, and it felt like he had listened to me.”

Members at BUPA’s David Lange get ready for the stop work meetings

A carer for around 10 years, Candy says: “I have a passion for caring for the elderly but something’s got to change. We’re not able to look after our elderly the way they need to be – it’s just all wrong and it’s not good enough.

Candy has been off work for the past six months with a work-related injury that came to a head after she was moving a resident and says short staffing was a “significant factor”.

“It comes down to: we haven’t got the time or the people. I used to be able to do nails and facial hair and learn who a resident was, but now it’s impossible. 

“Cares aren’t getting done properly because we have to prioritise someone else. It’s not fair on us either – as carers, our bodies get broken too.”

New Plymouth meeting

The next stop work meetings will take place on Zoom in October for members in the Auckland region. 

And members are urging everyone they can to sign the Safe Staffing petition which they hope to present to Parliament later in the year.

Click here to sign and share.

Cleaners say ‘no’ to hospital upping car parking fees

Setaita and her colleagues working as cleaners at Waitākere Hospital are relieved they won’t have to fork out an extra $5 a week, thanks to collective action to quash an increase to staff carpark rates.

Last October, Waitemata District Health Board proposed to put up rates by $1 a day – a big weekly cost for workers already on low wages.

E tū members with delegate Setaita Paea (third from left) are stoked their car parking fees won’t be going up

Up to six health unions, including E tū, NZNO, and the PSA, came together to discuss their concerns with management and were invited into an engagement process to work things out.

For E tū delegate Setaita Paea, who’s worked at the hospital for six years, the meetings were eye-openers.

“We divided in groups to talk about from [our perspectives] as cleaners and from all the other unions. But what I see [from] the management is that they are really willing to hear from us as cleaners.”

Finally, the hospital management agreed to keep the rate at $3 a day.

“For us cleaners, it means a lot,” Setaita says, as workers still have to juggle the issues of finding a free park if they’re starting on a later shift or resorting to street parking.

A new committee, which will include the unions’ delegates, has also been formed to deal with ongoing issues of car parking.

What’s the deal on parking for other DHB workers?

Unions are trying to improve car parking for hospital workers, which is an issue at all Auckland’s DHBs due to public transport not being available or accessible at the times it’s needed.

  • At Counties Manukau DHB, a combined group of union delegates are working with infrastructure managers.
  • Auckland Hospital is now putting on a shuttle for early morning shift workers and has allocated a number of spots in a public car park for staff. E tū is still working through issues around the cost of parking and shuttle times.

Sea change for school cleaners

It’s time for a sea change for more than a dozen school cleaners, who work for Seaway Cleaning Services at Manurewa High School.

After less than a year in the union, these E tū members will be getting their first ever collective agreement.

It’s a far cry from the early days, when members were so scared of getting in trouble for joining the union that they’d only meet at McDonalds.

Seaway cleaners met at McDonalds in the early days of their organising

Former E tū delegate Barb Mita says the management initially kicked the organisers off the premises and was quite shocked when all of the small group of cleaners at the school joined the union.

“The management knew what [the union] was, but they didn’t expect them to be here at Manurewa High School!”

The main things the workers have asked for is their collective agreement, better wages, and somewhere else to have their breaks – rather than alongside the “machines and chemicals” in the boiler room.

“The only time we go into the staff room area is when the teachers are on term break,” Barb says.

But just having everyone part of the union is great: “Before that we had nothing at all. Now everybody’s in the union and they’ve got a lot to say!”

Success for Sistema members before lockdown

Leaa Veukiso was often so exhausted that she felt like “a zombie” most of the time.

For the past six years, the Sistema delegate had been surviving on as little as five hours sleep a day, before she went back to work – a 12-hour night shift from 6am to 6pm.

Sistema delegates are more than happy with the results of their recent bargaining

And that was before she did overtime on the weekends, clocking up around 72 hours a week.

Now with the new collective E tū members have negotiated at Sistema, Leaa says she’s got a new lease on life.

“I go to work and I feel fresh. I come home and I still have energy,” says the mum-of-three, who now only does around 50 hours a week.

“I didn’t even realise that I could feel this good, instead of feeling like a zombie all time.”

The 12-hour shifts have been scrapped for three eight-hour shifts instead, and members have kept their 30-minute paid meal break.

All Sistema members, who have been at the company for more than six months, are now paid the Living Wage or above.

There’s also now scope for members to move up the pay scale, as they complete certain training.

Leaa, who sat on the bargaining team for the first time this year, says the whole experience has been calm and collected, as well as “good learning”.

“It’s one thing talking to your supervisor on the floor and talking to organisers, but really it’s empowering sitting there and facing management and having them hear what the people want. I can’t wait for the next bargaining.”

Unfortunately since the latest COVID-19 lockdown, Sistema has not heeded to the concerns of its members to shut the factory. It has continued to operate at 10 percent capacity through Alert Levels 3 and 4.

Aside from planned shutdowns, such as after a worker tested positive for COVID-19, the company has asked all workers not at work to take leave if they still want to receive their normal pay.

So far Sistema has no plans to reimburse workers for either their leave or their lost pay.

However, Leaa says she’ll still be pushing ahead with her plan to recruit new permanent staff into the union – at a time when collective strength is needed more than ever for workers to win back what they’re owed.

“I’m ready!”

Midnight win for McKechnies workers

It took negotiations until the eleventh hour and an emergency stop-working meeting for McKechnies Aluminium workers to get the pay offer they felt they deserved.

And they were all primed to walk off the job to get it too.

Delegate Tyrell Crean (left) and other E tū members are stoked with their win

It’s taken more than a year to negotiate, but E tū members at McKechnies now have a whopping 8% pay rise to look forward to.

That’s 2% back pay, 4% for 2021 and 2% for 2022.

E tū delegate Tyrell Crean says it all started around a year ago, when a rewrite of the collective was on the cards.

But then COVID hit, and unexpectedly, business turned into “one of the best years that we’ve ever had”.

McKechnies workers were slammed – often doing more than 60 hours a week, with tons of orders and new customers coming through, Tyrell says.

Initially, there was an offer for $500 cash-in-hand, which members voted down. That turned into 1% for 2021, followed by 1.9% for 2022, but workers on the floor were still aiming higher.

Eventually, the floor prepared to strike on a Friday morning after asking for 4% and 4%, certain the company would not agree to it.

“That week was a lot of fun”, says Tyrell, as they got ready to bring on more workers to cover the members’ Friday shifts.

McKechnies members at their emergency stop work meeting

With the threat of a strike looming, the company called a mid-week emergency meeting that went on till midnight. It led to the workers’ best offer yet: 2% back pay, 4% raise for 2020, and 2% for 2022.

By Thursday morning it was theirs, and their strike plans were (albeit somewhat reluctantly) cast aside.

Tyrell says: “Everyone’s totally stoked with what we’ve got. A lot have been here for 25 years plus, and this is the largest increase we’ve ever had. It’s a massive win.”

Union membership is also higher than ever – around 80% of the site are E tū members.

Tyrell reckons members are more united as a team now, and more valued by the company – after they realised the impact even a one-day strike would have on production.

“It’s shown management the power of what we have – I think they know now they need to treat workers as assets.”

Calls for ‘Just Transition’ plans after industry shocks in the Bay of Plenty

E tū’s campaign for a ‘Just Transition’ for workers is more important than ever in the face of mill closures and buyouts in the Bay of Plenty and at other manufacturing businesses around the country.

Tasman Mill delegate Bruce Habgood

In May and June, both of the region’s major mill operations – Norske Skog’s Tasman Mill, and the Whakatāne Board Mill – had massive restructures, affecting more than 300 workers.

Tasman Mill in Kawerau finally closed its doors in mid-July, and Whakatāne Board Mill was bought out by The Smurfit Consortium.

While many workers at Whakatāne plan to stay on to help the new owners get operations up and running, those at Kawerau face an uncertain future.

Tasman Mill’s delegate and E tū industry spokesperson Bruce Habgood, says there was a “strong sense of mourning” about the closure and businesses needed to prepare transition plans to help workers as industries changed.

“Some of the workers at the mill are of an age and skill set that means they aren’t so employable anymore and might never work again.

“We also really need businesses to have their own transition plans going forward so that workers have choices and alternatives.”

Many other businesses also relied on the mill for work and may really suffer ‘death by a thousand cuts’ once gone, he says.

And it’s clear that the wood processing sector isn’t the only one struggling.

In September, printing distribution company, Ovato, announced it was shutting shop at its Christchurch branch, due to diminishing demand during the pandemic.

Becoming ‘number one’ for worker rights: Delegate power builds at major Kiwi manufacturer

Members at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare are delivering on products that not only help save lives, but they’re building their collective power too.

Some of the new faces in the delegate team at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare

Since March, delegates have welcomed more than 30 newbies to the team.

With nearly 1500 union members on site, there’s a lot of members to support and advise, says site convenor and delegate, Chris Burton.

Holding large-scale ‘town hall’ meetings for delegate nominations and bargaining negotiations was no mean feat either, he says.

“We did around 10 presentations running from about 6am to 7pm – that’s a lot of talking and presenting!”

Because of social distancing, meetings were restricted to around 150 people at a time, rather than the usual 450, Chris says.

New delegate Nga has worked at the company for around seven years and says her respect for the collective is why she signed up for the role.

“We get warnings and friendly advice, but sometimes it’s not [what’s in the collective].

“It’s all about the people – I just wanted to help union members and make them understand the policies and what we’re talking about.”

Members have also bargained for their new collective – something Nga says she’s keen to be part of in future – which they are looking to ratify after lockdown.

Chris says workers getting what they deserve is as important as everything else about the business: “We work for our country’s most successfully publicly listed company, and we’re making a product which is beneficial to people’s lives and outcomes.

“We are certainly holding the company to account. We want excellence in wages and conditions – we want to be number one in New Zealand.”

E tū member Q&A: Motivated to learn

Julian Prasad is an E tū delegate and a disability support worker in South Auckland. The day she joined E tū for the first time, she also decided to become a delegate.

How long have you been a disability support worker?

I’ve been working for my current employer for four years now.

Was this always your job?

Prior to being a disability support worker I was working for seven years in a rest home – so it wasn’t a big change for me to do this job.

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Fiji. I lived mostly in Suva but was brought up in Lautoka – the second largest city in Fiji. I moved to New Zealand in 2008. My husband came a few months before me, and he got a job as a mechanic. Then I followed with my son. We’ve got two children now.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

People think you look after ‘disabled’ people. I don’t really agree with that – they’re just differently abled. We support people to be independent, to go out in the community. We make them aware of their rights and what they’re eligible for.

What are the biggest issues for workers in the disability support sector right now?

There have been staff shortages. We’ve also been following up with members to make sure they’re able to get the training they need to move up the pay scales.

What do you like about your job?

I’m proud to do my job because it encourages me, motivates me – I feel like it reflects who I am as a person. With your service users, you get to build trust. It’s not only going to visit them, taking them for shopping, coffee, lunch – you’re creating a relationship with them. We do understand though that we aren’t their families. It’s also important for our service users to make friends and build relationships in the community too.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’m in my first year of a three-year communications degree from SIT. I’m not sure why I decided to sign up but as soon as I see there’s something for me to do or learn, it just motivates me. I’m also going to be part of E tū’s Member Development programme, which starts in October. It’s not just another course for me but about the skills that I’ll learn – how to get more members to join the union, work alongside my organiser, and to grow our E tū team. 

QSM: Lalopua Sanele

“If the members are happy, then I am happy” is the modus operandi of recently decorated E tū activist and now QSM Taualoa Lalopua Sanele.

The Wellington delegate and retired cleaner says she was “in shock” to receive not only one but two awards.

In June, she was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and in August, an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Award from the Wellington City Council.

Both recognise work in the community – her services to the union movement and the Samoan community, and particularly her commitment to her church parish.

“When I read the QSM letter I was in tears with my husband, and I said to myself: ‘Oh God, thanks for what you have done for me’, because I was not thinking or expecting any kind of award for what I’ve done,” she says.

“I was doing my work as a normal person.”

For more than 30 years, Lalopua worked as a cleaner at Wellington Hospital, after coming to live in Zealand from her native Samoa in 1972.

Back in the 70s, union membership was compulsory, so Lalopua got involved with one of E tū’s predecessor unions as part of her first job in manufacturing.

She moved over to the Service and Food Workers Union a few years later after she changed direction and began working as a cleaner.

She became a union delegate when she began working at Wellington Hospital in 1987, and it was then that she first heard about E tū’s Komiti Pasifika – a group she later headed as the Central, then National Convenor for a decade.

It was the encouragement of her organiser, John Ryall, at the hospital that made all the difference, she says.

“He’s the person that made me feel [understood], and make me feel involved with the union, [took] me to the delegates’ training, [and helped me learn] about the collective agreement and what allowances members are entitled to.”

Throughout her working life, she has continued to advocate for workers’ rights.

This has included representing E tū at national and international trade union conferences, as well as playing a key part of the campaign to get Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act amended to protect the jobs and conditions of cleaners when their contracts were put up for tender.

In 2010, Lalopua took on the role of cleaning supervisor at the hospital, but the first thing she worried about was how the job might interfere with her union role.

“My heart is with the union. I am straightforward, and I don’t care if I get into trouble – if the member is happy, then I did my job.”

Lalopua continues to assist E tū members at Wellington Hospital on a volunteer basis.

Muriel Tunoho: A lifetime of relationship building

Life for Muriel Tunoho is firmly grounded in the Māori concept of manaakitanga – extending aroha to others.

In July, the E tū co-president was recognised with a Hutt City Council Civic Award for her long-term community work and activism.

The awards acknowledge those who’ve volunteered their time to benefit communities and organisations in Lower Hutt.
Born in Petone as one of six, Muriel began her working life alongside her mother in a jeans factory, as part of an all-women team: “My job was to fill up the cotton spools onto their sewing machines. I loved the energy of the large women workforce. There was a real tight feeling of solidarity there.”

It was short-lived however, as she went onto work at the BNZ after her mother found a job ad, determined that her daughter could use her education better than in the factory.

But it wasn’t until after Muriel had her first child and moved to Petone’s newly opened union health service as a part-time receptionist, that she began her community work. And the rest is Hutt history.

Muriel has now been the chair of the Hutt Union & Community Health Service for 20 years and still counting!

She’s also been a key part of various other groups and health initiatives, including the Pomare Access project, current Convenor of the Hutt Valley Living Wage Network and E tū Co-President since 2015.

But Muriel says it’s her work at the union health centre that has been “the anchor” that’s allowed her to do so much.

“Health isn’t just about pills, aches, and pains – it’s about addressing the wider social determinants of health, including poor housing and low incomes,” she says.

“It’s about seeing patients develop into real leaders and being able to get more actively involved in decision making.”

Her desire to serve others is borne of an understanding of financial struggle, but also her family values, she says.

“One person that has inspired me and had all those organising traits was my mother. She was the youngest of 18 – skilful in negotiation and organising – and in some ways that’s what I try to emulate.

“Our upbringing has always been about looking outward to awhi others, not looking inward.”

One particular story has always stayed with her: an elderly Māori man, living alone, who needed hospital care but refused to go.

“He had these fears of hospitals and no whanau support nearby, but his [main] issue was simply that he was too embarrassed that he didn’t own a pair of pyjamas [to wear in hospital]. In the end, that was the solution – and that’s all that mattered.”

“You forget people have humility, and they only share with people they trust. Building relationships that are respectful is everything.

“I think there are always those little gems in people. They don’t have to be ‘leaders’ like people perceive leaders to be – leadership can grow in everybody.”

Safety first: E tū’s leadership programme for Māori, Pasefika and migrant workers takes off

Who benefits when workers share their knowledge about health and safety?

“Everyone!” says Lusia Petelo, a delegate who attended E tū’s new health and safety worker leadership programme.

July marked the end of six successful hui for E tū’s ACC-sponsored programme, Ngā Puna Whai Oranga, where more than 150 member leaders came together in cities and regions around the country.

The hui explored concepts of leadership in different cultures, and how these can be applied at work to improve health and safety on the job for workers.

It focused on workers from Māori, Pasifika or migrant backgrounds in the manufacturing sector, where injury rates are high.

Delegate Teik Lomi says it can be hard to speak out in the workplace about health and safety.

“We try to secure that job, we try to be permanent. We can’t speak up, otherwise we’re scared of being sacked or of getting into trouble.”

A successful final hui in July

Research shows that injury claims for Māori and Pasifika are higher than for other groups.

AUT’s Workplace Safety and the Future of Work report finds that Māori workers are 18% more likely and Pasifika workers 12% more likely to have to make an injury claim than European workers.

Teik says the hui covered a lot in just a day: “WorkSafe explained everything to us – about the legislation, how to keep yourself safe. We learnt about what you do in the workplace and about your rights.”

Speakers came from WorkSafe’s Māori unit, Maruiti, the Pasifika Puataunofo programme, and from the migrant group, Migrante.

Icebreaker fun

There were also lots of laughs with group activities, including a game of rugby with a water bottle to illustrate what leadership can be.

The next steps for Ngā Puna Whai Oranga will be ongoing workshops at work – both for members and leaders who attend the hui.

“When we share what we know, everyone in the workplace becomes more aware of how we look after ourselves,” Member Lusia Petelo says.

“The result of that is that you get to go home in one piece to your family and your loved ones.”

Go to etu.nz/ngapunawhaioranga to learn more.

Doing the mahi

The Year of Fair Pay Agreements

If 2021 is the ‘Year of the Vaccine’, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put it, 2022 will be the ‘Year of Fair Pay Agreements’.

While E tū members have been campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements since before the 2017 election, we have some real momentum now, with the First Reading of the draft Fair Pay Agreement bill expected near the end of this year. Then it’s all on.

The start of 2022 will see E tū members writing submissions on the bill, supporting Fair Pay Agreements and offering ways to improve the draft legislation. In the months that follow, Fair Pay Agreements will become law and we hope to initiate the first Fair Pay Agreements before the end of 2022.

Before the submission process starts, E tū members are already lobbying their local Labour MPs by using E tū’s Fair Pay Agreement letter writing tool. Over 100 members have told MPs about their lives and why Fair Pay Agreements will improve our workplaces.

Cleaner and mother of five, Mary Gatoloai, was one of those members: “We need guaranteed hours, good wages to feed our children, we need health and safety on our work sites, and we need to stop the race to the bottom,” Mary wrote.

We are also organising around Fair Pay Agreements on the job. E tū member-organiser Jayson Ormsby has been out talking to his fellow security guards, encouraging them to join E tū to get active in the Fair Pay Agreement campaign.
“Having the backing of new recruits makes all the difference, especially in our industry, which has one of the higher turnover rates,” Jayson says.

“I talk with guards about E tū’s recent achievements, and I tell them my own story. We talk about the problems in the industry and how Fair Pay Agreements will help solve them. It’s about planting that seed – people don’t know how much of an influence their voice really has.

“The majority of guards are really positive about the idea. They understand how it will lead to a better path for their families and their jobs.”

Jayson says that his work with E tū has taught him a lot about power and politics.

“I think lot of our guards are in that age group or category where they don’t get how much influence politics really has. We see it on the news but don’t know the full impact of how it can affect us on our jobs.

“Early on someone told me that politics is everything – and it actually is. This is our movement, this is what we’re doing. We need to have that mindset. it’s hard to get anything for the lower socio-economic groups, when the powers that be are holding the keys. But the more of us that speak up and go and do the work, that’s what helps.

“For myself, I’m still learning a bit, and it’s inspiring. I’m finding things in myself, coming out of my shell, and personally growing. I like to find that spark in other people too. Getting into the nitty gritty is hard for everyone, it’s a big hill. Our job is to find the people who will do the climb with us.

“I will always remember this idea I heard early on: If you’re not going to speak up and say it, who is?”

Click here to write to your local Labour MP supporting Fair Pay Agreements!

The next digital steps for union education

One of the many lessons from the pandemic is that people and organisations need to make the best use of available technology. E tū is taking another step forward in the digital space by moving some of our union education online.

Our new online education modules, using new tools such as the Aotearoa-based service, MakeRipples, are all about making education more accessible and engaging. Although still in the pilot phase, the courses are shaping up to be a hit with those who have tried them.

E tū North Island Vice President and NZ Post delegate, Mischelle Moriarty, was part of a group of E tū National Executive members that recently tried our Fair Pay Agreement online course.

“The content of the Fair Pay Agreement module was really good – I enjoyed watching the videos and the quiz at the end gave me the confidence that I really have picked this stuff up,” Mischelle says.

“The course covered what Fair Pay Agreements are, why we need them, and who will benefit. It’s stuff that members across all industries will be interested in, especially our members in cleaning and security who are campaigning hard to have some of the first Fair Pay Agreements.”

Mischelle says the advantages of making use of technology in education are obvious.

“It’s a great way to learn. COVID has presented this real opportunity – doing more Zooms and online stuff has meant some people can participate when they usually couldn’t have, particularly if they live rurally.

“It’s all about complementing what we already do. Nothing will ever beat face-to-face conversations, and not everyone will dig the new technology, but it would be silly not to have it.

“We just need to make sure these tools are accessible for as many members as possible and acknowledge that it will be difficult for some. But I’m not techno-savvy, so if I can get it, anyone can!”

Our new online learning experience will cover other important parts of union education, including understanding your collective agreement and how to build power in our workplaces, with more being rolled out towards the end of 2021. This will accompany education that has already been happening over Zoom during the heightened COVID-19 Alert Levels.

Since COVID-19 hit last year, E tū has run hundreds of online Zoom meetings and we’ve all grown our skills and expertise. Our experience shows that, even online, we can come together to make important gains for E tū members in Aotearoa.

Need a refresher on using Zoom? Click here – we have you covered.

Southland’s place on the Just Transition map

Across Aotearoa, E tū members are getting more involved in Just Transition work – our campaign to make sure our transition to environmentally sustainable industries doesn’t see workers bear the full brunt of the changes.

Southland is the next region where E tū members have joined the campaign. Proposed changes at one of the region’s biggest workplaces, Tiwai Point, has led the Government to announce a Just Transition process for Southland, similar to what E tū has already been successfully engaged with in Taranaki.

This process will ensure a wider community stakeholder approach to regional economic development planning, with an emphasis on sustainable and decent work for Southlanders no matter what happens with Tiwai Point. E tū members and leaders will play an integral part in this process.

Karena Kelland, Industry Council Representative for Public and Commercial Services, knows how important this will be for Southland.

“This is an exciting time for Southland, and it’s so awesome that our members and the wider community are participating in this,” Karena says.

“I would like to see a Just Transition process in Southland that ensures outcomes of good education and training that will lead to decent work and sustainable employment. This is not just about our future, it’s also about those who come after us.”

Southland members will be receiving invitations to participate in community and union events in the upcoming months so keep an eye out in your email inbox!

All E tū members deserve 100% lockdown pay

Across our industries E tū members have experienced a wide range of employer responses to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns. E tū’s firm position is that all members should be on 100% pay, even if they can’t work over the period. While some members are getting this, many are not, with some even being threatened with not being paid at all.

Commercial cleaners have been on a rollercoaster ride trying to make sure they get paid properly during lockdown. While many E tū members have continued to carry out essential work over the period, a lot of cleaners haven’t been given work, as many buildings are closed during Alert Level 3 and 4.

Many cleaning companies had a profitable year in 2020, with increased demand for cleaning services as well as the help of the wage subsidy. However, some hardworking cleaners, who are paid just over the minimum wage, were being told they’d go without pay, or with reduced pay, with very limited back-up options available from WINZ.
One of those cleaners was Mary Bredenkamp, who works at Massey University in Palmerston North. She says she “panicked” when she first received the letter telling her she wouldn’t be paid.

“It was devasting. I felt like they didn’t consider us worthy, so they don’t take our loyalty into consideration,” Mary says.

“Going without pay would have put me into rent arrears. It would have been a struggle to pay for food and other bills, and really would have put us on hardship street. It felt like a kick in the guts.”

As a result of the strong pushback by E tū members, most of the companies have started to do the right thing, including Mary’s employer.

“I felt elated when I heard that,” Mary says.

“I can breathe now – it’s like coming out of a bad nightmare. Light at the end of the tunnel – a beautiful feeling.”

E tū members will keep fighting to make sure our members are not out of pocket while COVID-19 restrictions affect our normal work. If you have been underpaid during the lockdown, please contact an E tū Support organiser by emailing 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466) or email [email protected].