Article Category: Winter 2023

Members in action

Spotless win

Spotless cleaning and kitchen workers at Wellington hospital celebrate after their collective agreement is finally settled after months of delay from their employer.

E tū members at Bay of Islands, Kaitaia, Rotorua, Kenepuru, and Wellington hospitals all filed strike notices for mid-June. However, the day before the strike was due to begin, Spotless signed off the agreement at last. A fantastic win!

Unstoppable Sistema team

The strong delegate team at Sistema Plastics are once again back at the table to negotiate their new collective agreement.

New shoes at Te Whatu Ora

Since mid-May, members working as orderlies and cleaners at Waitemāta and Counties Manukau Te Whatu Ora can now access shoe vouchers so they can purchase and choose their own work shoes from a range of set styles. The win comes after a huge organising effort by delegates, including a survey which 150 members filled in, showing the old supplied shoes were so uncomfy on the job that members were resorting to buying their own. Thanks to the delegate team’s efforts, Te Whatu Ora members now have the right feet for their beats.

Lifewise bargaining

Over the summer of 2020, Lifewise members took strike action, running pickets for a couple of months before their company agreed to negotiate a collective agreement for members. Now they’re onto their third collective agreement, with many of the same delegates who led the first strike action still on the bargaining team. That’s union power!

E tū Women’s Committee hui

Our Women’s Committee met in early June to discuss their concerns about the ongoing issue of domestic violence against women, and the importance of voting in the General Election this October. They want to make sure all wāhine are aware that they have access to 10 days’ domestic violence leave at any time.

MP meeting for delegates

At their stage four delegate training, E tū delegates met with local Taieri Labour MP, Ingrid Leary, to talk about the cost of living, including a suggestion to get rid of GST on fresh food, tax changes, and ask questions about vaping laws. Delegates were clear that they wanted to see a fairer distribution of wealth in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Enliven home support workers drive a fair bargain

The Enliven delegate team has been working hard representing members but have unanimously rejected the latest offer from their employer, so expect to be back around the table sometime soon.

Collective win before closure

Members at Reliance Worldwide ratified their final collective agreement before they got word that the company was closing down all operations by September. E tū has been supporting members through the redundancy process which started in June.

Visy Glass ratify

In March, Visy Glass members settled their latest collective agreement, after almost a year of bargaining. Bargaining at Visy Glass is led by the delegate team, with the support of a union organiser. Delegate Gerard Peter says this helps everyone at the table, including management, to have a “better understanding of what’s going on”.

Safer staffing in homecare support

Homecare support workers employed by Pacific Home Care (PHC) met to put together claims for their bargaining, which started in May. A big claim is for a ‘working alone’ or ‘understaffed’ commitment and allowance provision, so the company commits to providing two staff where needed, or an allowance provided to the solo worker doing the job. However, workers aren’t recommended to do the job of two people – especially not if it’s unsafe for them or their clients.

First steps to new collective at Tiwai

Members at Tiwai Aluminium Smelter in Southland have initiated for a fresh collective agreement for the first time in more than 20 years. This is a huge achievement, as the smelter is one of the largest employers in the region, with around 1000 workers at the plant and great potential to grow E tū membership. The smelter still faces an uncertain future but is committed to remain open until the end of 2024.

Kone members settle new agreement

Members working at elevator engineering company Kone will receive free union membership for new and existing members, and at least a 14% pay rise over three years as part of their new collective agreement. Now, that’s a power lift!

Zero offer for cleaners under MECA leads to action

Members covered by the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) for commercial cleaners have been taking action after the companies offered no increase at all above the minimum wage in recent bargaining.

Member profile

Q & A

Head delegate at NZ Steel, Lester Udy, came back to his roots to work in the once rural town of Waiuku where the steel mill at Glenbrook – the country’s largest producer of steel – is taking steps to take care of the climate and in turn, secure its future.

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Waiuku, round the corner from the steel mill. When I grew up, the area had a really rural feeling about it. I’ve always worked in construction, trades and things. When I started work in NZ, I did a number of concrete laying and block laying jobs, before I went overseas to do my OE, and started building storage sheds. When I came back to New Zealand, I bought the house I grew up in in Waiuku and I’ve been at the steel mill ever since for about 18 years.

Tell us about your job at the mill.

I’m a caster operator – we cast the molten steel into slabs and billets. Dealing with molten steel does have its inherent dangers and risks. It can look spectacular and risky to the untrained eye, but we have safety protocols to keep us safe from those risks.

Recently, the Government announced that it was going to fund up to $140 million towards an electric furnace at NZ Steel, so you can start producing half of all steel from scrap rather than using coal to produce it new. How does it feel to be at the forefront of this initiative?

As the head delegate (called the site convenor) for the whole site, it’s exciting for the future of NZ Steel. Like a lot of industry, we go through cycles, and this will help secure the future of steelmaking in our country for some time. There is some unease among those who work in our ironmaking process areas, as at this stage we don’t know what it will mean for the future of their work. We are advocating for a ‘Just Transition’, which means training skilled workers to take on other roles, as we transition to the new way that we’ll eventually use to make up to 50% of our steel.

How did you come to be part of E tū?

NZ Steel is close to 100% unionised, with well over 750 E tū members, so I guess it goes with the territory as far as our collective workforce goes. I’m the kind of person who needs to be working on something, so after I’d been here for about three or four years and the Health and Safety Rep (HSR) in my area was nearing retirement, I was elected as the new HSR. I quite quickly found my feet and really enjoyed the role. In 2018, I even got my Graduate Diploma in Health and Safety through Massey University. I also got involved in my first round of bargaining at that time, and I’ve been the site convenor – or head delegate – temporarily and then permanently since late 2021.

What’s one thing that members might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a very proud father of my three kids. They’re all teenagers now – the oldest is 18, then 16, and 12.

Any words of wisdom for new members or delegates?

Stay true to yourself. In particular, when you become a delegate, you need to remember that you’re representing members, and you need to be honest with them and with managers. Quick tip for new starters: a lot of people think that when you fill in an MBIE form that you’re already part of the union. But you also have to fill in an E tū membership form as well, so make sure new staff know how to do that!

What motivates you most as a delegate?

NZ Steel has got a very strong collective, and we have a good union presence. I pride myself on upholding the terms and conditions of our collective, and I try to ensure that members are treated fairly and get everything they’re entitled to. The main reason I became a delegate is because I wanted to
help people.

General Election 2023

Stand tall for a better future

General Election 2023

The future of Aotearoa New Zealand for workers and our families is at stake this election. The Labour Government has made significant progress for us, including launching Fair Pay Agreements, minimum wage increases, doubling sick leave, the COVID response, a public holiday for Matariki, and record housing investment.

However, with high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis, we all need to make sure we re-elect a Labour-led Government to prevent a National/ACT Government from undoing our progress. Stand up for your community and make sure your voice is heard by voting in the General Election, Saturday 14 October.

E tū has committed to an ambitious election plan, to ensure all E tū members are informed about the election and will vote for parties committed to working for us and our communities. This will include pledging to vote, getting involved in union election events and activities, and reaching out in your own  communities to make sure as many people as possible have their voices heard by voting. In this election, the key E tū election policies include:

  • saving Fair Pay Agreements
  • extending the Living Wage to more people directly and indirectly employed by the government
  • delivering pay equity and pay transparency
  • supporting workers and unions to ensure a Just Transition as the world of work changes
  • make dental care free and integrated with the public health system
  • build more public housing that is affordable, accessible, and secure.

Pledge to vote!

We want as many E tū members as possible to pledge to vote in this election, and let us know what issues are most important to you when deciding who to support.

Click here to make the commitment!

Guest article: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins

A lot to be proud of and much more to do

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins

I joined the Labour Party because my values are much more about ‘we’ than about ‘I’ or ‘me’. I believe in opportunities. I want everyone in New Zealand to have the opportunity to fulfil their full potential. I believe everyone should be able to create a better life for themselves and their family through hard work.

The Labour Party and union movements share this kaupapa, and the fight for safe and fair work conditions is a fight that we both share.

Listening to the voice of unions has helped us here in Parliament to better understand the needs of working New Zealanders. E tū plays a vital role in this, representing thousands of workers, spanning many occupations across Aotearoa, and advocating for their rights.

Together, over the past five and a half years we’ve worked hard to progress many changes that have improved working conditions for New Zealanders.

We’ve taken huge steps forward in leave entitlements – enacting paid family violence leave and paid bereavement leave for miscarriages, extending Paid Parental Leave and doubling minimum sick leave entitlements.

We’ve delivered on our election promise to back New Zealand workers with Fair Pay Agreements, with the first applications to initiate bargaining now being submitted and approved – including the recent approval of a Fair Pay Agreement for cleaners and security guards.

We’re progressing pay equity through the Equal Pay Amendment Act, and we have secured the Living Wage for all employees of core government agencies and contracted cleaners, caterers and security guards. More than 120,000 New Zealanders have received a pay increase as part of a pay equity adjustment so far.

There’s a lot to be proud of, but of course there is much more to do.

My Government is working towards a high-wage economy where workers get their fair share and hard work pays off. We’re creating a country that invests in skills and our workforce for the future, and one that will continue to put people first.

At the moment, this means we’ve had to refocus, to put the cost of living front and centre. We’re taking hard decisions because we know Kiwis are also making some tough calls as global inflation continues to put pressure on household budgets.

That doesn’t mean this mahi stops here. I’m proud to be part of a Government that’s lifting wages and improving working conditions for New Zealanders.

It will take a collective effort to transform our workplaces and ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate in a strong economy. There’s a lot at stake this election year, but we have made progress, and together we will continue to make progress.


Industry spotlight: Aviation

E tū aviation is one of the most diverse membership groups in the union, with members working as cabin crew, baggage handlers, in cargo, aviation security, engineering, cleaning, and more. Each issue, we’ll profile a different industry to highlight the many sectors and roles you work in.

Cabin crew’s new shifts to the city that never sleeps

Qantas’ latest direct flight to the Big Apple is now one of the longest long haul shifts but cabin crew members have welcomed the new route even though they’re logging more air time.

On 14 June, the crew celebrated the inaugural flight, which takes up to 17 hours each way.

To ensure members get enough rest between their shifts, they voted for a variation that increased scheduled rest time from 24 hours to 40 hours, in order to give them two local nights in New York.

E tū Jetconnect delegate, Richard Chandler, says the direct New York City route is running on a trial basis until next June, provided that the crew do not find the shifts too tiring.

“Hopefully it all goes well, and we’re able to get all the rest we need once we get to New York.”

Any changes to the shift patterns would need to come down to members making sure they are filling out fatigue reports or completing inflight surveys, he says.

“We can only action something if we know about it, and we need to have factual data.”

Richard says New York is a favourite destination for crew, with many new members getting to experience it for the first time having joined the company after pandemic restrictions lifted.

Top tourist picks include Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the World Trade Centre Memorial, and the Statue of Liberty. But after having worked as cabin crew for 15 years, the onboard manager says his new favourite is Little Island – a jungle-like park in the middle of the harbour.

“You’ve got these concrete flutes that are basically holding up a whole park, trees, and everything. It’s all elevated and you get to see the skyline looking back towards the city but also over to New Jersey as well. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful.”

Terry Wood has worked in Air New Zealand cargo for 34 years

“No two days are the same”

A day in the life of a cargo delegate

“I love cargo. You don’t know what you’re going to handle day to day. It could be a shipment of seafood, flowers, pets, horses – no two days are the same.

“In simple terms, we’ll make sure everything is loaded ok. We’ll accept the freight from a cargo forwarder like Mainfreight and ensure it’s safe to travel.

“We may require AVSEC to x-ray it to make sure there aren’t any dangerous goods. If there are, then we will make sure they’re airworthy.

“We’ve also got to make sure they’re stowed correctly in the airline unit, a pallet or container, before they’re safe to travel.

“We also oversee the loading of all the units. We’ll weigh each unit and make sure it equals what the ‘manifests’ are saying, and we’ll also balance the whole flight when finished.

“I’ve been a delegate at cargo for more than 21 years. At Air New Zealand cargo and even at the airport itself, I’ve seen so many changes. I started out as a courier owner/driver and joined Air New Zealand cargo in 1989 at the Mt Roskill hub.

“l did three years and then got moved to international cargo as a warehouseman, before moving to clerical – the paperwork side of things – after about four years, which is where I still am today.

“After about seven years with Air New Zealand, I started to get interested in the industrial and union side. Being a union member has 100% improved pay and conditions over the years.

“I sometimes get frustrated at the slow pace of change, but looking back over 34 years, we wouldn’t be in the position we are, if not for the union.

“My view is we need to have a healthy relationship with management, and then we get a lot more done. It doesn’t mean I’m in their back pocket or anything like that – we have robust discussions. We also meet them through reviews, delegate and union-company steering group meetings, and have one-on-one meetings with them too.

“Surprisingly, I don’t travel much at all. I just love the buzz of my job and the people I work with. We’ve got more than 200 staff at the airport, and it’s one big, fantastic family.

“I also encourage new staff in cargo to expand their horizons if they’re keen. We’ve had people end up as pilots, in load control… I tell them to ‘experience Air New Zealand’. I’ve had the opportunity, but I just love cargo.”

More than 1000 members win penal rate variation

For workers in the aviation industry, penal rates – extra pay for working things like weekends or overtime – are a big deal.

In February, more than 1000 front and back of house Air New Zealand workers got the news that they’ll now have the option to have their weekend penal rates either rolled into their base hourly rates, or to continue to receive them as traditional penal rates, set apart from their salary.

The ‘airports variation’, as it’s known, was a hot topic for members and also led to lots of non-union workers signing up to E tū, says Christchurch-based
delegate, Jess Duggan, who works as a loader.

“Lots of people these days are not used to having penal rates, so they prefer to have a set rate, and then there was a large group who were a bit worried about that.”

In the end, more than 70% of union members voted for the variation, which was a good result, Jess says. “Definitely some very happy people.”

Additionally, all members received pay increases as part of the variation. The bargaining period also boosted E tū power, with around 40 new members coming on board after they got interested in what was happening with the variation discussion.

Jess, who joined E tū when she began working in aviation – first at Queenstown Airport – more than six years ago, says it was the idea of having a voice at work that spurred her on to become a union member.

Now’s she a delegate, she enjoys advocating for others.

“A lot of young people aren’t really aware of what unions are. But coming into our workplace, they just get involved in it. There’s so much learning and history behind it.

“It’s good to show the newer ones what can happen when we stick together.”

Delegate Jess Duggan (centre) with other E tū members who work as loaders at Air New Zealand in Christchurch

Pay equity

Care and support workers ready for final part of the fight for pay equity

E tū and other unions will soon be in bargaining for our care and support workers’ pay equity claim.

The claim, which was filed on 1 July last year, is an important part of the fight to close the gender pay gap and get workers’ wages up in line with inflation.

Many members say they are struggling to survive financially in the face of increasing living costs.

Bargaining is due to kick off around August with E tū and other care and support unions, PSA and NZNO. Our aim is to have the claim settled before the General Election in October.

Why can’t care and support workers get decent pay?

Care and support work has traditionally been undervalued and underpaid, as it’s work that’s usually done by women.

Workers’ pay scales have not been updated to keep up with inflation or reassessed for gender discrimination since they were radically revised as part of their first historic pay equity settlement in 2017, initiated by Kristine Bartlett’s ground-breaking court case.

What does it mean to have pay equity?

Pay equity is about making sure that all workers are paid equally for work of equal value. Work of ‘equal value’ is work that requires a similar level of skill and responsibility, even though the jobs themselves are different.

What’s in our 2023 pay equity claim?

  • The claim is against 15 different aged care employers, which is representative of all employers in the sector.
  • It argues that workers are underpaid because they are in jobs mainly performed by women and that their rates should be raised in line with jobs of similar responsibility and skill performed mainly by men.
  • The claim uses ‘comparator jobs’, for example, caregivers compared with corrections officers, to establish what care workers should be paid.
  • When the claim is settled, the pay increases will pass on to all workers in the sector.
  • Pay increases will be paid by way of the government supplying more funding to care providers (employers).

Preparing our claim

  • Interviews with 50 care and support workers to create a job profile of the skills and responsibilities involved.
  • Research on ‘comparator’ jobs done in predominantly male occupations requiring similar levels of skill and responsibility.
  • Workshops to research the terms, conditions, and qualifications needed for care and support workers.
  • Comparisons done between union and employer research on care and support work with the three male-dominated jobs.
  • Agreement reached that care workers are undervalued!

In their own words…

“Pay equity and a pay increase would mean I could be home more for my husband to look after him as he has health issues, because right now the pay is not enough.

Care worker Meise Misa

“When the settlement ran out, we got a very low pay increase – only around 30 cents. It will also help my colleagues, who are working six and seven days a week, to spend more time with their family. It’s not fair, and also the job is very physical – we work with patients with dementia and mental health issues.

“It’s a pleasure working in this environment, despite the physical nature of the job. It reminds me of the way of living in the islands. I’ve been working in this environment for nearly 30 years, and for every hardworking person I’ve met, we deserve better pay.”

Delegate Forums 2023

Delegate Forums 2023

E tū delegates up and down Aotearoa came together for our Delegate Forums in April and May, the first time we’ve been able to hold these important events in-person since before the pandemic.

The Delegate Forums are all about coming together to learn, plan, and make connections. The jam-packed agenda included discussions about our key campaigns, reports about our many industrial struggles and wins, and lots of input from E tū delegates on what their role means for them.

With the General Election around the corner in October, the Delegate Forums served as an early launch of our election campaign. Delegates discussed exactly what is at stake in this important election, and how we’ll work together to maintain a Labour-led Government.

Wellington Delegate Forum

Many of the Delegate Forums had local MPs from the Labour Party and the Green Party to introduce themselves and share their political vision for Aotearoa.

A survey of delegates taken after the Delegate Forums revealed that the most enjoyable part for most people was connecting with other delegates, whether that was hearing them talk to the whole forum or simply making new connections over a cup of tea during the breaks.

While E tū can be proud of the successful online events we have had over the last few years, including our Delegate Forums, it was clear from the buzz in the rooms across the country that in-person is best. It’s a powerful way to remind ourselves that our union goes beyond our own workplaces and right across our communities.

South Auckland Delegate Forum

Fair Pay Agreements

A new beginning: Fair Pay Agreements for security and cleaners are on the way!

We’ve reached a huge milestone! E tū has had Fair Pay Agreements approved for both security guards and cleaners. These are some of the first Fair Pay Agreements approved in Aotearoa New Zealand, the result of six years of campaigning by E tū members. Some of our members in hospitality will also be covered by the Fair Pay Agreement for hospitality workers, and E tū will also be involved in those negotiations.

The exciting next step is forming the teams that will negotiate  on behalf of all cleaners and security guards across the country, to win better pay and conditions which will cover everyone working in  those industries. We’re also communicating with every cleaner and security guard in the country to talk to them about the process, and of course, to invite them to join E tū.

Cleaners and security guards have a lot to gain out of Fair Pay Agreements. Better wages, proper health and safety, secure days and hours of work, and decent access to training and upskilling are some of the key goals we’ll be taking to negotiations.

E tū cleaners covered by the Commercial Cleaners Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) have had a stark reminder why a Fair Pay Agreement will be so important. The companies recently came to bargaining offering no pay rise whatsoever – not even the 30c above minimum wage that has been negotiated in previous agreements.

With these Fair Pay Agreements finally heading to negotiations, other E tū members can start thinking about whether their industries would also benefit from a Fair Pay Agreement. Low pay and poor conditions affect many of our workplaces.

Editorial: Bill Newson

Kia ora, E tū members

Welcome to this latest edition of our union magazine, please take the time to have a read. You will find some great fellow members who project the diversity, strength and democracy of our union, and you will get important updates on our key campaigns.

The ‘Spotlight on our industry’ in this edition is aviation. I want to thank aviation delegates for the work we are all doing together in the interests of our members as the airlines rebuild out of the period of COVID disruption, and also express my appreciation to all of the new members joining E tū in the aviation sector.

The strength of our union is grounded in our deep union democracy, and I want to acknowledge our elected workplace delegates for attending and engaging in our recent E tū Delegate Forums, held in every region across the country in April and May. These were our first in-person Delegate Forums since COVID. It was great to get together again in person to discuss our membership issues and union strategies.

Democracy works best when everyone gets involved. All E tū members will be invited to attend our next big E tū democratic membership event, our Biennial Membership Meetings being held throughout September and October. As E tū members, you are encouraged to attend your applicable meeting to hear about important work-related issues and have your vote for important regional representative positions on our National Executive.

With the cost of living impacting on family budgets, it is important to be part of a strong union able to take action, when we have to, for a better deal.

As I write this introduction, I have received news that our members at Spotless and Wellington and Kenepuru hospitals have won their dispute to get their employer to sign their new agreement, on the eve of taking strike action. Sometimes it is the prospect of industrial action that ‘clinches the deal’ and I acknowledge all Spotless members for taking this principled stand.

E tū leads on wages with more than 700 collective employment agreements covering tens of thousands of members across a range of industries. Our multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs), such as those covering the metals and manufacturing industries, plastics industry, and health MECAs, connect members together for greater strength.

However, not all members are able to be covered by a good collective agreement, because of the insecure nature of the industries they work in. That’s where the new Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) introduced by the Labour Government come in.

E tū members can be proud that we are leading the way with FPAs, with our successful initiation for two FPAs – for cleaners and security guards – and our participation in a third, for hospitality workers. All members ultimately benefit from FPAs as international evidence shows a strong industry platform for minimum wages and conditions lifts wages and conditions across the board.

At the same time, our equal pay campaign is developing across the care and support sector as we begin negotiations to establish a rate that reflects the true value of the work of this predominantly female, essential workforce. You will find more detail about these important E tū campaigns in this magazine.

Fair Pay Agreements and equal pay are just two of the important policies giving us the chance of fairer wage outcomes that are at risk if there is a change of Government at the General Election in October.

All E tū members will recognise the benefit of the Government’s support for trade training with the extension of the ‘apprenticeship boost’ programme in this year’s Budget.

E tū also applauds the Government’s decision to subsidise $140m of the $300m electric arc furnace at NZ Steel. This provides important longer term job security to NZ Steel members and the economy of the local community. It also means an estimated 5.3% contribution to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2026-2030, which is good for all Kiwis.

This investment is an effective example of what can be done by a government committed to a Just Transition to protect the interests of working people and their communities, as climate change and technological transformation drive disruption.

E tū celebrates a new law change that gives all workers the right to Health and Safety Representative and a Health and Safety Committee, removing the 20 employee threshold put in place by the previous National-led Government.

And of course, we have all just celebrated our well-deserved Matariki paid public holiday break on 14 July – another Labour Government win.

Whether it’s more effective bargaining laws through Fair Pay Agreements, apprenticeship support, investment in a Just Transition, better health and safety rights, or our new paid public holiday, there is a lot at risk when we cast our votes. It’s simple really, E tū supports a Labour-led Government because Labour has the best track-record of supporting working people and their families.

Finally, a personal note – I emailed all members recently to let you know I am stepping down as National Secretary of E tū. Now is the time for change, and I have total faith in our leadership to keep taking E tū forward. Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh has been appointed by National Executive to be interim National Secretary for the rest of my term through to Biennial Conference in 2024.

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as National Secretary, and I want to thank and acknowledge all of our delegates and members who have made our union a strong, diverse, influential, and progressive force, standing up for the dignity and rights of working people.

Please read on, you will enjoy the fellow members you meet in this edition of our union magazine. Thank you for being an E tū member.

E tū National Executive