E tū organising

Lifewise members together at their ratification meeting

Good gains for Lifewise workers more than a year on from summer of strikes

Two summers ago, Lifewise community support workers stood out in the heat in a busy Auckland suburban street, day after day, striking for better pay and conditions.

Now, a little over a year on from their first-ever collective agreement, things have really turned a corner for workers.

In August, workers ratified their second collective agreement, which meant a total 5% pay rise that the company agreed to before the Government mandated rise of 3%, $1 more per hour for weekend work, and mileage reimbursement rates up to 70 cents a kilometre.

Delegate Susie Kaio, who was one the delegate team who saw members through nearly three months of strikes in 2020 and 2021, says she “couldn’t be more happy” with the new agreement.

“I was ecstatic, to be very honest. This time around bargaining with our new management, it felt like it was about wanting to make lifewise better for the home care workers.”

Members will also have access to a collective bereavement fund, if they find themselves running out of bereavement leave and still needing time off work.

Fellow delegate Christine Faga says while some members wanted to bargain for longer, she thinks overall people are feeling good.

“We’re the only ones we know of that have got a pay rise. I think we got a fair agreement, given the environment we’re in now.”

Strike action brings all Assa Abloy members above the Living Wage

For Assa Abloy delegate and night shift worker Ralph Greig, it’s the first time in years he hasn’t had to work two jobs to get by, despite regularly working around 50 hours a week at the plant.

After a day of strike action in June and months of continued negotiations, members at the Auckland lock manufacturer finally won a decent pay rise in their new collective agreement.

Assa Abloy members on the day of the strike

With at least 9% and backpay in their first year, followed by 3% in the second, Ralph says Assa Abloy members are “elated”, and he’s at last able to give up part time weekend work.

Before the raise, members at the plant were doing at least 10 hours of regular overtime each week to pay the bills. Now, everyone has been brought up to at least the Living Wage rate of $23.65.

“For our members, their overtime has dropped by quite some percentage. It’s made a big difference what we went for and what we got.”

If the cost of living rises again next year by more than 7%, members will also get an additional 1% added to their pay.

Ralph says it’s been a big turnaround from the company, after members explained it was “shameful” to see workers who had been there for more than 10 years still earning under the Living Wage.

“The strike was mainly to make the company realise that we were all united in our demands, which were very practical and reasonable.

“Now, we are all happy, there’s no sourness left. Things have fallen into place.”

New pathway to Living Wage and stable jobs with security collective

From now on, all E tū members working for FIRST Security have the option to move to the Living Wage.

Thanks to their new collective agreement, around 200 members now have a pathway to a Living Wage rate – the first time union members have had such a win with a big security employer.

Members can complete their Level 3 training – which the company pays for – to receive the Living Wage, and the company needs to offer the training within 18 months.

Delegate and bargaining team member Rosey Ngakopu says although it was her first time in the negotiating room, straight away she took the approach of being open and transparent, leaving emotions to one side, and sticking to the facts.

E tū delegate and FIRST Security bargaining team member Rosey Ngakopu

“They didn’t hold back and we didn’t hold anything back. We met in the middle and we talked it all out – otherwise we won’t come to an agreement,” she says.

“You also need to have guards’ experience to back up your claims. I came with evidence, so it was very easy to get into it, negotiate, and move onto the next claim.

Members who have also been working at the company as casuals but with regular shift patterns will also be given the option to move to a permanent contract after 12 weeks, provided they have a good performance review.

Rosey says, “We are now respected guards working for FIRST, and we built that through the conversations in bargaining.”

Take off for renewed Airbus collective after strike action

After months of taking action to secure decent wages, E tū aircraft engineers who work at Airbus, finally reached an agreement with the company.

More than 100 engineers in Marlborough and Manawatū will now get a pay rise of more than 6% and then 5% in the second year of their collective agreement, as well as some additional allowances.

Airbus engineers mainly service military aircraft, alongside private work on civilian planes.

During the prolonged strike action, members didn’t go off base or do overtime, as well as refused to do certain tasks, delaying maintenance on planes like those used for disaster relief.

One of the Airbus delegates Bill Frost says the strike was a bit of an “eye opener” as to the power of collective action.

“While members are generally relieved that the industrial action is over, it’s been quite a positive experience and the show of support from people has been really humbling,” he says.

“There was amazing generosity – a food bank, pledges of money towards a war-chest type of thing – as not being able to do overtime was biting a bit for some members.”

Members will renegotiate their next collective in 2024.

Packaging workers mass joint strikes for decent pay and better lives

Mass strikes have paid off for more than 100 E tū packaging members who have now secured pay rises and more overtime pay.

Packaging members first joint strike and picket was a success, despite the weather

For around a month in September, members from Visy Board in Wiri, Charta Packaging, and Opal Kiwi Packaging took strike action collectively and individually outside their worksites.

With many working anywhere from 60-70 hours a week to get by, members wanted a decent pay rise to keep with the rising cost of living.

Many members say they work long overtime hours just to survive

Visy members also wanted their overtime to start at 40 hours, rather than 50 hours.

Now pay rates will go up by 7.3% at Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging and 6% at Opal Kiwi Packaging this year.

Visy Board delegate Reeaz Ali says the strike was key to getting a better deal for workers.

“All the boys are pretty happy, telling me that if they had never striked, they never would have won that.

“We’ve never striked before, but now we’ll get a pay increase and time and a half pay from 45 hours.”

Wellington musicians join E tū to develop industry pay standards

E tū, is rebuilding its power with new independent musicians coming on board, reviving our musician union identity with fresh initiatives to improve the industry.

E tū and WMA members Chris Armour (right) and Miles Calder (left). PHOTO: Nick George

A group of musicians in Wellington who have also formed their own advocacy group, the Wellington Musicians Association (WMA), are the latest members to sign up to E tū, after they found themselves needing to resolve issues around their pay for a music festival run by the council.

A WMA leader, guitarist and new E tū member, Chris Armour says it was the “catalyst” for local musicians to organise and voice concerns, and also get in touch with E tū for support.

He says the situation highlighted the lack of any framework or collective voice in place to protect the rights of musicians or to ensure basic, fair minimums of pay and conditions.

“There are no established rules, so it’s a bit like the wild west – particularly surrounding minimums,” he says.

“You have situations where world class musicians are playing on stage for minimum wage or less.”

The group then decided to gather data from around 300 musicians who had performed at the festival, going back to 2004.

Their research showed when everything was taken into account, the musicians were being paid roughly $11 per hour (adjusted for inflation).

Alongside securing commitments for pay and conditions for future festival work, they are also now working with E tū to develop an online Living Wage ‘calculator’ to help independent musicians work out how much to charge for particular types of gigs.

Chris says that establishing industry wide minimum rates will help to create a Living Wage for musicians that can scale with cost of living and provide a framework of minimum pay that will fairly account for their skills, experience, and profile – and one they can build on.

“The end goal is to have these rates function as a line in the sand. Exposure is not, and never has been, a substitute for fair pay.

“We want to change the idea that music itself as a profession or artform can’t be tied to a minimum expectation of labour and costs, because it’s quantifiable,” he says.