Thousands of care and support workers around the country from multiple unions are standing up to preserve and increase the value of their pay and to ensure hard fought for training and progression gains are not lost.
Back in 2017, for the first time in their working lives, this group of 65,000 workers won historic pay increases and improvements thanks to the Care and Support (Pay Equity) Settlement.
Now, with the rates and pay scales that were set down in 2017 set to expire, E tū members and members from other unions are putting pressure on the Government to renew and renegotiate the settlement.
From December to February, hundreds took time to write their own personal messages to the Ministry of Health, explaining how the original settlement had improved their lives and how desperately they needed rates to continue to increase in the face of huge living costs.
Members have also been taking time to meet with their local MPs, after doing some lobbying training.
E tū Community Support Services Industry Council member, Ruby Sayer, is only 23, but has been working in aged care homes since she was just 15.
She says updating rates would make care and support a better career path for workers.
“I definitely support it 100%, because the last three years have been hellish with Covid 19. I want to set myself up for the future,” she says.
After months of waiting for an outcome, the Government has secured a mandate to start negotiations to renew the settlement by 1 July.
However, the proposed rates are likely to be lower than what workers have asked for in their claim, which is why care and support workers nationwide will need to be ready to mobilise for fair rates which respect their work.
Ruby says care work is a very physically and mentally draining job and continued pay increases are needed.
“It’s not always a nice industry to work in but if we were able to make it an industry that people want to work in then that’s great.
“I just think it’s going to change a whole lot of people’s lives if it goes ahead – it will really help so many people, including people we care for as well.”
That original settlement included continuing increases up to 1 July last year, but it expires on 30 June this year, with no guarantee the value will be maintained after that.
It was initiated by aged care worker Kristine Bartlett, who argued that workers had been underpaid for decades because most of them were women.