FPAs: Delegates intensify lobbying

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway (seated) with E tū and FIRST Union members discussing FPAs in Auckland

OCS cleaning delegate Rose Kavapalu works two jobs to make ends meet. At one job, her hours have just been cut from 50 to 25 a week and so she works a second job at night.

“It would be nice to have just one job. We’re still living day by day, so when will our saviour come?” asks Rose.

Rose was speaking after consultation meetings in Wellington and Auckland last month by Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway on progress with Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs). FPAs would set minimum pay and conditions across entire industries.
This would be a game-changer for many E tū members, especially cleaners and security guards, who are often exploited by the ‘race to the bottom’ as they bear the brunt of contractors cutting costs to stay competitive.

Rose says while Minister Lees-Galloway supports FPAs, it’s taking a long time to get them in place. Cleaning and security members have been meeting Labour MPs and intensively lobbying NZ First MPs to win their support, including Fletcher Tabuteau, Clayton Mitchell, Jenny Marcroft, Tracey Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who assured members he supports a fair deal for security guards and cleaners.

Our delegates meet Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin (centre)

For security guards, like delegate Lewis Madar, there’s a lot at stake. “The bosses can have their Christmas and enjoy their lives, but for us it’s about making ends meet,” he says, pointing out the great gulf between the lives of the “haves” and the “have nots.”
In October, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released a discussion document to get feedback about the different options for designing the FPA system. About 500 E tū members made submissions, asserting that a proper FPA system needs to be robust.

The vast majority of members who used our online submission tool agreed a decent FPA process should ensure unions are the representatives of workers at the bargaining table, that standards are national and not regional, and all workers have the right to paid meetings to vote on the agreements.

In his submission, E tū’s Public and Commercial Services Industry Convenor, Jason Fell, puts it very well: “Fair Pay Agreements are needed to address the inequality that has resulted through not having any fair standards set for wages, especially in low income employment,” Jason says.

“Companies compete for contracts by lowering their quotes at the expense of workers’ wages, with no concern for their employees. Good companies, who would like to pay their workers a fair and liveable wage, can’t compete against those who are driven by profit at the expense of their employees. The only way to address this is through legislation to ensure minimum standards of fair pay.”