While millions of Kiwis stayed home to stay safe during the COVID-19 lockdown, thousands of E tū members were delivering essential services to keep the country going. We can be proud of the contribution E tū members made in care work, aviation, cleaning, manufacturing, security, communications, and many other sectors and industries. Here are some of their stories.
Inu Salvation, hospital cleaner, Hamilton
My job at Waikato Hospital is cleaning infection rooms. During the lockdown, I was placed in the COVID-19 emergency zone. That meant constantly sterilising everything, all the time. It was actually pretty cool, but it was very tiring because of the amount of PPE we had to wear. It got pretty sweaty.
I think it was handled quite well by the hospital. Every little runny nose was taken seriously. People weren’t waiting long for treatment at all. It was all pretty on point. The COVID area that was set up is still there as a respiratory area. While the risk isn’t as heightened now, we’re ready if anything changes.
I think, as a whole, it was everyone just doing their own thing, that’s how we beat COVID. Everyone just smashed it out.
Ross Langford, Aviation Security (Avsec), Christchurch
My wife, Helen, and I have worked for Avsec for about 30 years. Our experience at the airport was everything normal one day, and totally different the next. The lockdown happened so quickly – we still fronted up to work but there weren’t any passengers. So we did a lot of extra stuff at the beginning, e-learning modules, and so on.
Then the isolation hotels came on stream. Avsec workers were deployed as security at the hotels and doing reassurance patrols for the police, just making sure that people weren’t out and about, and that social distancing was being adhered to.
It was a little bit scary at the hotels. Everyone was pretty apprehensive. Would we be exposed to COVID-19? Some people couldn’t work because they or their families had medical conditions. I would come home and get undressed in the garage, go straight to the shower, and wipe down all the surfaces we touched in the car and house.
To be honest, I think there was a bit of anxiety for anyone working through the lockdown. I would have been quite happy to stay home and stay safe, and I think a lot of essential workers in many other industries will have felt the same.
Sisi Palu, home support, Auckland
Everyone did their best [during lockdown], but at the same time we were scared of COVID-19 and so were our clients. We were going from house to house, doing our part to look after our clients, and then home to look after our families.
Some clients did the lockdown with their families, and so they didn’t need as many visits. But many were alone and us home support workers were the only people they saw. We needed to be there for them.
I was lucky that my employer provided us with the right protective equipment. We had masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, and enough of everything we needed. I know that some of the other providers couldn’t do this for their workers.
One great thing was the special queue for essential workers at some supermarkets. It was helpful for our own shopping, but it was especially useful when we needed to get groceries for our clients. When you only have one hour to do everything for a client, you can’t spend the whole time in line at the supermarket.
I think us caregivers all did a great job during lockdown. Not just home support workers, but people in residential facilities and hospitals as well. Now we’re just happy that things are mainly returning to normal.