Strike in one for Griffins’ essential workers
One strike was all it took for members at Griffins Foods in Wiri to win, and win they did.
Members had planned to do a total of six strikes, but found that the company agreed to a 3% pay rise with full back pay after just one. They even agreed to pay members for their strike time.
A Griffins delegate Stephanie Simpson says the single two-hour strike “blew [her] away”.
“I was just feeling so proud that they had the courage to walk out, especially a couple of the ones that were fairly new ,” she says.
“They shook those signs and flags for the whole two hours – I just couldn’t believe it.”
Griffins workers were also considered essential during COVID-19 and worked throughout the lockdown. Since the win, Stephanie says she’s noticed members feel stronger in themselves.
“To know that they were a part of getting that 3% – they were so happy to be a part of it, that finally they stood up to management and they had a voice at the end of it.
“It makes people realise they do have a say.”
School cleaners find their voice with new project in South Auckland
Just months ago, they were invisible workers. Now school cleaners are finding their voices as part of a project in South Auckland to connect them up so they can learn about their rights and continue the fight for the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements.
Since July, almost 70 school cleaners have joined E tū, including new member, Lulu Low.
Now a delegate, Lulu says joining the union has given cleaners more confidence to speak up when something isn’t right.
“Knowing our rights and where we stand, and that we have E tū behind us when we’re not treated well, has taken a lot of weight off our shoulders,” she says.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, school cleaners didn’t know where to turn when they faced issues like having no PPE and companies using their annual leave instead of the government subsidy. They also have an ongoing struggle in not having enough paid hours to do their jobs properly.
Now members know their rights, the next steps are to train around 25 new delegates and to build on the campaign for Fair Pay Agreements, or industry-wide standards, to raise pay and conditions.
With her new knowledge, Lulu says she’s looking forward to supporting others to find their voices.
“I know now we do have the right to say ‘no’ in the workplace and we won’t lose our job. We’re not just cleaners – we are essential.”
Air New Zealand members continue to organise to get their messages out
Members are continuing to organise during extremely tough times, including almost 400 more redundancies for the 787 cabin crew just before Christmas. This follows around 4000 Air New Zealand workers who have already been made redundant since March.
In November, members campaigned against outsourcing both at home and overseas, demanding that Air New Zealand only use workers directly employed by the company, as well as provide work in Aotearoa New Zealand by shutting down their crew base in Shanghai and by ending the aircraft maintenance contract in Singapore.
Members also spoke out in the news media against the multi-million dollar share rights accepted by CEO Greg Foran and the executive team, a conditional bonus, convertible to shares in 2023.
A cabin crew member says organising is the only way to “shine a light” on what’s happening for aviation workers, when the company and the Government have not stepped in.
“You have to try and highlight the issues. If you don’t speak up to try to keep jobs in New Zealand, then that’s supporting the contract in Shanghai, including substantially lower conditions for those workers.”
They say the executives’ share options are “so inappropriate” with everything that’s going on at the company and in the tourism industry.
“[After hearing the news] a colleague rang me in tears. They were just so disappointed in the double standards.”
Another member, who works in the hangar, says it’s a real concern to see younger, less experienced members of the engineering team laid off, while work is still being outsourced to Singapore.
Members are more than willing to be flexible to decrease job cuts and retain the work in New Zealand, they say.
“We’re not asking to save all their jobs, but a portion. Our ideas haven’t been explored or listened to.
“It’s really important that we start planning for the future. We don’t know the date when international flying will fully restart, but when it does, we are going to need the right people in place.”
Facteon members make sure everyone gets the Living Wage
When it comes to decent pay, no one should get left out – that’s the feeling among members at Facteon, an automation company in East Tamaki.
The tight-knit group had assumed wages weren’t a problem for their members – until they found out their cleaning and catering staff weren’t on the Living Wage yet.
Delegate Rhendy Visser says the members, who are mostly made up of engineers, soon understood why the Living Wage needed to be on their list of bargaining claims.
“I went around and had a chat with most of them and they were really supportive,” he says.
Fortunately, the company also didn’t need much convincing to lift its workers to the Living Wage, which fits with the family feel among union members at Facteon.
Facteon is now an accredited Living Wage Employer.
“Being in a union is about looking after everybody,” Rhendy says.
Bacon factory workers win after Premier Beehive picket
Empowerment was the feeling on Premier Beehive’s first ever picket line, as members took decisive action to get the pay rise and back pay they’d been asking for.
Workers at the bacon factory in the Wairarapa continued to work through the country’s Level 4 lockdown as essential workers. Although they’ve been at the company for years, many earn little more than the minimum wage.
After seeing no improvement in Premier Beehive’s wage offer when they got back to negotiating in July, members voted to take industrial action. On 1 September, they took it in turns to picket during their breaks.
Delegate Karen Sinclair says although it was scary for some to step up, everything went well.
“We got the label and the company outside the front gates. Within a week, we were back at negotiations and got a better deal.
“Sometimes you’ve got to do [things like] that to make things fair. People have to survive and make sure they feel like they’re appreciated.”
Although members didn’t get the full pay rise they’d asked for, Premier Beehive did agree to increase wages with back pay to April. Karen says at the next round of bargaining in 2021, she’ll be advocating for the Living Wage. She’d consider action again, but hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“We want to form a good relationship with the company, so they start to value our members and give them a fair go, which is what they deserve.”
Online home support campaign calls for sector overhaul
After successfully joining the global fight for PPE, home support workers are now continuing their online campaign to raise awareness of their pay and conditions.
Their petition, “They Deserve The Best”, was launched in September and is well on the way to its initial goal of 2000 signatures.
The campaign calls on the Government to increase funding to the sector so workers have regular hours, decent pay, including properly paid travel time, breaks, and pay for mileage between clients.
Delegate Merianne Porter says COVID-19 was a turning point for workers, as it highlighted how home support care is not given the same weight as other types of care.
“We’re on the front line and we’re just as important as truckies, doctors and police,” she says.
Delegate Ana Palei agrees: “You come face to face with social issues – family, medical, physical. The work that we do is just like the people in public hospitals, but home support workers are not being as well equipped to face these challenges.”
Issues such as cuts in “care” times, access to PPE, and not having paid breaks can take a heavy toll, the delegates say.
Merianne says an overhaul of the sector has been “overdue a long time”.
“We’ve got to make sure that those out in the community that require services are being treated with the respect and duty of care they’re entitled to.”
Growing the organising power of essential workers during COVID-19
Essential workers at a South Auckland healthcare manufacturing plant have turned their workplace into one of the largest unionised workplaces around, now with close to 1100 members.
Thanks to the hard work of delegates at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, collective power has gone from strength to strength.
Before the pandemic there were around 800 members. Now, delegates have joined up to 250 new members, with more expected over the coming months.
Delegate and site convenor Chris Burton says the increase in membership came on the back of lots of “hard work” from the 18-strong delegate team and their organiser.
Between them, delegates shared the responsibility of making contact with some 300 non-members.
“Staff understand the advantages of being a member and how the delegate team can support them. There’s also the benefit of word of mouth from the rest of the members,” Chris says.
Delegates also advocated for more certainty for contracted staff, which will see almost 700 of around 1200 casuals move to fixed-term contracts that are also covered under the collective.
Chris says members will also be petitioning the company to move away from fixed-term to permanent contracts.
Protecting their 30-year-old collective is a task all members take very seriously, he says.
“Because we have a comprehensive collective, we have a very safe environment and are constantly vigilant.
“Not only do we treat a lot of patients and save lives, but we want to maintain this iconic business as a great place for people to work, with certainty around permanent employment.”
DHB workers win the right to new leave to keep workers and patients safe
DHB workers won’t have to worry about taking time off work for a COVID-19 test or when they are asked to stand down when they would otherwise be able to work, but don’t want to use up their sick leave.
After months of engagement by E tū and other health unions, all District Health Board (DHB) employees in hospitals and at other DHB-run sites, will now be able to take unlimited Minor Illness Leave from 30 September.
Delegate Monika Oveinikovas says: “It’s good because people won’t have to take up their annual leave and time in lieu.”
E tū will also be pushing for the unlimited leave to be applied to DHB contractors as well, for staff and patient safety.
We’re back to bargaining!
We’re in full swing bargaining all your agreements across aged and residential care, and the home and disability support sectors, with several heading to ratification now. We’re fighting for additional sick leave, training to help care and support workers move up the pay scale, and moving toward the Living Wage for our service and admin workers in these sectors. Keep an eye out for more about your particular bargaining!