The picket of a lifetime: Lifewise homecare support workers win!
Patience and persistence have finally paid off for Lifewise homecare support workers.
After four months of striking, picketing on the roadside, and speaking out in the media about their dispute with Lifewise, they’ve won their first collective.
Since mid-2019, Lifewise members have been fighting for their first-ever collective agreement to include extra sick and bereavement leave, long service leave, and a commitment to resolve workers’ ongoing issues with guaranteed hours.
The company agreed to the additional leave provisions before the first COVID-19 lockdown last March, but then went back on their word.
Fed up and frustrated, Lifewise members took to the picket line in December – resulting in 15 pickets and 12 strike days.
As a result of the strikes, the company threatened E tū Lifewise members with a two-week lockout on three separate occasions. These lockout threats added stress to members in the fight for decent work. E tū resorted to legal action and successfully challenged every one of their employer’s lockout notices.
Months of staunch action, members speaking up in the media, and the threat of further legal action by E tū finally led to a settlement on 1 April.
Reactions to the settlement range from relief to feeling that things are still “incomplete”.
“There’s still some things we need to work on, but at least we’ve got that way forward now and open discussion and transparency,” delegate Helen Taufa says.
Delegate Maggie Greig says: “It was a long road, but it’s quite an achievement.”
The settlement includes a one-off payment for sick leave, a fund to cover bereavement leave, and a long-service payment.
It also includes a process for workers to increase their guaranteed hours. However, guaranteed hours remains an issue for E tū members.
The delegates say the strikes and pickets have created a feeling of solidarity among members.
“It was hard financially and a struggle, but actually for me, doing the strike was just the best. It just brought us together – it’s like we’re sisters,” says delegate Susie Kaio.
“Now we all know what it takes to make change.”
Susie says the next steps are to implement their collective agreement, and to keep members strong to fight for reforms that would see all home support workers treated well. Fair Pay Agreements are one way of achieving this.
Would Lifewise members head back to the picket line if need be? Absolutely.
“Who would have thought we’d be on the roadside, enjoying ourselves?” Maggie says.
Celebrating 10 years since milestone sleepover payment
This year marks 10 years since community workers won the right to be paid at the minimum wage when they are required to be on duty and “sleep over”, as part of their job caring for those with intellectual disabilities.
In 2007, IDEA Services worker Philip Dickson, went to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming that it was illegal to pay workers below minimum wage for sleepovers, as these counted as ‘work’.
Unions eventually settled Philip’s case through an industry-wide agreement and law, the Sleepover Wages (Settlement) Act 2011. This entitled those working sleepovers to the minimum wage and back pay at an agreed rate from 2005-2011.
Former IDEA Services delegate Nadine Simpson says the backpay changed her life: “I was in my 40s and starting over again with zero after a divorce. So I treated it as a one-off and bought my house. I’m now about 10 years away from retirement and in a way better position than I ever would have been.”
Nadine says her work as a delegate led to her getting into politics. She now works to support Taieri Labour MP, Ingrid Leary. “The settlement changed things in many ways – not just better pay.”
New MECA ‘stepping stone’ for cleaners
E tū members are currently voting to ratify their latest cleaning MECA, which covers members from 20 companies.
It provides clearer entitlements for domestic violence leave, and members will also receive a 30c pay rise from the first pay in July. This means they’ll be paid at least a minimum of $20.30.
Members come from companies such as OCS, ISS, City Cleaning, Millennium, and Professional Property Cleaning Services.
Wellington school cleaner and delegate-in-training Arran Downey says the MECA bargaining was a long two days but was “totally worth it”.
“It feels good to have a room of other delegates on the same wavelength and same agenda. I feel like we made progressive stepping stones. It wasn’t huge leaps but small steps forward.”
Since Arran joined the union seven months ago, he’s noticed an improvement in his conditions: “Pay discrepancies are now getting sorted out, and our cleaning cloths are getting a professional hot clean every day rather than me cleaning them every night.
“When you’re by yourself you feel like you’re fighting the world on your own, but when you’re in the union, you can get results from the company that you never thought you’d get.”
Arran says next he’s keen to see other issues like making sure cleaners have proper breaks, training allowances, and paid travel time included.
The next campaign for cleaners is Fair Pay Agreements, which will help to create decent jobs by setting industry standards for pay and conditions that apply to all cleaners. Visit etu.nz/fpas for more.
DHB hospital workers get set for bargaining
District Health Board (DHB) workers in hospitals will also be getting their turn at the bargaining table very soon.
The new DHB multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) will have an impact on nearly 5000 hospital service workers, such as cleaners, laundry workers, orderlies, catering, and security, from the country’s 20 DHBs.
In 2018, the previous MECA set high standards, with pay rises of between 27% – 40%, and with DHBs committed to providing training.
E tū delegate Carla Hemopo says bargaining this time is all about providing more support for workers, including greatly increased sick leave and a pay rate of at least the Living Wage.
Under the Government’s new healthcare reforms, all DHBs will eventually be replaced by a single national body, Health New Zealand.
Manufacturing workers hit by redundancies
The manufacturing sector continues to undergo change in the wake of COVID-19, with redundancies going ahead at confectionery manufacturer Nestlé in South Auckland.
Nestlé will make more than 40 workers redundant at its Wiri site, due to several of its products now slated to be produced in Australia and another to be outsourced.
The redundancies are also part of a plan to eventually shut down the confectionery manufacturing arm of the Wiri site altogether.
Nestlé delegate Edwin Ikani, who is also the newly elected E tū Food and Manufacturing Industry Council convenor, says morale is down as workers deal with the situation.
“I think it’s important for our people to remember that it’s not them as people, it’s their roles that are being made redundant,” he says.
“It’s really crucial for them to realise it’s not their doing.”
Nestlé’s workers will lose their jobs by Christmas, and E tū is pushing for solutions such as redeployment, making sure members have their skills certified and are able to leave the company with their full redundancy packages if they find a new job sooner than December.
However, there’s also some light at the end of the tunnel for members – they’ll soon be getting a pay rise now their latest collective agreement has been ratified.
This includes a total rise of 6.5%, which accounts for a year’s back pay and then a pay increase until August 2022.
Looking for work? Visit E tū Job Match at jobmatch.etu.nz for help with your CV, cover letter, job opportunities, and more.
‘Just Transition’ for New Zealand Post members
For some New Zealand Post workers set to lose their jobs, being made redundant won’t be the end of their career but the doorway to a new one.
New Zealand Post will lay off around 130 employees in the contract logistics team over the next 12-18 months, as the company closes its operations in this area.
But E tū New Zealand Post members won’t be left high and dry – as part of their redundancy, the company will work with the union to make sure all employees affected have a Just Transition.
This means a personal transition plan for each employee who wants one.
It includes things like skills assessment and help in looking for further training, time off during work hours to go to interviews, help with CVs, and free financial advice.
Members can also leave their job early if another one comes up before their finish date, without affecting their redundancy package.
E tū delegate JD Rawiri says the agreement ensures not only a “dignified exit” but future opportunities too.
“In the package, there are opportunities for members to not only to transfer to other parts of New Zealand Post, but also to ensure that their transferable skills go with them to another meaningful occupation,” JD says.
“The way this has been handled means our people have an opportunity to make sure that their future is well looked after.”