Strike at Pacific Steel
Workers at Bluescope Pacific Steel walked off the job and onto the picket line last month for a 24-hour strike in support of a decent wage rise. An overtime ban is also in place at the mill.
The strike is in protest over a low-ball pay offer – despite Bluescope doubling its profit this year to AUD$1.6 billion. Dividends improved for shareholders but there is little for workers.
In New Zealand, the company’s earnings improved by more than 80 percent – the highest return in the group – and members say they’ve earned a fair deal.
Mill delegates say they feel frustrated after 19 rounds of pay talks, and have issued the following joint statement:
“The current situation has left the members feeling as though they are working for an employer who is not prepared to listen and does not care about the business that they work in. Recent industrial action has done nothing to alter the company’s position.
“This has only strengthened the membership’s resolve to see out the negotiation process.”
Maori TV stalemate
Maori TV members took strike action in August, in a bid to settle their collective agreement.
Although our members were told the channel had no money, they subsequently learned Maori TV had given non-union staff a bonus before Christmas and a wage rise in January.
Talks were close to settling, but then suddenly collapsed. So, it was all go for strike action!
More talks followed with members twice rejecting the channel’s offer. Fresh talks are pending as E tū and you goes to print.
“We’ve had no progress over a year,” says a member. “They have the money to settle this if they want to, but they don’t want to.”
Armourguard Living Wage target
Imagine an industry where you must work 60 hours a week to make ends meet. It’s cold and wet, but often your employer won’t provide basic wet weather gear or a jumper and you are not allowed to wear your own warm clothing. You get sick, but you’re only paid sick leave for 3 hours a day because you’re on a variable-hours contract. That’s what E tū has been told by security workers.
You’ve missed dinner with your kids for the fourth night running because you’re pulling a 14-hour day for your employer, who says you must work, or he’ll only give you 20 hours next week. And you only earn the minimum wage.
Our members tell us this is what life is like working for Armourguard – one of New Zealand’s biggest security firms.
Armourguard is a key government security contractor, providing services for WINZ and Auckland Transport. Armourguard says it won’t pay more because its clients won’t wear the extra cost.
But our members and delegates at Armourguard are determined to win a better deal – and they’re hoping the Government and Auckland’s Mayor will lend a helping hand.
MSD/WINZ is led by Labour Minister Carmel Sepuloni, while Auckland Transport is part of Auckland Council, headed by Mayor, Phil Goff. Both support the Living Wage. The Government is also committed to ensuring all contracted workers in the core public service earn the Living Wage by September 2020.
So, our Armourguard members have written open letters to Carmel and Phil, asking them to put pressure on Armourguard to pay decent wages.
“We think Armourguard’s attitude is a kick in the teeth for their workers,” says delegate, Margaret Biddiss, who is a member of the E tū bargaining team.
“We slog our guts out for them every day, and they don’t care about us. Luckily, we have a plan to take the fight to the bosses,” she says.
You, our members, can help by adding your name to this open letter: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Security NZQA Level 2 training
Twelve E tū members from the Wellington region are just about to graduate with their NZQA Level 2 qualification in security. This free accredited course will enable them to progress in their careers and, in some jobs, to achieve substantially higher rates of pay.
The next group of students has just signed up in Auckland, and we are expecting to start a second Wellington course shortly.
If you work in security, live in Auckland or Wellington and want to find out how you can access this course, email email@example.com or ring 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466) and ask to speak with Emma Lipscombe.
Taharoa settles Collective Agreement
Talks have staved off strike action at Taharoa Ironsands, where members imposed a loading ban in late August after the company demanded cuts to wages and conditions.
The company finally agreed to renew members’ Collective Agreement with all pay and allowances intact, with members lifting the ban and ratifying the deal late last month.
The collective agreement settlement came on top of an earlier legal win by the union in reversing a company decision to unilaterally stop the payment of a long-standing allowance.
“At the end of the day, we’re happy to do our job,” says a member. He says the membership is “satisfied with the settlement and now we can concentrate on doing our work.
“We’ve got a vested interest in this mine and we would like to see it prosper as well as see the employment continue and benefit the people and the community.”
He says the membership appreciates the massive support by other members of the union, which allowed them to resist a very aggressive employer.
Air NZ engineers meet
After meetings in Christchurch and Auckland, E tū members have voted “no” to discussing changes to their working conditions at Air NZ Engineering ahead of collective bargaining.
Peter Lees, E tū Senior delegate at Air NZ Engineering Christchurch says the delegates are working to ensure any changes are put to a vote. “Our aim is to have an over 95% turnout on all voteable issues,”
Meanwhile, $6 million of savings have been identified by workers at Air NZ Christchurch, in a union-management project to trim costs. A similar process is underway in Auckland.
Win for Gateway worker
“It was a horrific blow. It still is. The money doesn’t change that.”
Nelson member, Caro McFadden has been awarded more than $21,000 by the Employment Relations Authority after her unfair dismissal by Nelson mental health provider, Gateway Trust.
Caro was the coordinator of Snapshot, a community outreach service she set up for young people. Last year she was restructured out of her job.
With the disestablishment of her position, she applied for a new manager’s job, but was told at an informal meeting with her manager that she was unlikely to get the job. Instead, she said he offered her a support role and gave her the weekend to think about it before a meeting on Monday to learn her decision.
Stressed at the loss of her job, Caro’s doctor put her on sick leave, and she couldn’t make the meeting. So, the Trust dismissed her on the grounds of redundancy.
The Authority found the dismissal was unjustified and said “no fair and reasonable employer” would have dismissed her without first meeting face-to-face, once she recovered, to discuss her options. It also found Caro wasn’t given a fair chance to consider alternative work.
Caro says she still misses the job she created eight years ago. But she’s grateful for the support of her union and the ruling, which has given her some breathing space.
“Hats off to the union. If it wasn’t for the union, I probably wouldn’t be sitting with a healthy-looking bank account. I feel for the others though,” she says. “I worry about the service – we all do.”
Strike at Gateway
Gateway Trust members were on the picket line last month during strike action in protest over the Trust’s refusal to settle their Collective Agreement.
After the strike, the Trust agreed to talks and as we go to print, an outcome is looking promising, with a settlement expected in early September.
A member says staff are pleased with the outcome, “but they’re feeling very insecure,” due to the mental health sector’s precarious contract arrangements.
“It’s so uncertain. But we’re lucky to have kept the staff we’ve got and got them into the union, because they really appreciate what the union is doing.”
Meanwhile, members have received their back pay from the mental health equal pay settlement which our member says has been “a real shot in the arm.”
The hands that did the talking
The blistered hands of a Sistema worker hit the news and snowballed across social media last month, forcing Sistema to improve its health and safety practices.
Smarting over the photo, and media reports of Sistema as a “sweatshop”, the company is now rotating jobs to combat fatigue and injuries, hi-vis gear costs have been reimbursed, and gloves are provided in different sizes to prevent burns – one size did not fit all!
Staffing numbers on some machines have also been lifted to prevent the injuries revealed in the photo.
But delegate Maria Latu says, despite months of talks, “they’re not giving us what we want which is a decent pay rise!”
Members received a tiny pay offer in August, but rejected it. They want the Living Wage.
More talks were pending as E tū and you goes to print.
The worker behind those burned hands says more needs to be done – that the 60-hour working week is too long and the pay too low: “If I work 40 hours there is not enough to survive. Hence the rates should go up so that I don’t have to work longer hours.”
Meanwhile, our delegates report that hands are being checked, incident forms filled in and injured people sent home. However, they are cynical about whether that will continue.
“They don’t do it every night,” says Maria. “Members are concerned the change is just because we’re in bargaining and once that’s over, it’ll just go back to where they were.”
You can follow progress via our website and Facebook.
This campaign is not over!
HPHE at NZ Post
Below, the delegates of the NZ Post High Performance High Engagement team hitch a lift on a Paxster as talks continue on delivering a High Performance High Engagement model at Post.
As part of the process, our Post delegates are now working on how to improve mail delivery at branches where Paxsters are used. HPHE team member, Terry Howell says improving postal rosters is the team’s first project.
“Hopefully the one we’re working on will mean things will be smoother and run easier and the resourcing will be better to stop a lot of unwanted overtime,“ says Terry who has high hopes for HPHE.
“If we can actually work face-to-face like we’ve been doing, I think it’s a much better outcome for everyone.”