E tū organising

Sistema: workers walk off the job

Our staunch and determined Sistema workers have taken strike action, walking off the job for the first time in the middle of a night-shift late last month. The day shift walked out two days later, forming a mighty picket line in front of the huge plastics plant. Other strikes have followed, after months of fruitless negotiations and hard work by our determined Sistema members and delegates.

The members are seeking a modest pay rise, and improved working conditions.This includes rotating jobs to relieve fatigue, greater respect from their supervisors and a fair and transparent promotion system.

The strength of feeling among our more than 200 E tū members was clear with 92% voting to strike.

Delegate Maria Latu was fizzing with excitement as workers streamed out of the factory at 11pm on that first night.

“We’re on strike! Everybody just walked out!” she said, to a barrage of car horns as striking workers drove out of the plant carpark in convoy.

“We don’t want to strike, but we know our employer does not value us. We’re sick of it,” says Maria. “My colleagues have had enough, we are prepared to stand up to have a chance at a decent life.”

As E tū and You goes to print, the dispute remains unresolved, but our members stand tall and undaunted, says delegate Sesilia Williams: “They are all strong, all united in support of each other,” she says. “We’re going to keep on keeping on until we
get results!”

Air New Zealand engineers gets a deal

E tū members at Air New Zealand Engineering and Logistics have been offered a deal after three days of mediation.

The unions entered into mediation with the company in early December, after the company failed to make a decent offer in negotiations. Air New Zealand had proposed cutting some long-held conditions and offered just a small pay rise.

E tū issued strike notices for three consecutive days, beginning on 21 December. These notices covered the busiest travel days of the year and attracted significant media attention.

Fortunately, a deal was reached on the third day of mediation, which included the unions involved withdrawing their strike notices. Our member-led bargaining team was satisfied that the deal addressed many the major problems and so the deal will now be taken to the members to vote on it. While the specific details remain confidential until members have had a chance to discuss it in detail, it is a significantly improved offer.

Air New Zealand Engineering and Logistics workers are a very well organised group, with high union density and well-established organising processes. This gives them the collective power to stand up for their rights and win what they deserve. While strike action is always a last resort, Air New Zealand Engineering and Logistics members have sent a clear message to the company that they won’t accept any less than they’re worth.

Delight as Auckland members ratify the new MECA

Our public hospital members are celebrating big pay rises as a result of the new DHB Multi Employer Collective Agreement ratified last month. Wages for many will increase by up to 40% over the next three years with those on the lowest rates expected to benefit the most.

The MECA covers about 3500 directly employed and contracted service workers, including cleaners, laundry workers, orderlies, catering and security staff at the country’s 20 DHBs.

Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the deal which lifts pay in line with qualifications.

“We will get a good wage without having to work overtime on the weekend,” says Lena Hiku, a cleaner at Auckland Hospital. “This will be good for our family life and for our health,” she says.

The new pay scales also remove the requirement for 12 months service on each step before progressing, making it easier for members to get to the top step faster through training.

E tū hopes to see all members earn a Level 3 qualification which will mean a pay rise from a base rate of $17.28 to almost $25.63 by 2021 – an increase of 40.9%.

By the end of the MECA term, new workers on the basic scale will start on $20.90 an hour – an increase of 26.7%. At the top of the grade, wages will lift to $21.25 an hour – an increase of nearly 10%.

This will increase to at least $25.63 over the next three years – which is 30% more than workers earn now.

All new rates will be backdated to 25 June 2018.

For cleaner Janet Pihanga, the deal is a welcome early Christmas present. “This pay deal will be my Xmas bonus and hopefully the back-pay will be paid out before Xmas as well,” she says.

This MECA is a major investment by the DHBs and the government in the lowest paid workers in our public hospitals and helps deliver on the Government’s promise to lift the living standard of those at the bottom. As one member commented: “Thank you, Jacinda!” The increases are indeed impressive and reflect the hard work of E tū members.

Union pride at OceanaGold

“I’m proud of the membership, I’m proud of the boys for standing together as one voice. There was no wavering. It was E tū – we stood tall, we stood hard and the company recognised that.”

Those are the words of our on-site delegate at OceanaGold’s Waihi underground mine, where members went out on strike twice for 48 hours in September, in protest over a low pay offer, despite the Aussie-based firm posting a record profit this year.
Recent surveys also revealed a rich vein of gold in a new field and members believed the company could pay more.

“Feelings were running high,” says our delegate. “The company said there are ebbs and flows and sometimes they have to spend to make money, but they were making a lot more than they were prepared to give out,” he says.

Two strikes in and the members still stood firm. Finally, mediation brought a break-through with members winning a 3% + 2.5% two-year settlement.

“It was a good settlement and we wouldn’t have got it without the action that was taken.”

He says the team is also tighter on site now: “It’s been very good in uniting the workforce and showing our management we were united.”

As well as the pay increases, work continues on a new roster to reduce fatigue caused by long working hours. Workers currently work 84 hours over seven days, then three days off, which workers found exhausting.

“Everyone was coming back fatigued. Now, we’ll have 84 hours but seven days to recover.”

A fantastic result all round.

Pike River re-entry

E tū congratulates government Minister Andrew Little on his decision to re-enter the Pike River mine drift, where 29 men died in an explosion in November 2010.

Eleven union members died that day and it’s hoped the re-entry will uncover more about what caused this tragedy. The decision is also vindication for the Pike River families’ fight for justice.

Mining Industry Council member and delegate Dave Reece says, “If re-entry means they retrieve bodies and find out what caused it, that’s all good.”

Dave paid tribute to the Minister, formerly the National Secretary of our legacy union, the EPMU. “Andrew has to take a fair bit of credit for this and we’d expect nothing less. But at the end of the day, our main concern is that the re-entry is safe,” he says.

Steel workers settle

Members at NZ Steel and Pacific Steel are proud of the tight bond they’ve forged after multiple strike action, including their biggest strike in decades.

Our members took joint strike action for 24 hours in September, with hundreds of steel workers hitting the picket line outside Pacific Steel.

The dispute followed a low-ball offer from Aussie owner, Bluescope, which had just posted a huge AUD$1.6 billion profit.

“The initial offer was 1.6% and on the back of that massive profit, that was just unacceptable,” says Pacific Steel Senior Delegate Glenn Wallace, “though in the end it played in our favour.”

“The members realised what we had to do to get a result. It was a pleasure to see how united the workforce was. We had a 100% buy-in,” says Glenn.

The dispute settled after members accepted a 29-month deal, including a pay rise of 2.75% a year for two years, plus 1% for four months.

Site Convenor, Neville Jones pays tribute to the bond forged among members’ as a result of the dispute.

“We’re the mightiest we’ve ever been,” he says.

At NZ Steel, feelings also ran high, says our site convenor, Lance Gush. “The one thing – and we have to thank the company for this – they’ve actually unified our workforce. They galvanised it.

“The vote for action was 98% in favour so that’s a strong indication that the workforce supported what we were doing. They’d just had enough.”

He describes the atmosphere on the picket as “electric”.

Frustration reached boiling point with members threatening to strike for an unprecedented ten days, before mediation finally brought a much-improved offer of 8% over three years, which won the support of members.

“The vote was 80% in favour so that’s a strong endorsement. We believed that was the best deal we could get,” says Lance.
Meanwhile, industrial action continues for Bluescope workers at Port Kembla in Australia. Our members stand in solidarity with them until this dispute is resolved.

Members drive Air Nelson deal

After 17 long months of intense and resolute negotiations, the Air Nelson Collective Agreement has settled. This was not without some heated drama.

These members are among the lowest paid cabin crew at Air New Zealand, and the members grew more determined and united after the airline settled with its non-union members, stringing out talks while rejecting the bargaining claims of its unionised crew.

With talks at stalemate, Air Nelson members began organising for strike action, pickets and a march in protest at the inadequate offers and protracted negotiations on the part of the Air New Zealand bargaining team.

With the airline aware the union would go public with the dispute, it finally produced a deal that won the support of our members.

This includes a salary increase of between 4.4% and 6.2%, as well as substantial increases to meal allowances. Crew also won two extra rest days over their 28 day roster. There were no claw-backs.

E tū Delegate Shaun O’Neill says the members are happy.

“They were a little bit unhappy with how long it took. But definitely we’ve seen our payslips go up by about $200 a fortnight which is incredible. It’s such a help for us,” he says.

Oceania: big lift for members

Domestic staff at aged care group, Oceania have won a 6% pay rise – higher than any other aged care employer. The increase applies to Oceania’s kitchen, laundry, cleaning, maintenance, gardening and reception staff.

Oceania no longer pays the minimum wage after it lifted the starting rate from $16.50 to $17.25. This will increase again to $17.77 from 1 April next year.

“We’re very pleased and quite amazed with that,” says cleaning member Gina Radfield. “I do think we’re deserving of it,” she says.

And, in another exciting development, Oceania has said they remain open to working over the term of this year’s agreement towards becoming an Accredited Living Wage employer – which they have confirmed in a subsequent meeting.

Gina has thanked the union for this year’s deal saying, “It’s very much appreciated. Everyone’s happy and also quite amazed.”
Oceania has also agreed to include a domestic violence clause in the CA, which mirrors the new Domestic Violence leave legislation, which comes into effect from 1 April next year. In this case though, the clause will take immediate effect.

A safer IDEA?

Overtime and safe staffing ratios are key claims as E tū’s 2500 IDEA Services members began bargaining late last month to renew their Collective Agreement.

These members support 4000 people with intellectual disabilities in day bases and homes and the shifts are worked 24/7.

The talks are focussed on staffing levels and workloads which E tū reported last year to IDEA Services, along with under-reporting of assaults, and too few health and safety representatives on the job.

IDEA now admits there are too few health and safety reps, but it has been a long battle, says senior delegate Nic Corrigan.

“As part of the safe staffing drive, we’ll be pushing for a greater say in how restructuring is managed,” says Nic. “All too often the staff, the very people who understand the needs of the people they support, are ignored.”

“Overtime and weekend rates are also back on the agenda,” says delegate Nicky Garmonsway.

IDEA is pushing for a three-year deal, which would require staff to work public holidays. It also wants to cap sick leave and to rewrite the redundancy and review clause.

With the equal pay settlement now into its second-year, members are also pushing to reinstate lost relativities for senior staff, along with weekend and overtime pay.

Media merger spiked

Media companies Fairfax and NZME have failed in their bid to appeal the Commerce Commission decision against their proposed merger.

The Commission rejected the merger in the interests of robust journalism and the public interest – a decision upheld on appeal by the High Court with further appeals rejected by the Court of Appeal. This has ended hopes for the merger.

Your union welcomes the court decisions, which align with the submission by our E tū journalist members, which also opposed the merger. The decisions are important in countering further ownership consolidation of New Zealand’s news media and they establish that decisions about the media involve more than purely commercial considerations – that the impact on society and democracy are also of vital importance.