Uncertainty for workers across the aviation sector
Uncertainty is the biggest challenge facing E tū members in the aviation industry, as workers deal with the fallout from border shutdowns and flight cancellations across the world.
Border workers and ground and cabin crews are dealing with everything from redundancy to reduced hours, redeployment, and retraining, affecting up to 3000 members.
E tū delegate and cabin crew member Stacey Morunga, who will be back on her first international flight in August, says the cuts have been “brutal to say the least”.
“It was a massive loss of our workforce, and it’s really bittersweet for the ones who have remained. We’ve never been through anything like this.”
She says it’s difficult not knowing what will happen next, especially now the nature of international flying and tourism has changed so drastically, with air travel set back “decades” now that it’s for essential reasons only.
However, crew in the sector still remain heavily unionised, with 98% of those in widebody fleets a part of E tū, Stacey says.
“Crew know that they can lean on their union and that really means something.”
For E tū delegate and Menzies worker, Matthew Clarke, the changes meant his hours went from 45 hours a week down to just 4.5 hours.
Now, he is being made redundant as his department shrinks from 180 staff down to just 20. Around 30% are permanent redundancies, with the rest furloughed for up to two years.
Matthew, who once worked full-time as a frontline supervisor in passenger services, says it is enormously difficult not having stable employment.
“Flights may be 70% back to normal by the end of 2021, but how do we get from now to then? We’ve been caught in this position where there was very little we could do – except keep hoping that things will turn around.
“The emotional turmoil it’s caused us has been heart-breaking.”
Campaigning for mandatory staffing ratios in aged care
‘Deliver safe staffing for our seniors’ is the key message residents in rest homes and those working in the aged care sector are calling for this election.
On July 21, with the support of Grey Power, E tū and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) launched an open letter to Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to push for mandatory staffing levels to ensure a minimum and increased ratio of carers to residents.
Aged care workers, E tū delegates, and MPs gathered at Woburn House in Wellington to kick off the start of nationwide actions for the #safestaffingnow campaign.
E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo says not having mandatory and adequate numbers of staff in rest homes and hospitals means poorer outcomes for residents and carers.
“For us, rushing around means that we do tend to miss a lot of things. Sometimes when we’re short-staffed, residents end up missing out on showers, for example,” Sela says.
“Residents feel rushed, like they’re not valued, but they don’t want to complain as they know it will fall back on us.”
Back in 2010, Labour, the Greens and Grey Power produced a joint report that recommended minimum staffing levels for nurses and caregivers become mandatory. However, they are still voluntary.
Sela says the needs of many residents are much more complex now, meaning their care takes more time and staff need more training.
With three-quarters of New Zealand’s COVID-19 deaths connected to residential aged care facilities, the urgency of the situation has only increased.
Go here to show your support for safer staffing.
Tiwai Point smelter workers need a just transition
E tū delegates met Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson after news of the proposed closure of Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point smelter in Bluff.
In July, the company gave notice to terminate its contract with electricity supplier Meridian Energy in August 2021. The closure would mean around 1000 redundancies, as well as a flow-on effect to an estimated 1600 workers who will be indirectly affected in the local economy.
E tū delegate Owen Evans says the Government said there would be no more “handouts” to the smelter but there would need to be a transition plan in place for the region.
“I think the closure will be a lot harder than people think it will be. There are a lot of high-paid people at Tiwai. An extension would allow people not just to chuck in their job and take the first one that’s going, but to upskill themselves and go into something else.”
A lot of Tiwai’s current employees also have a trade, which may make transitioning a little easier if they go back to their old jobs, Owen says. Meanwhile, many workers are left in limbo to assess what their next move will be.
E tū has met with Rio Tinto to find out about timelines for the possible closure and members’ rights around redundancy, while advocating for a ‘just transition’ for members.
Temperzone protests gain community support
The plight of Temperzone workers has caught the attention of the media and local community, as they protested for the right to their leave. During level 4 of the nationwide lockdown, workers at the South Auckland manufacturing company were asked to use their leave or go without pay.
This injustice inspired a strong response, with workers picketing several times a week, including in their lunchtimes, after work, and on weekends, outside the company’s premises during May and June.
E tū member Veenal Raj says except for two public holidays and two workdays, he was left without pay during the lockdown as he didn’t have any leave.
“Luckily, I did have a little savings, although I had to use them all. After we came back from the lockdown, there were a lot of people who had nothing left,” he says.
Veenal had to apply for a Jobseeker benefit, which was “nowhere near” his normal income level. The company did not apply the wage subsidy as promised until mid-May, around the same time it announced it would make 85 workers redundant.
E tū delegate Pena Tamamasui says he has been informed that leave will not be reinstated. However, E tū believes leave should be reinstated or workers compensated.
“Our members really want to see Temperzone treat them fairly and come to the party with their requests – leave and loss of wages,” Pena says.
Support for the workers has been “overwhelming”, with more than 12,000 signatures on an online petition.
Pena says: “I’ve been completely blown away by the amount of support, especially from local community organisations, that have turned up at the Saturday pickets – especially the youth. It’s been heart-warming to see their videos on Facebook.”
Personal grievance claims filed for Carter Holt Harvey workers
Northland workers at Carter Holt Harvey feel they’re bearing the brunt of their company’s ‘bad faith’ behaviour after they had to use up their leave during lockdown, before two-thirds of their colleagues were made redundant just weeks later.
In May, the company proposed to cut its production roles from 241 down to 77 at their Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) plant at Marsden Point, as part of a plan to abandon export sales and focus on domestic supply only.
Despite LVL receiving around $2.2 million in wage subsidies in the first week of April, workers had to use around two weeks of their annual leave during levels 3 and 4 of the lockdown or go without pay.
E tū member Steve Meredith says the company’s actions showed the “strongest case of bad faith operating”.
“It’s pretty disappointing that Carter Holt Harvey took a global pandemic as an opportunity to basically balance their chequebook when it came to their wages and outgoings.”
Steve says the redundancy process had also been problematic, with some workers who were kept on preferring to take voluntary redundancy to save their colleague’s jobs, while redundant workers faced losing their redundancy packages if they took up the offer of a new job before the end of their notice period.
“The company is unwilling to truly collaborate or communicate with us,” Steve says.
E tū is taking cases for Carter Holt members at Marsden Point, as well as in Tokoroa and Nelson, where leave was also harvested during the lockdown.
Home Support workers winning the fight for PPE
Home support workers in New Zealand became part of a global movement when they fought for their right to personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The #ProtectHomeCareWorkers campaign in conjunction with UNI Global Union saw E tū members making international links with support workers in Australia, the United States, Spain, Switzerland, and Ireland, to demand adequate PPE, decent pay, and respect for their work.
In April, a survey by E tū showed that more than half of the country’s workers in the sector lacked adequate PPE.
E tū delegate and Community Support Services Industry Councillor Tarsh Dixon, says it quickly became apparent in early March there were no adequate procedures in place to secure correct PPE, with orders in some cases not getting through until New Zealand had moved into level 3.
“In the beginning, masks were really scarce. At the time, I barely had 10 masks – all from jobs with previous clients.”
Tarsh quickly got organised with other home support delegates to come up with actions and plans, and the campaign for PPE was successful.
“It was really awesome being part of that, the whole movement, and just amazing having conversations with home support workers all over the world about how they were dealing with it, and then organising together for change. Our issues are the same worldwide,” Tarsh says.
While some members felt well supported by their providers during COVID-19, Tarsh says she still doesn’t think her provider has a robust pandemic plan in place.
“Some support workers are still quietly stockpiling PPE with their own money, but it should be delivered to us so we can just get on with our work.”
E tū is calling on the Government to increase funding to the home support sector, so workers have decent jobs with regular shifts, hours and income which don’t fluctuate all the time, fair pay for their travel, and proper paid breaks.
Easier for workers to assert their rights under new amendment bill
For rest home carer and equal pay campaigner Kristine Bartlett and female workers everywhere, the sun was shining in the wake of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill.
The amendment, which was passed at 11.59pm on July 23, will now make it easier for workers to raise a pay equity claim and help parties reach a settlement without going through the court system.
It’s welcome news for Kristine, a former rest home carer, who fought for years to secure the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement in 2017.
The settlement confirmed that the low rates of pay in the care and support sector were the result of systematic, gender-based discrimination. It led to a pay rise for those in the sector, later extended to mental health and addiction support workers.
Kristine, who is newly retired, says the new amendment “hits the nail on the head”.
“The sun is shining down on me today. Now those low-paid women workers can fight for their rights without going to court. We’ve finally done it in the year 2020.”
Kristine says although it took her a while to understand the case she was fighting, when she did, she wondered why it hadn’t been done “donkey’s years ago”.
“I’ll never forget the first pay on my site and the look on the workers’ faces when they got that pay increase – their whole lives changed.”
Win for Sistema workers after lockdown walk-out
Collective action was the key to victory at Sistema, a food storage container business, when all production workers were given four weeks off on full pay during the level 4 lockdown.
Unsatisfied with the lack of PPE and social distancing on the production line, workers staged a health and safety strike, walking off the job the day before the lockdown was due to start.
E tū delegate Delphine Muraahi says the walkout was “chaos”, with workers initially being told they would need to use their annual leave if they didn’t want to come into work.
“It was all about health and safety at the time, because we were watching people dying of coronavirus, and we didn’t feel Sistema was taking it seriously,” she says.
However, after a visit from WorkSafe, Sistema confirmed workers would not need to report to work during level 4 and would not lose any of their wages or leave.
Delphine says on their return to work, the factory has been made much safer.
“They had everything: sanitisers, gloves, masks, hand towels, markings on the floor. They also made their own divider shields, which they put up between most of us.”
Listening to the voices of South Auckland to build better communities
A new ‘listening campaign’ is now underway to bring together the voices of the South Auckland community and learn about what matters to them.
There are nine interns, including two E tū members, working part-time for five months with Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga to find out which issues concern South Auckland communities most.
Hailing from South Māngere, E tū member Simon-Peter Toleafoa says mental health, particularly for youth, and financial literacy, are common themes.
“I’ve seen a lot of injustice in Māngere. Te Ohu is something I can do now for the community and add some input into making change.”
E tū delegate Matthew Clarke says so far he’s frequently spoken to parents wanting a better neighourhood for their children.
“We want to have a community-focused approach to work on those issues to empower them to make a real difference.”
Once the listening campaign is complete, Te Ohu interns, community leaders, and sponsoring organisations will come together to work out the issues of common concern and what sort of action to take.
Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga was formed in 2018 and is supported by Auckland faith, union, and community organisations to address the causes of poverty in families and communities.
Post-lockdown wins for New Zealand Post workers
Despite COVID-19, there have been significant wins for our members at New Zealand Post, where all workers will now start on a rate above the statutory minimum wage and the bereavement clause includes ‘whāngai’ (Māori customary adoption).
E tū delegate for the last 12 years, Missy Moreau says everyone is “ecstatic” about the results: “We got some good gains for our people, while keeping our collective intact. All and all, we came out of this agreement in a really good space.
“When we come into big gains like the ones we’ve gotten, we appreciate what it means to be part of a union.”