Editorial: E tū and you in 2022

By Bill Newson, E tū National Secretary

E tū National Executive

Welcome to the first digital edition of our union magazine for 2022.

As I write this our regional Delegate Forums are underway, and it is great to be engaging with our workplace leaders on the issues facing our membership now and into the future. The Forums are being held online due to Omicron, and I really appreciate our delegates taking the time and effort to attend.

Delegate Forums and Industry Councils are a critical part of our deep union democracy, providing an important balance of regional and industry representation to our Biennial Conference to be held on 20 and 21 July this year in Auckland.

The Omicron surge is beginning to subside, and our Government is relaxing some of the key public-health measures. We have managed the effects of the pandemic well relative to other countries, however, there have been many family tragedies.

We should remain cautious as experts are foreshadowing the potential emergence of new COVID-19 variants. The general advice is to maintain high levels of vaccination and mask use, while taking common sense precautions.

We must learn the lessons of the COVID-19 period as similar disruption could occur in future – climate change and decarbonisation of jobs, technological transformation, and economic contraction linked to global political uncertainty are all known challenges that will test our resilience.

We need to have a strong union view of what Decent Work should look like now and into that challenging future. We must stake our position! Decent incomes, secure jobs, a quality work environment, and a workers’ say in the decisions that affect us at work.

E tū members can be proud of our Decent Work Summit held online in February and our Jobs Expo. Right now, E tū is playing a key role in assisting redundant members find good alternative employment through our E tū Job Match.

And that’s where government policies such as Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) and the NZ Income Insurance Scheme (NZIIS) come in.

E tū members know about FPAs because E tū members have been out in front advocating for them. FPAs will provide an important minimum platform for wages and conditions across industry sectors and stop the “race to the bottom” on workers’ wages and conditions.

Legislation has been introduced into parliament for political debate. We will be working hard to ensure we get the best possible FPA law, and I am asking all E tū members to help us achieve this historic opportunity by making an online submission.

Fair Pay Agreements are important for all of us. They are about acknowledging that we must value all work in our society as a vital part of creating productive wealth at work.

The NZ Income Insurance Scheme will be a game changer for those who get made redundant. Workers will access the first ever statutory redundancy pay in New Zealand history (in addition to provisions in collective agreements). The scheme will also be life-changing for those who suffer loss of work and income through work-related health issues that ACC does not currently recognise.

We continue to advocate for policies that provide better protection against exploitative “dependent contracting” work arrangements and health and safety representative rights in smaller workplaces.

I am looking forward to our very first Matariki Public Holiday observed on 24 June this year.

E tū has played a significant role in the Government’s review of vocational education, which is transforming the way apprenticeships and work-related training is recognised and supported in Aotearoa New Zealand. Government support for apprentice training, put in place during the pandemic, comes to an end later this year and we are advocating for continued support.

It was an honour to be asked to join the Board of WorkSafe. WorkSafe is the government regulator for ensuring health, safety, and wellbeing at work through the Health and Safety at Work Act, and this is the first time a sitting union National Secretary has been on the board. My personal commitment to workplace safety comes from my own experience of serious industrial accidents and this appointment recognises our union’s strong track record of leadership in health, safety, and wellbeing for working people.

Please take the time to read our magazine and, on behalf of our National Executive, thank you for being an E tū member.