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Sharing stories and finding new voices: our Komiti Pasefika Fono

With tapa cloths lining the floor and bright bursts of traditional Pacific colour, E tū held its biennial National Komiti Pasefika Fono over two days in February.

More than 70 Pasefika members came from around the country to hear guest speakers, participate in workshops, and discuss important issues for Pasefika members.

Delegates Maggie Grieg, Leaa Veukiso, and Ironui Feilokitohi

For Griffins’ worker and new E tū member Sago Feagaiga, it was her first Fono and “absolutely amazing”.

“It was great to be around like-minded people who are passionate and clearly in it for the right reasons – not only for ourselves but being a voice for those who are most vulnerable, marginalised, and unaware of their rights as workers.”

Sago says she became a member of E tū for her parents, who have “worked the struggle”.

Guest speakers included Mana Labour MP Barbara Edmonds, Manukau Ward Councillor Efeso Collins, and Will ‘Ilolahia from the Polynesian Panthers, alongside E tū members sharing stories of their own organising.

The evening saw members battle it out for the best fiafia performance before turning their talents to karaoke.

After much listening and discussion, Sago says members came away feeling really motivated: “We talked a lot about situations in workplaces and on the picket line – introducing it to new workers and letting them know their rights so they aren’t afraid to have a voice and use it.”

Evening entertainment

Teisa Unga gets into the workshop discussions

Zooming to the future with online Delegate Forums

Thousands of E tū delegates across the country joined our Delegate Forums in April, for a jam-packed day of learning, discussion, and preparation for the future of our union activities.

Delegate Forums 2021 were held online using Zoom, with delegates joining from their own devices or in small groups. While nothing beats a face-to-face meeting, our delegates stepped up to the challenge and showed that COVID-19 would not stop us having successful Delegate Forums.

Gisborne-based home support worker Monique Behan-Kitto “absolutely loves” going to the Delegate Forums.

“It’s all about networking and building a union whānau. I’ve made some awesome mates through the Forums.”

Monique Behan-Kitto

“It’s great to meet other delegates from our sectors and beyond. It’s all about networking and building a union whānau. I’ve made some awesome mates through the Forums,” Monique says.

“As I am on the Industry Council as well, Delegate Forums make it so easy to report back – I can tell my fellow Industry Council members exactly what’s happening on the ground in Gizzy.”

Monique says that having the Delegate Forums on Zoom meant that more could participate.

“Some of the delegates were able to join from home when they usually wouldn’t be able to travel all the way to their Delegate Forum, so that was really cool. A lot of people were first time Zoom users, and while that was challenging for some, we now have more local delegates empowered with the tools of Zoom. That’s great!

“It’s definitely the way of the future, and now that union members are becoming more comfortable with Zoom, I’m looking forward to doing even more union activities online.”

The agenda included an overview of the E tū story in 2021, coverage of our recent wins and ongoing challenges, discussion and activities about strategic planning to build our power, and a session about how to get involved in the political process and hold our politicians to account.

Aircraft engineer Whittaker Hamilton’s favourite part of the Delegate Forum was discussing Fair Pay Agreements.

“The Fair Pay Agreement section was the most valuable part for me. There was a lot of good information about the idea and how it might affect our collective agreements going forward,” Whittaker says.

“It was very beneficial and was well suited for the online platform. I think it would be great to be able to do those sorts of shorter sessions online more frequently.”

Editorial: 2021 takes shape

Kia ora E tū members,

Welcome to the first edition of our membership magazine for 2021. I want to open by personally acknowledging some E tū members.

E tū members employed by Lifewise Trust work hard to provide care and dignity to vulnerable people. Their employer promised them a collective agreement with various improvements, but this was then snatched away from them. They stood together for a better deal throughout the summer. I was privileged to stand with them on their picket lines. They had their ups and downs, but they won. In March, they ratified their first collective agreement, with a range of positive improvements. Standing up together for a better deal is what E tū is all about.

I acknowledge members employed by the Whakatāne Board Mill, Charta Packaging, and Nestlé who are facing stress and uncertainty as we represent them in restructuring and potential redundancy negotiations. Our E tū Job Match continues to be an important service to such members needing to find the security of a decent new job.

And, on a positive note, I congratulate our flight attendant members who are back in the air following the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble.

The year of the vaccine

The year 2020 really was extraordinary and challenging, and we are not out of the COVID woods yet. It is encouraging that our country’s response limited the worst effects of COVID, and we are now well into the vaccination programme.

However, it’s a race between the vaccine programme and the so-called “third-wave” of COVID mutations emerging overseas. E tū supports the Government’s vaccination programme, and we recommend that members and their families participate.

E tū democracy goes online

E tū is an acknowledged leader in workplace health and safety and we continue to lead by example, by holding our Delegate Forums online during April. Delegate Forums are a critical cornerstone of our E tū democracy, and we had to cancel them last year due to COVID. We didn’t want to have to do that again, so we have held all our forums online throughout April.

I want to thank all of our delegates who attended – many experienced a Zoom meeting for the first time. In-person engagement on issues affecting our members is important, and we have also really increased our union’s digital engagement capability which puts us in a great position to face future crises together.

A workers’ voice in our new industry training system

Throughout the COVID period, our Government has continued the biggest overhaul of our industry training system in 30 years with the Review of Vocational Education (called RoVE).

In consultation with our E tū Trades Reference Group, we made submissions on the proposed changes in order to ensure trainee and apprenticeship training serves the best interests of working people.

We are strongly involved with E tū representatives on the board of the new consolidated national polytechnic organisation, Te Pūkenga, the new Workforce Development Councils that set apprenticeship and trainee qualifications, and the new Regional Skills Leadership Groups that identify skills and labour market needs in the regions.

These new structures are being established during 2021, and I look forward to keeping members informed in future editions of our magazine.

Now’s the time for fairness at work

E tū has a clear view that we must “Rebuild Better” with a focus on health and wellbeing creating sustainable jobs, a Just Transition approach to restructuring, workers having a better say on issues at work, and an active government strategy to address inequality.

Ensuring a wages-led recovery is critical and that’s where Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) come in. Fair Pay Agreements will be the most significant change in employment legislation since the 1991 Employment Contracts Act stripped away our last system of a minimum platform of pay and conditions. We expect business, politicians and media to mount a well-resourced campaign of misinformation against FPAs. This is because they are a major challenge to employers’ power over their staff.

A relevant minimum industry platform for pay and conditions helps all workers do better and having a system of minimum industry pay and conditions, which can be improved by enterprise agreements, is common in countries with better pay and conditions than we have. In fact, the OECD recommends such a system because it is better for the economy overall.

This is about more than pay. It is about achieving better minimum industry standards in things like health and safety, hours of work, skill recognition, and redundancy provisions. We need to work hard to ensure that we get the right FPA laws in place under this Government. The opportunity won’t come again.

E tū continues to thrive

While the COVID-19 crisis presented many challenges for our union, we have weathered the storm and are proud to be able to provide the high-quality representation, campaigning, and organising that E tū members expect and deserve. I’m particularly pleased that we have been able to maintain and improve our presence in all corners of Aotearoa New Zealand, including with the appointment of two new Nelson-based E tū staff.

On behalf of our National Executive, thank you for being an E tū member.

In memoriam

Percy Harrison, E tū delegate

Percy Harrison, a staunch and passionate unionist and delegate, was a Mangere school caretaker for many years, who served on the Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota National Executive and Regional Organising Committee. Percy never stopped campaigning for justice for working people. He was a vocal leader for the Living Wage over the last 10 years and most recently, led the mihi whakatau for the launch of E tū’s General Election campaign in 2020. Moe mai rā, Percy. Moe mai rā e te rangatīra.

John Gardner, E tū organiser

John was a long-serving organiser based in Timaru, South Canterbury, for all of his time at E tū, until his passing. Before coming to E tū, John was a delegate at Telecom and served as Vice President of the Communication and Energy Workers Union (CEWU), as well as a short time on the Executive of the Engineers Union (now part of E tū). We remember John’s passion for his work and his absolute commitment to the members with whom he worked. His legacy will be felt by all, and he will be truly missed.

Holiday rights

Public Holidays 2020/21: Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, and the Day after New Year’s Day

In 2020/21, Boxing Day and the Day after New Year’s Day fall on a Saturday, so these two holidays will be ‘Mondayised’. This means that if you usually work Monday to Friday, then these two paid holidays move to the following Monday.

If you usually work on a Saturday, then that is your paid public holiday day off. If you are required to work, you get time-and-a-half AND an alternative holiday (or day in lieu).

Every worker in New Zealand is entitled to either paid days off at Christmas and New Year OR alternative paid holidays

If you have to work on any of these days, then you must be paid at time-and-a-half rate AND be provided with an alternate day off.

The timing of alternative holidays is your choice, but must be at a time that your employer agrees to.

If you have an accident or get sick during your holidays, you can claim this as sick leave, with a medical certificate

Remember to check your collective agreement for any specific holiday entitlements.

E tū organising

Strike in one for Griffins’ essential workers

One strike was all it took for members at Griffins Foods in Wiri to win, and win they did.

Members had planned to do a total of six strikes, but found that the company agreed to a 3% pay rise with full back pay after just one. They even agreed to pay members for their strike time.

A Griffins delegate Stephanie Simpson says the single two-hour strike “blew [her] away”.

“I was just feeling so proud that they had the courage to walk out, especially a couple of the ones that were fairly new ,” she says.

“They shook those signs and flags for the whole two hours – I just couldn’t believe it.”

Griffins workers were also considered essential during COVID-19 and worked throughout the lockdown. Since the win, Stephanie says she’s noticed members feel stronger in themselves.

“To know that they were a part of getting that 3% – they were so happy to be a part of it, that finally they stood up to management and they had a voice at the end of it.

“It makes people realise they do have a say.”

School cleaners find their voice with new project in South Auckland

Delegate Lulu Low is keen to support other school cleaners at work

Just months ago, they were invisible workers. Now school cleaners are finding their voices as part of a project in South Auckland to connect them up so they can learn about their rights and continue the fight for the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements.

Since July, almost 70 school cleaners have joined E tū, including new member, Lulu Low.

Now a delegate, Lulu says joining the union has given cleaners more confidence to speak up when something isn’t right.

“Knowing our rights and where we stand, and that we have E tū behind us when we’re not treated well, has taken a lot of weight off our shoulders,” she says.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, school cleaners didn’t know where to turn when they faced issues like having no PPE and companies using their annual leave instead of the government subsidy. They also have an ongoing struggle in not having enough paid hours to do their jobs properly.

Now members know their rights, the next steps are to train around 25 new delegates and to build on the campaign for Fair Pay Agreements, or industry-wide standards, to raise pay and conditions.

With her new knowledge, Lulu says she’s looking forward to supporting others to find their voices.

“I know now we do have the right to say ‘no’ in the workplace and we won’t lose our job. We’re not just cleaners – we are essential.”

Air New Zealand members continue to organise to get their messages out

Members are continuing to organise during extremely tough times, including almost 400 more redundancies for the 787 cabin crew just before Christmas. This follows around 4000 Air New Zealand workers who have already been made redundant since March.

In November, members campaigned against outsourcing both at home and overseas, demanding that Air New Zealand only use workers directly employed by the company, as well as provide work in Aotearoa New Zealand by shutting down their crew base in Shanghai and by ending the aircraft maintenance contract in Singapore.

Members also spoke out in the news media against the multi-million dollar share rights accepted by CEO Greg Foran and the executive team, a conditional bonus, convertible to shares in 2023.

A cabin crew member says organising is the only way to “shine a light” on what’s happening for aviation workers, when the company and the Government have not stepped in.

“You have to try and highlight the issues. If you don’t speak up to try to keep jobs in New Zealand, then that’s supporting the contract in Shanghai, including substantially lower conditions for those workers.”

They say the executives’ share options are “so inappropriate” with everything that’s going on at the company and in the tourism industry.

“[After hearing the news] a colleague rang me in tears. They were just so disappointed in the double standards.”

Another member, who works in the hangar, says it’s a real concern to see younger, less experienced members of the engineering team laid off, while work is still being outsourced to Singapore.

Members are more than willing to be flexible to decrease job cuts and retain the work in New Zealand, they say.

“We’re not asking to save all their jobs, but a portion. Our ideas haven’t been explored or listened to.

“It’s really important that we start planning for the future. We don’t know the date when international flying will fully restart, but when it does, we are going to need the right people in place.”

Facteon members make sure everyone gets the Living Wage

When it comes to decent pay, no one should get left out – that’s the feeling among members at Facteon, an automation company in East Tamaki.

The tight-knit group had assumed wages weren’t a problem for their members – until they found out their cleaning and catering staff weren’t on the Living Wage yet.

Delegate Rhendy Visser says the members, who are mostly made up of engineers, soon understood why the Living Wage needed to be on their list of bargaining claims.

“I went around and had a chat with most of them and they were really supportive,” he says.

Fortunately, the company also didn’t need much convincing to lift its workers to the Living Wage, which fits with the family feel among union members at Facteon.

Facteon is now an accredited Living Wage Employer.

“Being in a union is about looking after everybody,” Rhendy says.

Faceton members were delighted to move to the Living Wage

Bacon factory workers win after Premier Beehive picket

Members took it in turns during their break to picket for a pay rise and the Living Wage

Empowerment was the feeling on Premier Beehive’s first ever picket line, as members took decisive action to get the pay rise and back pay they’d been asking for.

Workers at the bacon factory in the Wairarapa continued to work through the country’s Level 4 lockdown as essential workers. Although they’ve been at the company for years, many earn little more than the minimum wage.

After seeing no improvement in Premier Beehive’s wage offer when they got back to negotiating in July, members voted to take industrial action. On 1 September, they took it in turns to picket during their breaks.

Delegate Karen Sinclair says although it was scary for some to step up, everything went well.

“We got the label and the company outside the front gates. Within a week, we were back at negotiations and got a better deal.

“Sometimes you’ve got to do [things like] that to make things fair. People have to survive and make sure they feel like they’re appreciated.”

Although members didn’t get the full pay rise they’d asked for, Premier Beehive did agree to increase wages with back pay to April. Karen says at the next round of bargaining in 2021, she’ll be advocating for the Living Wage. She’d consider action again, but hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“We want to form a good relationship with the company, so they start to value our members and give them a fair go, which is what they deserve.”

Online home support campaign calls for sector overhaul

Home support members from E tū and the PSA shared their messages on social media

After successfully joining the global fight for PPE, home support workers are now continuing their online campaign to raise awareness of their pay and conditions.

Their petition, “They Deserve The Best”, was launched in September and is well on the way to its initial goal of 2000 signatures.

The campaign calls on the Government to increase funding to the sector so workers have regular hours, decent pay, including properly paid travel time, breaks, and pay for mileage between clients.

Delegate Merianne Porter says COVID-19 was a turning point for workers, as it highlighted how home support care is not given the same weight as other types of care.

“We’re on the front line and we’re just as important as truckies, doctors and police,” she says.

Delegate Ana Palei agrees: “You come face to face with social issues – family, medical, physical. The work that we do is just like the people in public hospitals, but home support workers are not being as well equipped to face these challenges.”

Issues such as cuts in “care” times, access to PPE, and not having paid breaks can take a heavy toll, the delegates say.

Merianne says an overhaul of the sector has been “overdue a long time”.

“We’ve got to make sure that those out in the community that require services are being treated with the respect and duty of care they’re entitled to.”

Members at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare are proud of their collective and organising power

Growing the organising power of essential workers during COVID-19

Essential workers at a South Auckland healthcare manufacturing plant have turned their workplace into one of the largest unionised workplaces around, now with close to 1100 members.

Thanks to the hard work of delegates at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, collective power has gone from strength to strength.

Before the pandemic there were around 800 members. Now, delegates have joined up to 250 new members, with more expected over the coming months.

Delegate and site convenor Chris Burton says the increase in membership came on the back of lots of “hard work” from the 18-strong delegate team and their organiser.

Between them, delegates shared the responsibility of making contact with some 300 non-members.

“Staff understand the advantages of being a member and how the delegate team can support them. There’s also the benefit of word of mouth from the rest of the members,” Chris says.

Delegates also advocated for more certainty for contracted staff, which will see almost 700 of around 1200 casuals move to fixed-term contracts that are also covered under the collective.

Chris says members will also be petitioning the company to move away from fixed-term to permanent contracts.

Protecting their 30-year-old collective is a task all members take very seriously, he says.

“Because we have a comprehensive collective, we have a very safe environment and are constantly vigilant.

“Not only do we treat a lot of patients and save lives, but we want to maintain this iconic business as a great place for people to work, with certainty around permanent employment.”

DHB workers win the right to new leave to keep workers and patients safe

DHB workers won’t have to worry about taking time off work for a COVID-19 test or when they are asked to stand down when they would otherwise be able to work, but don’t want to use up their sick leave.

After months of engagement by E tū and other health unions, all District Health Board (DHB) employees in hospitals and at other DHB-run sites, will now be able to take unlimited Minor Illness Leave from 30 September.

Delegate Monika Oveinikovas says: “It’s good because people won’t have to take up their annual leave and time in lieu.”

E tū will also be pushing for the unlimited leave to be applied to DHB contractors as well, for staff and patient safety.

We’re back to bargaining!

We’re in full swing bargaining all your agreements across aged and residential care, and the home and disability support sectors, with several heading to ratification now. We’re fighting for additional sick leave, training to help care and support workers move up the pay scale, and moving toward the Living Wage for our service and admin workers in these sectors. Keep an eye out for more about your particular bargaining!

Cleaners share their stories in new anthology

Veteran cleaner, E tū Industry Council member and activist Mele Peaua has one aim: that cleaners have decent conditions, the Living Wage, and to know that they aren’t alone.

The Lower Hutt resident, who immigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand from her native Tonga at 17 and began a cleaning job in a motel the same day, has shared her story as part of a new anthology by cleaners – past and present – on what it means to be a cleaner.

Published in November, Somewhere a cleaner, features poetry and prose by 93 Kiwi writers, including Mele. It was launched at Parliament by Labour MP and former refugee Ibrahim Omer, who worked as a cleaner himself for years at Victoria University to fund his studies.

Mele says she is very excited to see the lives of cleaners explored in a book and hopes it will help them to feel less alone.

“I’m not just talking about my own experience, what I go through – my problems are the same as all other cleaners.”

Her poem also tells the story of her journey, she says.

“How in the beginning, I came from the [Pacific] Islands, talking about cleaners fighting [for their rights] during bargaining and all those kinds of things.”

Mele says improving conditions through Fair Pay Agreements and bringing all cleaners up to at least the Living Wage is essential. And poetry is a good way to get the message across, she says.

“COVID-19 pushed cleaners to see how important they are. We’d like to see them appreciated – we make a massive difference in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

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Celebrating our E tū Activist of the Year

It was Neville Donaldson who took on aged care worker Rasela (Sela) Mulitalo’s case, when she first ran into trouble for challenging management at work.

The E tū Activist of the Year, who was awarded the Neville Donaldson cup at this year’s Biennial Conference, has been a union member ever since she started working at 18, but it wasn’t until her mid-20s that she really became an activist.

Sela says it was the support she received from the Service and Food Workers Union when she was just a newbie in aged care that made her understand the importance of unions.

“We were always short staffed and I used to voice that a lot, so I got hauled into the office and they were set to get rid of me.

“I went straight to John [Ryall], who was the National Secretary at the time, and then he arranged a meeting with Neville.”

Thanks to John and Neville’s mentorship and encouragement, Sela says the experience changed her: “From there, I was like, I’ve seen the power of the union and that moved me to give back.

Around the same time, Sela’s first taste of union organising came when she attended a meeting for the Central Region Komiti Pasefika. The session was an eye-opener, she says.

“As people were speaking about their issues, I was gobsmacked. It doesn’t matter what kind of job or role you’re in, the issues you face are the same.”

Sela was soon invited to join the group, where she was made one of the first youth members of their caucus.

She also began campaigning around the Living Wage, becoming a voluntary organiser in the early days of E tū for the cleaners at the Hutt City Council.

In the aged care sector, she joined the fight for the Equal Pay Settlement, helping to run ratification meetings and supporting members with their concerns.

Even before the case was settled, Sela saw a chance to make sure her members were on the right pay scale.

“I think it’s for a lot of us, [the settlement] the chance that we needed in our sector to be actually recognised for what we do – it’s been undervalued for so long.”

Last year, she also joined the E tū Youth Network.

Sela says one of the parts of her union work she’s most passionate about is her involvement with Komiti Pasefika.

“Our Pasefika people tend to shy away speaking up and are silenced by barriers like English being a second language,” she says.

“It’s our time to make sure we have a voice and to fight for our people’s rights, but to also pave the way for our next generation.”

It also means she’s able to enjoy some valuable mother–daughter time, as her mum, Sally, is Komiti Pasefika’s National Convenor.

“My parents always encouraged us to speak up, they’ve put this fighting spirit in me. My mum plays a huge role in my union journey. I wouldn’t be the person I am without her.”

E tū democracy – members shaping our union

Every two years, our Biennial Conference makes decisions on the shape of our union based on remits raised by members all over the country, through Delegate Forums, standing committees, Industry Councils, Te Runanga and the National Executive.

The conference this year considered and voted on 27 remits. Here are some of the highlights.

Increasing our strength in diversity

The conference supported building a formal structure for our Out@Work network – a voice for LGBTQI+ members. Our delegates also supported the establishment of an action group of migrant workers within E tū. We will see increased youth representation at future conferences and action to increase support for issues that affect Pasefika members. If you are interested in being involved in any of these areas, contact an organiser at E tū Support by emailing or calling 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

Solidarity membership

A solidarity membership is being established which is a new concept of community membership, linking people together for justice for working people and their families, enabling the union to build on its campaigns for decent lives. It is open to retired members, students, people wanting to be politically active, or current members keen to contribute to the growth of our solidarity work.

Embracing our digital future

Our conference delegates also approved a range of rule changes that enable us to engage, exchange information, and make decisions through digital tools to complement our ongoing work in meetings, workshops, pickets, rallies and more.

E tū Life Member and Te Runanga Convenor Sharryn Barton leads a workshop on Māori leadership

Biennial Conference: Rebuild Better Whakamanatia

After many months of uncertainty, E tū held its third Biennial Conference, Rebuild Better Whakamanatia, at Eden Park in November. Seventy-five delegates came together for two days to learn more about how we can rebuild better in the wake of COVID-19.

Conference discussed a Just Transition for workers who will need to shift into low-carbon or alternative industries; ensuring Fair Pay Agreements to set national standards in industries like cleaning and security, and preventing the “race to the bottom” in pay and conditions for contracted workers by having a Government system for social procurement; the importance of the Living Wage in a post-COVID-19 world; and E tū’s online JobMatch tool to support decent jobs.

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson and E tū Presidents Muriel Tunoho and Don Pryde


E tū National Executive member Gadiel Asiata

Te Runanga convenor Sharryn Barton was made an E tū Life Member, and Rasela (Sela) Mulitalo was recognised as Activist of the Year. E tū also honoured two long-standing and committed unionists: activist and caregiver Marianne Bishop, and New Zealander of the Year Jennifer Ward-Lealand, with their awards as Unionists of the Year.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson, and Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood all reaffirmed their commitment to Fair Pay Agreements and the Living Wage for public sector contracted workers.

E tū Biennial Conference Awards

E tū Life Membership
Te Runanga Convenor Sharryn Barton

E tū Activist of the Year
Komiti Pasefika and E tū Youth representative Rasela (Sela) Mulitalo

E tū Unionist of the Year
Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Marianne Bishop