Archives: Articles

Articles

E tū’s political policies for the 2020 General Election

Employment relations system

The current system is broken. Workers do not get the collective rights they need to negotiate decent wages and conditions or to have a voice in the future of their work. We need new laws to protect workers and strengthen unions.

Fair Pay Agreements

New Zealand is one of the few countries in the OECD without law that creates industry standards for workers. We need to be able to bargain across sectors for decent pay rates and work conditions.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says: “Security guards feel undervalued because the mahi we do is not reflected in our pay, due to the undercutting in the competitive market in the security industry. A Fair Pay Agreement will be a game-changer. And not just for me, or my colleagues, but for all security guards in the industry.”

The Living Wage

Poverty and inequality in New Zealand have reached a crisis point and it keeps getting worse. People need wages that are high enough to pay the rent, feed their families, cover other expenses, and leave enough left over for participation in the community. E tū calls for the Living Wage to be the wage floor for all workers across the public service and state sector, including contracted workers.

Police station cleaner Rose Kavapalu says: “Being an essential services worker at the police station, all of a sudden people realise how important your job is. I’d rather not be at work as I have many family commitments, but the police officers really need us to keep the place clean and free from COVID-19. So, I am happy to do the work, but honestly, I deserve more than the bare minimum.”

Social procurement

‘Procurement’ is the process used to choose which contractors deliver services. Usually, cost is the main thing that organisations consider and choose the cheapest option. This means that companies use low wages to stay competitive, resulting in a ‘race to the bottom’. The Government must recognise it has a responsibility to all citizens, including the workers employed by their own public service contractors. Considering the wider societal consequences of these decisions is known as ‘social procurement’.

Healthcare

E tū has a very diverse membership across the healthcare industry, including in aged care, home support, disability support, and hospital service workers. Many of the problems in the industry relate to privatisation, ongoing underfunding by successive governments, and decisions made to maximise profits instead of maximising health outcomes. E tū calls for a comprehensive rethink that addresses these issues.

Just transition

The ‘just transition’ concept is simple: the costs of the necessary changes that deliver all of us a more stable climate must be spread evenly and not fall heavily and disproportionately on workers and their communities. Workers from industries like oil, gas and coal, who have helped build the prosperity that the country has enjoyed, deserve the certainty of pathways into decent, well-paying jobs in new industries. Since COVID-19 hit, the need for a just transition approach on a much wider scale is now clear, as huge changes come to aviation, tourism, hospitality, and many other sectors.

Broader policy areas

While employment-related issues are a key focus for E tū in this election campaign, we are calling for some wider reforms that will help workers (and everyone else) including:

  • free dental care for all Kiwis
  • proper housing reform, including an expansion of state and social housing programs
  • an infrastructure upgrade as part of building strong communities, such as better public transport.

Labour Leader and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses around 100 E tū members in Auckland at our union’s official Election 2020 campaign launch in July

2020 General Election political party positions

These judgements are made on the basis of the parties’ 2017 manifesto and their voting records in parliament on these issues. If no 2017 policy exists around this issue and previous voting record cannot indicate whether parties would support the policy or not, then it is left blank.

E tū organiser Ibrahim Omer is running for parliament

E tū organiser and social justice activist, Ibrahim Omer, is well-placed on the Labour Party list for the 2020 election.
Ibrahim fled his home country of Eritrea, in East Africa, as a teenager. He was escaping a violent and oppressive regime, in a country where there were no real opportunities for work or education. He just wanted a decent life, so he made the difficult decision to make the dangerous border crossing to neighbouring Sudan.

After three years in Sudanese camps, he was finally welcomed to New Zealand as a refugee. He moved to Wellington, and did minimum wage work to pay the bills and save some money, sometimes working up to 90 hours a week. In 2011, he joined E tū and got heavily involved in the Living Wage Movement, campaigning for cleaners at Victoria University of Wellington to be paid a Living Wage.

The next few years were a whirlwind. He realised his dream of going to Victoria University, studying politics and international relations. He became the Chair of ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, an advocacy service for former refugees in Wellington. He was appointed to the Living Wage national governance group, and became a full-time organiser for E tū. Now, in 2020, Ibrahim is ready to take his voice to parliament.

The Election 2020 campaign: Real change starts with us

Real change starts with us. That’s the name given to the E tū Election 2020 campaign, because we know that the political change we need simply won’t happen without us. We know that we need to campaign and organise in our workplaces and communities to get our issues on the political agenda.

E tū has committed to an ambitious plan that includes member-to-member phone calling and face-to-face conversations, lobbying candidates directly about our most important issues, and supporting the politicians who are committed to helping New Zealand workers and their unions.

E tū members began our election calling during the lockdown by holding virtual phoning sessions online

E tū members who worked through the crisis

While millions of Kiwis stayed home to stay safe during the COVID-19 lockdown, thousands of E tū members were delivering essential services to keep the country going. We can be proud of the contribution E tū members made in care work, aviation, cleaning, manufacturing, security, communications, and many other sectors and industries. Here are some of their stories.

Inu Salvation, hospital cleaner, Hamilton

Inu Salvation

My job at Waikato Hospital is cleaning infection rooms. During the lockdown, I was placed in the COVID-19 emergency zone. That meant constantly sterilising everything, all the time. It was actually pretty cool, but it was very tiring because of the amount of PPE we had to wear. It got pretty sweaty.

I think it was handled quite well by the hospital. Every little runny nose was taken seriously. People weren’t waiting long for treatment at all. It was all pretty on point. The COVID area that was set up is still there as a respiratory area. While the risk isn’t as heightened now, we’re ready if anything changes.

I think, as a whole, it was everyone just doing their own thing, that’s how we beat COVID. Everyone just smashed it out.

Ross Langford, Aviation Security (Avsec), Christchurch

Ross Langford

My wife, Helen, and I have worked for Avsec for about 30 years. Our experience at the airport was everything normal one day, and totally different the next. The lockdown happened so quickly – we still fronted up to work but there weren’t any passengers. So we did a lot of extra stuff at the beginning, e-learning modules, and so on.

Then the isolation hotels came on stream. Avsec workers were deployed as security at the hotels and doing reassurance patrols for the police, just making sure that people weren’t out and about, and that social distancing was being adhered to.

It was a little bit scary at the hotels. Everyone was pretty apprehensive. Would we be exposed to COVID-19? Some people couldn’t work because they or their families had medical conditions. I would come home and get undressed in the garage, go straight to the shower, and wipe down all the surfaces we touched in the car and house.

To be honest, I think there was a bit of anxiety for anyone working through the lockdown. I would have been quite happy to stay home and stay safe, and I think a lot of essential workers in many other industries will have felt the same.

Sisi Palu, home support, Auckland

Sisi Palu

Everyone did their best [during lockdown], but at the same time we were scared of COVID-19 and so were our clients. We were going from house to house, doing our part to look after our clients, and then home to look after our families.

Some clients did the lockdown with their families, and so they didn’t need as many visits. But many were alone and us home support workers were the only people they saw. We needed to be there for them.

I was lucky that my employer provided us with the right protective equipment. We had masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, and enough of everything we needed. I know that some of the other providers couldn’t do this for their workers.

One great thing was the special queue for essential workers at some supermarkets. It was helpful for our own shopping, but it was especially useful when we needed to get groceries for our clients. When you only have one hour to do everything for a client, you can’t spend the whole time in line at the supermarket.

I think us caregivers all did a great job during lockdown. Not just home support workers, but people in residential facilities and hospitals as well. Now we’re just happy that things are mainly returning to normal.

Editorial: An extraordinary and challenging time

Kia ora E tū members,

We have been through extraordinary and challenging times together since the last edition of our magazine. I want to acknowledge all members for your individual and family experiences under COVID-19, and in particular those members experiencing the anxiety and stress that comes with job losses.

During August we’ve been reminded how precarious the situation is, with a new outbreak resulting in a return to higher Alert Levels. Thankfully, it seems that the systems are working for this outbreak as well.

In late March, with the prospect of the COVID-19 nationwide Alert Level 4 shut down looming, E tū developed a critical strategy to serve our members. This became the foundation of our Rebuild Better campaign, which was guided by these principles:

Prioritise community health and wellbeing

COVID-related health and safety was our top priority for members, their families, and our E tū staff. Members who worked through the pandemic in essential jobs were entitled to a dependable supply of protective equipment of a standard that ensured they were safe and their families were safe when they returned from work. In too many cases, our union had to take immediate action to ensure this was adequate.

Workers’ wages leading the recovery

Our core principle was that no E tū member should be left out of pocket and that everyone should maintain their incomes. In too many cases, employers did not meet their obligations and E tū took action to ensure employers took up the government wage subsidy and applied it properly. We didn’t accept workers paying the full price and we still don’t.

Keep and create decent jobs

From the start, we understood the potential impact on jobs and that all decisions needed to be focused around protecting jobs where possible, working hard for members being made redundant and advocating for the creation of new, decent jobs. We created E tū Job Match early on, an online tool to link members looking for a new job with employers looking for new staff. We’re still helping members into new employment thanks to the uptake of that tool.

Union members involved in all decisions

One of our key beliefs is that decisions being made should involve union members. We have tried to ensure proper consultation on potential lay-offs and our recent investment in online communications technology meant that we could fully engage with our delegates and members from a distance about work-related issues during the lockdown period. Participation and engagement will always be some of our best avenues for getting a fair deal at work.

End inequality

The COVID-19 crisis didn’t just create a new set of problems, it also highlighted many of the issues that E tū members have been campaigning on for years, especially the historical injustices with pay for workers in essential services like cleaning and health. Low pay and poor conditions simply made the crisis that much worse for many of our members. There was, and still is, a clear need to to address these injustices.

E tū election campaign launch members tell party leaders what workers need

There are many instances where our members made a stand for these important principles. Inspiring examples include health care members fighting for decent personal protective equipment (PPE), members at Sistema who demanded respect for their safety at work, and our members at Temperzone standing up against unfair use of the Holidays Act.

The key determinant of a better rebuild is a government that accepts the responsibility to ‘step up, and step in’.

Our Government, competently led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has played a huge part in how well we have responded to COVID-19 compared with many other countries.

There can be no doubt that the current Government took the correct decision with the public health lockdown response. They have also intervened strategically, and critically, in support of workers, with announcements like the $12.1 billion investment budget, the budget-linked $5.1 billion wage subsidy, and the impressive $412 million apprentice support package.

We have been reminded about what is so special and important about our beautiful country. We all have a stake in our future and New Zealanders have a decision to make at the election this year about what sort of government we need.

E tū has always clearly understood our responsibility to be politically engaged to ensure our members’ interests are considered and met. We have a campaign to engage our members on the issues that are important to us and to ensure we support the election of a Labour-Greens government to address those issues.As E tū members, we can all play a part in this. Check out the Election 2020 sections in this magazine to see how you can get involved with the E tū campaign.

E tū elected representatives give power to our own strong democracy. It is important to protect and maintain our strong democratic processes, particularly during this tumultuous year.

Our Presidents, Muriel Tunoho and Don Pryde, have met weekly with me and our Assistant National Secretaries to oversee the operations of the union on behalf of our members. Our National Executive, Industry Councils, Runanga, committees, and our Trades Reference Group have continued to meet regularly by Zoom. We’ve made it work.

It was not possible for us to hold regional Delegate Forums and the Biennial Conference as scheduled. However, Delegate Forum elections for conference delegations were held online, and the conference will now be held on 4-5 November 2020.

We have faced great challenges over recent months. We have shown that by being united in our collective strength we can meet these challenges.

Kia kaha. Thank you for being an E tū member.

Notices

Presidents and National Secretary

Nominations for President, President (Māori), and National Secretary closed on 27 March 2020. Our current Co-Presidents, Don Pryde and Muriel Tunoho, and our current National Secretary, Bill Newson, were elected unopposed. Congratulations to our three most senior officials.

E tū Biennial Conference

The E tū Biennial Conference will be held this year on 4 and 5 November. We have successfully completed our process for remits, rule changes, and election of Delegate Forum representatives. Conference delegates will be given more information about the venue and other arrangements in advance of the conference.

E tū organising

Sector agreements settle

Our sector agreements in general manufacturing and in plastics manufacturing use the strength of many workplaces to maintain basic standards for members at a wide range of companies.

From five-worker engineering shops to factories with more than 100 workers, the members come together to bargain from a position of strength. Through almost thirty years, and under laws that have been designed to destroy our ability to stand together, the Metal and Manufacturing Industries Collective Agreement and the Plastic Industry Collective Agreement (the “Metals” and the “Plastics”) have endured.

Both of these agreements have recently settled, moving towards their fourth decade in force. That’s quite a history of maintaining sector standards. Agreements like these will be complemented by Fair Pay Agreements when we win those.

It is always tough, negotiating with a group of employers and this year, like all the others, the settlements are hard-won.
The Plastics this time delivers a lift in pay for the lowest paid workers. Delegate Tex Wilson says the sticking point was the need to really lift the wages at the bottom of the scale. When the minimum wage goes up, the going rate goes up, and this was a major focus of the bargaining.

“I’ve been to 12 different negotiations and this was the worst,” Tex says, while adding that the team got the best deal they could. “All the new workers will get a higher rate,” which he says they are happy with.

The Metals also settled, for one year, with pay rises of between 3% and 3.7%. There is a margin of 50 cents above the minimum wage in the lowest printed pay rates in the document.

Guaranteed hours fight at Woburn care homes

E tū members at neighbouring care homes in Lower Hutt have been taking on their bosses over guaranteed hours and 24/7 availability. As this magazine goes to print, members at Woburn Masonic are taking strike action over rostering they say is like the availability from now-unlawful zero hours contracts.

Woburn Masonic picket line

Delegate Jackie Crown says her shifts vary and she doesn’t know what shifts or days of the week she’ll be rostered on for. Like her workmates, Jackie doesn’t know from roster to roster what she might be earning, making it hard to pay the bills. It comes with a big personal cost, too.

“For me, I’ve missed a lot of milestones like birthdays and family occasions. I’m the one that’s not there. I even missed my father’s memorial service,” Jackie says.

Next door, Enliven Woburn caregivers face a similar situation with management cutting most members’ guaranteed hours and offering those same shifts back to staff, who must compete for the extra shifts to make up their losses – exactly what happens at Woburn Masonic.  Shifts could be at any time during the 27/4 operation of the facility.

Like Masonic members, Enliven members are taking action at work, signing petitions, wearing stickers and yellow ribbons, and winning the support of residents and family members. E tū is also taking court action, with a court date sought in early 2020.

The members are standing together, determined to win rosters that give them a life and protect the care standards of the residents.

Delegates drive winning deal at SkyCity

E tū SkyCity Auckland members have won a great new deal following pay talks this year which will have all staff earning a minimum of $20 per hour plus allowances from December 2020.

The biggest increases are for lower paid workers. Their rates will rise in December this year and twice in 2020, with overall wage rises of between 11% and 21.9% depending on the department.

Our E tū SkyCity bargaining team

Bargaining team member Pam Lanumata says the members are delighted, especially those on lower pay. Members like Pam, who already earn the Living Wage (currently $21.15) or above, got pay rises of 3% this year and 3% next year.

Pam pays tribute to her fellow delegate and former bargaining team member, Michelle Crooks, who pushed for the Living Wage at bargaining last year. Michelle describes the deal as “fantastic” and a step towards the Living Wage for all E tū members at SkyCity.
“They were ecstatic! And our tradies did really well too. They’ve been fighting for years to get their pay to reflect more what the industry gets,” Michelle says.

SkyCity electricians won a big lift in pay, after three days of strike action in September in support of their wage claims. Delegate Neil Fudger says once back in bargaining, the union and SkyCity worked to get an agreement. The members have won a pay rise of $4 an hour on paid rates, with an additional $1 an hour due to be paid this month.

“They’re pleased. It was a great team effort to get the matter resolved,” Neil says.

The members won a raft of other benefits, such as overtime of time and a half for all hours over 40 per week, which used to apply on weekends only. There are increases in the shoe and tool allowances and table staff will now have their uniforms laundered.

Also included is a 25% lift in the unpleasant duties allowance to $300 gross a year. Michelle says that’s thanks to long-time bargaining team member, Mina Chiswell, who sadly died during this year’s talks. “Mina was our cleaning services delegate and unfortunately unknown to us, she was unwell and she passed away during bargaining,” she says.

“Mina would fight like a tiger for our cleaners. She would be so proud! And we make sure when we talk about the unpleasant duties allowance, we talk about Mina. She really fought for that allowance.”

These great results reflect the solidarity of the E tū membership and bargaining team. “Yeah, we are quite strong, I think because we’ve been around each other for a very long time, for most of us over ten years, and we make sure we’re on the same page,” Michelle says. “If someone sees something wrong, we’re quite quick about having those conversations.”

IDEA settles

After nearly a year involving a marathon series of talks, strikes, mediation and facilitated bargaining, the IDEA Services collective agreement for support workers and administration staff has settled. Members ratified the deal in late October with 83% voting in support.

IDEA Services bargaining team delegates at facilitation

IDEA Services: sign of the times for members

“If you look back, we’ve beaten some of those claw-backs they wanted,” says Southland delegate Gordon Cambridge. IDEA Services has also agreed to work with E tū to lobby for more funding, “so both parties are talking which is a bonus. I think most people are positive.” he says.

There is a solid pay rise of 7.7%, including backpay for administrators and service coordinators and a pay rise for scheduling coordinators, who are covered by the agreement for the first time. There are also training and orientation wins for RIDSAS workers, who also won a new allowance of up to $70 a week.

The deal also sets out a process for the disestablishment of the senior support worker (SSW) role with a buy-out for two categories of SSWs due to be completed by 20 December. Our delegates remain unconvinced IDEA Services can effectively run its facilities without these highly experienced workers who shoulder big responsibilities.

Gordon says: “I think there’s a long way to go to see if what they’ve done with the SSWs works, and if in a couple of years, they’re not back in some shape or form. Watch this space. I think they’ll be back.”

You can find more details about the settlement here.

Assault on guaranteed hours

Two years ago, home support delegate Jenny Stewart was invited by the Access chief executive to Wellington to discuss improving the implementation of guaranteed hours. This was quite a contrast to bargaining this year, which saw Access aggressively seeking changes to the very good guaranteed hours rights and protections clause in the Access Support Workers Collective Agreement.

Jenny says the bargaining, which involved both E tū and the PSA, was “a tough six months fighting to keep the guaranteed hours rights and protections we already had. In the end we have kept those rights and going forward into 2020 we will be keeping up the pressure on Access to finally start complying with the guaranteed hours clauses in our collective agreement.

Access Support team support the Day for Decent Work!

“We need to build our strength to win better rosters, including proper guaranteed hours, so members have secure work,” she says.
The bargaining team was struck by how keen the employer was to keep the bargaining team delegates away from the bargaining table.

“We decided this was because the delegates voices at the table are persuasive.

“Because we do the work every day, we have real credibility and we could call Access out by providing the facts about the work we do. We need more delegates to support members winning at work so we hope some members out there will step forward to do this important work with us.

“Although the bargaining was hard work, we are celebrating having won additional sick leave for union members only,” Jenny says. “We are also looking forward to seeing the results of a ‘self-rostering’ trial which will be run next year. Home support workers are very isolated and we hope that this trial may help to find some ways where small groups of workers can support each other,” she says.

Union summer shines at Summerset

Hundreds of workers at retirement village operator Summerset are celebrating a ground-breaking deal which will lift weekend pay rates by 25% in the New Year.

The deal, currently being voted on by our members, means weekend rates will be paid at time and a quarter, replacing a flat rate of $1.20 an hour.

“Weekends are always a challenge for some staff, who have to spend time away from friends and family, so getting the extra pay is going to make a real difference,” says Taranaki delegate Marie Price.

As well as the weekend rates increase, the Summerset deal also sets a new industry standard for caregivers’ pay. They are covered by the five-year equal pay settlement but there is no increase scheduled next year. However, Summerset was smart enough to agree to a 1.5% increase from July 2020 for carers.

Whanganui delegate Pauline Mullins says her workmates are thrilled with the increase.

“Negotiations are never easy, but Summerset showed they were listening to their workforce,” she says.

“These retirement villages look good and are great for those who can afford them. But it’s the quality of the care that underpins the villas and apartments. It’s going to be a good summer.“

With Summerset now settled, E tū will be expecting other care sector bosses to match the deal. Watch this space.

Solidarity wins at Te Wiremu

Our members are still fizzing with excitement after their very first strike, at Gisborne aged care home, Heritage Lifecare Te Wiremu.
For nine months, the employer refused to bargain with them, then at pay talks in August, they offered nothing. However, the members weren’t prepared to take no for an answer. “Everyone had had enough,” Josie Culshaw says.

The members voted to strike, walking out for two hours a day over two days and hitting the picket line to get their messages across.
“It was the first strike for everyone, including me, and I’ve been there 10 years,” Josie says. She says the staff included “some very shy members” but on the second day, “they were dancing around with their signs! It was great.”

What’s inspiring is that this was a show of solidarity. Despite the caregivers having already won decent pay rises thanks to the equal pay settlement, they walked off the job to win better pay for the laundry, cleaning, and kitchen staff, who only earn the minimum wage. Josie says everyone onsite also supported them in a fantastic show of solidarity.

“The nursing staff and everyone else, even non-union, were there to support our cleaning and kitchen staff. It was that combined strength,” Josie says.

In the wake of the strike, with no response from the employer, the members voted to strike again, forcing the boss back to bargaining and eventually a deal was reached. The overall pay rise was 3.4% for most workers but it wasn’t just the money that mattered. The members won respect and showed the employer they will support each other for fairness.

Josie says the strike and the resulting victory have lifted spirits and built a real sense of solidarity among the staff. “Now, everyone supports everyone else,” she says. “We really pulled it off and we’re so proud of everyone. People are happy. Everyone was asking ‘when’s the next one?’”

Tasti members win satisfying deal

Our members at Tasti Products have stood tall in their fight for a decent pay rise, imposing an overtime ban during bargaining this year that went on for six months.

It was worth it. They’ve won an 18-month deal, with an across-the-board pay rise of 90 cents an hour, which is significant. The increase is back-dated to 2 July this year. As with many of our wage talks, the bargaining team was pushing for the Living Wage and that remains the ultimate goal.

Meanwhile, delegate and bargaining team member Thelma Henry says the result reflects the strength and solidarity on site.
“This is the best increase we have ever had here at Tasti and I have been here since 1993!” Thelma says. “Our members’ strength has delivered a great outcome for all of us.”

Sweet taste of success for Tasti members

Solidarity foundation of Sanford success

Our members at Sanford Bluff and Havelock sites are celebrating big wage rises following pay talks this year.

Our Bluff members have campaigned over several years for the Living Wage and that bore fruit at both sites this year, with increases our delegates call life-changing for many.At Bluff, this year’s settlement is a great step on the path to a Living Wage. Many received pay rises of 20%. Delegate Linda Bevin says new workers, who were formerly on the minimum wage, will start on $19 an hour and there’s a pathway to the Living Wage.

Sanford Havelock bargaining team: (left to right) Lavina Rickard, Dan Paget, Karen Solomon, Stu Borrie and Lynette Ashby

“It’s been a long haul,” she says. “They’ve been on minimum wage for a very long time. So, now there’s freedom to get groceries, you don’t have to choose between that and the power bill. It’s making a huge difference.”

At Havelock, members also won big pay rises at bargaining in November. As at Bluff, there’s a lift in the minimum starting rate from the minimum wage of $17.70 to $19 an hour. There’s a top rate of $25.50 for factory members and in the ropeyard, where workers have joined the agreement for the first time, wages lifted from a low of $17.70 to a starting rate of $21 and a top rate of $27 depending on skills and experience.

“That’s a huge increase. It’s life-changing for some people,” says ropeyard delegate and bargaining team member, Dan Paget, who expects his pay to increase by about $100 a week thanks to better pay and overtime provisions. “That’ll make a huge difference in my life,” he says.

Members are also keen to address the inequalities between the Havelock site hours of work, which set the ordinary hours in the factory at 48, and the ropeyard at 50, down from 55 hours. All other Sanford workers have ordinary hours of 40 per week.

The deal includes important union access rights, as well as paid time for the members to attend monthly Workplace Organising Committee meetings. A joint consultative committee of members and management has been established and there is a new tangihanga leave clause.

This is a great result at a site where an organising drive saw membership double since the last talks. “The delegates have worked hard and a lot of our members have done the recruiting as well,” Lavina Rickard says, who also pays tribute to Sanford Bluff members for the work they’ve done to lay the foundations for the deal.

“We must thank our Bluff members because they’re the ones who set the rates for us and did all the hard work,” she says.

Linda says moving Sanford to an accredited Living Wage Employer remains the goal, an issue that will be addressed again at bargaining next year. “We want a full Living Wage!” she says.

Mining and the green economy

E tū mining delegate Mark Anderson is facing a job hiatus of up to 15 months from his job at OceanaGold, which mines gold beneath the Coromandel town of Waihi. OceanaGold has plans to expand but until that work begins, work will be suspended at the surface workshop onsite and at the mill, where Mark works.

It’s a challenging time for Mark and his co-workers, but he says this isn’t unusual in the mining industry.
“When I started 12 years ago, the life of the mine here was 18 months, and for a long, long time we worked under that sword of 18 months to two years of mine life. That’s very normal,” he says.

Fortunately, the hiatus is temporary, and Mark says OceanaGold’s expansion plans mean relatively secure work for local miners in the years ahead.

“It’ll be a year to 15 months and then we’re coming back, and then I’ll hopefully work there until I retire,” Mark says.

Originally from the US, Mark moved with his Kiwi partner from Holland to New Zealand, eventually finding work at OceanaGold. Within a year he was elected as the delegate.

“It’s pretty important. We serve a definite role, but I think since I’ve been the delegate, that’s expanded, with guys coming to us with questions or concerns a lot more, whereas before, they’d go to HR and not through the delegate, who was just there for bargaining. So I’ve tried to put more of a personal role into it, you know, having more of a feel for issues affecting our members.”

Mark is the convenor of the mining sub-industry in E tū’s Engineering, Infrastructure and Extractives Industry Council and says meeting up with the Council delegates is a highlight of his role.

“They understand you’re dealing with a mixed bag of people. But you do your best for every member, because they need to know the union will be there for them, so you make sure you give the best possible support that you can,” he says.

The decision to grant OceanaGold the consent to purchase land for expansion was controversial and mining is a frequent target of protest. Mark defends the industry, pointing out gold is part of the green technology revolution.

“Gold is important for technology, it’s used for a lot of things. Waihi, in fact, produces more silver than gold, and silver is valuable for making solar panels. So the question I ask is, how do you power a green economy without mining?

“How will you get the nickel and lithium for EV batteries, the tungsten that goes into wind turbines, how do you get that out of the ground, how do you get that manufactured? All those things that will drive green technology still have to be mined and preferably under the best environmental standards, which is what we use here in NZ.”

“You have a mine in the Congo with 35,000 slaves getting cobalt out of the ground. It goes into the market and into electric vehicles for people who think they’re creating a better world. But is it OK to push it out to other places so people here can say, ‘we don’t support mining’?”

He says a secure future for the mine is also good news for the community. “You take those people out of those communities, you hurt them in more ways than just money. Small towns depend on people running stuff.”