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Ending the year on a Living Wage high!

E tū members were loud and proud as they participated in Living Wage Week in November.

On Monday, Victoria University cleaner Rebecca Kuach attended the Auckland launch of “My Life To Live,” the photo exhibition of refugee background workers.

“Telling my story through the exhibition was very empowering for me. It was nice to be there for the Auckland launch and share my story with Living Wage supporters,” Rebecca says.

On Tuesday, workers at the National Library in Wellington held a solidarity morning tea, to celebrate the hard work of workers employed by contractors, such as cleaners and security guards, and support their call for a Living Wage for all workers in the core public service.

Rosie Ngakopu, an E tū security guard at the National Library, really appreciated the support.

“Solidarity is strong in the hearts and minds of working New Zealanders,” Rosie says.

Delegations of E tū members also met with MPs and ministers over the week to remind them of the promises they made at the last election, particularly that they would “support and promote changing government procurement policies to ensure that all contracted workers, who are delivering a regular and ongoing service to the core public service, move to the Living Wage within the next term of government,” which was a commitment made by all three Government parties in the 2017 election campaign.

Members put the case for the Living Wage to Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson; Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni; Minister of Economic Development, Phil Twyford; and Minister of State Services and Education, Chris Hipkins.

Minister of Economic Development Phil Twyford (centre) hears about Living Wage and social procurement

As well as our members getting active, there were some big new accredited Living Wage Employers announced, including ANZ Bank and Queenstown Airport Corporation.

Fiona Lawson, who works at the airport for an airline, hopes this will encourage more Queenstown businesses to get on board.
“It’s exciting to have the airport take such a significant step for their workers, and hopefully it creates some momentum for the Living Wage in Queenstown,” Fiona says.

“It’s time for the Queenstown Lake District Council to commit to paying all their staff the Living Wage, like other councils across New Zealand are doing. We’re also calling on other businesses like hotels and restaurants to do the same, as many frontline staff are paid below the Living Wage.

“It’s been empowering to see what local Living Wage networks have been able to achieve for low paid workers. I loved visiting the Bluff Living Wage team this year and found their work inspiring. People deserve better wages, and this is how we get them.”

E tū members meet with Minister of Finance Grant Robertson (centre)

The local elections in October also saw some great victories for local Living Wage networks. In particular, Hutt City now has a Living Wage activist and E tū member, Campbell Barry, as mayor.

“I’ve made an absolute commitment that Hutt City Council will be an accredited Living Wage Employer this term, which means that all workers, including contractors, get at least the Living Wage, and I want to get that done sooner rather than later,” Campell says.
“We’ve already had some Living Wage wins this term, with the street sweeping contract requiring payment of the Living Wage. We’re gonna keep this going.”

2020 is bound to be another big year for our community movement for the Living Wage. If 2019 is anything to go by, E tū members will once again lead the charge!

A full house for the My Life To Live photo exhibition launch in Auckland

Remembering the Erebus tragedy

Butterflies took flight over the Erebus Memorial Garden at Auckland Airport as aviation members, former crew, friends and family gathered on 28 November for a special service to mark the 40th anniversary of the Erebus disaster.

Twenty crew including 15 cabin crew lost their lives when Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into Erebus, killing all 257 people on board. It is New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime disaster, and the deadliest accident in Air New Zealand’s history.

The well attended service saw the laying of wreaths, including one by MPs Phil Twyford and Marja Lubeck, formerly E tū’s head of Aviation, who read a message from the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Te Akitai Waiohua kaumatua David Wilson Takaanini blessed the garden of 20 native plants – one plant for each crew member. Relatives and colleagues of crew members killed in the tragedy were invited to sprinkle the plants with water from snow melt from Mt Erebus, provided by Antarctica New Zealand.

E tū Life Member and former cabin crew member, Grahame Clark and his wife Raewyn, read out the names of the crew members who died, before 20 monarch butterflies were released. A minute’s silence at 1.49pm (12.49 NZST) marked the time of the crash, with many visibly moved by the moment. An audio recording was also played of the waiata ‘Ex Erebus’, performed by Miriam Clancy, the niece of crew member Marie Wolfert.

Grahame and Raewyn were prime movers in establishing the Airport Memorial Garden in honour of the fallen crew. Grahame remembers the day of the disaster vividly. “It’s something you never forget,” he says.

He remembers joking around with the ill-fated crew ahead of their flight, the initial shock when the flight was reported missing, then the terrible news that the wreckage had been found. “It was pretty traumatic as you can imagine. You were just numb,” says Grahame. “At that time, imagine, 40 years ago, we were like family. Everyone knew everyone else. We lost really close friends. Everyone knew someone on that flight.”

In the words of the waiata Ex Erebus: “Where our tears meet the snow, you will never grow old on the mountain of hope.”

The day also marked the 11th anniversary of the crash of an Air New Zealand A320 off the coast of Perpignan in France in 2008, killing five New Zealand aviation workers, including Air New Zealand engineers Murray White, Michael Gyles and Noel Marsh.

May we never forget. We should always remember the people we lose at work and the importance of a true safety culture.

Big payouts for CHH members

Workers at Carter Holt Harvey’s (CHH) Wood Products plants around the country have received big payouts for holiday pay arrears, thanks to the tenacity of our fabulous team of delegates and members there.

“It was us delegates as a group that pushed and pushed and in the end we got the backpay,” says CHH delegate Wheeti Haenga, who is also the Convenor of the E tū Women’s Committee.

The push for arrears goes back to 2006, when the issue was first raised by the delegates, who realised holiday pay wasn’t taking into account longer than usual working days or various shifts, which meant workers weren’t paid what they would have received if they worked the day. “And, if you do a lot of overtime, which most of our workers do, then they would be owed even more,” Wheeti says.

Convinced they were right, the delegates raised the issue at every bargaining. They were met by strong resistance but they hung in there and, in May, E tū requested the relevant records and the company conducted a nationwide audit of holiday pay, “and we won!”
Since then, CHH has been paying arrears across all its sites, dating back to 2011. Some people got back pay in excess of $15,000.

“Some of our workers came to thank the union,” Wheeti says. “We’ve had people say, ‘Wow, we never thought we’d get this. Thanks so much!’ It’s a great windfall and so close to Christmas.”

Wheeti says she is determined to ensure everyone gets what they are owed, including tracking down the families of workers who have died. “One guy died of cancer and he was there for 15 years. So, they owe these families. We want everyone to get something.”

Meanwhile, E tū has successfully pursued back pay for holiday pay arrears at many other sites, including Contact Energy where one member was paid out more than $30,000. We have also worked with the Ministry of Health to develop a process for paying arrears to DHB workers, agreeing on a two-year programme with payouts set to benefit many of our members.

There’s much more to come for E tū members. With Holidays Act non-compliance affecting a massive portion of the workforce, members can expect more wins on the horizon.

FPAs: Delegates intensify lobbying

OCS cleaning delegate Rose Kavapalu works two jobs to make ends meet. At one job, her hours have just been cut from 50 to 25 a week and so she works a second job at night.

“It would be nice to have just one job. We’re still living day by day, so when will our saviour come?” asks Rose.

Rose was speaking after consultation meetings in Wellington and Auckland last month by Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway on progress with Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs). FPAs would set minimum pay and conditions across entire industries.
This would be a game-changer for many E tū members, especially cleaners and security guards, who are often exploited by the ‘race to the bottom’ as they bear the brunt of contractors cutting costs to stay competitive.

Rose says while Minister Lees-Galloway supports FPAs, it’s taking a long time to get them in place. Cleaning and security members have been meeting Labour MPs and intensively lobbying NZ First MPs to win their support, including Fletcher Tabuteau, Clayton Mitchell, Jenny Marcroft, Tracey Martin and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who assured members he supports a fair deal for security guards and cleaners.

Our delegates meet Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin (centre)

For security guards, like delegate Lewis Madar, there’s a lot at stake. “The bosses can have their Christmas and enjoy their lives, but for us it’s about making ends meet,” he says, pointing out the great gulf between the lives of the “haves” and the “have nots.”
In October, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released a discussion document to get feedback about the different options for designing the FPA system. About 500 E tū members made submissions, asserting that a proper FPA system needs to be robust.

The vast majority of members who used our online submission tool agreed a decent FPA process should ensure unions are the representatives of workers at the bargaining table, that standards are national and not regional, and all workers have the right to paid meetings to vote on the agreements.

In his submission, E tū’s Public and Commercial Services Industry Convenor, Jason Fell, puts it very well: “Fair Pay Agreements are needed to address the inequality that has resulted through not having any fair standards set for wages, especially in low income employment,” Jason says.

“Companies compete for contracts by lowering their quotes at the expense of workers’ wages, with no concern for their employees. Good companies, who would like to pay their workers a fair and liveable wage, can’t compete against those who are driven by profit at the expense of their employees. The only way to address this is through legislation to ensure minimum standards of fair pay.”

Globetrotting delegates

Our E tū delegates Mele Peaua and Nirmala Devi have taken a message of global solidarity to delegates at two key events in the United States this year.

“Inspiring!” is how Nirmala, a delegate at LSG Sky Chefs in Auckland, describes her trip in August to Dallas, where she joined striking LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet airline workers who are fighting for a union contract with healthcare and a living wage.
Nirmala spent time with the picketers and spoke to other delegates from across the US.

“I was so impressed, I gained a lot of experience, especially on the picket line. What they want, they stood up for,” she says. The workers earn less than $14 an hour. “Such low rates!” she says.

Speaking to about 200 delegates, who met in support of the workers, Nirmala shared E tū’s story of our successful court case against LSG Sky Chefs, which forced the company to abandon its long-term use of labour hire workers, who earned less than their permanently employed work mates.

“That was fantastic,” Nirmala says. “There was a lot of interest in that case, because they’re all in the same boat. We all have the same common issues, so the question is, how can we build strength in our industries?”

Hutt Valley cleaning delegate Mele Peaua also shared her story of member activism with delegates at UNI Global’s conference in Chicago in October, marking 20 years of its Property Services sector, which covers cleaners and security guards.

Mele received a standing ovation for her speech that focussed on the E tū contract cleaners’ fight for the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements, to help workers in industries like cleaning where contracting drives down wages and often means cuts in hours for workers.
“At the end of the day, the cleaners are the ones where they are chopping, chopping, chopping,” she says. Mele also spoke about the impact of her and her husband’s long working hours to make ends meet and the effect on their family life.

“I said, we work all those long hours. I come in, he goes out. I never see him. We’ve missed time with our kids and I said at conference, I regret that because I was never there for them.”

Mele and Nirmala also learned how bad it can get for other workers globally. Mele spent time with delegates from Africa where workers earn as little as $200 a month.

Nirmala Devi on the picket line in Dallas

Both women agree building strength in their industries is critical to winning better pay and conditions, and for Mele, Fair Pay Agreements to alleviate the cleaning industry’s low pay rates.

“We have to really stand up for ourselves,” Nirmala says, “and be strong and confident, and then we can all get there. I was really impressed by what they’re doing there in Dallas.” Echoing the chants and placards of the Dallas workers, she says “one job should be enough!”

Campaigning for Justice

E tū members have been at the forefront of campaigning for justice for workers and their families since we formed as a new union four years ago. We have campaigned around big issues of equal pay, Living Wage and local and central government elections and we have campaigned on and across sites, taking strike action up and down the country for better collective agreements.

E tū member leaders have been on the front line of these campaigns as the voice of workers. Transformative change demands leverage, usually beyond individual workplaces so we have sufficient power to influence decision-makers. That’s why we reach out to other civil society organisations that share our concerns, whether they are unions, faith-based organisations or community groups. Organising for real change is not about the power of your argument but the argument about your power, as the old adage goes.

Big wins also take organised pressure and that’s why we are active in alliances, such as the Living Wage Movement and the emerging Auckland alliance, Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga. Organised people and a plan that targets the right decision-maker, with the right action, is a big part of the secret to winning. By uniting with our allies in the Living Wage Movement, E tū’s members are securing the Living Wage at councils around the country.

Organising for a win starts with a feeling that something needs to change. A campaign starts with us listening to each other’s stories about our lives now and listening to our vision of what life could be.

Then we understand that we are not alone and that, together, we have a vision to aim for.

We look around in this country and across the world for a sense of who else we stand with. E tū is part of an international labour movement and we are affiliated to Global Union Federations that connect unions around the world working in the same sectors. These connections let us learn from each other and work together. Unions around the world, including E tū, lent their skills and their megaphones to children in the recent school climate strike. Beyond single days like that, unions around the world have won victories that can give us a practical vision for making a better world right here.

We know that the countries with the greatest equality are countries with the strongest unions. A significant practical structure that supports equality and justice is collective bargaining that is organised beyond individual workplaces and even beyond large individual employers. Bargaining across a whole sector lifts whole communities out of poverty. Many countries have sector-wide bargaining and those are the countries where people are the happiest, most equal and healthiest in the world. Denmark is the happiest country in the world and has the third best equality. It has a similar population to New Zealand, and 80% of its workers are covered by collective bargaining, all of which is negotiated at sector level. In New Zealand, fewer than 20% of workers are covered by collective bargaining, and in the private sector it is about 10%, none of which is formally part of any sector agreement.

International bodies like the OECD have recognised that sector-wide bargaining creates better outcomes for countries. We know that it creates better lives for working people.

Our current labour laws hold us back from sector bargaining. We do not have the practical structures to help us reach our vision.

At the last general election E tū campaigned for a new law to give us sector bargaining through Fair Pay Agreements. Labour and the Greens supported us. Right now, we have the chance to be active in ensuring it is a good law that provides our members with decent lives through a floor of minimum standards, such as health and safety, training, hours of work and liveable wages. Already we have organised delegations to MPs and ministers, attended consultation meetings, written hundreds of submissions, and used our influence across the political spectrum so we can get the best legislation possible. Your involvement is essential in the months ahead if we are to win the most radical change to employment law in decades and deliver real transformative change in the lives of our members.


National President nominations

Elections for the E tū National President positions will be held at the union’s Biennial Conference in July next year. E tū has two National Presidents in acknowledgement of our union’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Nominations are called for both these positions:
National President
National President (Maori)

Any person who has been a financial member of E tū for 12 months is eligible to put in a nomination for a National President position, which must be signed by a mover and seconder, both of whom must be financial members.

Please send all nominations to the Returning Officer, Christopher Gordon, at by 4pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

E tū Biennial Conference remits

Under the E tū Rules every financial member is entitled to put forward any policy they want considered at E tū’s Biennial Conference.

Proposed policies need to be presented in the form of a written remit which sets out what you want the union to support and what you want the union to do.

All policy remits must be sent to the National Secretary, Bill Newson, at by 4pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

National Secretary nominations

Elections for the E tū National Secretary position will be held at the union’s Biennial Conference in July next year.

Nominations are called for this position:
National Secretary

Any person who has been a financial member of E tū for 12 months is eligible to put in a nomination for the position of National Secretary, which must be signed by a mover and seconder, both of whom must be financial members.

Please send all nominations to the Returning Officer, Christopher Gordon, at by 4pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

Coming up in 2020

E tū has active networks of Maori, Pasifika, women, and youth members.

These networks will all be holding hui, fono, conferences and other events ahead of the E tū Biennial Conference in July 2020.

Each will also elect a convenor, who will sit on the E tū National Executive.

If you are an E tū member and would like to be active in any of these networks, please email one of our Assistant National Secretaries, Rachel Mackintosh or Annie Newman, at or and they’ll let you know the opportunities for involvement.

Biennial Membership Meetings

Join us at our Biennial Membership Meetings! All members are invited to discuss our progress and participate in our union democracy.

Click here for the BMM schedule.


At the meetings, members will elect representatives for National Executive. The candidates and the positions they are standing for are:

North Island Vice-President: Mischelle Moriarty
North Island Vice-President: Rasela Mulitalo
South Island Vice-President: Natasha Packham
South Island Vice-President: Raymond Pilley
Central Region Representative: Marianne Bishop
Central Region Representative: Angelique Kerr

Click here to learn about your candidates.


Special votes

The E tū Union Rules allow special votes to be held for any ballot conducted at the Union’s Biennial Membership Meetings. A special vote means that you can vote without attending the meeting, but are only issued if:

  • The member has a disability that prevents him/her from fully participating in the meeting; or
  • The member is so ill or infirm that attendance at the meeting is not possible; or
  • The member lives outside a 32 kilometre radius from the meeting place; or
  • The member’s employer requires the member to work at the time of the meeting

Any applications for special votes must be made at least 14 days before the day of the first in the series of Biennial Membership Meetings.

Christopher Gordon, Returning Officer

E tū organising

Organising win for Kenepuru cleaners!

Our cleaning members at Kenepuru Hospital have shown the value of collective action, with a successful fight-back after their employer, Spotless, decided to change their working hours but didn’t follow the management of change clause in their collective agreement.

Spotless planned to push start times at the Ra Uta Unit forward by an hour, which would have seen affected members lose their penal rates. The members were also concerned about the effect on their work in a unit with non-cognitive patients. Delegate Mele Moataa says the members also felt that if this change could happen without consultation, then it could happen with other shifts as well.

“I knew it was wrong and I pushed our members to do the right thing,” says Mele. The members organised, beginning with a petition they delivered to their boss. There was no response, so members started wearing ‘Save Ra Uta’ stickers at work. They met on their breaks, taking videos and photos, which they sent to the boss.

They posted flyers and handed them out around the DHB. Emails were also sent to their boss by directly employed DHB staff in support of our cleaners.

The result? Spotless backed down!

“I told the members the good news and they were so happy! If we can do this, we can do the same with any other hard things they want to put on us,” Mele says.

Sanford members staunch despite job losses

Sanford Bluff members and the Bluff community say they’ll keep up the pressure for the Living Wage, despite restructuring at the plant which has cost the jobs of 17 workers.

Up to 30 job losses were originally proposed, after Sanford decided to move its wet-fish processing to Timaru. However, a big submission and a public meeting with the Bluff community all built pressure on the company to reduce the job cuts.

Delegate Linda Bevin says she’s proud of what the members achieved, after they pointed out the job cuts were too severe and would leave Sanford understaffed.

“With the submission and information we sent in about needing more staff in our factories, we were able to save 11 jobs,” she says.

Linda says seeing so many workers lose their jobs has been hard.

“It is tough, but we’re a tough bunch here at Bluff! We’re just sad for the loss of these workers, they’re family. You just have to go onwards and upwards and do the best you can for the people who are left.”

In its submission seeking consent to expand, the company argued this would bring jobs and economic benefits – an assurance which now rings hollow for its workers and the local community, who remain committed to continuing their campaign to make Bluff New Zealand’s first Living Wage town.

“We’re committed to the Living Wage, absolutely,” says Linda. “This hasn’t changed our thoughts on that. It’s a necessity for us after being on minimum wages for so long.”

Strikes force IDEA to court

IDEA Services members have begun a round of paid stop-work meetings to discuss the outcome of facilitation last month and possible further strike action.

Strike Seven! IDEA Services picket in Wellington

The decision from facilitation, which is non-binding, was expected in early August and followed a three-day hearing at the Employment Relations Authority in Wellington late last month.

Our members applied for facilitation in June and won on the basis of on-going strike action, which failed to resolve the dispute. Our members took strike action seven times between April and late June and the fact that this was the decisive factor in the decision is really worth celebrating.

The hearing saw no progress on members’ claim for weekend and higher senior service workers’ pay rates. However, IDEA Services has abandoned its efforts to gut the health and safety protections and to reduce members’ rights around service reviews.

IDEA Services has not given up its claim for flexibility, which would allow it to move members to any house for any shift at any time, with very little notice.
Delegate Nic Corrigan, who attended the facilitation, says IDEA Services is struggling with initiatives which will place more control in the hands of clients and their families and away from providers like IHC.

Our bargaining team at facilitation

“The issue of flexibility is an issue of control,” says Nic. “They want full control over everything. It’s in their ideology – they don’t want people to have a say. It’s a fundamental change and they’re struggling to adapt.”

Timaru delegate Dina Dolamore says the flexibility claim is the issue that concerns members the most.

“Why would anyone agree to that? You’d never know when you’re working or be able to plan your life,” says Dina, who says stability is also essential for her very vulnerable clients. “We have people who can tell you who’s coming in, and when that changes, it causes huge distress for them,” she says.

Meanwhile, members’ claims for additional pay for senior support workers and penal rates for weekend work remain very much alive.

Movement on Metals and Plastics

E tū’s flagship employment agreement for manufacturing, the Metals and Manufacturing Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, is set for ratification.
Members are seeking new minimum pay rates, the preservation of relativities and new redundancy provisions of two weeks’ pay for members employed for between six and 12 months.

Bargaining team member Mark Beaumont describes the talks as “respectful, and that made things a lot easier.”

Our Plastics and Metals combined member meeting

“The exciting thing was the application of a fixed rate for the bottom and a percentage for those on a higher income. It’s been helpful in lifting that bottom rate up and that’s been a great breakthrough,” he says.

Meanwhile, our Plastics MECA members were due to head back into talks with many issues unresolved since bargaining in July.

Talks so far have seen a tough line from employers with a low-ball pay offer, and a refusal to budge on key claims including redundancy provisions and retaining coverage for administration workers.

Bargaining team member Peter Heatley says he’s told the members to hang in there for a fair deal.

“When you look at some of the settlements out there, we’re not asking for more than other groups have been and I don’t think our demands are unreasonable,” he says.

Access settles

Access home support coordination and administration members have finally settled their collective agreement after a lengthy battle.

Despite their vital role arranging home support visits, many were earning the minimum wage, so members took strike action in May. Mediation failed to resolve the dispute, so members took more action including a four-day strike in June.

E tū Access members standing tall

Finally, Access agreed to a deal which lifts the minimum rate over the next 5 months by $1.00, to a minimum rate of $20 for coordination and administration staff. Union members also received a $500 one-off payment and three days of extra sick leave.

Bargaining team member Karen Radovanovich has welcomed the settlement but says this is not the end for the members.

“It’s a first step. We know where we want to be, so after accepting this one, we can go back to the table early next year. For now, an increase is an increase and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished,” says Karen.

“Given what everyone does to keep home support going at Access, union members are quite prepared to go back in and push for more.”