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Living Wage 2018 – $20.55!

Living Wage supporters crowded into Wellington’s The Rogue and Vagabond bar for the announcement of the 2018 Living Wage rate

No one does an event like Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ as you can see from our picture here, which reveals the big turn-out for the announcement of the new $20.55 an hour 2018 Living Wage.

The rate was unveiled on 4 April by Wellington Mayor, Justin Lester at a gathering of Living Wage supporters at the Wellington bar, The Rogue and Vagabond which recently joined the list of Accredited Living Wage Employers.

A cheer went up when Justin revealed the rate as workers, including E tū members Kit Bennett, Rebecca Kuach, and Lewis Madar joined him onstage.

Lewis, who works as a contracted security guard at Wellington Library earns the Living Wage, thanks to the Wellington City Council’s move to gain accreditation as a Living Wage Employer.

Lewis remembers how tough life was two years ago, when he worked long hours on the minimum wage to earn enough to live on. He describes the Living Wage as transformative.

“You don’t feel that stress of needing more hours and wondering how I’m going to pay the next bill or the rent. Life is better,” he says.

Parliamentary contract cleaner, Hemi Te Hiini

E tū member, Hemi Te Hiini is hopeful he too will soon earn the Living Wage. As a contract cleaner at parliament he is on the way to the Living Wage after the new Speaker, Trevor Mallard made it a condition of his employer gaining the parliamentary cleaning contract. When Hemi moves to the Living Wage at the beginning of next year he says it will make it easier for his family to pay the bills and also care for his son who has autism.

“The Living Wage would make things so much easier,” he says. “We’ve been on a waiting list and my son is finally being seen but once I get the Living Wage, we will be able to get the things he needs.”

Lewis gives the Living Wage this ringing endorsement: “This is just the beginning of what’s to come and it’s good to be a part of that, to be with people who care about workers,” he says.

E tū Governance: get involved!

Strong internal democracy is a core part of E tū’s platform. From elected workplace delegates to our member-led National Executive, we make sure that members’ voices are heard at all levels in our union. Read about our committees and networks below and think about where you might be keen to help!

Te Runanga

By Sharryn Barton, Runanga Convenor

Nau mai, haere mai. Te Runanga welcomes all tangata whenua members of E tū to be involved in our activities. Te Runanga does not act alone and we look forward to the contributions made by our members in shaping the strength and direction of E tū.

Muriel, Joe and Sharryn

If you are interested in building a vibrant, relevant and influential representation for tangata whenua workers, their families and communities and if you are an activist on your worksite and in our union campaigns, Te Runanga is for you.

We are available to visit your worksite, marae, or other community events to share with you our vision and plan for a better future for our mokopuna.

If you would like to be involved in Te Runanga, or have any other questions or comments, please email and we will get back to you.

Youth Network

By Emily Sheffield, Network Convenor

The Youth Network represents all E tū members under the age of 35. We aim to be leaders in building progressive and inclusive workplaces and modelling best practice workplace behaviour and attitudes.

Young people have the responsibility and opportunity to create the workplaces of tomorrow. Through a union lens, this means rethinking the way we organise collectively in the face of a changing economy – particularly the casualisation of work.

E tū Youth Conference 2016

We need the voices of all young members in our network! Please get in touch to play your part. You can start by joining us on Facebook:

Over 35? You can help as well! Please identify young members in your workplace who would be keen activists.

If you would like to be involved in the Youth Network, or have any other questions or comments, please email and we will get back to you.

E tū Women’s Committee

By Marianne Bishop, Committee Convenor

The E tū Women’s Committee has been very busy since being elected in 2016. The Committee is acutely focused on E tū’s strategic goals: growth, reach, and capability, and we provide a valuable perspective by representing all women in the governance of our union.

We’ve been closely engaged with many of E tū’s campaigns, with our equal pay win being an absolute highlight. From bringing delegations to parliament, to running equal pay ratification meetings, to simply hitting the streets with our message, members of the Committee are crucial in this ongoing campaign.

Women’s Committee in 2016

We also participate in Living Wage activities. We were hugely supportive of getting the White Ribbon Campaign on E tū’s agenda, and our members are involved in all sorts of other E tū and community campaigns across the country.

The Women’s Committee is calling for expressions of interest for attending the E tū Women’s Conference, held in Wellington 11-12 June 2018. There will be speakers, workshops and more – it’s going to be informative and fun.

If you are interested in applying, would like to be involved in the Women’s Committee, or have any other questions or comments, please email and we will get back to you.

Komiti Pasifika

By Lalopua Sanele, Komiti Convenor

Talofa lava, malo e lelei, bula vinaka, fakaalofa lahi atu, kia orana, fakatalofa atu, malo ni, mauri?, and warm Pacific greetings from the members of E tū Komiti Pasifika!

Lalopua with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Our Komiti is for members from right across the Pacific Islands. We hold regular fono (meetings) where we discuss our union activities and the specific issues for members from the Pacific Islands, and we have a lot of fun socialising with other union members.

We’re very active in many E tū campaigns, including our fight for equal pay and the Living Wage campaign. We also organise for better communities outside of regular union organising – we are particularly active around housing issues.

There is always room for more! If you would like to be involved in the Komiti Pasifika, or have any other questions or comments, please email and we will get back to you.

Apprenticeships focus for delegate

Bruce Habgood began his working life as an apprentice at Norske Skog, training as a fitter, turner and machinist. He says the trades have given him “a great life with great experiences.”

“I’ve been very fortunate to work in an industry with huge variety. I’ve been exposed to everything from state of the art technology to tools brought over by James Cook!”

Today, the trades and apprentices are a focus of his work as a top union delegate.

Initially as an apprentice, Bruce couldn’t join the union, even though Norske Skog has always been a union site.

“In the early 80s when I started, apprentices couldn’t be a member because they weren’t allowed to vote on strike action,” says Bruce.

“Back in those days, strikes seemed to be the things most people were voting on, especially in places like Tasman pulp and paper mill.”

Times change though, and so do priorities. For Bruce, the role has meant doing things differently: “I guess it’s that trades thing. You see things you want changed and you think: either stop whingeing or do something about it!”

Today, Bruce walks the talk as Convenor of the Engineering and Infrastructure Industry Council, which he represents on the National Executive. He’s also on the Trades Reference Group, the union sub-committee which advises the Executive on issues related to the trades and apprenticeships.

He’s keen to see the Group take on a bigger role, as demand grows for skilled workers, amid changes to the way apprenticeships themselves are managed. That includes third party firms which now organise apprenticeships and place them with individual employers.

“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the apprentices. If your employer is a third party even if you’ve spent all your working life working for someone else, that’s not how you build a two-way relationships,” says Bruce.

The Group is also fact finding on the quality of pre-apprenticeship training and whether current apprentice training is fit for purpose.

Bruce says some training isn’t properly aligned with the trade curriculum for specific trades, such as construction.

“With the trades reference group covering such a huge cross-section of the trades, I think it is a very good forum for us to be gathering information on what’s happening.”

Bruce says two new members have refreshed the line-up and he’s keen to see it take a more active role, promoting the interests of apprentices and the trades and advising not just the National Executive but the Government as well.

“Hopefully, now that we’ve got a decent government in, we can actually have some longer term thinking around the future – not just of trades, but also training, about what we need as a country to go forward,” he says.


E tū member New Zealander of the Year!

At E tū we are so proud of our member and equal pay hero, Kristine Bartlett, who was named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year at a gala event in Auckland last month.

To cap the occasion, the presentation was made by another E tū member, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern!

Kristine says the announcement itself remains a blur.

“I can’t remember it! I know I was …I was just totally overwhelmed, speechless, I just did not believe it and even today, I can’t believe it’s happened. But it’s out there now and I can accept it …I’ve been on cloud nine to be honest.”

Judging by the response, Kristine was a hugely popular choice, a reflection no doubt of this ordinary working woman whose fight for equal pay brought extraordinary results. That includes last year’s historic $2 billion equal pay settlement. Kristine has also helped make pay equity a household name and inspired other women to lodge claims.

Ask Kristine where she got her courage and drive, and she pays tribute to her mother.

“You know, she struggled and nobody thought about them in those days. I think, looking back, not just in my family but a lot of families, solo mums – there was no benefit in those days and a lot of women struggled at home … so yeah, that came to the fore.”

Kristine has also always acknowledged E tū, which chose her to front the famous equal pay court case that led to the equal pay settlement.

“Without them I would be nowhere today – and all the other support out there,” says Kristine.

“I think once somebody stands up, people can see the wrongs that have been going on. It took my union to put me in front and I feel so proud and privileged to have been chosen.”

Since the award, Kristine has been busy with media interviews and attending functions in her role as New Zealander of the Year. She is back at work, and the big question is how long for, given her heavy workload.

Kristine admits she feels torn: “I love my job. So, I do want to keep working. But there’s still a lot of fighting to be done and it’s got me all wound up to keep going – to help if I can.

“I just feel really proud it’s come as far as it’s come in pay equity and I want all the women who are going through their pay equity cases to just keep going – if I can do it, you can do it.”

Law changes a win for workers

Leveling the playing field

The Government has proposed a law to restore unions’ ability to protect workers and help lift their pay and conditions. This recognises the union dividend – the fact that union members earn more and have better conditions than non-union workers.

E tū knows working people need higher pay which in turn will benefit economic growth. Prosperity does not trickle down from the wealthy but is the result of workers earning more and spending this in their local community.

The planned changes will reverse many of the more than 30 law changes by the National Government to hobble unions and benefit their employer mates at the expense of their workers.

This is a huge change which E tū welcomes and embraces. Below, we report on a few of the changes and how they will benefit our members.

Union access an issue for WINZ guards

Union access is vital to ensuring members get the advice and support they need. The previous government restricted access rights for unions, with organisers often banned from seeing members at work.

This affects WINZ security guards, who have been blocked by the Ministry of Social Development and security firm, Armourguard, from seeing their union organisers at their worksites.

As E tū and You goes to press, the dispute was due to heard by the Employment Court.

“Knowing the union can’t access our worksite definitely means it is hard to get support when we need it,” says Kit Bennett, an E tū Wellington security delegate.

Soon though, the Government will restore union access rights as part of changes to restore union rights for workers.

Kit says that will make recruitment easier: “Sometimes it’s that face-to-face contact with an organiser that makes the difference,” she says.

Security delegate, Kit Bennett

Legal boost for vulnerable workers

The Government will soon introduce a law change to help stop the ‘race to the bottom’ as contractors drive down wages because of the competitive tendering processes in many industries, such as cleaning.

The Employment Relations Act includes job protections under clause 6A, which required new employers to take on the old staff when contracts change hands.

However, the previous Government allowed an exemption for employers with fewer than 20 workers. This has resulted in the wholesale franchising of cleaning, especially in schools.

Often the contract bids are too low for the franchisees to afford the current workers, and many lose their jobs in the restructuring of hours that follows the renewal of a contract for services, such as in cleaning or security. Others who transfer over often find themselves working for multiple employers.

Invercargill delegate, Alana Clarke works for three different cleaning contractors – contracting giants, OCS and Spotless, and a franchisee, LC Cleaning, doing a few hours here, a few hours there and so on. Her travel time is unpaid.

“It is difficult to manage all my jobs, especially as I don’t get paid going from one to another,” says Alana. “But cleaners need the money because our pay is so low.”

The Government will be extending the timeframe for workers to decide whether to transfer over when contracts change hands – something your union supports.

If a contract changed hands, workers would have more time to consider the future, to challenge unfair conditions and to make sure the process is right.

90-day trials should go

90-day trials will be history for big employers under the proposed labour law changes. Probationary periods will still be allowed but with greater protections for workers, which E tū supports.

However, we oppose the decision to exempt firms with fewer than 20 workers. Figures show tens of thousands of people have been sacked under these trials, many multiple times.

“All those people – they can’t have all done a poor job or be a bad fit and that’s my beef,” says hospitality worker, Chloe King. “It’s really being used in immoral ways.”

Chloe herself has been fired 3 times during 90-day trials which she says are endemic in hospitality.

“It’s really used and abused over summer, so they can fire at will as customers drop off,” says Chloe, who was devastated the first time it happened to her.

“I really wanted that job. The HR man told me I was doing an amazing job and they really wanted me. Then all of a sudden, they fired me a few days out from the end of my trial. It was pretty humiliating to be honest. It was a massive blow to my self-esteem and confidence.”

We think these trials are unfair and widely misused and we will be arguing in our submission that they need to be axed – for everyone.

Hospitality member, Chloe King

Editorial: Celebrating our democracy

Two men onstage at a forum with fists raised, the audience raising fists.

Welcome to the latest edition of our union magazine, and thank you for being an E tū member. Being E tū is about being part of a strong, leading, influential union which stands up for working people and fights for a fairer deal at work and in society.

That leadership has been recognised in the award of New Zealander of the Year to E tū member Kristine Bartlett. Kristine is a modest, unassuming, tenacious and committed advocate for fairness and decency for working people. All E tū members can be proud of her achievement.

Our strength lies in our size, diversity and democracy, and this is a year of deep democracy for E tū. During March and April, our Delegates Forums and Industry Councils brought elected workplace delegates together across our regions and in our separate industry sectors to discuss the issues facing our members and what we need to do about them.

Our diversity is reflected in our representative structure which ensures we give voice to Maōri, pacific peoples, women and youth. Our Trades Reference Group ensures a focus for the skills, qualifications and industry issues across our separate industry councils.

We all know a key challenge is to be relevant to the workers of the future. I am particularly proud of our E tū Youth Conference which takes place in June, and I congratulate Emily Sheffield on her role as youth representative on our National Executive.

The highest expression of our membership-driven democracy is our Biennial Conference (meaning it takes place every two years). Our next Conference takes place on 4-5 July in Mangere, Auckland, and this year it includes the election of our Presidents.

It is also a year of democracy and positive change for our country. Our new Labour-led government is committed to changes which provide a fairer deal for working people and their families, and the proposed labour law changes detailed in this issue reflect that.

As National Secretary I am accountable to your elected Presidents, National Executive and Conference for the sound financial operation of the union and I am deeply conscious that it is our members’ fees paid out of their hard-earned wages that fund the union. Our auditor is BDO and they have praised our financial management.

Our membership fees do need to take account of rising costs and our agreed policy is to adjust fees by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measured to December each year. Accordingly, membership fees have increased by 1.6% from 1 April 2018.

We aspire to a better deal for our members and we are leading the way on pay equity, a Living Wage, a stronger bargaining hand through fairer government labour policies, safer workplaces, and providing a strong union voice for workers who are not yet in our union.

We continue to invest in being a union of the future with the roll-out of our more interactive E tū website and the MyPage members portal.

I close with a very special welcome to our new E tū members from the dance-floor of NZ Ballet. I encourage all members to think about attending a NZ Ballet production and support our talented fellow members.

Thank you again for your supportive membership.

E tū Delegates Forum, Wellington

E tū Delegates Forum, Wellington

E tū Delegates Forum, Wellington

E tū Delegates Forum, Wellington


E tū Biennial Conference in July

The E tū Biennial Conference is being held 4-5 July in Auckland.

Conference attendees include the National Executive and members elected at Delegates Forums, Industry Councils and at the Biennial E tū Runanga Hui.

While the Conference includes a substantial education component, it will consider the state of the union, will discuss the union strategy for growth of membership, reach in our communities, and capability of our union organisation. We will also vote on policy matters raised by members.

Small fee increase

As per the E tū Rules, which state that union fees will increase yearly at the rate of inflation, our membership fees went up by 1.6% on 1 April 2018. As the biggest private sector union in New Zealand, the small fee increase allows our union to keep transforming workplaces and communities across the whole country. We advocate, organise, and campaign for a better future.

Union Support

If you need any support or advice about issues at work, contact Union Support to speak with an organiser.

0800 1 UNION
(0800 186 466)

Unionising India’s domestic workers

Every day, Senhol Mary leaves her family before dawn and walks for nearly an hour through the broken streets of the Indian city of Madurai to reach the house of the family for whom she works. She spends over half the day cleaning, doing laundry, shopping and cooking. Until recently she earned as little as 50 rupees ($1) per day for her work.

Three years ago the Tamil Nadu Labour Union (TNLU), with funding from New Zealand development charity, UnionAID, started organising Senhol Mary and other domestic workers.

Within a year, over 110 women had formed a union, elected leaders, and learned about their labour rights. The union set pay rates for different tasks such as laundry and, with the help of the TNLU, bargained with the families employing them to set new rates. As a result, pay has tripled for most union members, including Senhol Mary.

The women now earn enough to contribute to a union savings scheme, and perhaps most importantly, they also have a new sense of pride and confidence in themselves.

“After joining the union I am proud to say I can protect my rights and get the rights I deserve,” says Guruvammal, one of the union leaders.

“I feel protected in the hours I work and that I’m no longer being exploited. Now I can afford for my children to continue to study.”

UnionAID needs your support so it can continue the excellent work it does supporting projects like this in the Asia Pacific region.

Go to to become a monthly Kiwi Solidarity donor.

Migrant builders focus of research

E tū has launched a research project on the experience of migrant construction workers thanks to funding from the Industrial Relations Foundation.

The research includes a series of focus groups around the country with the first held in Christchurch on 2 December. Participants will be asked what they need from the union to meet the needs of the modern construction industry.

It’s expected that another 58,000 workers will be needed to implement the Government’s plans for huge investments in infrastructure and housing. The homegrown workforce is one source but the industry will need migrant workers as well and your union’s goal is to organise all workers and ensure we meet their needs.

The research project is welcome news for migrants like Heinrick Bratton, who says training is needed to help win the respect of industry employers.

“There is a need for migrant workers like me, who are still on a work visa, to access industry training to upskill and gain New Zealand qualifications. That will make me more confident in doing my job. It will also mean the boss cannot constantly intimidate me by saying I do not have the proper skills because I am a migrant worker, and I do not know the New Zealand standard.

“I believe the research will be an effective tool to unravel so many ideas, experiences and aspirations from us to be heard,” he says.

If you are a construction worker and would like to take part in this project, or you have friends who are migrant workers in the industry (you don’t need to be a member to be in a focus group) you can email: or phone 0800 186 466 and ask for Mat Danaher.

E tū organising

Big pay lift at Auckland Sky City

Members at SkyCity Auckland have voted unanimously to settle their Collective Agreement, which includes big pay rises for SkyCity’s lowest paid workers.

A cleaner or food and beverage worker who started this year on $15.84 an hour will see their pay rise to $17.68 by this time next year. Those with three years’ service will enjoy a pay premium of 10 percent.

Also agreed is an increase in overtime rates to time and a half for night work on weekends and other busy periods such as Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year. A working party will also work on stabilising rosters.

But negotiating team member, Michelle Crooks, says she is most proud of changing SkyCity’s system of delaying pay if staff had problems clocking in and out.

“When we have to wait up to two weeks to get a ‘no clock’ fixed, it has a big impact on our lives. We can’t pay our rent or bills,” says Michelle.

She says workers on 10 or 12-hour shifts are particularly badly affected, especially as problems with the clocking-in system can happen twice in a week. “This can halve your pay,” she says.

Most E tū members work in table games and finance, where wages are above the Living Wage, but discussion on paying the Living Wage to other workers will continue over the term of the agreement.

Other wins include a lift in pay for trades staff, and an agreement not to bring in contractors until all efforts to recruit permanent workers are exhausted. A working party will also consider more support for working families, including extended sick leave and supporting those working variable shifts.

IDEA Services update

After three intensive days of bargaining in November, IDEA Services and your union remain at odds over key claims.

The union bargaining team wants relativities restored for administration staff and senior support workers in the wake of the equal pay settlement.

Admin staff have been offered a 5 percent pay rise, but also a collective agreement expiry date of October, which reduces the value of this offer. Delegates are seeking an expiry date of 31 May 2018.

“We also believe there should be real recognition and improved pay for senior support workers,” says bargaining team member, Nic Corrigan.

Meanwhile, Nic says IDEA Services is seeking further flexibility from support workers, “which makes union involvement in reviews even more important than before.

“There is a real need to reduce stress and anxiety around the service reviews process with members receiving accurate and relevant information, so they can make informed choices. IHC also needs to take every practical step to ensure members hours are maintained or increased,” he says.

A working group has been formed in Auckland with the aim to re-set worker participation in health and safety for IDEA Services. The union/management group aims to produce a workable participation agreement with a realistic ratio of Health and Safety Representatives to workers and effective Health and Safety Committees. The group expects to report to the full bargaining team in the new year.

Cadbury closure begins

E tū is supporting members at Cadbury in Dunedin after 230 workers were given final notice that their jobs will finish by Christmas.

The notices included both permanent and seasonal workers.

Machine operator and E tū delegate, Teresa Gooch, says there has been a mixed response with some members keen to go, but there is a real sense of sadness.

“It’s been a pretty sad year all round really,” she says.

While the notices tell workers they finish on 22 December, E tū has secured agreement that workers who want to work longer can do so, if they find someone finishing up later who is prepared to swap. A number, including Teresa, are hoping to do this.

“So, at the moment, people don’t know where they’re at or whether they’ll stay for a bit longer,” says Teresa. “It’s hard to make plans with what you’re doing into the New Year until you know what your finishing date will be.”

Meanwhile, many members have completed key qualifications and training courses in preparation for job-hunting, with a mass graduation at the Dunedin Town Hall in October. Many also attended a jobs expo last month to meet local employers and explore work options.

There will be more redundancies after Christmas, with the factory closing at the end of March next year. A small number of staff will remain to decommission the plant.

Several members have also accepted jobs at the Cadbury plant in Melbourne where production in Dunedin is moving.

Cadbury workers attend a jobs expo as job
losses loom

Support New Zealand made

Your union suggests consumers consider spending their money on New Zealand made sweet treats once the Dunedin plant is closed.

“I’m all for that,” says one worker, who won’t be named as he remains at Cadbury. But he feels strongly about this issue.

“I don’t plan on buying Cadbury products once it’s closed, to be honest, because it’s just not Cadbury any more. Once the factory closes, that’s it for me, I’m afraid. Cadbury’s is done.”

There are other local sweet and chocolate makers, including unionised manufacturers such as Rainbow, RJ Licorice, and Nestlé. It’s one way to support New Zealand businesses which employ local workers who make great products.

A&G Price sold?

It’s hoped at least some jobs might be saved at A&G Price in Thames. The historic foundry was placed in voluntary liquidation earlier this year.

The liquidator has a potential buyer and hopes the sale will be concluded by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, holiday pay, wages and redundancy pay have been paid out to all members, unless they are owed more than $20,000. For these workers, the remainder of what’s owed will be paid out once a sale goes through.

The foundry continues to attract work, and about25 workers remain on site to fill those orders.

Formerly, the foundry employed about 90 people.

Summit sought on equal pay

Thousands of members have had their lives transformed by the equal pay settlement, including Gore care and support delegate, Roszanne Davidson.

Back in February, Roszanne felt overwhelmed, trying to pay medical bills and meet living costs on her low wages. “Things back then were pretty grim,” she says.

Today, the settlement means Roszanne earns $23.50 an hour.

“What a blessing!” she says. “I can actually pay to go to the doctor’s without charging it and causing another horrendous bill. I can get my eyes checked – I haven’t done that in six years!

And the difference for my co-workers – it’s amazing!” says Roszanne.

“They can afford to go to medical appointments. They can afford to eat a decent meal.”

But your union is also dealing with members who have lost hours, amid claims by aged care providers that the settlement is under-funded.

Unions were not included in talks about the funding, but it appears to penalise facilities where occupancy rates fall below 97 percent, which is most smaller, independent rest homes. Reports suggest other providers will make million dollar-plus surpluses.

E tū has called for a care and support industry summit to address these issues. E tū’s Women’s Committee Convenor, Marianne Bishop, says any funding issues must be resolved.

“It’s not good for the elderly or the disabled if equal pay isn’t funded properly and people are going to have to close down facilities, or undermine the process by reducing hours and making people work harder,” says Marianne.

“If we work together we’re going to get there more quickly. That’s how we got where we are, by working with other unions and people outside the unions.”

Your union is also opposing a move by Dementia NZ homes to introduce the role of Home Assistant which pays near minimum wage rates.

Marianne says she was hired as a Home Assistant 20 years ago and she doubts care homes will be able to separate the position from caregiving.

“As a Home Assistant I did caregiving work, so that’s a cop out,” she says.

Meanwhile, Roszanne is saving up to redo her kitchen, which wouldn’t have been possible on her old pay rate.

“We can’t afford any extras. It’s still a struggle,” she says. “But it’s doable. Before pay equity, it was definitely not doable at all. So, it’s made a huge difference to my life.”

Gore delegate, Roszanne Davidson

Union grows at Sistema

Tough working conditions and low pay are helping grow membership at plastics company, Sistema, where members say it’s time they earned a
Living Wage.

The Government has promised improved rights of access to workplaces for union organisers and Sistema members are hoping this will help them win shorter hours and higher pay.

‘We need more access to the company and we need more time to have meetings,” says one member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Membership has surged to 130 members since the company’s sale to United States corporate giant, Newell Brands, for $660 million.

But workers still earn only the minimum wage for a compulsory 60-hour working week. Workers have long complained about fatigue and injuries caused by 12-hour shifts on their feet, working at a relentless pace.

Union pressure last year saw Sistema offer workers the option of shorter hours, but our member says this is never authorised: “People ask for day shift, 9 to 5, but they are not giving it to them.”

Workers are seeking a better wage deal at the current negotiations, and the member says people continue to join because they hope that by being collective they will be able to win what they deserve.

Win in LSG Sky Chefs case

In a major victory, E tū has won its Employment Court case against global airline catering company, LSG Sky Chefs for its exploitative use of local labour hire workers.

LSG has a near monopoly on airline catering in New Zealand.

E tū took the case on behalf of LSG workers, Kamlesh Prasad and Liutofaga Tulai, who were hired through labour hire firm, Solutions Personnel, also trading as Blue Collar Limited.

The union argued the workers’ real employer is LSG Sky Chefs, not the labour hire company, and the Employment Court agreed.

The court recognised the vulnerability of workers like Liutofaga and Kamlesh, exposing their pay and conditions including Liutofaga’s working week of up to 62 hours. It noted at one point she worked 34 full days of work without a day off.

“I’m feeling grateful and happy,” says Liutofaga. “I am thanking God and E tū for supporting me to go ahead!”

Both worked for years for minimum wage or just above, with no holiday, sick leave or Kiwisaver entitlements, and they had to pay their own ACC cover.

Liutofaga who worked for LSG for six years before losing her job will be eligible for backpay, as will Kamlesh whom the court has ruled is an LSG employee.

“I am feeling good we won the case, and about the backpay. I have paid double IRD, double ACC, double everything,” says Kamlesh.

As a union member, Kamlesh will also be entitled to the superior pay and conditions included in the LSG Collective Agreement for directly employed workers.

E tū is now calling on the airline catering industry to get rid of labour hire completely and for all major airlines to take responsibility for labour practices in its supply chain.

LSG litigants Liutofaga Tulai (third from left) and Kamlesh Prasad (far right) with witnesses