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Southland needs a Just Transition

Southland is gearing up for change. Like many of our regional communities, all sorts of global and local forces mean it’s time for a rethink in the region.

Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is one of the biggest employers in the region, and it provides hundreds of jobs at the smelter and at the local businesses that work alongside it. The company has announced plans to close the plant 2024.

What will that mean for the Southland community? While change in the New Zealand workforce is inevitable, we know that it’s often workers and their communities who unfairly bear the brunt. To combat this, E tū campaigns for a Just Transition – ensuring that communities are protected.

E tū members at Tiwai Point know that just sitting by won’t help anything. This is their future, and the future for their community. That’s why they’ve been organising to make sure their voices count, and their interests are prioritised, whatever happens.

To get the ball rolling, E tū held meetings in November, with all union and non-union workers at Tiwai welcome. Delegate Tony O’Driscoll took a leadership role in organising these meetings and says he’s hopeful for the future.

“Everyone who went to the meetings was pretty positive, I’ve been getting some good feedback,” Tony says.

“Membership is growing, and hopefully we get a threshold to do some serious negotiation with the company. We want to concentrate on health and safety as well as everything else.”

Another exciting development is E tū’s new partnership with Murihiku Regeneration, a project by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, focussed on a prosperous and sustainable future for people in the Southland region. E tū Co-Presidents Muriel Tunoho and Don Pryde visited Southland to sign this historic deal.

Don says it’s very important for unions, iwi, and all community stakeholders to work together for a Just Transition.

“It’s about the future for everyone, so that’s why we all need to be involved in these discussions,” Don says.

“I’m proud that E tū is once again on the cutting edge of new ways of working with our community partners. That’s how we’ll make sure we really get a say in the future of our regions.”

Tiwai members get down to business

Next steps for Decent Work

More E tū members are diving into our new Decent Work campaign that brings together the different strands of E tū’s campaigns like the Living Wage, Fair Pay Agreements, a Just Transition, and more.

We’re gearing up for the Decent Work Summit: Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora! in February 2022, which will bring together E tū member leaders and our community allies, business, and academics to discuss Decent Work and plan for the future.

We will also host a Decent Work Jobs Expo – a great opportunity for members to see what other work and training options are out there. Aucklanders can keep an eye out for your invitation!

E tū Decent Work Charter

“Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”

International Labour Organisation


E tū leaders get behind vaccine drive

Activist and community leader Gadiel Asiata was on a Zoom call about keeping his community safe during Covid when he realised: this was the perfect organising opportunity.

So the E tū National Executive rep put on his “organising hat” and proposed a committee.

A day later, he found himself on the very committee he’d suggested. His task? To connect with Samoan young people with a vaccination drive.

“This was one voice that wasn’t at the table. So we set up a Zoom and did a call-out to the youth of Manurewa. Within two days, we had a social media team and a promotions team.

“I was so overwhelmed by the talent that our young people have.”

Their first event in October was organised in a local carpark with a target of reaching 500 people over two days. But they almost tripled the number, with vaccination rates hitting more than 1300.

The other two events have also been a huge success, with more than 800 people turning out.

E tū delegate and Te Runanga member JD Rawiri says he wanted to protect his mokos and his daughter, who got sick with the virus while overseas

Pacific Health provided all vaccination services and security at the events, with the Cause Collective supplying meals and giveaways to those who got a shot.

Gadiel says the key to the drive was creating a community feel.

“The night before our event in Randwick Park – quite a gang-oriented area of Manurewa – we made our presence felt in the community by doing a community barbeque, giving out flyers, doing a mail box drop and talking to local kids.”

Being able to offer hot meals and creating an environment people felt comfortable in also helped, he says.

“Our job is to mobilise our community and bring people to the vaccine, but we’re doing this for everybody – every New Zealander.”

Bringing the community together at Randwick Park

Three cheers for our essential workers

Lifewise homecare support workers, who provide essential care at home to those in the community who need it, won their first collective in April, after four months of strikes and pickets on the roadside


Our postal workers have kept the wheels of our society turning during long periods of lockdown. Workers in Auckland celebrated World Post Day in October.


E tū members work right across the aviation industry – one that has been hit hardest by COVID-19. While too many members lost their jobs, many have remained as essential workers at the very forefront of COVID-19 health and safety issues, such as PPE, vaccinations, and border control.


Getting into the spirit at a Ngā Puna Whai Oranga hui – E tū’s new worker leadership programme in health and safety, sponsored by ACC. E tū ran six successful hui for manufacturing workers this year and the programme continues in 2022 with workplace workshops.


This year, E tū launched our network for migrants and former refugees. Essential work is a key part of the programme – many of our fellow members from those communities work in all sorts of essential jobs. We are lucky to have them supporting and protecting Aotearoa.


Rosey Ngakopu is a security guard who has worked in a number of roles right through the pandemic. She’s also been a union and community leader in our campaigns for Fair Pay Agreements, the Living Wage, and income-related rent subsidies. Go Rosey!


IDEA Services workers, like these delegates, look after people with intellectual disabilities and help them to live happy and meaningful lives. That doesn’t stop over lockdown, and E tū members can be proud of IDEA Services workers and others in the community support sector for their important service.

Editorial: Bring on 2022

Welcome to this final edition of our union magazine for 2021.

It has been another challenging year confronting the global pandemic and I know that all members deserve to look forward to some form of summer break.

I acknowledge and thank all our E tū members who have worked in a wide number of essential and border-facing roles, serving the wider community so tirelessly during these worrying times.

I know that members elsewhere will join with me in acknowledging our Auckland members who have endured our longest lockdown.

We all need that summer break. When I was writing the introduction to the last edition of our magazine, I described the deep democratic structures of E tū and I was looking forward to engaging with members in our E tū Biennial Membership Meetings.

However, the lockdown forced us to cancel those nation-wide meetings. I am pleased to report that our union democracy has continued throughout the lockdown period with our National Executive, Industry Councils, Runanga, Women’s Committee, Komiti Pasefika, and Trades Reference Group meeting online.

During September, we held our Regional Representative elections online. I congratulate our North and South Island Vice Presidents, Mischelle Moriarty and Ray Pilley, and our Northern, Central, and Southern Region Representatives, Gadiel Asiata, Angelique Kerr, and Nikki Twine. My thanks and best regards to the other candidates who put themselves forward for election.

I look forward to meeting delegates in real life at our regional Delegate Forums next April and our Biennial Conference in July 2022.

We always understood that we were in a race between the Delta variant of COVID-19 and mass community-wide vaccination. E tū supports the vaccination campaign as part of a range of measures to maintain personal and collective safety.

COVID-19 is spreading, and it will be with us for a while, some say years. Community-wide vaccination is the key to protecting the broadest possible number of people as we manage the effects of continuing cases.

Union principles of collectivism and solidarity, and health and safety at work, support the union’s recommendation to members to be vaccinated if possible.

E tū is also concerned that the individual right of members to refuse a vaccination can have the consequence of potential risk to employment in some cases. Testing in law has so far upheld the requirement to be vaccinated in order to retain employment in mandated roles, and cases will continue to test the full impact across industries and workplaces.

Some people are fundamentally opposed to vaccination. For others, change and disinformation brings anxiety and hesitation. The union is here to help advise all members, and to make sure all members can get accurate information.

We finish a tough year with hope and aspirations to be “rebuilding better” in 2022, taking a strong stand for a wages-led recovery, decent jobs, and health and well-being.

We will continue to advocate for better wages and work conditions through Fair Pay Agreements, better protection against exploitative “dependent contracting” work arrangements, and health and safety representative rights, especially in smaller workplaces.

Our union has always looked to the future needs of working people, and I am proud of our union’s role in facilitating the Decent Work Summit: Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora, to be held in February 2022 and our Just Transition engagement in the Southland and Taranaki regions.

Members will be interested to read about our partnership agreement with the Murihiku Regeneration Project – made up of Ngai Tahu hapū – to ensure decent work outcomes in Southland well into the future.

Another tough year comes to a close and we stand together for a better year ahead.

Please take the time to read our magazine and, on behalf of our National Executive, I wish you and your families a safe and relaxing holiday period.

Thank you for being an E tū member.


National President nominations

Elections for the E tū National President positions will be held at the union’s Biennial Conference in July 2022. E tū has two National Presidents in acknowledgement of our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Nominations are called for both these positions:

  • National President
  • National President (Māori)

Any person who has been a financial member of E tū for 12 months continuously 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 25 March 2022.

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.

If you want to propose any policies, you need to present them 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 25 March 2022.

E tū organising

LSG’s airline catering workers take a stand

Struggling workers have to choose between rent or petrol, and some even rely on foodbanks to get by: this is the reality for many workers employed at major airline catering company LSG.

When COVID-19 hit in March last year, its workers took a further hit as the aviation sector went into meltdown, with the future still uncertain.

LSG’s workforce shrank from 900 to around 300. In order for the remaining jobs to stay, E tū members made huge sacrifices.

They gave up their full time hours. They gave up their penal rates, overtime pay, and temporarily put their existing redundancy clause in their collective on hold.

The variation permitting this change to their terms and conditions was renewed once before and was due to end in April, yet the company wanted to extend it further. This time, LSG workers said, “No.”

After a full day at mediation, there was hope on the horizon for members.

A few of their parked terms and conditions were restored and pay for a minimum of 35 hours a week was guaranteed (up from 30 hours per for the past seven months). At heightened Alert Levels, the company is still continuing to pay workers for 35 hours.

E tū members also received a one-off cash payment equal to their union fees until the end of November.

An E tū delegate who comes from a family of unionists and prefers not to be named, says saying no to the variation has set the stage for bargaining, which puts a pay rise for workers front and centre.

“We haven’t had a significant pay rise in years. The chefs’ [pay] alone was frozen 5 years ago.”

Nobody can survive on the minimum wage, she says.

A shortage of drivers also meant that the company put up the wages for drivers, but not for other workers. The delegate says that has to change.

“For the last 18 months, we have helped this company. We have met them more than halfway. It’s about time that they started giving something back.

“We’ve had a win, but now we just have to keep working to get where we need to be.”

Holding onto collective power at Jetstar

Despite the impact of the pandemic on aviation, Jetstar’s domestic and Tasman crew members have quietly continued to organise to win back their terms and conditions.

Like the LSG workers, Jetstar members also said no to a continuation of a temporary variation that they agreed to a year ago.

The variation meant all workers would take ‘special leave without pay’ each month and opt back into work if it was available.

However, with the Trans-Tasman travel bubble on hold again and no flights in and out of Auckland, E tū delegate Katherine van der Spek says Jetstar is pressing for a return to the variation and were now asking crew to use their annual leave instead.

“Lots of people don’t have leave left, and those who do want to use it to reunite with family,” she says.

“Everyone who doesn’t have annual leave left, effectively has guaranteed work. But once everyone’s leave has been exhausted, there is a risk they’ll start with redundancies.”

She says many members want the special leave without pay variation to be on volunteer basis only. They hope to come to an agreement with Jetstar soon.

“We understand the position that they’re in, but we are also trying to protect everyone’s financial stability and ability to live,” says Katherine.

Even so, the Jetstar delegate says members feel like they still have some collective power: “The vaccinations are going to open [travel] up and the lockdown seems to be working. Hopefully, it will get better from here.”

Aged care workers stop work for #safestaffingnow

A member speaker at the Dunedin meeting

E tū’s joint organising campaign with nurses’ union, NZNO, got off to a great start at the beginning of August.

Stop work meetings were organised in regions and cities around Aotearoa New Zealand for union members, seniors’ advocacy group Greypower, and local MPs to come together and discuss the impact of unsafe staffing levels on aged care workers and their residents.

Three meetings – in Invercargill, Dunedin, and New Plymouth – were held before COVID restrictions meant meetings would need to move online.

E tū member Candy Hopson spoke at her meeting and says she felt good about sharing her story.

“I’m very grateful that I did it. Our local MP came to the meeting, and it felt like he had listened to me.”

Members at BUPA’s David Lange get ready for the stop work meetings

A carer for around 10 years, Candy says: “I have a passion for caring for the elderly but something’s got to change. We’re not able to look after our elderly the way they need to be – it’s just all wrong and it’s not good enough.

Candy has been off work for the past six months with a work-related injury that came to a head after she was moving a resident and says short staffing was a “significant factor”.

“It comes down to: we haven’t got the time or the people. I used to be able to do nails and facial hair and learn who a resident was, but now it’s impossible. 

“Cares aren’t getting done properly because we have to prioritise someone else. It’s not fair on us either – as carers, our bodies get broken too.”

New Plymouth meeting

The next stop work meetings will take place on Zoom in October for members in the Auckland region. 

And members are urging everyone they can to sign the Safe Staffing petition which they hope to present to Parliament later in the year.

Click here to sign and share.

Cleaners say ‘no’ to hospital upping car parking fees

Setaita and her colleagues working as cleaners at Waitākere Hospital are relieved they won’t have to fork out an extra $5 a week, thanks to collective action to quash an increase to staff carpark rates.

Last October, Waitemata District Health Board proposed to put up rates by $1 a day – a big weekly cost for workers already on low wages.

E tū members with delegate Setaita Paea (third from left) are stoked their car parking fees won’t be going up

Up to six health unions, including E tū, NZNO, and the PSA, came together to discuss their concerns with management and were invited into an engagement process to work things out.

For E tū delegate Setaita Paea, who’s worked at the hospital for six years, the meetings were eye-openers.

“We divided in groups to talk about from [our perspectives] as cleaners and from all the other unions. But what I see [from] the management is that they are really willing to hear from us as cleaners.”

Finally, the hospital management agreed to keep the rate at $3 a day.

“For us cleaners, it means a lot,” Setaita says, as workers still have to juggle the issues of finding a free park if they’re starting on a later shift or resorting to street parking.

A new committee, which will include the unions’ delegates, has also been formed to deal with ongoing issues of car parking.

What’s the deal on parking for other DHB workers?

Unions are trying to improve car parking for hospital workers, which is an issue at all Auckland’s DHBs due to public transport not being available or accessible at the times it’s needed.

  • At Counties Manukau DHB, a combined group of union delegates are working with infrastructure managers.
  • Auckland Hospital is now putting on a shuttle for early morning shift workers and has allocated a number of spots in a public car park for staff. E tū is still working through issues around the cost of parking and shuttle times.

Sea change for school cleaners

It’s time for a sea change for more than a dozen school cleaners, who work for Seaway Cleaning Services at Manurewa High School.

After less than a year in the union, these E tū members will be getting their first ever collective agreement.

It’s a far cry from the early days, when members were so scared of getting in trouble for joining the union that they’d only meet at McDonalds.

Seaway cleaners met at McDonalds in the early days of their organising

Former E tū delegate Barb Mita says the management initially kicked the organisers off the premises and was quite shocked when all of the small group of cleaners at the school joined the union.

“The management knew what [the union] was, but they didn’t expect them to be here at Manurewa High School!”

The main things the workers have asked for is their collective agreement, better wages, and somewhere else to have their breaks – rather than alongside the “machines and chemicals” in the boiler room.

“The only time we go into the staff room area is when the teachers are on term break,” Barb says.

But just having everyone part of the union is great: “Before that we had nothing at all. Now everybody’s in the union and they’ve got a lot to say!”

Success for Sistema members before lockdown

Leaa Veukiso was often so exhausted that she felt like “a zombie” most of the time.

For the past six years, the Sistema delegate had been surviving on as little as five hours sleep a day, before she went back to work – a 12-hour night shift from 6am to 6pm.

Sistema delegates are more than happy with the results of their recent bargaining

And that was before she did overtime on the weekends, clocking up around 72 hours a week.

Now with the new collective E tū members have negotiated at Sistema, Leaa says she’s got a new lease on life.

“I go to work and I feel fresh. I come home and I still have energy,” says the mum-of-three, who now only does around 50 hours a week.

“I didn’t even realise that I could feel this good, instead of feeling like a zombie all time.”

The 12-hour shifts have been scrapped for three eight-hour shifts instead, and members have kept their 30-minute paid meal break.

All Sistema members, who have been at the company for more than six months, are now paid the Living Wage or above.

There’s also now scope for members to move up the pay scale, as they complete certain training.

Leaa, who sat on the bargaining team for the first time this year, says the whole experience has been calm and collected, as well as “good learning”.

“It’s one thing talking to your supervisor on the floor and talking to organisers, but really it’s empowering sitting there and facing management and having them hear what the people want. I can’t wait for the next bargaining.”

Unfortunately since the latest COVID-19 lockdown, Sistema has not heeded to the concerns of its members to shut the factory. It has continued to operate at 10 percent capacity through Alert Levels 3 and 4.

Aside from planned shutdowns, such as after a worker tested positive for COVID-19, the company has asked all workers not at work to take leave if they still want to receive their normal pay.

So far Sistema has no plans to reimburse workers for either their leave or their lost pay.

However, Leaa says she’ll still be pushing ahead with her plan to recruit new permanent staff into the union – at a time when collective strength is needed more than ever for workers to win back what they’re owed.

“I’m ready!”

Midnight win for McKechnies workers

It took negotiations until the eleventh hour and an emergency stop-working meeting for McKechnies Aluminium workers to get the pay offer they felt they deserved.

And they were all primed to walk off the job to get it too.

Delegate Tyrell Crean (left) and other E tū members are stoked with their win

It’s taken more than a year to negotiate, but E tū members at McKechnies now have a whopping 8% pay rise to look forward to.

That’s 2% back pay, 4% for 2021 and 2% for 2022.

E tū delegate Tyrell Crean says it all started around a year ago, when a rewrite of the collective was on the cards.

But then COVID hit, and unexpectedly, business turned into “one of the best years that we’ve ever had”.

McKechnies workers were slammed – often doing more than 60 hours a week, with tons of orders and new customers coming through, Tyrell says.

Initially, there was an offer for $500 cash-in-hand, which members voted down. That turned into 1% for 2021, followed by 1.9% for 2022, but workers on the floor were still aiming higher.

Eventually, the floor prepared to strike on a Friday morning after asking for 4% and 4%, certain the company would not agree to it.

“That week was a lot of fun”, says Tyrell, as they got ready to bring on more workers to cover the members’ Friday shifts.

McKechnies members at their emergency stop work meeting

With the threat of a strike looming, the company called a mid-week emergency meeting that went on till midnight. It led to the workers’ best offer yet: 2% back pay, 4% raise for 2020, and 2% for 2022.

By Thursday morning it was theirs, and their strike plans were (albeit somewhat reluctantly) cast aside.

Tyrell says: “Everyone’s totally stoked with what we’ve got. A lot have been here for 25 years plus, and this is the largest increase we’ve ever had. It’s a massive win.”

Union membership is also higher than ever – around 80% of the site are E tū members.

Tyrell reckons members are more united as a team now, and more valued by the company – after they realised the impact even a one-day strike would have on production.

“It’s shown management the power of what we have – I think they know now they need to treat workers as assets.”

Calls for ‘Just Transition’ plans after industry shocks in the Bay of Plenty

E tū’s campaign for a ‘Just Transition’ for workers is more important than ever in the face of mill closures and buyouts in the Bay of Plenty and at other manufacturing businesses around the country.

Tasman Mill delegate Bruce Habgood

In May and June, both of the region’s major mill operations – Norske Skog’s Tasman Mill, and the Whakatāne Board Mill – had massive restructures, affecting more than 300 workers.

Tasman Mill in Kawerau finally closed its doors in mid-July, and Whakatāne Board Mill was bought out by The Smurfit Consortium.

While many workers at Whakatāne plan to stay on to help the new owners get operations up and running, those at Kawerau face an uncertain future.

Tasman Mill’s delegate and E tū industry spokesperson Bruce Habgood, says there was a “strong sense of mourning” about the closure and businesses needed to prepare transition plans to help workers as industries changed.

“Some of the workers at the mill are of an age and skill set that means they aren’t so employable anymore and might never work again.

“We also really need businesses to have their own transition plans going forward so that workers have choices and alternatives.”

Many other businesses also relied on the mill for work and may really suffer ‘death by a thousand cuts’ once gone, he says.

And it’s clear that the wood processing sector isn’t the only one struggling.

In September, printing distribution company, Ovato, announced it was shutting shop at its Christchurch branch, due to diminishing demand during the pandemic.

Becoming ‘number one’ for worker rights: Delegate power builds at major Kiwi manufacturer

Members at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare are delivering on products that not only help save lives, but they’re building their collective power too.

Some of the new faces in the delegate team at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare

Since March, delegates have welcomed more than 30 newbies to the team.

With nearly 1500 union members on site, there’s a lot of members to support and advise, says site convenor and delegate, Chris Burton.

Holding large-scale ‘town hall’ meetings for delegate nominations and bargaining negotiations was no mean feat either, he says.

“We did around 10 presentations running from about 6am to 7pm – that’s a lot of talking and presenting!”

Because of social distancing, meetings were restricted to around 150 people at a time, rather than the usual 450, Chris says.

New delegate Nga has worked at the company for around seven years and says her respect for the collective is why she signed up for the role.

“We get warnings and friendly advice, but sometimes it’s not [what’s in the collective].

“It’s all about the people – I just wanted to help union members and make them understand the policies and what we’re talking about.”

Members have also bargained for their new collective – something Nga says she’s keen to be part of in future – which they are looking to ratify after lockdown.

Chris says workers getting what they deserve is as important as everything else about the business: “We work for our country’s most successfully publicly listed company, and we’re making a product which is beneficial to people’s lives and outcomes.

“We are certainly holding the company to account. We want excellence in wages and conditions – we want to be number one in New Zealand.”

E tū member Q&A: Motivated to learn

Julian Prasad is an E tū delegate and a disability support worker in South Auckland. The day she joined E tū for the first time, she also decided to become a delegate.

How long have you been a disability support worker?

I’ve been working for my current employer for four years now.

Was this always your job?

Prior to being a disability support worker I was working for seven years in a rest home – so it wasn’t a big change for me to do this job.

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Fiji. I lived mostly in Suva but was brought up in Lautoka – the second largest city in Fiji. I moved to New Zealand in 2008. My husband came a few months before me, and he got a job as a mechanic. Then I followed with my son. We’ve got two children now.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

People think you look after ‘disabled’ people. I don’t really agree with that – they’re just differently abled. We support people to be independent, to go out in the community. We make them aware of their rights and what they’re eligible for.

What are the biggest issues for workers in the disability support sector right now?

There have been staff shortages. We’ve also been following up with members to make sure they’re able to get the training they need to move up the pay scales.

What do you like about your job?

I’m proud to do my job because it encourages me, motivates me – I feel like it reflects who I am as a person. With your service users, you get to build trust. It’s not only going to visit them, taking them for shopping, coffee, lunch – you’re creating a relationship with them. We do understand though that we aren’t their families. It’s also important for our service users to make friends and build relationships in the community too.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’m in my first year of a three-year communications degree from SIT. I’m not sure why I decided to sign up but as soon as I see there’s something for me to do or learn, it just motivates me. I’m also going to be part of E tū’s Member Development programme, which starts in October. It’s not just another course for me but about the skills that I’ll learn – how to get more members to join the union, work alongside my organiser, and to grow our E tū team. 

QSM: Lalopua Sanele

“If the members are happy, then I am happy” is the modus operandi of recently decorated E tū activist and now QSM Taualoa Lalopua Sanele.

The Wellington delegate and retired cleaner says she was “in shock” to receive not only one but two awards.

In June, she was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and in August, an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Award from the Wellington City Council.

Both recognise work in the community – her services to the union movement and the Samoan community, and particularly her commitment to her church parish.

“When I read the QSM letter I was in tears with my husband, and I said to myself: ‘Oh God, thanks for what you have done for me’, because I was not thinking or expecting any kind of award for what I’ve done,” she says.

“I was doing my work as a normal person.”

For more than 30 years, Lalopua worked as a cleaner at Wellington Hospital, after coming to live in Zealand from her native Samoa in 1972.

Back in the 70s, union membership was compulsory, so Lalopua got involved with one of E tū’s predecessor unions as part of her first job in manufacturing.

She moved over to the Service and Food Workers Union a few years later after she changed direction and began working as a cleaner.

She became a union delegate when she began working at Wellington Hospital in 1987, and it was then that she first heard about E tū’s Komiti Pasifika – a group she later headed as the Central, then National Convenor for a decade.

It was the encouragement of her organiser, John Ryall, at the hospital that made all the difference, she says.

“He’s the person that made me feel [understood], and make me feel involved with the union, [took] me to the delegates’ training, [and helped me learn] about the collective agreement and what allowances members are entitled to.”

Throughout her working life, she has continued to advocate for workers’ rights.

This has included representing E tū at national and international trade union conferences, as well as playing a key part of the campaign to get Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act amended to protect the jobs and conditions of cleaners when their contracts were put up for tender.

In 2010, Lalopua took on the role of cleaning supervisor at the hospital, but the first thing she worried about was how the job might interfere with her union role.

“My heart is with the union. I am straightforward, and I don’t care if I get into trouble – if the member is happy, then I did my job.”

Lalopua continues to assist E tū members at Wellington Hospital on a volunteer basis.