E tū can now celebrate the success of its campaign for Fair Pay Agreements. The Government have announced it will now draft law based on the Working Party Report that E tū helped to create. This is a victory for the security guards and cleaners who have campaigned for many years to transform the law for our members, standing up at public meetings, lobbying politicians, and being part of conferences and delegations to push FPAs. Now, we are joined by home care workers keen to see the new law apply to their industry too.
The implementation of Fair Pay Agreement legislation will be the best change to employment law in New Zealand in decades. The idea is to set minimum pay and conditions that apply to whole industries, to stop the “race to the bottom” that sees employers try to stay competitive by paying poor wages, as well as taking other cost-cutting measures at the expense of workers.
The real effects of this widespread problem were described by a group of E tū members, who work in property services, to Government ministers at an E tū event in Parliament in December.
School cleaner and E tū member-organiser, Lulu Low, told the ministers: “I stand here with not just my voice, but the voice of my fellow cleaners. The struggle is so real for us.”
“Our [employers] don’t care about our wellbeing – they just want the job done. We are on minimum wage, with not enough hours. We’re not just cleaners, we are human beings, and we want to be treated with respect and dignity.
“To stop the race to the bottom, we need a Fair Pay Agreement. We voted you in to make a difference – and we’re asking you today to make that change.
“I pray that you will feel what we are feeling.”
At a union forum with the Government in April this year, security guard Rosey Ngakopu explained why improving minimum conditions beyond pay is an important part of the picture.
“We need a Fair Pay Agreement in security that guarantees our health and safety practices are revisited and remedied,” Rosey says.
“One of my security jobs was a carpark guard at a local shopping mall, which included managing the gridlock when the carpark was full. We got training on the job and managed it to the best of our ability, but any impatient motorists could be a risk to our safety. I had a lot of near misses, including three in just one shift.
“A Fair Pay Agreement in security would ensure better training and work conditions to protect essential workers like myself.”
This is how we will win Fair Pay Agreements – by telling our stories to the public and ensuring that the decision makers know about how real people will benefit from the legislation.