Author: E tū

Pay negotiations for care and support workers set up to fail

Unions representing care and support workers, E tū, NZNO, and PSA, have entered discussions with the Government to improve pay rates and lock in existing training rights for 65,000 care and support workers.

The historic 2017 Care and Support Workers Settlement raised wages for care and support workers. But the settlement expires at the end of June and workers need new pay rates to be agreed, so the value of the settlement is maintained.

Workers will lodge a claim under the updated Equal Pay Act once they are legally able to do so but need a pay rise while work happens on the claim, which is estimated to take around 18 months.

The Government’s offer of approximately 2.5-3% amounts to less than half of the current rate of inflation and would apply for 18 months while the work is being conducted.

This amounts to a significant pay cut for workers and is inadequate. It leaves this predominantly female workforce with a difficult choice: leave for a better paid, less stressful job elsewhere, or keep supporting vulnerable people in our communities while facing soaring living costs they cannot keep up with.

Care and support unions say an extension to the settlement with increased pay rates to keep pace with inflation is essential, giving time to work through a full pay equity process. This is needed to avoid further erosion of the already tough conditions care and support workers face.

Union members say their sector is in crisis, with employers struggling to staff shifts to care for our most vulnerable.

Short staffing, low pay, and poor working conditions have led to care and support workers struggling to provide the quality of care their residents and clients need, with many workers choosing to simply leave the sector altogether.

The unions urge the Government to provide the adequate funding needed to value these workers properly.

ENDS

For more information and comment:

Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354, [email protected]
Lesley Harry (NZNO industrial adviser), 027 499 0778,
[email protected]
Liz Robinson (PSA communications), 027 281 6173, [email protected]

Workers to lose jobs as major part of Auckland printing plant set to close

More than 100 workers will lose their jobs when a large proportion of the production at Auckland-based printing plant Ovato will stop for good at the end of April.

On Tuesday, the company announced that around 150 workers will be made redundant from its heatset printing arm of the business in Wiri, which produces products such as commercial catalogues and magazines.

Ovato, whose Christchurch branch closed in September last year, has been greatly affected by factors such as the global increase in paper prices, reduced demand, and the flow-on effect of Norske Skog, a major paper supplier in Kawerau, shutting.

Now, the company will only retain a smaller sheetfed production line at its Auckland plant.

Site delegate Owen Sinclair says the workers are in shock.

“Some have worked here for between 20-30 years. People are now going to have to work through what their entitlements are and when they’re going to finish,” he says.

“We’ll continue to work with the company to make sure we get that clarity for members.”

About 60% of those losing their jobs are E tū members.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says the situation for workers at Ovato is a perfect example of the flow-on effect of ruptured local supply chains.

“When a key player in Ovato’s supply chain – the Kawerau paper mill – closed, this left the company reliant on imported paper.

“Importing paper is not only expensive due to the huge increase in shipping costs, but there’s around a seven-month wait time to get paper from Europe.”

He says companies also face the risk that the price of what they’re shipping could also increase again while in transit, due to the impact of the Covid crisis overseas.

With similar situations taking place in other local industries, Joe says it’s critical to ensure that Just Transition plans are put in place to protect workers.

“We need to work together with companies and workers to get the best outcome for workers, as certain industries wind down and others ramp up.

“A Just Transition means things like creating plans for workers to retrain if necessary and to support them to transfer their existing skills to other roles. Initiatives such as the Government’s proposal for a national income insurance scheme, New Zealand Income Insurance, could also assist with this.”

Joe says there needs to be a longer-term view on maintaining local suppliers so domestic industries remain viable.

“If we rely solely on imported goods, this leaves us at the mercy of the international market to pay the asking price for those goods, which then ultimately trickles down to the working New Zealander.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

Air New Zealand trainers set to strike over stalled pay negotiations

E tū cabin crew leaders, who fly on 787s and who are responsible for inflight crew training, have issued strike notices to Air New Zealand, in frustration and increasing anger at faltering wage talks as part of a new collective agreement.

The strike would put a ban on regulatory in-flight training of existing and returning crew, taking effect from 22 March.  

It won’t affect the travelling public, but, if it goes ahead, it will mean delays in training crew.

Members want to send a strong message to Air New Zealand that it needs to come to an agreement on paying decent wages to its workers.

On behalf of the striking aviation trainers, Sandie Bartlett, a member of the E tū negotiating team, says the decision to strike is never taken lightly, but members have run out of other options.

“We’ve been in bargaining for more than two years, and the company has so far refused to recognise that the wages for experienced cabin crew returning from redundancy are too low.

“Their start rate is only just above Minimum Wage, when crew want to see it starting from at least the Living Wage.”

The member says Air New Zealand’s focus on ultra-long-range trips to North America means the company wants crew to fly for up to 19 hours, and up to 22 hours in the case of a disruption to the scheduled flight times.

However, the crew want a fair wage to do so and clearer rules on fatigue management.

“We need reassurances our wages will go up and that our rosters won’t increase the existing fatigue problems all crew face.”

E tū’s head of aviation, Savage, who is also the advocate for the agreement, says the collective agreement for the group has been in negotiation since the end of 2019.

“Before the pandemic pay rates were so low, members were heading toward full strike action.

“However, in terms of workers’ pay, the situation still hasn’t changed. There has been no increase in the start rate since October 2018,” he says.

“We recognise that Air New Zealand is in debt and needs to trade its way back to profitability, but it also needs skilled staff. Crew can’t survive on these low rates.

“We don’t believe the company will be able to retain experienced and trained crew with the amount it has offered so far.”

Savage says at this stage cabin crew have chosen to limit their strike to the in-flight training component of their jobs to avoid major disruption to passengers.

However, there’s no doubt that a decent pay increase must be on the cards for members to consider a resolution – something that the company’s baggage handlers have already won, now their starting rates are up to almost the Living Wage.

“Cabin crew are responsible for safe operations in the air and go through extensive training to develop the experience and expertise needed to do their jobs,” Savage says.

“As essential workers, this group has also made significant sacrifices both personally and professionally to ensure that New Zealanders have had access to air travel during the pandemic.

“It’s only fair that they are provided with decent jobs with pay rates which reflect that and the high level of personal commitment they bring to their work.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

Urgent need for PPE for care and support workers

Care and support workers are in urgent need of PPE to keep their vulnerable clients safe.

These workers, some of whom visit more than 10 clients a day to care for them in their homes, say despite being essential health workers, they’re struggling to get enough PPE and supplies to work safely even in phase three of the Omicron outbreak, and their employers say they don’t have the stocks needed to make this possible.

E tū and PSA unions are calling for full PPE kits and RAT tests to be consistently supplied to care and support workers who look after vulnerable people in the community.

E tū member Tarsh Dixon says going from house to house without full PPE puts workers and clients at risk.

“In phase two, we barely had aprons – some workers had none – and only low-grade gloves and masks. We aren’t even given enough aprons to protect our clothing from the usual bodily spills and keep safe from other infections, let alone protect us from Omicron.”

Tarsh says workers are “incredibly frustrated and burnt out” by the situation.

“We work hard in the community to keep clients in their own homes and out of hospitals. These are the same hospitals that are filling up with Covid cases and are under increasing pressure.

“We need a supply of proper, full PPE and RATs, enough for a couple of weeks, couriered out to all workers so we can test at home to make sure we’re still ok to go to work.

“We’ve run out of time to keep emailing our providers and MPs, begging for full PPE to protect us.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the care in the community that this group of workers provides is essential, not optional care.

“It’s things like showering and toileting, wound care, and monitoring medication – essential in making sure people get their basic needs met each day.”

She says the requirements to receive full PPE are flawed, as workers don’t have access to it when clients are isolating or when support workers notice symptoms, only once they’ve tested positive for Covid. But by then, it’s too late.

“This method of eligibility and distribution puts workers at risk because it’s simply too slow. We believe all support workers should have access to all appropriate PPE including N95s for each client at this stage of the outbreak.”

PSA assistant national secretary, Melissa Woolley asks the Ministry of Health to immediately supply workers with N95 masks, face shields, nitrile gloves, and other PPE to stop Covid-19 spreading to their clients.

“Currently, workers are caring for a mix of people with Covid-19 and those without. They need to keep themselves safe so they can continue to provide these essential services and they must ensure they are not the cause of an outbreak.

“Workers also need extra time in their rosters to safely don and doff their PPE and pick up supplies.”

Currently, workers are only provided with one week’s supply of minimal PPE – which needs to be continually reordered – with some workers being required to drive to collect it, unpaid and in their own time.

E tū and PSA have written to health ministers outlining a host of issues workers face, including slow and limited PPE rollout, not having access to full PPE and N95 masks unless a client is confirmed positive, and no reliable supply of RAT tests.

“Government direction on these matters to providers and the Ministry of Health is needed urgently,” Ms Woolley says.

“The employers in the sector have advised us of ongoing issues getting access to PPE in a timely way. Their requests are not fully filled which leaves workers at risk or client care cancelled.” 

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354

Minimum Wage rise welcome and necessary to support low-wage workers

E tū says the Minimum Wage rise to $21.20 from 1 April is excellent news – an increase that’s much needed to make sure the wages of low-paid workers keep pace with inflation.

The 6 percent increase corresponds with the change to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 5.9 percent from the year ended December 2021.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the increase will benefit Aotearoa’s lowest-paid workers, including many essential workers who continue to provide vital services during the ongoing Covid crisis.

“The Minimum Wage has gone up in correspondence with inflation, which is great to see,” she says.

“It also recognises that we need to pay workers properly for the work they do. Essential work shouldn’t be, and doesn’t need to be, poorly paid.”

However, Annie says E tū will continue to push to see the Minimum Wage rate brought into line with the Living Wage rate of $22.75.

“We believe that this should be the minimum wage floor for all workers.”

The union is also actively campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements, which will establish standards across whole industry groupings, as well as the Government’s proposed social unemployment insurance scheme, to become law.

“The rise of the Minimum Wage is a great start. However, we know that to create truly decent working environments for all New Zealanders, we still need to go further.

“Implementing Fair Pay Agreements, along with a social unemployment insurance scheme, will lift working conditions to a standard not seen for decades in Aotearoa,” Annie says.

“To us, Decent Work means a decent income, a quality work environment, secure work, and room for workers’ voices at the table – all these initiatives will be invaluable in helping us to achieve better working lives for everyone in our communities.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Fifth strike for rest home workers over proposed cuts to pay and hours despite staffing shortage

Tension is growing at a Northland town’s only rest home, as union members prepare to strike again with management refusing to back down on plans to cut weekend rates and making fresh proposals to reduce hours for some, despite bringing in unvaccinated workers when the home was short staffed.

E tū members working at the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home in Kaitaia have been in negotiations for a new collective agreement since March.

However, the trust refuses to remove problematic clawbacks, including a proposal to reduce weekend allowance rates from $5 extra per hour to $12 for a whole shift, which for some would mean losing thousands from their annual income.

Several E tū members are now also facing a possible reduction in their overall hours. However, in the past fortnight, the employer brought in unvaccinated workers under exemption to fill staffing shortages – a move members say neither they nor the residents were notified about.

An E tū member, who doesn’t wish to be named, says morale at work is at an all-time low and the situation is getting worse.

“Members are unhappy – the whole picture is unhappy. This has just been ongoing and ongoing and ongoing. The collective needs to be sorted and it needs to be signed.

“We also want to see our hours secured. It’s ridiculous and makes no sense why they would suggest cuts to workers’ hours when we are so short staffed already.”

The member says they are also seriously concerned about the lack of training and supervision for new staff.

Annie Tothill, E tū spokesperson and organiser at the site, says she believes the current situation could have been avoided, had the trust offered a fair settlement of the members’ collective agreement.

“Staff turnover is already high, and when workers feel disrespected and undervalued, it inevitably affects their commitment and desire to stay.

“That’s why fair conditions and pay are so important to retain safe levels of staffing and quality care for residents.

“In our view, it defies all logic and morality to propose a reduction in some members’ hours, when the management claims there is a staffing shortage and was prepared to risk having staff who are not vaccinated caring for vulnerable and elderly residents.”

Annie says strike action was not a decision that was taken lightly, nor without regard for the vulnerable residents that E tū members care for.

“They feel this is their only option to defend their current terms and allowances. It’s a last resort.”

Members would welcome a meeting with the board of Claud Switzer Memorial Trust to raise their concerns, resolve the current impasse, and come to a fair agreement on the members’ collective agreement, she says.

E tū members are also calling on the community to support them: “We need them to back us up and tell the rest home to sort this out.”

E tū members will be striking outside Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home, 71 South Road, Kaitaia on Thursday 16 December and Friday 17 December from 7am to 9am.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934

Aged care workers: Safe staffing must be mandatory in 2022

Workers at aged care home and hospitals across Aotearoa New Zealand will take action at their workplaces and at Parliament this December in the fight to win mandatory safe staffing.

On 9 December, union members from E tū and NZNO, supported by national seniors network, Grey Power, plan to present a parliamentary petition and an open letter with almost 7000 signatures, calling for safe staffing levels to become mandatory across the sector.

Current staffing guidelines are voluntary only, implemented at the discretion of each aged care provider. They are also woefully outdated, having been drawn up nearly 20 years ago in 2005.

E tū Community Support Services Industry Council Convenor and aged care worker Marianne Bishop says workers feel incredibly stretched and frustrated due to low staffing numbers, and they aren’t able to provide the level of care they’d like – an issue that has only been compounded during the Covid crisis.

“We want to be able to provide quality care and have quality time with residents. It’s not enough to just ‘do what we have time to do’.

“We hate not being able to answer bells quickly and not being able to check on residents more regularly, because sometimes when we do get there, it’s too late,” she says.

“If we were an older person or not able to do things for ourselves, how would we feel – having to wait half an hour, or an hour? If that was a member of our whānau, how would we feel?”

Marianne says to win safe staffing, aged care workers need the support of the whole country.

Grey Power President Jan Pentecost says that the organisation is 100% behind the push for safe staffing.

“We absolutely support aged care workers in their fight to win mandatory safe staffing, quite simply because many of our members and their families rely on staffing levels to be safe.

“But for that to happen, there needs to be mandatory standards in place.”

E tū spokesperson Jody Anderson says aged care workers and unions want to see a law setting down the minimum staffing levels that an aged care home or hospital must have in place.

“Our members and the residents they care for simply cannot wait any longer for this. They have been asking and campaigning for this protective legislation for more than a decade,” she says.

“In the meantime, the care they are being asked to provide gets more complex as workers are treating residents with higher needs, all with the same number of staff – a number that’s often all too low as worker shortages and lack of staffing laws bite.”

“We need everyone – aged care workers, their whānau, the family members of those in care homes, and our communities – to join together to send a strong, clear message to our Government: we need safe staffing and we need it now.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Jody Anderson, 027 204 6370

Uber’s NZ tax gap estimated on heels of global taxation reform

Following a meeting of world leaders to finalise global rules on multinational tax avoidance, an alliance of groups has estimated that, in New Zealand alone, Uber avoided $6.4 to $12.8 million in corporate tax in the year 2020. 

The report from the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR), FIRST Union and E tū highlights how Uber employs a network of more than 50 Dutch shell companies and uses other tax havens, including Bermuda, Delaware and Singapore to shelter it from paying billions in tax across its global operations. 

“New Zealanders should be concerned about how multinationals like Uber, that rely so heavily on investments in public infrastructure like roads and hospitals, are blatantly shirking their tax obligations,” said CICTAR Principal Analyst Jason Ward. 

“Uber’s estimated tax gap of $6.4 to 12.8 million in 2020 is money that could have been spent staffing hospital wards or training apprentices. Instead, it was squirreled away in Uber’s billion-dollar Dutch tax shelter, which if unchallenged will allow the company to avoid billions in corporate tax as its operations continue to expand.” 

FIRST Union Strategic Project Coordinator Anita Rosentreter said the report highlights the dangerous impact of gig economy firms. 

“Uber’s business combines an exploitative labour model that robs workers of their rights with a global tax structure that robs the public purse of the tax revenue we all rely on to keep our society thriving,” said Rosentreter.  

E tū Director Kirsty McCully warned that if left unchallenged, the expansion of the gig economy would lead to even more workers losing out. 

“More and more app-based multinationals are popping up in Aotearoa and they all look to Uber to see what they can get away with,” said McCully. “We mustn’t let these corporations continue to short-change our country and get away with avoiding their responsibilities – whether to our country or to their workforce.” 

E tū and FIRST Union are taking legal action against Uber, seeking a declaration from the Employment Court that Uber’s workforce are employees rather than independent contractors.  

“This is a matter of principle and it is important to workers everywhere – a massive global corporation like Uber should not get away profiting by denying workers their rights,” said Rosentreter. 

“Businesses operating in New Zealand, as a minimum, must pay tax and respect our laws, like everyone else.” 

The report comes as 137 OECD/G20 countries and jurisdictions this month finalised the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, aiming to reform international taxation rules and ensure that multinational enterprises pay a fair share of tax wherever they operate. 

The report has been delivered to Ministers David Parker (Revenue), Stuart Nash (Economic Development) and Michael Wood (Workplace Relations). 

The full report can be found here

ENDS 

For more information, contact: 

Jason Ward | Principal Analyst, Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR) 

Email: [email protected] 
Mobile: +61 (0)488 190 457 

Anita Rosentreter | Strategic Project Coordinator – Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing, FIRST Union 

Email: [email protected] 
Mobile: +64 (0)21 626 094 

Kirsty McCully | Director – Member Led Organising, E tū 

Email: [email protected]  
Mobile: +64 (0)27 204 6354 

Labour keeps their Living Wage promise

E tū is thrilled that the Labour Government have kept their word on their election commitment to ensure cleaners, security guards, and caterers employed by contractors in the public service will be paid at least the Living Wage.

From 1 December, contracts procured by Government for those services will require the contractors to pay at least the Living Wage rate ($22.75).

Wages must also go up annually, in line with the New Zealand Labour Cost Index (LCI).

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says that the Living Wage is an important part of the Government’s wider programme to improve Aotearoa.

“The Government is demonstrating their commitment to social procurement, which E tū has been campaigning for,” Annie says.

“As both a direct and indirect employer of so many workers in Aotearoa, they have a responsibility to make sure that procurement decisions are made with the wider social impacts considered.

“It’s obvious that this is the right way forward – low wages and poverty create and exacerbate so many of the biggest challenges the Government faces.

“Getting more money into the pockets of the families that need it most is a no-brainer,” she says.

Annie adds that guaranteeing increases in line with the LCI is particularly encouraging.

“As the cost of living continuously rises, so must wages. A one-off pay increase is great, but pegging it to wage growth makes it more sustainable.

Annie says that the next big step the Government can take for low paid workers is to implement good Fair Pay Agreement legislation.

“Wages are just one part of the picture. Workers deserve better minimums across all sorts of areas, including training, meaningful contribution to workplace decision making, and health and safety.

“We are looking forward to the Government bringing their Fair Pay Agreement bill to its First Reading so that E tū members can let them know just how transformative this new system will be.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340