Author: E tū

E tū ready to initiate first Fair Pay Agreements

The Fair Pay Agreements Bill is finally about to become law, as it gets its Third Reading in Parliament later this afternoon.

Fair Pay Agreements will set minimum standards for pay and conditions across entire industries, making it one of the most transformative changes for workers in Aotearoa New Zealand in decades.

E tū members and supporters made over 1,000 unique submissions on the bill, and the final text reflects what is needed for a great new system.

The private sector union has been campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements since 2017 and is prioritising the security and cleaning industries to be first in line for a Fair Pay Agreement.

Rosey Ngakopu, a Wellington-based security guard and E tū member leader, couldn’t be happier with the development.

“I’m super excited,” Rosey says. “It’s been a long journey. Now it’s about getting cleaners and security guards to sign on and sign up. Then we can really win the pay and conditions we know we deserve. Yippee!

“My message to all security guards and cleaners in Aotearoa is don’t wait – sign up for our Fair Pay Agreements today.”

E tū Team Leader, Sarah Thompson, says the union is excited about this opportunity.

“Workers across Aotearoa New Zealand are taking this opportunity to create better lives for ourselves, our families, our communities, and future generations,” she says.

“Winning a Fair Pay Agreement will mean better pay and standard conditions for everyone in our industries.

“At a time with huge cost of living pressures, this will be huge for some of the most vulnerable workers in Aotearoa, especially the essential workers who kept us going during the pandemic.”

Security guards and cleaners can now sign up to initiate their Fair Pay Agreements at www.etu.nz/signfpa

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sarah Thompson, 027 591 0024

Rosey and Sarah will both be available for media around Parliament at the time of the Third Reading.

Uber drivers win employment rights in historic court case

New Zealand Uber drivers have won employment rights, with an historic ruling against the multi-billion dollar global giant arriving the morning after Labour Day.

Following similar examples in the UK and France, New Zealand’s Employment Court today found that four current and former Uber drivers were employees, not independent contractors, in a case jointly taken by and E tū and FIRST Union.

The judgment , which sought a declaration of employment status for the four drivers, found that “Each of the plaintiff drivers was in an employment relationship when carrying out driving work for Uber and is entitled to a declaration of status accordingly”, noting that while such a declaration attaches only to the individual applicants of the case, “… it may well have broader impact, particularly where, as here, there is apparent uniformity in the way in which the companies operate, and the framework under which drivers are engaged.”

“This is a landmark legal decision not just for Aotearoa but also internationally – what a way to finish Labour weekend!” said Anita Rosentreter, FIRST Union strategic project coordinator.

“Uber has bullied its way into cities all over the world with a deliberate strategy of breaking the law and exploiting drivers – that ends here in Aotearoa today.”

The case was filed in July 2021 and heard in the Employment Court in Wellington by Chief Judge Christina Inglis in 2022.

The unions representing the drivers sought a declaration that they were employees and therefore entitled to the rights and protections under New Zealand employment law, including the minimum wage, guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick leave, KiwiSaver contributions, the right to challenge an unfair dismissal, and the right to unionise and collectively bargain.

The four driver witnesses in the case were Julian Ang, Mea’ole Keil, Nureddin Abdurahman, and Praful “Bill” Rama. Mr Rama said, “Finally, there is justice for Uber drivers. This will mean drivers will have a say, not just be subject to the control of Uber.”

“We are employees. It’s not a question of what we signed or what Uber says we are. The Court has looked at the reality of our relationship with Uber and said that drivers are employees.”

Ms Rosentreter said that in light of the verdict, FIRST Union was now accepting Uber drivers as members and would immediately move to initiate collective bargaining with the company.

The union is also acting on behalf of drivers to claim backpay for wages, holiday pay and other entitlements from Uber.

“Anyone who has driven for Uber – even if they no longer do so now – is encouraged to enquire with the union,” said Ms Rosentreter.

There are more than 7,000 Uber drivers in New Zealand, but the misclassification of workers is increasingly common in other industries too, like construction and care work.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh said the decision has wide-reaching implications.

“The stakes here are high – no industry is safe from being absorbed into the gig economy and, without decisions like this one, decent work is out of reach for gig workers who have little or no rights and protections,” said Ms Mackintosh.

“We’re even seeing gig work for the heroes of the Covid pandemic – many home support workers are now only able to pay their bills if someone swipes right.”

The decision comes as the Government is set to announce a crack-down on worker misclassification, out of its Better Protections for Contractors workstream. Ms Rosentreter said, “The Government should carefully consider the application of this case to other instances of worker misclassification as well. Uber has taken this practice to new extremes, but they are by no means the only company engaging in it.”

“Over the past 30 years, we have seen an erosion of fundamental work rights, but we now have an opportunity to make things right. Future generations of workers are counting on us.”

CLICK HERE for a video produced by FIRST Union and E tū,  featuring some of the Uber drivers who took this case as they the implications of the verdict.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Anita Rosentreter, Strategic Project Coordinator, FIRST Union
Email: anita.rosentreter@firstunion.org.nz, Mobile: +64 (0)21 626 094

Rachel Mackintosh, Support Director, E tū
Email:  rachel.mackintosh@etu.nz, Mobile: +64 (0)27 543 7943

Praful ‘Bill’ Rama, Uber driver
Email:  billdograma@gmail.com, Phone: +64 (0)21 882 230

Packaging workers prepare for second joint mass strike

Packaging workers from different companies are joining collective forces again to send a strong message to their employers to offer them a decent wage increase.

On Friday morning, some 200 workers from Visy Board, Charta Packaging, and Opal Kiwi Packaging are striking again, with a picket outside Opal’s company premises in South Auckland.

The workers produce cardboard boxes that many popular items such as food, beverages, and homecare products are packaged in.

Members’ ask remains consistent: a pay increase to cover their rising living costs, as many work between 60-70 hours per week to get by.

Visy Board and Charta Packaging members also want to see their overtime rates kick in after 40 hours, rather than 50 hours as is currently the case.

E tū Visy Board Delegate Manu Filimoekava says there has been no change in the company’s offer after the workers’ first joint picket on Monday, and members are getting upset.

“They need to give us an answer. The situation hasn’t changed,” he says.

Manu says members are prepared to strike until the company comes back with an acceptable offer.

E tū Team Leader Amy Hansen says members at the companies are fighting hard for change.

“Members need to see movement on decent pay and conditions to improve their lives and those of their families.

“For Visy and Charta members, they also need to see overtime paid from 40 hours to be fairly compensated for their work.

“A pay increase, combined with overtime rates that kick in earlier, will mean these workers will be able to participate more in their family and community lives without having to worry about how to pay next week’s rent.”

E tū Visy Board (Wiri), Charta Packaging, and Opal Kiwi Packaging members will strike and picket on Friday 9 September outside Opal Kiwi Packaging premises.

WHEN: Friday 9 September
WHERE: 239 Cavendish Drive, Papatoetoe, Auckland
TIME: 7am-12pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Amy Hansen, 022 183 1339
(Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging)
Alvy Tata, 027 594 1900 (Opal Kiwi Packaging)

Packaging workers come together for decent pay strike

Workers in the packaging industry are banding together to send a strong message to their employers to come to the table with a decent wage increase.

Around 200 workers from Visy Board, Charta Packaging and Opal Kiwi Packaging will be striking on Monday morning, with a picket outside Visy’s company premises in Wiri.

Members are asking for a decent pay rise to help combat inflation, as many work between 60 and 70 hours per week to simply to survive.

Visy Board and Charta Packaging members also want to see overtime rates kick in after 40 hours, rather than 50 hours as is the case now.

E tū Visy Board Delegate Manu Filimoekava says members are getting more frustrated and upset as time goes on, with many having been at the company for as long as 10 to 25 years.

“At the end of the day, they’re asking the company to give us a fair pay increase. We need to meet the rising cost of living,” he says.

“Straight away, the company also declined our request to have overtime rates start at 40 hours per week.”

An E tū Delegate from Opal Kiwi Packaging says members are all standing for the same thing.

“We all believe in good wages, good results, good terms and conditions – and that’s what we’re fighting for. We need to stand up for our rights.”

E tū Team Leader Amy Hansen says members still can’t accept Visy’s current offer.

“The cost of living is huge and any offer less than that is going backwards.

“Members need to be able to spend time with their families, which is only possible if they are paid more so they don’t have to work as many hours to survive financially,” she says.

“The company also hasn’t moved on its overtime conditions, with overtime pay still only starting once workers have done more than 50 hours per week, which is unacceptable to members.”

Amy says that, like Opal, Visy and Charta Packaging are also major players in the packaging industry, which sets a standard for pay and conditions across the sector.

“This is why members are fighting for decent pay and conditions that will change their lives for the better.”

E tū Visy Board (Wiri) and Charta Packaging members will strike and picket on Monday 5 September outside Visy premises, supported by members from Opal Kiwi Packaging.

WHEN: Monday 5 September
WHERE: 235 Roscommon Road, Wiri, Auckland
TIME: 7am-12pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Amy Hansen, 022 183 1339
(Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging)
Alvy Tata, 027 594 1900 (Opal Kiwi Packaging)

More packaging workers take strike action to see move to decent pay

Members at another major paper packaging manufacturer are taking strike action to win decent wages with no clawbacks.

Up to 90 members at Opal Kiwi Packaging in Auckland are striking and picketing on Friday to move wage negotiations along in their latest round of bargaining for a new collective agreement.

Members have also been on an overtime ban since the beginning of August, which is significant, considering many do regular overtime and rely on it to make ends meet.

Around 80 other members at sites in Hastings and Christchurch are supporting their Auckland-based colleagues by also doing their own overtime bans.

An E tū Delegate at Opal in Auckland says many workers are doing 60 to 70 hours per week to get by.

“It just goes to show that working that many hours every week, obviously wages are not high enough. If the hourly rate was reasonable, we wouldn’t be working those hours.

“That’s why we are standing together. It’s about having a good income to take home to our families, to enjoy a bit of life, rather than just filling our cupboards and our freezers,” they say.

“We need a fair increase that accommodates everybody’s everyday expenses in life, in a way that they can provide for their families without struggling all the time.”

E tū Organiser Alvy Tata says members want a decent pay increase that keeps up with the cost of living.

“Workers shouldn’t be reliant on working overtime to get by. The company has offered less than CPI, which is a wage cut in real terms.

“It has also said that if members want more pay, they need to effectively fund it themselves by pushing up the threshold for overtime rates.”

Alvy says members have been working long overtime hours for more than a decade.

“That’s really what the issue is – workers need to do overtime just to cover their living costs,” she says.

“Our members want a decent pay increase with no clawbacks, and they will keep fighting until they get it.”

Opal members will be striking and picketing outside their company premises on Friday morning.

WHEN: Friday 2 September
WHERE: 239 Cavendish Drive, Papatoetoe, Auckland
TIME: 7am-12pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Alvy Tata, 027 594 1900

Living Wage increase big part of the decent work picture

E tū welcomes the Living Wage rising to $23.65 per hour, the new rate for 2022/23.

From Thursday 1 September, all accredited Living Wage Employers are required to pay their workers – directly employed or contracted – a minimum of $23.65 per hour.

E tū member and cleaner at Auckland Council, Josephine Wiredu, says the Living Wage has made a massive difference for her.

“It has stopped me from working long hours – no more weekend jobs, no more stress and fatigue. I am able to look after my wellbeing and spend more quality time with family, especially my two young daughters.”

Josephine says it also means the family is able to go out “once in a while” and to start saving.  

However, the Living Wage is just the first step. Fair Pay Agreements will also help to improve conditions for workers like Josephine, in the cleaning sector.

“It will stop the race to the bottom and get the rest of the cleaners all over New Zealand to be on the Living Wage like me. It will also mean better health and safety for us cleaners,” she says.

“Upskilling and training is very important for us to get better lives, and we are also doing this for the next generation of workers.”

E tū Transformational Campaigns Director, Mat Danaher, says that decent wages are a huge part of winning truly decent work.

“There’s no question that wages are one of the chief concerns for people when they think about the need to improve things at work,” Mat says.

“Paying at least the Living Wage is one huge part of the picture. However, it’s not the whole story. Workers also need proper health and safety, access to training and career progression, job security, real input into decision making at work, and more.

“That’s why E tū is a strong supporter of Fair Pay Agreements – it’s about looking at wages and conditions across the board and making sure that workers are getting a fair go in all parts of their employment agreements.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519

Support worker wellbeing report exposes huge psychosocial impacts during pandemic

A report into the wellbeing of home support workers during the Covid-19 pandemic calls for urgent measures to address workers’ concerns.

On Wednesday, researchers from AUT led by Associate Professor Katherine Ravenswood and union representatives from E tū and PSA, who collaborated on the report, will meet with Minister of Health, Andrew Little, to seek commitments to take crucial action on its recommendations.

The Wellbeing of Community Support Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic is unique in that the research was conducted not only by the AUT researchers but also by home support workers themselves, who were trained to interview their peers.

The research, funded by the Health Research Council, reveals the huge psychosocial and physical impacts on workers, due to their isolation, marginalisation, insecure working conditions, financial stress, and poor communication from employers.

“Most people think all we do is make cups of tea and do housework. But I am showering my clients, changing dressings – things that require me to be very up close and personal,” one support worker says.

“Yet we had no masks, no gloves, or aprons. In those early days I spent a lot of time crying in my car.”

Many workers said they felt a sense of insecurity about their work hours, if they could continue to work, and whether they would retain their incomes.

“I was in one of the vulnerable groups, and we didn’t know whether to continue work or to stay home or whether I will be financially supported or not.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says decades of systemic undervaluation of this mostly-women workforce has had a profound effect on their individual and collective wellbeing.

“The reflections in the report are honest and cut to the heart. There is no mistaking the stresses these low-paid women workers felt, or the brave actions they took to protect vulnerable clients.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the research shows, where they could, workers consistently went the extra mile to make sure clients were protected and gaps in care were filled.

“There are lessons not only about the Covid-19 pandemic, but about how this group of workers has ended up so forgotten and unrecognised despite the enormous importance of their work, and about what can be done to change this.”  

The report’s recommendations include upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, introducing wellbeing centred employment practices to reduce issues like isolation and financial insecurity, recognising workers’ contribution and expertise, and developing a well-resourced sector to sustainably deliver care and support services. 

The report will be delivered to Parliament on Tuesday 30 August and presented to the Minister of Health on Wednesday 31 August.

“Struggling” Airbus engineers stand tall for better pay to protect industry

Aircraft engineers who work for Airbus, servicing New Zealand military aircraft, are continuing their strike action in an effort to secure decent wages now and for future aircraft workers.

More than 100 engineers working for the company out of Woodbourne in Marlborough and Ohakea in the Manawatū have been on strike for around six weeks, and last week filed notices for another two-week strike period.

Members’ ask is simple: a pay rise to keep up with inflation.

Their strike has meant not travelling to other work sites away from Woodbourne and Ohakea, no shift work, overtime, or doing work that’s outside their job description or that changes their current work patterns.

Alongside servicing civilian aircraft, the bulk of the work Airbus engineers do is for the country’s air and defence forces.

An E tū member, who does not wish to be named, says members feel their wages are falling behind with the rising cost of living, with many of the company’s engineers struggling to get by on what they earn.

“A lot of younger people with mortgages are really starting to hurt, on top of groceries, power, and other things. The pay rise we’re asking for is just so that we can afford to live.”

The strike action is also about addressing the attrition in the industry – where it was once seen as being highly skilled and highly paid, new workers are not coming into replace those who are retiring, they say.

“A lot of these guys are highly skilled with years of training and experience, and they not being valued.

“Airbus doesn’t seem to worry as they leave, but there’s not an endless supply of aircraft engineers. So, while this strike is about being able to afford to pay the bills, it’s also about retaining and attracting future workers.”

Their pay also needs to take into account the huge level of responsibility and stress that goes with the job, they say.

“There’s enormous pressure on you to ensure everything is done absolutely right, every time – to the point you could end up in court, or people may die as a result of mistakes.”

Another E tū member, also anonymous, says they’ve heard of members who are working second jobs to get by, and their partners as well.

“The guys with families are facing horrendous expenses, and those on single incomes are struggling too. I know of one who is having to sell off assets to make ends meet.

“The main thing that’s really driven this strike action is the company’s blatant disregard for its workers. It talks about people being its greatest asset, yet it’s not willing to reduce profit returns to shareholders to fund a pay increase, while its workers struggle.”

E tū Aviation Organiser Damon Rongotaua says New Zealand needs to recognise the value of its aircraft technicians and pay them accordingly if it wants to maintain a viable aviation industry.

“The engineers at Airbus are a vital part of our national defence and civil aviation infrastructure, as well as part of the Marlborough economy.

Depending on the type of maintenance work they are doing, engineers at Airbus can be paid significantly less per hour than engineers at other aviation companies doing the same type of work, Damon says.

“Members are driven and determined to improve pay for workers both now and in the future. From Aotearoa, they are leading the charge in terms of taking industrial action against Airbus.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Damon Rongotaua, 027 591 0010

First strike in 25 years for packaging workers fighting for decent pay

More than 100 workers from two Auckland packaging companies are taking strike action to secure a decent pay rise and fair compensation for overtime.

E tū members from Visy Board New Zealand in Wiri and Charta Packaging – both owned by the Visy – are wanting to see at least a 10% increase on their regular pay in a one-year deal.

Members, whose usual work hours are 50 hours a week and with most working over this amount, also want to see overtime payments start before clocking the 50-hour mark.

E tū Delegate Reaaz Ali, who has been at Visy Board for more than 15 years and works six days a week on a 12-hour shift, says Visy workers want to see be treated fairly and with respect.

“Members want fairness from this big, multi-million-dollar company and to be acknowledged and respected for their work. We spend 90% of our time working – especially those of us on night shift, we hardly spend time with our families.

“We have kids, and we don’t see them – only in the mornings before they leave for school or at weekends,” he says.

“We don’t want to be doing these long hours, but if we don’t then we will struggle. We feel we don’t have a choice, and it’s killing our health as well.”

Another E tū Delegate, Manu Filimoekava, has been at Visy Board for 25 years and says it’s the first time workers at the company have taken strike action in that time.

“We are doing long hours to survive. I work around 64 hours up to 70 hours a week. We’ve got no time with family, no time with friends, no happy hour. It’s no life.”

E tū Organiser for Visy Board and Charta members, Ines Mitgutsch, says workers at the company are getting a poor deal in comparison to those who work for competitors.

“From my perspective, workers at Visy work some of the longest hours per week in the packaging industry.

“When overtime pay doesn’t kick in after 40 hours and there aren’t many allowances, it all adds up to conditions our members are now determined to improve.

“If they had higher base pay and received overtime for time worked above 40 hours, this would make a huge difference,” she says.

“The company needs to pay its workers fairly and come to the table with a decent offer.”

E tū members from Visy Board Wiri and Charta Packaging will be striking for 24 hours from 3.30am on Wednesday 24 August.

There will be a picket on Wednesday 24 August outside Visy Board, 235 Roscommon Rd, Wiri, Auckland from 5am-11am.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Ines Mitgutsch, 021 348 265