Author: E tū

‘Do the right thing’ union says, after workers report reduced pay or annual leave requests

E tū says all employers in Aotearoa New Zealand must pay their workers 100% of their wages during the national lockdown period.

During the March 2020 lockdown and other elevated Alert Level periods, the union dealt with many cases where workers had to accept reduced pay or use their annual leave to get paid – even when employers were being supported by the Government’s wage subsidy.

E tū delegate Josephine Wiredu, a cleaner at Auckland’s City Council who normally works around 55 hours a week, was sent home from work on Tuesday night as the country prepared to go into lockdown.

She and her colleagues have been told not to come in during Alert Level 4, and don’t yet have any guarantees about whether they’ll receive their full wages during this time.

Josephine, who is paid at the Living Wage rate, says any drop in income would be a “big blow”.

“Our employer only paid the 80% last year during the second lockdown, as they were no longer eligible for the wage subsidy. But they paid this from their own pocket,” she says.

“They have applied for the wage subsidy again now, but we don’t know what will happen yet. At the same time, we still need to pay our bills no matter what, so the decision will affect our families.”

Another delegate and cleaner, who doesn’t wish to be named and also works at the council for a different contractor, says workers are fully entitled to be paid 100% of their wages.

“Nobody knew that lockdown would be happening again, and we don’t know how long it’s going to last. Lockdown doesn’t stop our rent or power money going out.

“We signed a contract with our employer, they must keep to it,” she says.

Last year, the cleaner, who usually works more than 60 hours a week, says she was forced to use savings when her income during lockdown dropped to around 70% of her usual pay.

She doesn’t know how her pay will be affected this time, but in her role as a supervisor, she’s already had to refuse a request from management asking her to get colleagues to sign a form agreeing to use their annual leave during this lockdown.

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says the union is also hearing from members in similar situations: being asked to take leave or agree to reduced pay.

“It is unacceptable that, through no fault of their own, some workers are having to bear the financial brunt of the lockdown.

“For someone on low pay, not being paid their full wages causes a financial crisis, because there’s no money to spare week to week.

“A cut in pay means not being able to pay rents, keep the lights on, and pay for essentials for kids. Sometimes it also means taking on high interest debt just to get by.”

Yvette says employers need to value the work their workers are doing – many of whom will be providing essential services as soon as the country is out of Alert Level 4.

“As soon as the alert levels drop, many other essential workers will be expected to be straight back to work – workers like cleaners who will expected to give everything a deep clean, so the rest of us feel safe going back to public spaces.

“We should be valuing this work by ensuring they are paid 100%, not just turning the tap off and on during alert level changes.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, 027 585 6120

Your work rights at Alert Level 4

You will have heard about the new COVID-19 cases in our community.

The Prime Minister has announced an Alert Level 4 lockdown, starting at 11.59pm last night for seven days in Auckland and Coromandel, and for three days everywhere else.

It is extremely important that we comply with official instructions. We know that Alert Level 4 means that we have to stay home to stay safe – click here to refresh your mind about the Alert Level 4 restrictions.

E tū has planned for any Alert Level increases. We are closely monitoring the latest developments and will make sure all E tū members are well informed and well represented as we get through this period.

In the meantime, here are some important things to keep in mind:

1. Do not sign any variations to your contract

Some employers may ask their workers to sign something that changes their employment conditions in response to Alert Level changes, such as agreeing to reduced pay. Do not sign this.

Instead, let them know that you will talk to your union first. Then contact your delegate, or E tū Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

2. You may only work during Alert Level 4 if you are an essential worker

Many E tū members are essential workers – we thank them for their hard work during this period. The rest of us need to stay home and stay safe.

There is a limited list of essential businesses that are able to operate under Alert Level 4. Your employer should be in touch if you are required to work your normal shift. If not, stay home.

3. You should not have to lose any pay or have to use your leave during lockdown

E tū’s position is that your boss has to pay you for your normal hours of work while we are in lockdown. They should not require you to use any of your leave.

The Government has set up various programmes to help your employer meet their costs, such as as the wage subsidy.

4. The union is here to help with any employment issues you have

E tū Support will be open for calls and emails during normal hours, even at Alert Level 4.

Get in touch with us for any advice or representation you may need regarding anything happening at your workplace.

Contact E tū Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

5. There are contingency plans for holding safe Biennial Membership Meetings online

You may be aware that our Biennial Membership Meetings (BMMs) are scheduled for September and October.

Although the current Alert Level increase does not affect any BMMs, we are prepared for the possibility than in-person meetings cannot go ahead.

We will communicate about this as we learn more, but we can be hopeful that BMMs may continue as scheduled.

6. Stay informed by following the official channels

The best and most accurate information about the COVID-19 response can always be found at www.covid19.govt.nz and by listening to the official announcements.

Look after your families and yourselves. Thank you for being an E tū member.

‘Just Transition’ plan essential as refinery closure vote passes

E tū strongly advocates for a Just Transition in the face of a shareholder vote in favour of closing the oil refinery to create an import-only terminal at Marsden Point.

Around 300 workers who are directly employed and several hundred contractors will likely lose their jobs or be affected when their workforce is downsized to just 60 workers, when the refinery becomes a storage facility for imported refined oil.

E tū organiser Annie Tothill says the situation at Marsden Point is similar to Taranaki and Tiwai and a Just Transition proposition is needed in this region.

“The vote by shareholders to close the refinery comes as a blow for a region where unemployment is already high. There’s also the flow-on effect to other local businesses and contractors, which will be significant.

“Marsden Point is facing the same issue as other towns built around manufacturing hubs, and there needs to be a plan to deal with any kind of transition,” she says.

Annie says the carbon footprint of importing refined oil, as well as the impact that closure will have on the country’s fuel security, are also important aspects to consider.

“If we are serious about securing a future for workers and our transition to a carbon-neutral society, then we absolutely need a Just Transition plan for Northland.

“It would require a commitment from shareholders, local and central Government to that transition plan, to manufacture alternative energies with a lower carbon footprint.”

Annie says local Government will also need to review the current resource consent as part of any future Just Transition proposal.

“The resource consent granted to Refining NZ in 2020 for a further 35 years does not seem to be in keeping with the goal of a carbon-neutral society.”

A final decision about the closure will be made by the board in September.

ENDS

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

Appointment of veteran unionist to Air NZ board “positive sign”

E tū, the largest union in Aotearoa New Zealand for aviation workers, welcomes Air New Zealand’s move to include a union voice in their latest round of board appointments.

The airline has appointed three new directors to its board, including veteran unionist Paul Goulter, who is currently the national secretary of New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and has many years of experience in commercial and union leadership roles, including as a director of the Co-operative Bank.

E tū head of aviation, Savage, says the addition of a union voice to the airline’s board is a positive sign.

“It signals to us that Air New Zealand is looking to rebuild better as the aviation industry slowly recovers.

“Two-thirds of its employees are union members, so collective agreements are central to the company’s success,” Savage says.

“The airline cannot function without ongoing engagement with its unionised employees.”

Savage says Paul’s appointment will build on the work that fellow unionist Ross Wilson did in his role as an advisor to the board up until now.

“There’s no doubt that the many redundancies and how they were handled have strained the company’s relationship with members during the past year.

“However, E tū members have collectively told the company they want to have a say in the airline’s rebuild.

“They want to see a commitment from the company to being a better employer and creating decent jobs.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

School cleaners beg management to step in and reverse inevitable redundancies

A group of essential workers at a South Auckland primary school are now struggling with their future after learning that they face redundancy from a job they’ve given their all to.

Around two weeks ago, the four contracted cleaners at Finlayson Park School, who have been working there for about six years and throughout the COVID-19 crisis, found out their employer’s cleaning contract had not been renewed and had been given to a franchisor instead.

But rather than rehire the existing cleaners, the franchisor has proposed to contract the work to a family-run franchisee.

The cleaners have pleaded with the school’s management to meet with them to hear their concerns.

They want the school to directly employ them at the Living Wage rate to do the job – a cost the Ministry of Education agreed to cover for all directly employed E tū members working as school caretakers, cleaners, and canteen staff back in 2019 – or for the franchisee to employ them to carry on the work.

“The school’s principal and the chairperson of the board of trustees didn’t want to talk to us or even listen to how we feel,” says one cleaner, Siatua Alani.

“We feel really hurt – betrayed, disrespected, and not valued. At least they could acknowledge the good work we have done for the school. It feels like they just don’t care – it feels like we are nothing to them.”

All the cleaners live locally, and many have also had children who have been through the school.

“We always used to go the extra mile as our kids went to school here, and in the past year we’ve been doing our bit to keep the school community safe as essential workers. Then we get treated this way,” says another cleaner, Lika Toleafoa.

“All we want to do is continue cleaning for the school.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says it’s a huge deal for the school cleaners to lose their jobs.

“Although they have been paid for the past week, there has been no work for these cleaners since the Friday before last.

“E tū has basically been told by the incoming franchisor via their consultation document, there will be no work for them in the future as this is carried out by franchisees,” Fala says.

“Living and working locally was a way for these essential, loyal yet low-paid workers to continue to survive financially, as well as having a strong sense of community and working for the greater good.

“The school’s management have control over who they choose to clean the school, and they’ve chosen to go with this franchisor, even though they knew that it would mean their old cleaners would likely lose their jobs.”

Fala says management needs to reconsider its decision, or request that their new contracted franchisee rehire the existing cleaners.

“There is absolutely no reason the school cannot employ the cleaners directly to do the job and at the Living Wage too – an expense that would be funded by the Ministry of Education. We are calling on the school to step up and do the right thing.”

“This situation highlights perfectly why Fair Pay Agreements are crucial to make sure all workers, including contractors, have minimum employment standards and conditions, and to stop employers’ ‘race to the bottom’.

The cleaners’ redundancy consultation ended on Friday 25 June.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332