E tū calls on
the country’s national carrier to halt outsourcing in the wake of fresh cabin
crew redundancy proposals.
Air New Zealand announced its proposal to make around 385 cabin crew redundant
by December, as part of its plans to cut staff numbers further.
company is continuing to outsource work, retaining an agreement with a cabin
crew hire company in Shanghai.
An E tū member
who wishes to remain anonymous says the redundancy proposal is “devastating”
for crew, with the state of the industry wreaking havoc on their ability to
earn a living.
“Every time as
cabin crew, we think we are going to get a reprieve and get back to doing what
we love – we keep getting hit down.
lost 900 mid-to-long haul crew. We want to see Air New Zealand flourish and we
want to save New Zealand jobs. Our goal is to see the airline bounce back as
quickly as it can, so we can start getting our colleagues back,” they say.
ask why the [Shanghai] base is still going, and it is something we will be
trying to deal with through this process.”
Another E tū
member, also anonymous, says the situation seems like “a rollercoaster ride
that doesn’t seem to stop” and will inevitably create issues related to
personal and financial wellbeing, particularly for crew that have spent most of
their careers at Air New Zealand.
“Crew want to
be able to move forward. Some feel this isn’t about the company getting into
‘revive mode’, but rather like a race to the bottom – trying to get crew on
minimal salaries using the excuse of COVID-19.”
E tū head of
aviation, Savage, says while crew can see the damage COVID-19 has done to the
aviation sector, there is no operational reason for Air New Zealand to retain a
crew base in Shanghai.
base has always been about paying crew less and devaluing the role of cabin
crew. Outsourcing is a barrier to raising standards in aviation and it needs to
“When the work
comes back, it needs to come back to Auckland-based cabin crew,” he says.
company to focus on immediate labour costs, without taking into account the
bigger picture, is short-sighted and damaging to all aviation workers.”
Savage says the
airline and the jobs it provides are a vital piece of New Zealand’s
Government’s new approach to procurement – to help create jobs for those most
affected by COVID-19 – is something Air New Zealand needs to follow. Creating
skilled jobs and training the future generations of airline workers and cabin
crew is essential to our economy.”
information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074
E tū congratulates the Labour Party for saying yes to a
Living Wage for all contracted workers in government.
The Government currently pays the Living Wage to all workers in the public service. However, the new policy would see contractors, such as cleaners, security guards and caterers, now included.
It was announced by the party’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson, Andrew Little, and Economic Development spokesperson, Phil Twyford, at E tū in Auckland on Saturday.
E tū member Rose Kavapalu, who has worked for 15 years as a cleaner on just
above minimum wage, says she is so thankful to Labour for promising a Living
Wage for her and all cleaners in the sector.
“I’ll only have to work one job, and I’ll have more time to spend with
my family and my grandkids.
“With the Living Wage, I’ll be able to pay my debt – that’s why I had to
move in with my parents because I couldn’t afford [to live].”
Fellow E tū member and security guard Fa’atalatala Matamu says it was 12
years since her last pay rise, before the Government delivered the Living Wage
to all guards at the Ministry of Social Development from September 1.
“Before we were struggling, we had to work long hours. I’m humbled to
stand in front of you today and say ‘thank you, Labour’ for the pay rise.
“Now I’m able to pay off all my debts – as I had been taking loan after
loan, just to survive. Doing a job for so many years that wasn’t paid enough to
afford my own home – I’m [now] looking at that one as well.
“I’ll be able to save money, to help my grandkids who I haven’t been
able to spend much on, because of the low wage that we receive.”
E tū Assistant National Secretary and National Convenor of Living Wage Movement
Annie Newman says the policy has been “a long time coming” for thousands of
cleaners, security guards, and catering workers who currently live in poverty and
work excessive hours just to make ends meet.
“In the COVID-19 recovery, the economy needs workers purchasing goods and
services and that will only happen if they are paid a decent wage. Every dollar
our members earn goes straight back into the local economy and that’s good for
everyone,” she says.
“Finally, we are seeing a policy that values essential
workers who are ensuring the health and safety of the rest of us during these
“They are putting their lives on the line for us and should
be receiving a decent income that enables them to be full participants in
society – it’s only fair.”
Annie says the policy is a “real victory” for all the workers and the
communities that want to put an end to a low wage economy.
“Once the Government shows leadership in paying a Living Wage to all their workers, we know standards will shift in other sectors across the board.”
information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340
By John Ryall, former E tū Assistant National Secretary
obvious that if you are forced to have a day off sick you should be paid from
your employer what you would have normally received if you had worked on that
this has not always been the case and it has only been through an amendment to
the Holidays Act in 2003 that a separate right to sick leave of 5 days a year
was created and that this was to be paid at “relevant daily pay”.
people will realise though that 20 years before then the orderlies at
Wellington, Hutt and Silverstream Hospitals fought for the same right.
orderlies were then employed under the New Zealand Hospital Domestic Workers
Award, which up until 1979 awarded them 10 days sick leave per year to be paid
at ordinary pay.
orderlies worked six days a week and their sixth day always occurred on either
Saturday or Sunday at Wellington Hospital and at the other hospitals could
occur on any day of the week depending on the roster. They were required to work
the six days. If they were sick on any of their first five rostered days they
would be paid eight hours at their ordinary hourly rate and if they were sick
on their sixth day they would be paid nothing.
occasional grumble that they should be paid sick leave for all six days the
roster worked well.
Sick Leave Changes
In 1979 the
Hospital Boards agreed to a union claim to replace the Award sick leave clause
with another one that appeared in most employment agreements in the state
service. This gave the orderlies a more generous entitlement with an
accumulation of untaken sick leave up to 365 days.
more generous entitlement came with a catch. If you were a Monday to Friday
worker and were sick for a week then you were paid five days sick leave but
lost seven days from your entitlement.
(a) of the Award provided:
employee is granted leave of absence on account of sickness or injury not
arising out of and in the course of his employment he shall be entitled to full
pay according to the scale set out in the schedule hereunder.
14 (d) provided:
leave with full pay for each period allowed shall be reckoned in consecutive
days inclusive of Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays.
ink was even dry on the newly printed Award Wellington Hospital orderlies
started complaining about the non-payment of sick leave on their sixth shift,
which always occurred on either a Saturday or Sunday.
complaint was that if they were sick on a Friday and a Monday then the new
Award removed an entitlement of four days, but they were only paid sick leave
for two days rather than the three days for which they were arguing payment.
Wellington Hospital Personnel Manager wrote to the Wellington Hospital Board
Industrial Relations Manager Rino Tirikatene, who responded
Wellington Hospital conditionally require orderly staff to be permanently
engaged on a six day shift weekly roster then each one of those six working
days becomes applicable for sick leave with pay providing such staff have
genuine sick leave and an adequate number of days entitlement
Won’t Go Away
memo nothing was done and when I commenced work as an organiser in June 1982 the
sick leave issue was still bubbling away.
Wellington Hospital orderlies raised the issue again with the hospital
management in 1983 but were told that they didn’t have to work the sixth day if
they did not want to.
In 1984 the
power dynamic changed with the election of some new active Wellington Hospital
orderly delegates, who were not scared to take direct action to fix outstanding
A number of
strikes were held over the re-negotiation of the Award and despite the head
delegate Alan Wakefield being dismissed, the compulsory conference held to
determine the outcome of his dismissal also heard stories of the orderly’s sick
In July 1985
the Wellington Hospital Deputy Director of Administration agreed to part of the
claim. While the payment of sick leave for the sixth shift was not agreed, the
Wellington Hospital Board would not in future deduct this shift off the
orderly’s sick leave entitlement.
did not shut the issue down but gave it more steam.
1985 the Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union wrote to the Department of
Labour for their opinion on payment of sick leave for the sixth shift under the
NZ Hospital Domestic Workers Award. Their response supported the union view
that the orderlies should be paid.
Department of Labour opinion, which was circulated far and wide across the
Wellington Hospital Board workforce, shook the Board managers.
picking up on this state of affairs, proposed to the Wellington Hospital Board
that the union and board should urgently meet as a Disputes Committee, with an
agreed chair, put forward both sides in the dispute and allow the chair to
issue a decision which would not be appealable.
1985 the Board wrote to the union and agreed for a Disputes Committee Chair to
give advice to the parties but not to make a binding, non-appealable decision
on the matter.
The Board though
did agree that if any orderly was absent through illness on a Friday and a
Monday then in future they would be paid at ordinary rates of pay three sick
days and not two.
was taken back to the Wellington, Hutt and Silverstream Hospital orderlies and
was unanimously rejected. The demands had hardened up and there was going to be
no settlement without the payment of overtime when sick on the sixth day and
the orderlies threatened to go on strike unless their demands were met.
Wellington Hospital orderlies delegate Jock McMahon posed the key question:
we have to lose pay when we are sick? We are a hospital caring for sick people
and we should be paid for our sick leave the amount we would have earned if we
had not been sick. We don’t want to be forced back to work when we are sick
because we cannot afford to be off work.”
of strike action led to an early meeting of the Disputes Committee, under
Chairman Jim Newman, but no resolution was arrived at. After some delay the
chairman referred the matter to the Arbitration Court in June 1986.
Arbitration Court heard the case in October 1987 and sought to answer two
If a worker employed under the Award
is granted leave of absence due to sickness under clause 14 and if that worker
is required to work a six day week as a team of his or her employment, does the
employer have to pay sick pay for the sixth day?
If the answer to the question is yes,
is the amount the board has to pay defined as “full pay” under the same clause,
the amount the worker would have earned had he or she been working that day?
was represented by lawyer Sandra Moran. It was the first time I had seen Sandra
in action. She was relatively small, very well dressed and looked like she
would not hurt a fly. However, she had a steely tone to her voice that cut like
a rapier and her cross-examination was so ruthless the employer witnesses just
wanted to agree with everything she said in order to quickly depart the witness
took just less than two weeks to deliver its judgement in writing, affirming
that the orderlies were required to work a 48 hour week and when sick must be
paid “the monies he or she would have received had he/she performed his/her
normal work on his/her sixth day on the roster irrespective of the day of the
week on which the sixth day happens to fall.”
Turns to Other Workers
union focussed on organising around the six year’s backpay for the Wellington,
Hutt and Silverstream Hospital orderlies and other workers (such as a group of
Wellington Hospital cleaners who worked a six-day week), it also turned its
attention to other workers who were not receiving “full pay” when they were
sick. This included public hospital orderlies, cleaners and food service
workers who were sick on public holidays and weekends (where it was not their
sixth shift) both in Wellington and throughout the country.
of the Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union to extend the case beyond
the sixth-shift orderlies was not without controversy both within the Hotel and
Hospital Workers Federation and amongst other unions.
words of Wellington Hospital orderlies delegate Jock McMahon portrayed a simple
concept of sickness not automatically leading to a reduction in pay others saw
the concept as too radical and challenging, perhaps because of the potential
cost to the public health system of six-years backpay for tens of thousands of
health workers, including doctors and nurses.
Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Union returned to the Labour Court in
October 1988 on behalf of a weekend cleaner and a kitchenhand on a rotating
roster that included work on the weekends. Both these workers were paid
ordinary pay when sick on the weekends. They claimed that “full pay” included
their weekend penal rates and other allowances in addition to their ordinary
Castle, who had also heard the earlier case, said in his judgement that
extending the full pay argument beyond six-day workers was “inevitable” and
ruled that it was not proper to interpret “full pay” as anything else than the
“agreed contracted pay with the worker”.
newly created Area Health Boards and the hospital contractors refused to settle
the 1990 NZ Hospital and Area Health Boards Domestic Workers Award without the
elimination of the words “full pay” from the sick leave clause, the abolition
of the travel time clause and the removal of the union veto over the employment
of part-time workers.
writing on the wall for the fourth Labour Government and the National Party
already secretly drafting the Employment Contracts Act, the union conceded full
pay providing all members received hundreds of thousands of dollars in backpay
and the date for its removal was extended out to 26 August 1992, which
co-incidentally was the day after the expiry of the last national award.
workers had to wait another 11 years before the fifth Labour Government amended
the Holidays Act to allow for relevant daily pay rather than ordinary pay for
sick leave, the change would not have been possible unless the Wellington
Hospital orderlies had identified an injustice and fought for its removal.
E tū congratulates
the Labour Party for their tax policy, which will see the top two percent of income
earners and multinational corporations paying a fairer share.
A new top tax of
39% will kick in for every dollar earnt over $180,000, and the party has
committed to working with the OECD to find a solution to the issue of
multi-national corporations not paying their share of tax.
E tū National
Executive member and Senior Gardener at the University of Auckland, Jason Fell,
is pleased with the news.
“I’m very happy.
I think it’s a good start, and it’s about time!” Jason says.
“When you look
at how long it has been since any progressive tax changes, it’s clearly the
time for action. We need to slow down the inequality that hurts our communities
across the country.
“And if you’re
a person who earns over $180,000 and objects to paying a little bit more to
help your fellow New Zealanders, well that’s just a joke in itself.
taxation is the price that civilised communities pay for the opportunity to
remain civilised. I’m happy to pay my fair share, and I’m pleased that those at
the top will start paying a fairer share as well.”
E tū Assistant
National Secretary Annie Newman says that the Labour Party’s policy announcements
are off to a good start.
“A new public holiday
and a fairer tax system are both excellent policies for workers in New Zealand,”
“Our members in
the media and communications industries will be celebrating the international
cooperation to address the way that big digital platform owners, such as Google
and Facebook, skirt local tax obligations.
“We are looking
forward to more progressive policy from the Labour Party during this election campaign,
including a recommitment to the Living Wage, Fair Pay Agreements, and a strong
industrial relations policy that will improve the lives of working people their
information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340
The unions representing home care and support workers
have joined forces with the association for New Zealanders over 50,
launching a campaign to fix our country’s fragmented and failing home
Members of the Public Service
Association and E tū have this week begun holding nationwide meetings,
and have as a first step launched an online petition that calls on politicians across the political spectrum to take action.
campaign is called “They Deserve the Best”, and further actions will be
announced in coming weeks depending on Covid restrictions and the
response from politicians.
and support is publicly funded by DHBs, the Ministry of Health and ACC,
but provided by a web of for-profit companies and charitable NGOs.
The petition urges politicians to overhaul the home support system and commit to:
· Investing in home support services which enable high quality care and support for our most vulnerable, so people who need support services can continue to live with dignity in their own homes.
· Decent jobs for home support workers. This means permanent regular shifts like other health workers have, hours and income which don’t fluctuate all the time, a proper wage for travel time, and genuine access to breaks so our jobs can be safe.
Donna Wealleans is a Tauranga-based support worker and PSA union delegate. Last week she was only offered two hours of work.
“I can’t explain what’s going on, but it’s clear the system doesn’t work. Our union negotiated a guaranteed hours agreement that means I’ll still get paid enough for last week to get by, but it doesn’t make any sense that I would get so few hours while other colleagues are given almost more than they can handle,” she says.
“It’s one example among many of how broken this system is. The only thing that keeps me coming back to this work is how much I care about my clients. They need support workers to help them keep living in their own homes, and that’s what keeps us going.”
Support workers have prepared a series of videos in which they share their experiences of the job and discuss what could be done to improve their lives, and those of their clients.
These videos will be released in the coming days on the PSA and E tū Facebook pages.
Napier’s Tamara Baddeley has been a support worker for about 20 years, but the E tū union member struggles to achieve work-life balance with the demands of a difficult and undervalued profession.
time for change, and frankly it’s long overdue. We are essential health
workers and all we want is the respect and decent treatment that should
go with that,” she says.
“All through lockdown, support workers went house to house, often without the PPE we needed to keep us and our clients safe. We are sick and tired of being treated like we’re expendable, and it’s time for the Government who funds our work to step up and fix the problems with it.”
Roy Reid is President of Grey Power in his home turf of Golden Bay, and Treasurer of the national organisation.
Queen’s Service Medal recipient, his concerns about New Zealand’s home
support system are informed by conversations with the former support
worker who for years visited his wife at home for an hour every week.
“The same problems can directly impact on both support workers and their clients, some of whom are Grey Power members. I know of support workers who had to leave the job because they can’t tolerate the hurdles, hassles and injustices any more, and when that happens, a client can lose someone they’ve built a relationship with over many years,” he says.
“Our organisation is deeply worried by reports of home support clients having their hours cut. With some DHBs starting to propose significant overall budget cuts, we worry this could flow on to make life hard for the New Zealanders over 50 who rely on home support. It’s time to take a stand.”
John Ryall is the former Assistant National Secretary of E tū. This article was originally published in the Labour History Project Bulletin.
In my long experience as a union organiser I have met many memorable
people who became great leaders in their workplaces, in their communities and
in wider social movements.
Some of these leaders were active in the union for decades
and some of them for only a short time.
While I have fond memories of all of them, the ones that appeared
like comets in the night sky, shone brightly and then disappeared, have always
One of these people was a Wellington Hospital orderly
called Alan Wakefield.
I had been appointed as an organiser with the Wellington
Hotel and Hospital Workers Union in June 1982 and the largest site in my
organising patch was Wellington Hospital.
Wellington Hospital, along with three other public
hospitals in my patch (Porirua, Kenepuru and Paraparaumu Hospitals), were run
by the Wellington Hospital Board.
The Hotel and Hospital Workers Union had about 700 members
in these four hospitals working as food service workers, orderlies, security
workers and cleaners.
The Wellington Hospital orderlies were an interesting male-dominant
group who complained about everything, but unlike the female-dominant cleaners
and food service workers were reluctant to take collective action to get their
My first experience of them was of them moaning about why
they had to be in the same national award as the cleaners and food service
workers. They felt their jobs were more important and valuable than cleaning or
kitchen work and they would do better by themselves. Much of this was in
response to the equal pay settlement in the 1970s, where the female rates had
been removed affecting the historical relativities between cleaners,
kitchenhands and orderlies.
The day after I commenced employment with the Hotel and
Hospital Workers Union the then Prime Minister Muldoon imposed a wage freeze,
which lasted until his Government was defeated in June 1984. During this period
it was illegal to negotiate awards or other collective agreements that
increased pay rates.
The wage freeze did not mean that there were no workplace
disputes. The orderlies had issues about the interpretation of their current
award conditions and about their increasing workloads as the Wellington
Hospital Board tried to make savings by non-replacement of staff who left
In late 1984, with the incoming Labour Government’s removal
of the wage freeze, the union was gearing up to renegotiate the Hospital
Domestic Workers Award, which covered the Wellington Hospital orderlies.
I arranged meetings at the public hospitals in the
Wellington area (including the Hutt, Silverstream and Elderslea Hospitals) in
order to discuss the improvements that members wanted to make to the award
conditions. There was a separate paid meeting for the Wellington Hospital
orderlies, held by arrangement with the management at the shift changeover time
in the afternoon. Prior to the meeting I had discussed the importance of the
meeting with the workplace delegates and relied on them to ensure all of the 60
orderlies attended the meeting.
When I turned up the meeting there were only five members present,
including three who were elected delegates. To my disappointment the delegates
didn’t seem too concerned about the turnout saying that the Head Orderly
wouldn’t release members from their duties and they would simply relay any
information back to the members.
I continued the meeting, which was held in the orderlies
tea room, with the five members. Near the end of the meeting an orderly walked
into the tea room heading for the change area. He stopped and said “what’s
going on here?” I explained that this was a union meeting in preparation for
the union negotiating improvements to wage rates and working conditions. He
asked why he hadn’t been told of the meeting. I looked at the delegates and
said “never mind, you are here now, so let’s go back and quickly give you a
briefing on what is going on.”
At the end of the meeting I introduced myself to the new
orderly, whose name was Alan Wakefield. He had only commenced employment as an
orderly in July 1984 but was full of energy about the action that was needed to
improve the orderly wages and employment conditions.
I indicated to him that nothing was going to change unless
we developed some delegates who were able to excite the members about winning
better conditions. He had been a workplace delegate for the Drivers Union at a
previous job. He agreed with my assessment and said he would talk to others and
see what he could do.
A week later he phoned me to say that he had talked to the
members, held a meeting in the tea room and they had elected him as one of the
orderly delegates. He had a list of issues that the orderlies wanted to pursue
in the award negotiations, which were due to take place in Auckland in January
Alan and a number of other delegates from Wellington were
keen to attend the award negotiations in Auckland and so I arranged with the
union secretary for us to hire a van and to transport 8 delegates to Auckland,
who would be “observers” at the award negotiations.
The appearance of our 8 Wellington delegates was a shock to
the Hotel and Hospital Workers Federation National Secretary and award advocate
Russ Revell, who was not used to having a boisterous contingent of members in
the back row while he was politely advocating our position to the Hospital
Boards and contractors.
At that time the Government covered the accommodation costs
for the small number of union negotiators, who were called assessors, but not the
costs for observers. We made up for this by changing the rooms around and
doubling up on people in the rooms so that the observers had somewhere to sleep
and also smuggled them in a hotel breakfast.
What made it worse from Russ Revell’s perspective was that
our contingent at later negotiations became even bigger as the other observer
delegates from other parts of the country started pushing for more
representation from their own areas.
The award negotiations occurred after a three year wage
freeze and the 80 separate claims for improvements that the union put up to the
Hospital Boards and hospital contractors did not impress them, especially when
they thought there had been agreement between the central bodies of employers
and unions for a “compressed” wage round.
The Hospital Boards and hospital contractors argued that
because the award was “state-linked” and domestic workers in the state sector
were paid less than the rates in the existing 1982 award that a wage reduction
was in order. They followed this up with a demand that the union’s existing
role in having to give consent to the introduction of part-time work must be
removed. After two days the negotiations broke down.
I think the employers thought that they had the power to
get what they wanted and that the union would eventually rollover to their
demands without them having to offer any pay increase that was greater than the
tiny increases that were then then being applied in the core state sector.
Alan didn’t wait for the union to call meetings to consider
the outcome of the award negotiations. On his first day back at work he called
a meeting with the orderlies and they rejected the employer position. He phoned
me to report on the meeting and said the orderlies wanted to immediately put
24-hour bans on certain duties, including transporting dead bodies from the
wards to the mortuary.
I gave him advice and encouragement and told him to go
ahead and I would meet him at the hospital the next day.
By the time I arrived at the hospital the next day it was
all on. I was summoned into the Head Orderly’s office and asked whether the
union had given authority for the mortuary ban. I said that the ban was in line
with us seeking an award allowance for the transportation of dead bodies and
the action was a protest about the employers’ position.
They said they would not accept any bans unless notice was
delivered to them in writing from myself or the union secretary, Peter Cullen.
I said I was happy to do this.
The orderlies were excited about the action that was being
taken and were in favour of extending it. They had full confidence in Alan’s leadership
and felt proud of standing up for improved employment conditions.
Alan was always on the move taking up issues on behalf of
members and calling meetings when the response was not positive. The Head and
Deputy Head Orderlies had previously operated the department as if they were
running a slave ship and when the slave mutiny commenced they were not happy.
Any minor complaint about Alan was escalated to a major event and the
disciplinary meetings and warnings started running thick and fast.
They complained that Alan did not come into the Head
Orderly’s office for a quiet chat as the previous delegate had done and that
there were too many meetings. Alan was direct and whether you were the lowest
paid person in the hospital or the highest paid he would tell you what he
thought. Telling the Deputy Head Orderly to “shut up” when he was being
lectured about what he should nor should not be doing led to a warning for
verbal abuse. Another one followed near
the end of February 1985.
As the award dispute continued the orderlies implemented a
series of rolling bans on the keeping of records, the transfer of bodies to the
mortuary, the movement of supplies from the stores and the handling of dirty
linen and rubbish.
Alan played a prominent part in directing these activities
and made frequent appearances on the radio and other media outlets talking
about the dispute. The action at Wellington Hospital started spreading to other
parts of the region and the rest of the country.
The union’s intention was to place pressure on the hospital
management, but not to stop the operation of essential services.
During the middle of this action Wellington Hospital
management employed some students as temporary nurse aides. These workers were
not union members and had been employed specifically to do the work covered by
the bans. Tension arose with the orderlies and Alan, as the main delegate, was
right in the thick of it arguing that the strike breakers should be removed and
holding orderly meetings to get support for this demand.
One of these meetings ended with the orderlies walking off
the job for the rest of their shift causing chaos and confusion but leading to
the hospital management withdrawing the strike breakers.
Alan was also involved in trying to stop the hospital management
using volunteers to get around an orderly ban on the delivery of flowers to
wards. His discussion with the volunteers was resented by the management and
led to threats of further disciplinary action.
The Hospital Domestic Workers Award was finally settled on
6 March 1985 with a substantial wage increase and some improvements to
allowances, including the creation of a new allowance for the transportation of
dead bodies to the mortuary.
While the ratification of award settlements was not
required under the existing employment legislation, Alan and I both agreed that
a report back meeting and vote by the members was important.
Alan approached the Deputy Director of Administration John
Joyce about holding a paid stopwork meeting to discuss the award settlement and
some other issues about sick leave and weekend rostering. He agreed that a
meeting could be held on Friday 22 March 1985.
However, when Alan talked over the details with the Acting
Head Orderly an argument ensued over how the hospital would be staffed during
the half-hour paid meeting. The Acting Head Orderly insisted that in addition
to the Head and Deputy Head Orderly a further nine orderlies would need to
remain on duty to cover the 30 day-shift orderlies who were on duty on that
day. Alan argued that this was too many for a half-hour meeting and that the
orderlies would keep their pagers on in case of any emergencies.
The arguments over the relief staffing during the meeting
continued up to the time of the meeting, with no agreement. Alan was warned
that if the meeting went ahead without the nine orderlies remaining on duty he
would face disciplinary action.
With no agreement in place all of the orderlies went to the
Very wisely, at the commencement of the meeting Alan told
the orderlies of the arguments about the staffing levels and about the threat
that he could be dismissed if the meeting went ahead without the relief
staffing that the management required. He asked the orderlies whether they
wanted to go ahead with the meeting or for nine orderlies to go back to their
posts. The orderlies moved a resolution that given there was no agreement
reached on the relief staffing they would go ahead with the meeting involving
all union members.
At the end of the meeting Alan and another delegate, George
Kahu went to John Joyce’s office and met with him, the Acting Head Orderly and
the Hospital Personnel Manager. John Joyce asked Alan whether he had complied
with his instructions about the relief staff and when Alan replied that he had
not, Alan was dismissed.
Alan and the other delegate returned to the room where the
orderlies had remained following the meeting, and informed them of his
dismissal. The orderlies voted to strike until Alan was reinstated.
The orderlies strike went on for 11 days, the longest
strike of orderlies that I have ever been involved.
While the orderlies picketed the hospital and had support
from both the cleaners and the food service workers refusing to carry out their
duties and donating money to keep them fed, the hospital management was
organising staff and outside volunteers to carry out the orderly work and
running the line that Alan had been dismissed because of his alleged outrageous
behaviour and aggression towards other staff members.
While Hotel and Hospital Workers Union members at both
Porirua and Hutt Hospital took limited strike action to protest Alan’s
dismissal the nurses and other workers at Wellington Hospital were not
unionised in the same way as they are now and there was little support. The union
was looking for other options to get Alan and the orderlies back to work.
The then Minister of Labour, Stan Rodger, was approached by
the union and after much negotiation between the union and the Wellington
Hospital Board, he called a compulsory conference under the chairmanship of
Dunedin mediator Walter Grills, to enquire into all the circumstances of Alan’s
dismissal and decide whether the dismissal was justified.
The terms of reference, which had been agreed between the
parties and was confirmed in a formal Ministerial letter, stipulated that Alan
would be off-the-job on full pay during the compulsory conference and if he was
judged to be unjustifiably dismissed he would be immediately reinstated to his
position at the hospital. The terms of reference also gave the power for the
chair to make any other recommendations about relationships between delegates
and orderlies department management.
When the Wellington Hospital Board agreed to put Alan on
full pay during the period of the compulsory conference they must have been
confident that this would only be for a short period and that Alan’s dismissal
would be upheld.
The union and employer parties met with Walter Grills for
four days at the beginning of May 1985. The union argued that the compulsory
conference was not about the dismissal of an orderly but was about delegate
victimisation and the refusal of the Wellington Hospital Directorate to accept
independent union organisation at Wellington Hospital. The union presented
statements from 10 witnesses supporting Alan Wakefield and condemning the
approach of Wellington Hospital management towards union representatives.While
the Wellington Hospital Board was expecting a quick decision, Walter Grills did
not send out his written decision until 18 October 1985. By this time Alan had
been off work on full pay for nearly eight months.
The decision of the compulsory conference was that Alan
Wakefield had been unjustifiably dismissed because as a union delegate he was
merely carrying out the instructions of his members in going ahead with a union
meeting without leaving on the appropriate level of relief staff. If he was
dismissed as a result of carrying out his duty as a union delegate, under
instruction from his members, then he would have been discriminated against
because of his union position.
The decision though came with a backhanded slap to the
union about allowing strike action without the union’s general secretary being
involved, about not pursuing arbitration in resolving disputes in essential
services rather than resorting to strike action and indicating that if the
Wellington Hospital Board had sought damages against the union, they would have
However, none of this mattered as Alan Wakefield had been
reinstated. While the Wellington Hospital management were appalled at the
reinstatement, the orderlies assembled outside the hospital and carried Alan
back into work on their shoulders, accompanying him to the Head Orderly’s
office to sign in for work.
Alan had not enjoyed being off work for eight months as he
was a very active type. Orderlies need to be fit because their job requires
walking for long distances every day. When he came back to work it was not
quite the same.
While he had been off work another orderly, Jock McMahon,
had stepped forward to take over the delegate’s role. Jock was just as staunch
as Alan but had a longer trade union history and had the negotiation and
leadership skills to match it. Alan recognised his able replacement and stepped
down as the delegate
Alan worked at the hospital for another couple of months
and then quietly resigned.
The comet had shone brightly, the role of the union and its delegates had been reinforced and those who followed were in a far better position than if the light in the sky had never appeared.
E tū is pleased with the Prime
Minister’s announcement today that the Government is looking to directly employ
any new security guards needed at managed isolation and quarantine facilities
and guards will be paid at least the Living Wage.
Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says it is
great news and very important.
“So many guards are doing really hard
mahi through the COVID-19 crisis, and we need to be paid a wage that reflects
that,” Rosey says.
“We’ve had to go above and beyond, doing
extra duties and quickly reacting to the changing situation. We’re doing really
important work that’s a big part of keeping the community safe at the moment.”
Rosey gets paid the Living Wage at one
of her sites and says it has significantly improved her life.
“I now have a savings account. I can
afford the things that my son and I need. I’ve been able to reduce my hours, so
I can have more family time, rest, and even a social life!”
E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie
Newman says it shows the Government is finally honouring the Living Wage
promise that all three Government parties made in the 2017 election campaign.
“E tū members have kept the pressure on
to make sure the Government pay the Living Wage to all workers in the core
public sector like cleaners and security guards,” Annie says.
“Just last month, the Government
delivered the Living Wage for guards at the Ministry of Social Development. We
now need to see the Living Wage in all government contracts.
“Throughout the crisis, we’ve been
constantly reminded just how important and often difficult these jobs are.
Higher wages lead to healthier and more vibrant communities. It makes perfect
sense for the Living Wage to be an important factor in the COVID-19 response
For more information or comment
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340
Auckland is now in Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country in Alert Level 2 until 11:59pm on Wednesday 27 August.
While we can be pleased that the current outbreak hasn’t made a full Level 4
lockdown necessary, these heightened alert levels still create a massive
disruption for many. There is already renewed pressure on some E tū members’
jobs and many more are dealing with difficult changes at the workplace.
The most important thing to do right now is follow the public health advice.
You should always get the most accurate information from th COVID-19 website: www.covid19.govt.nz
We’re compiling as much information for E tū members as possible about how
the current situation affects different workplaces. Keep an eye on www.etu.nz/covid19 for regular updates.
Today, the Prime Minister announced her decision to delay the General
Election until 17 October. For E tū, this means four extra weeks to make sure
we are getting everyone enrolled to vote, engaged with election issues, and
ready to elect a government that prioritises workers and our communities.
Senior E tū staff will be doing a Facebook live
update and Q&A tonight at 8pm, all about the latest developments