Author: E tū

Homecare strike: not so ‘Happy New Year’ for Lifewise homecare workers

It’s not a very ‘Happy New Year’ for Lifewise homecare workers, who will go on strike for at least the next three full days unless the Lifewise Trust is prepared to settle a fair collective agreement. 

Homecare workers at Lifewise provide care and support to our elders and people with disabilities for the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB). The care workers have been in negotiations with their employer for more than a year and a half.

The workers want to see commitments to deal with their guaranteed hours of work, the lack of which is keeping some of them on the poverty line. They are also calling for improved leave, which their employer previously agreed to and then reneged on.

“Lifewise does a lot of good work in the community and they say they stand for social justice, but there’s a double standard at Lifewise when their own workforce of homecare workers can’t afford to live decent lives,” says care worker and E tū delegate Helen Taufa.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says this is an issue of equity for the largely women and Pasifika workforce.

“These women cannot live on their incomes, and the inadequate conditions at Lifewise contribute to the disadvantage that these Pasifika women experience,” Kirsty says.

“It’s one example of a much wider problem. The Human Rights Commission has recently launched an inquiry into the pay gap for Pasifika women and E tū has invited the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo to meet with Lifewise homecare members and hear their experiences.

“It’s a shame to have to call out an organisation which otherwise does good work, but Lifewise, if it truly supports justice for the community, should get its own house in order first and stop contributing to these societal issues of poverty and inequality,” Kirsty says.

“Lifewise is a part of the Methodist church, and as such we feel it should be above disrespecting its homecare workforce in this way.”

Homecare workers will picket at the Lifewise Trust’s CBD offices at 385 Queen Street from 7:15-9:30am on Tuesday 5 January, and their strike action will continue in the following days. They will be joined by members of the Pasifika community, including Cook Island drummers.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354, [email protected]

New collective for aged care workers

E tū members at Radius, BUPA, and Summerset have voted to accept the new collective agreement recently negotiated with their employers.

The new collective agreement is also endorsed by NZNO members.

It delivers:

  • pay rises to household staff,
  • continues the focus on care staff moving up the scales,
  • slowly, but steadily, improves pay and conditions. 

As more New Zealanders come to understand the critical work aged care workers do, E tū will be pushing employers to continue to make improvements around training and safe staffing in the new year.

Lifewise homecare workers: still striking for better conditions and pay

Home support workers are hoping their strike action on Friday will lead to positive change in conditions and culture for both support workers and their clients at their Auckland-based provider Lifewise.

Last year, the organisation agreed to increase sick leave and bereavement leave in a proposed collective agreement but then went back on their word.

Workers have also asked for their guaranteed hours to be increased, as for many the low number of weekly hours means a constant financial struggle and daily disruption.

A home support worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she thinks there is definitely “hope for a better deal”.

“We need more sick leave than we are given, and my hours are terrible. I’m signed up for work each day from 8am until around 3pm, five days a week, but I often finish the day having only done around 2.5 hours.”

“We really want [Lifewise’s] respect and I hope they’ll take notice of the reasons behind all our strikes.”

Another member says she feels the organisation doesn’t care about their workers.

“The low number of guaranteed hours is a constant strain for workers – there are always fewer hours work than our availability to work,” she says.

Many members felt they couldn’t afford to risk taking time off work to strike for better conditions, she says.

“I know of one worker who had jobs booked at 1pm and 6pm, but then there’s a big gap in-between. We’re just robots running around from A to B – there’s no consideration given to how we’ll get there or the gaps in our workdays.”

A Director at E tū, Kirsty McCully, says home support workers are desperate for better working conditions.

“The financial stress of having so few guaranteed hours means workers are even considering leaving the sector,” she says.

“They feel deeply disrespected, ignored, and undervalued by the organisation they work for, which is really upsetting, considering the absolutely vital role they play in making sure families and their communities can continue to function every day.”

Kirsty says anyone could find themselves in the situation of needing home support at some point in their lives.

“How would we feel knowing our home support workers were struggling to survive themselves, or had to come to work sick because they didn’t have enough sick leave left not to put us at risk?

“This is about our elderly and some of our most vulnerable who really need assistance to keep living in their own homes.

“If anything, we urgently need to rebuild better in the face of COVID-19. Lifewise, with their dedicated workforce, has a chance to do this right now.”

Lifewise workers will strike and picket on Friday 18 December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, from 7am to 11am.

ENDS

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

Lifewise home support workers put on pressure with continued strike action

Home support workers employed by Auckland-based provider Lifewise are continuing to strike for fair hours, more sick leave, and the terms of a much-needed collective agreement.

Workers have been on strike since Monday, in an effort to get the organisation to listen to their concerns and to action what was agreed to in bargaining sessions.

Before the COVID lockdown, Lifewise agreed to terms and conditions for a collective agreement, including more sick leave, which it then went back on, despite receiving full government funding for their homecare services during the heightened alert levels.

A home support worker and E tū member, who prefers not to be named, says being on the picket line on Monday has empowered workers and made them realise their issues are important.

“We want to keep going – we’re all on fire for what we need at Lifewise.

“I spoke to one of our homecare members on the picket line and she’s available for more than 30 hours of work but only gets around nine hours of work a week. For some of us, it’s a real struggle.

“We just can’t survive – we’re looking to leave the sector at a time when society needs home support workers the most.”

The key issues remain, including increasing the number and security of guaranteed hours and improving leave, such as sick leave.

Client representative Peter West says home support is a key service that has helped his elderly parents greatly.

“When my father had a stroke, he went into a private hospital for a while and he hated it – he just gave up the will to live,” Peter says.

“We brought him home for Christmas a year ago and he never went back [to the hospital], because we saw he came alive again. It’s because of the support of [Lifewise] people coming in and looking after their needs.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the issues Lifewise workers are bringing to the table are significant.

“Having enough hours to live on from week to week and enough sick leave to keep clients safe – these should be no less than basic rights for our essential workers.”

“The things these workers are seeking, speak to the needs of support workers in this critical, but vastly undervalued, sector.

Kirsty says we all rely on our home support workforce to keep our growing numbers of elderly and vulnerable safe and well in their homes, rather than needing residential care or hospitalisation.

“It’s better for our elderly, and it’s better for society, but we need to ensure the workers can live on their incomes and are treated with respect.”

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff agrees: “It’s pretty simple – Lifewise need to show some respect to the excellent homecare workers they employ.”

Lifewise home support workers will strike and picket on Wednesday 16 December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am to 11am. Strike notices have been issued until Friday 18 December.

ENDS

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

Lifewise workers strike for fair hours and sick leave

Workers at an Auckland home support provider will be striking this week, after talks to establish their first-ever collective agreement have failed.

On Monday, Lifewise workers will strike for certainty of hours, more sick leave, and respect from their employer, to be reflected in a collective agreement.

In bargaining sessions, the company agreed to increase sick and bereavement leave, as well as other benefits, but then went back on its word.

A Lifewise worker, who prefers not to be named, says the strike is about getting the collective agreement finalised, including the original terms and conditions Lifewise agreed to.

“Everybody’s just had enough of going through this – it’s been about a year and a half since we started bargaining the terms and conditions for our first collective.

“Now it’s about getting it on the table so we can get it finalised, and for the company to include the benefits they originally agreed to.”

Another worker, who remains anonymous, says the issue now is as much about the company’s integrity as the conditions themselves.

“It’s minimal, what we’re asking for. It’s frustrating for us as workers to have things like pay that is up and down, with no guarantee of hours and what we’ll earn every fortnight.

“The strike is a positive thing, so our voices are heard.”

E tū director Kirsty McCully says the organisation has a good reputation in the community, but workers are frustrated that this doesn’t match their experiences as employees.

“In a lengthy negotiation process, Lifewise has undermined bargaining by making offers and then withdrawing them,” she says.

“They are refusing to genuinely seek to resolve the core concern for workers – their ongoing security of hours and income. To these longstanding, dedicated homecare workers, many of whom have worked for Lifewise for 20 or 30 years, this has felt extremely disrespectful.”

Kirsty says sick leave is another key issue.

“Workers feel they don’t have enough sick leave to keep their clients safe, but these are essential frontline workers who put their clients first every day of the pandemic,” she says.

“Decent work means decent pay, hours, and enough sick leave, and we need to provide this for all workers, and not least of all, our essential workers.”

Lifewise workers will strike and picket on Monday 14December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, from 7am to 11am. Strike notices have been issued until Friday 18 December.

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

Bagel workers get organised!

Workers at hip bagel joint Best Ugly Bagels, owned by celebrity chef Al Brown, have written to the employer announcing they are E tū members and want to negotiate a collective agreement.

Best Ugly Bagels employs around 90 staff across six outlets in Auckland and Wellington, and provides bagels to cafes and restaurants across the country.

Around half the Auckland-based workers are signed up to the union already, and they are taking their union message to their Best Ugly Bagel colleagues around the country.

Best Ugly Bagel worker and delegate Thomas Carlyle knows that being in the union will improve things at work.

“My friends and I really like working at Best Ugly Bagels – it’s a good working environment,” Thomas says.

“A bunch of us were chatting and felt that by getting together in the union, we could work with senior management to make it an even better place to work.”

Fellow worker and delegate Ines Mitgutsch agrees: “For us, sticking together with our workmates makes us feel more confident when we challenge things that don’t seem right.”

E tū organiser Mat Danaher says there are many issues in the hospitality industry that unions can help to fix.

“In general, the hospitality industry is plagued by low pay, long hours, and exploitation of thousands of workers,” Mat says.

“Just like any industry, hospitality workers organising collectively in their union will help them to secure their basic rights, and give them a platform to win the things that will really improve their work conditions, such as the Living Wage and Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’re looking forward to building a constructive relationship with Best Ugly Bagels and helping them to become leaders as responsible employers in the hospitality space, hopefully leading the way for improvements in the wider hospitality industry as well.”

ENDS

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

Cleaners and security guards call for government action

E tū members in cleaning and security are meeting Government ministers this evening to ensure they will keep their promises to some of the lowest paid workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Members will be calling on the Government to prioritise the employment relations policies in the Labour Party 2020 Election Manifesto, including the implementation of Fair Pay Agreements, the extension of the Living Wage to all workers employed by government contractors, and extending Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act to security guards, giving them protection when contracts change hands.

Workers in both the cleaning and security industries face low wages and poor conditions due to long-standing problems with the contracting out of services and competitive tendering.

Fair Pay Agreements would set minimum standards that apply to whole industries, stopping the ‘race to the bottom’ to win contracts, and paying the Living Wage is necessary to allow people to live with dignity and participate fully in society.

Many of E tū’s cleaning and security members work in government buildings, meaning they are employed by the government, though indirectly. E tū members are calling on the Government to be a responsible employer by ensuring their lowest paid, hardworking, essential workers get a better deal.

Auckland cleaner Roruru Lulu Low is campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements because the competitive tendering process sees cleaners stuck on the minimum wage.

“Fair Pay Agreements are very important to us because in the cleaning industry there are so many different companies and they are always race to the bottom to get contracts at the lowest rate,” Lulu says.

“Even when the employers say they would like to pay more, they say they can’t because of the competition. This means it doesn’t matter how hard we fight, we never get more than the minimum wage.”

Wellington security guard Jayson Ormsby is calling for security guards to be included in Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.

“My workmates and I have families, rent, power and food bills to think about. Being shifted from site to site, contractor to contractor, is stressful,” Jayson says.

“We don’t need this uncertainty. To the Government – you can make a difference by changing Part 6A to add security guards. This would give us peace of mind.”

Auckland cleaner Malia Uiasele Tupola earns just over the minimum wage, and it is not enough to live on.

“We really need the Living Wage, because the price of everything is going up. We need to be able to afford the rent, pay the bills, and support our families,” Malia says.

“My dream is to buy my own house and to bring my 11-year-old son over from Tonga to go to school here.”

ENDS

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

Sick leave extension needed now

E tū is calling on the Government to bring forward their plans to double the minimum sick leave entitlement, after yesterday’s announcement that the change will likely be in place in mid-2021.

E tū members have been campaigning to increase the minimum leave from five to 10 days, including by supporting the political parties that campaigned on the change in the general election.

Wellington cleaner Malia Motusaga is thrilled that the Government has confirmed their plan to increase minimum sick leave.

“The extra five days will benefit me and my kids – now I know that if I get sick I can stay home, and if any of my kids or my husband are sick I can look after them, too. I feel really good about it,” Malia says.

“I always run out of sick leave. I use it all up when the kids get sick, so there’s nothing there for me. When I go off sick, I go on leave without pay. I will really appreciate those extra five days.

“I just want to say thank you to the Government – It means a lot to us workers, especially us that have families and young kids.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that while it is a great development, the Government should pass the law under urgency.

“This isn’t a complicated piece of legislation, or a new program, it’s mostly a case of changing the number ‘five’ to the number ‘10’ in legislation,” Annie says.

“We know the golden rule for a successful COVID-19 recovery: ‘Go hard and go early.’ This needs to extend to our most vulnerable workers now more than ever.

“Not giving workers enough time to look after themselves when they have any sickness, especially if they have COVID-19 symptoms, is a recipe for disaster. The Government have promised to do something great, but they must not do it too late.”

Annie says that sick leave legislation needs to be strengthened in other ways as well.

“Workers should be able to accumulate their leave for longer than the current statutory minimum of 20 days. E tū is calling for this to be extended to 25 days as a start.

“Sick leave also needs to be available to all workers immediately, not just after six months. Workers need to be able to take time off when they are sick no matter how long they have been with a particular employer.

“Without changing the eligibility, workers who begin their job after these changes become law wouldn’t get their ten days sick leave until 2022. Fixing the problem is simply more urgent than that.”

ENDS

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

Remembering the Air New Zealand Erebus crew and passengers with memorial service

E tū, the union for aviation workers, invites all Kiwis to join in the remembrance of the crew and passengers in Air New Zealand’s Erebus disaster by observing one-minute’s silence on Saturday.

On 28 November, as there is every year, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony and one-minute silence observed at 1.49pm to remember the crew of Air New Zealand TE901 who died 41 years ago on the slopes of Mt Erebus in Antarctica.

The one-minute silence marks the moment of impact, which occurred at 12.49pm NZST (1.49pm NZ Daylight Saving Time). Twenty crew members and 237 passengers lost their lives in the tragedy.

E tū Organiser Dayna Townsend says the day marks an event that is forever etched into the memory of New Zealanders.

“Today marks a day when our national airline, the nation, and the families of those aboard, suffered a great tragedy.

“The crew memorial gardens near Auckland Airport in Māngere are a focal point for remembrance, and the event is particularly poignant this year, as we consider the upheaval and thousands of job losses for aviation workers as a result of the pandemic.”

On the same day, E tū also remembers the five Kiwi aviation workers who died in 2008, when their Air New Zealand A320 crashed off the coast of Perpignan, France.

Labour MP Marja Lubeck, a former flight attendant, union president, and E tū Head of Aviation, will be attending on behalf of the Government.

Where: Auckland Airport Crew Memorial, Tom Pearce Drive, Māngere

Time: 1.30pm

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Dayna Townsend, 027 590 0070