Author: E tū

Budget 2023: E tū welcomes investment in our futures

E tū welcomes the 2023 Budget, which includes significant improvements for Kiwi families, as well as welcome developments for people working in some E tū industries.

Highlights of the Budget include cheaper childcare, ongoing reduced public transport fares for children and young people, removing prescription costs, more money for new public housing, and a significant investment in repairing and improving infrastructure.

The Budget also includes updated forecasts by Treasury, with the welcome news that we are no longer expecting a recession.

E tū is particularly pleased to see initiatives for workers such as the extension of the Apprenticeship Boost Program, funding to settle the historic underpayment of holiday pay in DHBs, and money allocated for pay increases for primary and community care workers.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Rachel Mackintosh, says that an early analysis of the Budget shows that the Government have got a lot right.

“We will be carefully analysing Budget 2023 over the coming days to best understand how our members and our communities are affected,” Rachel says.

“However, looking at the headline figures, it’s clear that the Government have taken the challenge of balancing the books against economic headwinds and have still managed to invest significant resources in improving lives for everyday people.”

Rachel says that E tū will be keen to see money allocated to wages in the health workforce go towards pay equity for community care workers.

“Our members in aged care and community support are overdue a pay rise that recognises the value of their important work.

“The Equal Pay Settlement in 2017 saw these workers’ pay go up significantly, but we have reached the end of those pay rises. With the cost-of-living pressures mounting and a growing demand on these services, our frontline care and support workers need much better wages.”

Rachel says the commitment to climate change mitigation is also welcomed, and that the Government must continue the Just Transition approach to ensure workers and their communities do not bear the full brunt of changes.

“Solving climate change is the essential challenge of our times, and our members in affected industries understand this – finding well paid and meaningful work for people in a climate-friendly future has to remain a priority.

“Overall, we applaud the Government for being able to continue investment in our communities while carefully managing macroeconomic settings. We are looking forward to seeing the policies that political parties take to the election in October.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

Workers need income insurance now

The biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, E tū, is concerned by the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme (NZIIS) will be delayed indefinitely.

The announcement was part of the new Prime Minister’s policy reprioritisation, stating that the policy will not be considered again this term, nor until the economy improves significantly.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says the union is disappointed in this development.

“This is not good news for New Zealand’s workers,” Annie says.

“The New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme should be a policy priority as we face a possible recession and other huge changes in the job market.

“The Prime Minister has told Aotearoa that he’s squarely focused on the cost of living for Kiwis. NZIIS should be a key part of that plan, as job losses are often devastating for family budgets.

“Many other countries have highly successful unemployment insurance schemes as part of their welfare systems. New Zealand is behind the 8-ball here.”

However, the union is pleased that the minimum wage will be increased to keep up with inflation.

“Many of our members are on or near the minimum wage, and $1.50 per hour is a significant increase for them. It will take some of the sting out of the rising costs across the economy.

“Increasing the minimum wage by anything less than inflation would have seen minimum wage workers effectively have their pay cut in real terms. While this is an adequate increase, we do know that workers really need the Living Wage if they are to live a decent life.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman – 027 204 63
40

Stuff union members take strike action over pay offer

Journalists at the larger Stuff newsrooms across Aotearoa have voted to take strike action starting this week, to push for a decent pay rise in their new collective agreement.

The E tū members will take several two-hour strikes this week, including today, and members have also voted for a 24-hour stoppage at a time to be determined next week.

Stuff members have voted to reject the company’s pay offer and to continue to seek a deal that addresses cost of living increases this year. Members’ concerns centre on paying their rent, mortgages, paying their bills, and being able to afford family life.

E tū delegate and Wellington-based Stuff journalist Tom Hunt says the members don’t feel valued.

“The company’s behaviour has been an insult to the journalists it claims to be so proud of,” Tom says.

“Journalists have shared heart-breaking stories of how low pay is affecting them. We are hearing of one having to eat baked beans three nights a week and having to hold off on having children because they cannot afford it.

“Nobody got into journalism to get rich, but they expect to be able to cover the basic costs of living. Staff are leaving in huge numbers for better paying jobs. Those still here are getting increasingly angry and frustrated with a company that seems not to care.

“The increase we are asking for is only to match the cost of living increases – we will still be no better off in real terms.”

E tū organiser Michael Gilchrist says while Stuff has agreed to establish a stepped pay scale for members with annual progression through the steps, this will only be a significant improvement if cost of living increases are also addressed.

“The benefit of what we’ve negotiated so far depends on ensuring that members’ pay is not continually eroded by inflation,” he says.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Michael Gilchrist,
021 586 195

Members will take part in rallies in Auckland, Hamilton, and Wellington on Wednesday 30 November from 3-3:30pm.

Blog: Four Years is just the start if Tiwai Point closes

By Craig Renney, CTU economist

Reports prepared for Invercargill City Council don’t usually make the news. But when they attempt to understand the possible impact of the closure of Tiwai Point, heightened media interest[1] is understandable. The report[2] highlights the outsized importance of the site to the local economy and community. More than 2,000 people rely on the plant for direct employment or as part of its supply chain.

The good news according to the report is that should the plant close in 2024, it would not have the catastrophic economic impact that many might worry about. The report itself says that the jobs losses could be ‘absorbed’ within just four years. The authors in their evidence to the council reportedly suggested that it could be even quicker than that “based on the way things are at the moment it might be one to two years because things are running that hot”.

If it were that straightforward it would be a great outcome. But sadly, the closure of Tiwai Point would likely create an impact that would be felt for more than one generation. The optimistic analysis above is based on the loss of 2,264 jobs being replaced by the 620 jobs currently being created in manufacturing and construction a year in Southland. The loss of Tiwai would almost certainly reduce the number of jobs being created in the region – meaning those replacement jobs just wouldn’t be there.

The report also shows that around 97% of the jobs at Tiwai would be lost in Invercargill. Southland is a big place – so do we really think that jobs being created in Te Anau are replacements for jobs lost in Invercargill 155km away? It’s much more likely that the jobs being lost would have a devastating local effect on Invercargill, while employment created in Gore would make little if any real impact.

The report also misses one of the biggest impacts that major job loss has on local areas – which is on wages. When workers lose their jobs, the next job they get is often paid less as it is not a great match for their skills, or comparable wages aren’t available. In the economics trade, we call this ‘wage scarring’. Wages at Tiwai are high – and often much higher than that available outside. The scale of that wage scarring when 2,264 people are suddenly chasing every available job would be enormous.

Two other assumptions that drive the four-year replacement forecast are worth unpicking more. The report uses jobs being created in manufacturing and construction as substitutes for the jobs being lost at the Tiwai site. In reality, there are likely to be significant differences in the skills needed in these jobs – ‘manufacturing and construction’ is a really broad part of the economy. This means that the workers from Tiwai wouldn’t easily slot into these jobs. That is likely to slow the transition into employment for newly unemployed workers.

The second assumption inherent in that four-year projection is that the closure wouldn’t have any spillover effects on the local economy. Significant local job losses are often associated with the loss of jobs in sectors not directly associated with the industry being closed. The loss of a big factory harms local shops. On local restaurants. These second-round effects are particularly pronounced when the employment loss is geographically concentrated, which would be the case at Tiwai. It wouldn’t just be 2,264 local jobs being lost – it would be many many more.

This isn’t to criticise the authors of the report – it’s just that way too much weight is being put on analysis that isn’t designed for that purpose. What we shouldn’t do is relax. Whether Tiwai Point stays or goes, there is much work to be done to make sure that Invercargill and the Southland economy have a positive future.

We should use the time that Tiwai is still here to build the high-wage, high-skill economy needed outside of the smelter. The more high-quality jobs that are here, the lower the impact of closure would be. We should be getting alongside the workforce and unions at Tiwai, ensuring that workers have the skills that will be needed whenever the site closes. We should be ensuring that the site is cleaned for future use, using a local workforce. That would be truly delivering a ‘just transition’ for that community.    

Much of that work is going on right now. Everyone from the Southland Just Transitions Project, Murihiku Regeneration, to Ngāi Tahu is working together to tackle the issues of when Tiwai Point finally closes. But instead of thinking that this is a problem that can be solved between Rugby World Cups, we should instead be delivering a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economic plan for Tiwai for the next thirty years.


[1] https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/130468535/economist-smelter-closure-impact-would-be-far-less-pronounced

[2] https://api.whatsoninvers.nz/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Infometrics-LTP-report.pdf

Ovato redundancies highlight need for income insurance

Over 100 workers have lost their jobs and are set to be out of pocket, as Auckland printing company Ovato goes into liquidation.

Ovato NZ announced its closure earlier this year. However, outstanding debts to IRD mean that workers may only end up receiving the statutory cap of $25,480, no matter how much they are owed.

Workers have outstanding wages, leave, and notice payments owed to them. There is also a claim for unpaid wages from the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says that workers are really feeling the pressure.

“Through no fault of their own, Ovato’s workers are faced with the prospect of losing money that is rightfully theirs,” says Joe.

“It’s hard enough to make ends meet during this cost of living crisis. Without money that they’ve already earned, things are looking really tough for these workers.

“Ovato should be pulling out all stops to make sure that their workers are looked after properly, first and foremost. The workers have kept the company going for all these years – the company must pay out in full.”

Joe says that this insecurity shows why the proposed New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme is so important.

“It’s not fair that workers are bearing the full brunt of this development. People can have the best redundancy provisions in the world, but it doesn’t mean much if there isn’t the money to pay it out.

“Instead, E tū strongly supports the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme (NZIIS), so that there is a universal mechanism to make sure workers have enough money to make ends meet when faced with job insecurity.

“It might be too late for the workers at Ovato, but we need to make sure the NZIIS is developed and implemented as quickly as possible to reduce workers facing such hardships in the future.”

ENDS

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

E tū to National: Don’t cut health funding!

E tū is appalled to hear this morning that National Party leader Christopher Luxon has reneged on a commitment to keep health and education funding at least in line with inflation.

Despite recent assurances, Luxon told the AM Show this morning under a National government, increases may fall behind inflation after all.

The back track has sent shockwaves through the health community, with many worrying that National will cut funding when and where it is needed most. Theatre orderly at Middlemore Hospital, Taatahi Phillips, says the pressures in the health system are already having a huge impact at his workplace.

“We are losing more and more staff, and we have another three nurses leaving our team in the next two weeks,” Taatahi says.

“It means we have to cover and do work that we might not have specialist training in.”

However, Taatahi says that while there are many reasons for the current pressures in the health system, there have been real improvements in the sector under the Labour Government.

“We still have a way to go, but we have had seen a massive pay increase under Labour. The old regime was broken, and they are fixing it. Labour might be getting the blame because everyone wants problems fixed tomorrow, but we are in a lot better position than we were.

“We are finally starting to see the positives of the new money that has been invested in the new health system. It might still be in the teething stage, but it is real progress.”

Taatahi says that he and his colleagues are very worried about what a National government would mean for the sector.

“We really do dread what will happen if National gets in. If we start going backwards again, well, I don’t know what to say. My daughter says ‘Dad, come over to Australia’. Any more cuts will just make the brain drain worse.

“People forget that under National last time, we actually had pay freezes. National took away everything. I was there, I know how bare the money was. Christopher Luxon will do no good for the country. He will make it worse.”

Taatahi says it’s not just a lack of funding that worries him about National.

“Take the Māori Health Authority. A lot of people of my generation know what it was like to feel like second-class citizens in our own country. Labour is finally doing something about this, and Luxon wants to undo it all – this just will not work!”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says Luxon’s comments today are just one example of the National Party not understanding the reality of challenges in health funding.

“We actually need more than just keeping up with inflation in health funding, given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the much-needed improvements to health infrastructure, and the changing demographics in our population,” Annie says.

“To indicate that funding won’t even keep up with inflation is just astounding and will amount to cuts to the health system in real terms.

“The final insult is that National’s gutting of the health system will be to pay for a wildly irresponsible tax cut plan, that will give top earners tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Annie says there is a common theme of the National Party opposing anything that will help the people who need it most.

“Luxon’s National Party opposes minimum wage increases, Fair Pay Agreements, the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, the Cost of Living Payment, and many more Government initiatives designed to help working families get ahead.

“The contrast could not be clearer.”

International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security: E tū highlights Fair Pay Agreements

Today is International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security – a day marked around the world by affiliates of UNI Global, the international union body for the service industries.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, E tū is celebrating our campaign to win Fair Pay Agreements for some of our lowest paid workers, including cleaners and security guards. The Fair Pay Agreements Bill is currently before Select Committee, and E tū members and supporters made over 1,000 written submissions in support of the bill.

While all submitters told their own story, some clear themes came through. Submitters were particularly concerned about low wages, the cost of living, health and safety, workplace stress, safe staffing levels, a lack of respect at work, hours of work, and the ‘race to the bottom’ which sees companies using low wages to stay competitive.

An E tū delegation also made an oral submission to the Select Committee on Monday. E tū member and security guard, Lavinia Kafoa, described why essential workers like her deserved better pay and conditions through Fair Pay Agreements.

“Security workers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, enabling the public to stay safe,” Lavinia said.

“We ask that we are paid fairly for the important role that we play in society. We have been given the support of the public and been thanked for the work that we do, but unfortunately this does not pay the bills.

“I hope that Fair Pay Agreements give the opportunity to earn liveable incomes for security guards in Aotearoa.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says the whole world is watching.

“We are proud to have the support of UNI Global and other international union bodies as we work to win great Fair Pay Agreement legislation,” Annie says.

Just last week, the ILO gave Fair Pay Agreements a big green light, dismissing a vexatious complaint from a New Zealand business representative. The international employment relations community recognises the importance of sectoral bargaining, and we are thrilled that it will finally return to Aotearoa.”

ENDS

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

Fair Pay Agreements win big at the ILO

E tū is celebrating the conclusion reached by the Committee on the Application of Standards at the International Labour Conference, after a tenuous case against Fair Pay Agreements raised by Business New Zealand has been effectively dismissed.

BusinessNZ took the complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), claiming that Fair Pay Agreements would undermine ILO Convention 98, which protects the right to organise and bargain collectively.

Instead of agreeing with BusinessNZ’s position, the Committee simply asked the Government to keep working with the social partners while developing the legislation, essentially giving Fair Pay Agreements the ILO seal of approval.

Of particular note was representatives from across the world standing up to commend Fair Pay Agreements and condemn BusinessNZ for wasting the ILO’s time. President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Michele O’Neil, explained how inappropriate the case was.

“In New Zealand’s case, employers will only have to bargain in good faith and agreements will be struck. Arbitration only kicks in to ensure vulnerable workers are protected. Which makes it all the more shocking that what appears to be a blatantly political and without merit case has been presented to this Committee. When this Committee has such a competing list of extreme cases of standards being breached in many cases with life and death consequences,” Michele told the Conference.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says she is pleased by the conclusion, but isn’t surprised.

“It was always clear that BusinessNZ’s case wasn’t going to get anywhere, as sectoral bargaining is a common feature in workplace relations systems across the world,” Annie says.

“Fair Pay Agreements will allow some of our most vulnerable workers to have a real opportunity to improve pay and conditions that have been kept so low for so long. Of course, the ILO is going to see the merits in that.”

Annie says it’s time for BusinessNZ to apologise for their actions and to start engaging with Fair Pay Agreements in good faith.

“This frivolous complaint has been a key focus of BusinessNZ’s campaign to misinform people about Fair Pay Agreements. Just a few weeks ago, they published an edited version of a UN document to imply that their complaint had put New Zealand on a “worst case breaches” list – an utter misrepresentation.

“BusinessNZ leaders owe Kiwis and the ILO an apology for this embarrassing stunt.”

E tū members and supporters have made over 1,000 written submissions on the Fair Pay Agreements Bill, explaining exactly why this new mechanism is needed. An E tū delegation will be making their oral submission to the Select Committee on Monday afternoon in Auckland.

ENDS

Photo attached: E tū members celebrating the First Reading of the Fair Pay Agreements Bill

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 0272046340

E tū oral submission on the Fair Pay Agreements Bill
Monday 13 June, 1:00pm – 1:15pm
Hunterville Room, Ellerslie Event Centre, Auckland Race Course
Please contact Sarah Thompson for more details: 027 591 0024

Workers rejoice as Fair Pay Agreement Bill gets First Reading

The First Reading of the Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) Bill in Parliament today has been met by applause from low-paid workers across the country.

The bill will enable workers and their unions to negotiate minimum pay and conditions with their employers, which will then become minimum standards for the whole industry.

E tū member and security guard, Kajal Mani, is thrilled.

“As a young mother and a security guard, I am very excited to have Fair Pay Agreements here in Aotearoa,” Kajal says.

“It will mean better work conditions to keep me safe, to return home to my young family. It will mean fair wages so that I don’t have to work long hours, which supports holistic health and wellbeing for all.

“FPAs will also mean equality for all workers and effective partnership between unions and good employers to stop the race to the bottom.”

E tū member and cleaner, Madeleine Natua, agrees.

“Introducing Fair Pay Agreements will help a lot the lowest paid workers and our families, as it will set a benchmark in improving our terms and conditions to stop the race to the bottom,” Madeleine says.

“For so long, 30 years or so, New Zealand has been a low wage economy. Fair Pay Agreements will help lift Aotearoa to a high wage economy, and when workers are paid more, they will feel valued and appreciated.

“Long term, this will help lift hard working Kiwis, their whanau, and their communities out of poverty, which will also benefit everyone, including local businesses.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says that the Fair Pay Agreements Bill gets right to the heart of the issues facing workers like Kajal and Madeleine.

“Today is an exciting and historic day for Aotearoa,” Annie says.

“The Fair Pay Agreements Bill sets out a comprehensive framework for finally getting some of our lowest paid and most vulnerable workers the respect and dignity they deserve at their jobs.

“It means more time with family, more money for food, rent, and other expenses, better access to health and safety, better training, and much more.

“It gives workers and employers the flexibility to negotiate fair minimum standards properly and means that good employers won’t be undercut by cowboys, who win contracts by giving their workers the lowest possible wages and conditions.

“Along with commitments to the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, the Living Wage, and a Just Transition, Fair Pay Agreements show that this Government really is transformational.”

ENDS

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