Author: E tū

Air NZ chooses irreparable damage to workplace culture

E tū says that Air New Zealand’s effort to save money in an extreme response to the COVID-19 is doing irreparable damage to their workplace culture.

Air New Zealand’s latest response to the crisis includes shutting down the RML Nelson maintenance facility, refusing to bring back work currently being done in Singapore, and keeping workers and the public in the dark about worker exposure to the virus.

The proposal to close the Nelson maintenance facility, with the potential loss of up to 100 jobs, has been under consideration by Air New Zealand since mid-2019. They are using the COVID-19 situation to go ahead with a closure despite regional flying being the least affected of all their activities.

One affected member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that they were devastated when they heard the news.

“I had to take any plans I had made for the next 10 years and throw them in the rubbish. I took a considerable pay cut moving here, just so I could be a part of this great community.

“It’s not just the employees this affects. It’s also the partners and children that will all be torn from this community. I bought a house here, met my partner here, and have become a part of this community. I planned on spending the rest of my days walking on the beaches and in the forests of this great place. Now, I will be forced to chase work in bigger cities.”

Another anonymous member says that it is a big blow to the Nelson community.

“RML was set up by Air New Zealand to provide a more effective model of maintaining turboprop aircraft, which contributed to lower maintenance costs overall for the company. The growth of RML from Air Nelson has seen over 100 jobs being established in Nelson.

“It was a surprise to me that Air New Zealand have seemed to take a 180 turn on the reasons RML was set up. I am left feeling like Air New Zealand are trying to transfer the impact the virus is having in Christchurch to RML. It feels like we are being asked to accept this proposal under duress, and that it really has not been thought through.”

Another member said the timing of the decision was unfair.

“This will have a devastating effect on me and my family because there is no prospect of finding other work in Nelson. It is being done with very little notice, in a time of lock down due to COVID-19. I feel it is totally unfair to make these moves and make people redundant while the company takes government support.”

E tū aviation negotiation specialist, Paul Graham, says E tū challenged Air New Zealand in mid-March to support the regions and resist the temptation to close down regional operations.

“We called for them to keep RML heavy maintenance in Nelson open. They have ignored this call. They are increasingly blind to the human costs of their financial decisions,” Paul says.

“Air New Zealand are losing the respect of their employees and losing their status as a desired employer. Their behaviour towards their employees is increasingly heavy-handed.

“Air New Zealand’s reputation as a great carrier and good employer is one of the main reasons for their success. It seems they are choosing to throw that all away to maintain their cash reserves while they slash and burn jobs. This is despite receiving the wage subsidy and a substantial loan from the Government.

“Kiwis don’t want our national carrier behaving so badly. Our message to the company: do the right thing.”

E tū Head of Aviation, Savage, added that the secrecy around COVID-19 infections in the Air New Zealand workforce demonstrated their new approach.

“Their brand is more important than safety at the moment. There’s no transparency, little accountability, and they are quickly losing the faith of staff and the wider community.”

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Paul Graham, 027 204 6337
Savage, 027 590 0074

Disgust as OCS stops Vic Uni from topping up cleaner wages

OCS Limited NZ, the contractor for cleaning services at Victoria University, has refused an offer from the university to top up the wages of cleaners who are at home in lockdown.

University cleaners are doing their part for the community and staying home, with many only being paid 80% of their wages during the Alert Level 4 period. They earn just above the minimum wage, and paying bills and supporting families on these very low wages is already very hard. 

Victoria University cleaner and E tū delegate Henok Gebre says the news is disheartening for all of his workmates.

“Most of my colleagues are fathers and mothers who are the sole earners of their households and were already struggling to get by on minimum wage,” Henok says.

You can understand why learning that they are going to only earn 80% of their wages was really terrible news.

“With government subsidies factored in, OCS probably could have afforded to pay us 100% as it is. If you add in the university’s offer, they would have been more than capable of paying us 100%.

“It’s not too late – we’re urging OCS to reconsider their position and do the right thing.”

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says the company’s behaviour is appalling.

“As the country went into Alert Level 4 lockdown, Victoria University decided to do the decent and fair thing by offering funding to OCS to go towards paying the cleaners.  They know that their cleaners have it tough as it is,” Yvette says.

“However, OCS refused, citing some ambiguous reasons that don’t make any sense. It is totally ridiculous that they won’t accept the money and pass it on”.

“The money is there, and the workers desperately need it. A 20% pay cut, when you’re on the minimum wage is devastating. So a responsible employer would welcome this opportunity with open arms. To reject it is simply disgusting.”

Marlon Drake, student and former VUWSA President says the Victoria University student community support the cleaners.

“Cleaners aren’t just staff at university, they’re a part of our community. They’re the people keeping our campus safe. Every single one of our students knows this.

“We’re supposed to be kind to each other. The students know this, and clearly the university does too. Now is the time for OCS to do right by the cleaners, anything less is unacceptable.”

ENDS

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

Aged care funding “inadequate and lacks accountability”

Yesterday’s aged care funding boost announced to deal with COVID-19 will be a band aid solution unless safe staffing and comprehensive regulation are a part of the solution.

It is unclear what outcomes the Ministry of Health expect from the funding boost. The additional $26 million for residential aged care providers is part of the Government’s COVID-19 response after many on-going issues have become urgent in aged care following a series of resident deaths. These issues include understaffing and inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).

E tū member and residential aged care worker, Mary (not her real name), is really worried about the staffing levels at her facility.

“I do my best to care for them properly – my residents are an extension of my family. I’ve been caring for them for years. I have worked as a caregiver for nine years and over that time you get to really know and care for the residents,” Mary says.

“It is hard now to realise they are most at risk and that we may see some of them die as a result of COVID-19. Their families have entrusted them to us because they believe they will be in safe hands, but we don’t always have the staff numbers or safety processes to keep them safe.

“A number of staff have two jobs, and some have left my workplace entirely because they are paid and treated better during COVID-19 at a different job. This has left us short staffed. I completed 12-hour nightshift the another day because they were short staffed, but I can’t keep doing that.

Mary says the PPE issues need to be sorted immediately.

“PPE needs to be available and to be easily accessible – we deserve to feel safe at work. We need to feel safe and know we are able to keep residents we care for safe as well.”

E tū Director Sam Jones says the problems have been getting worse over time.

“In the last 10 – 15 years it’s become particularly bad,” Sam says.

“Chief amongst these problems is that staffing guidelines are not adequate in the sector. The only direction to providers are voluntary guidelines last issued in 2005 and the absolute minimums specified in the provider contracts with the DHBs and are long overdue for updating.

“Cleaning, laundry, and kitchen staff for example, remain on close to minimum wage levels for the important role they play in ensuring the safety and care outcomes in these facilities. Members can see that deaths of those they care for could be one of the consequences of years of understaffing and underfunding.”

Many of the issues were well documented in the 2019 report ‘In Safe Hands?’.

Union members are quoted in that report, pointing out the long-standing issues.

“Staff feel like they are providing a below par service. We work extra time for free and go home exhausted, some days crying as we didn’t manage to do everything,” one worker reported.

E tū is calling for:

  • the Ministry of Health PPE guidelines to be updated and clarified now with adequate supply to the workers.
  • an acknowledgement of the long-standing issues by the Government.
  • inspections and DHB audits of aged care facilities that include full worker participation.
  • a full enquiry into staffing beyond COVID-19 to ensure mandatory safe staffing. This could be done by expanding the scope of the Ombudsmen’s pending investigation into secure facilities.

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563

NZ Post update 16 April 2020

Bargaining update

E tū and PWUA officials have met by videoconference to finalise the terms of settlement for bargaining. We are planning to meet with the company again on Thursday 16 April.

Once the settlement is signed, we will contact our delegates to discuss ratification options. We are still waiting to see what kind of restrictions will be in place after/if the initial 4 week lockdown is finished. Once we all understand what we can and can’t do, we will be able to work out how to vote on the agreement in a way that is fair to all members.

Temperature checking

The company has approached us with a proposal to undergo temperature checks for people coming and going from NZ Post sites. This is to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. In principle we agreed with this proposal on the following grounds:

  1. That people sent home with a high temperature would be on special paid leave
  2. That the person carrying out the check would be competent
  3. That testing is voluntary for NZ Post direct employees
  4. That no-one is disadvantaged by the process

We are satisfied that these conditions have been met and Post would like to begin trials at the Porana Rd delivery site and Contract Logistics in Auckland. These will be reviewed, with feedback from the membership guiding any further implementation or changes needed.

It is important to note that temperature checking is not a perfectly accurate way of determining whether someone has COVID-19. It is just an extra precaution on top of all the other health and safety measures that everyone should be following to keep themselves and others safe.

Wage subsidy

NZ Post has confirmed that they intend to apply for the government wage subsidy to help pay workers during the lockdown and subsequent periods of restriction.

This will not affect the pay agreements already in place, nothing will change for you (your tax won’t change either).

But Post does need your permission to apply on your behalf, and we would encourage our members to allow the company to do this. The information they pass on to the Ministry of Social Development is no different to that already passed on to ACC and IRD on your behalf, but they need your permission to do this.

We understand they have put out a communication about this and that your team leader will approach you about seeking your permission for this process.

Essential worker payment

We have had discussions with the company regarding an essential worker payment to recognise those who are continuing to work during the lockdown period. We have been told that extra remuneration is unlikely considering the company’s current COVID-related downturn, but we are continuing talks and also contemplating alternative forms of reward.

Temporary site changes

This was an issue that was raised before bargaining and seems to be ongoing due to the current situation. E tū had bargaining claims regarding any future movements of staff between sites but we could not reach an agreement during negotiations. We did agree though to work on a long term solution that would benefit our members.

In the meantime, we agreed that the following interim agreement would be printed in the letters of settlement:

  • This is a voluntary arrangement.
  • The Union will be advised before the Company seeks volunteers
  • The employee’s current terms and conditions of employment will remain unchanged.
  • The Management of Change provisions under Section F of the Collective Employment Agreement will not apply to this temporary arrangement but will continue to apply generally, for example the employee’s entitlement to any redundancy compensation remains unaffected in the event of permanent changes to their role in the future.

These principles will apply to any voluntary moves that may be offered by the company from now until a permanent solution is reached.

Worksafe

We understand that a worker at NZ Post has contacted Worksafe to highlight non-essential product being processed by the company. The company has told us that Worksafe is satisfied regarding this matter. They say that they have an obligation to process everything that is lodged in the system, and they have also told us that they have spoken to their business customers and informed them not to send any non-essential mail.

Before closing their inquiry though, Worksafe have asked to speak to some Health and Safety reps to discuss practices on site. We have nominated JD Rawiri, Lana Leota and Corey Howland to speak to Worksafe to discuss on site safety.

Paid meal breaks

The union has just signed an agreement regarding paid 30 minute meal breaks for current operations employees who were entitled to a paid meal break as at 26 June 2016 but have subsequently lost them due to changes in role. There are specific workers who may now be entitled to receive a paid meal break again as a result of this agreement.

The criteria are workers who:

  1. are employed under the Operations schedule; and
  2. were employed by New Zealand Post under the collective agreement before 26 June 2016 (for the avoidance of doubt, they do not need to have been employed since 26 June 2016 under the Operations occupational schedule in particular); and
  3. as at 26 June 2016 had an entitlement to a paid 30-minute meal break (for the avoidance of doubt, and without limiting examples, that includes Operations employees who would have been entitled to a 30-minute paid meal break but did not use the entitlement because they worked fewer than 5 hours, and employees who worked outside of Operations who were entitled to a 30-minute paid meal break as at 26 June 2016, but does not include ex-ECL employees who did not have a paid meal break).

The employees covered by the clause will lose their entitlement to the paid break if:

  1. their current continuous service is broken or was broken on or after 26 June 2016; or
  2. they move or have moved to a position outside of the Operations schedule, where a 30-minute paid meal break does not apply.

The company will also be making an ex-gratia payment to the eligible workers:

  • at 30 minutes for every day worked;
  • plus 30 minutes for every day that would ‘otherwise be a working day’ and on which the affected employee took paid leave, and would have been entitled to the paid break had they worked;
  • from the date on which the affected employee lost their paid 30-minute meal break; and 
  • at the employee’s current remuneration rate under the collective agreement. 

Essential worker leave

One of our delegates has raised that the criteria for vulnerable people on the NZ Post form is slightly different to what is outlined on the Ministry of Health website. It is our belief that the Ministry of Health website overrides the company’s criteria. Anyone who is having issues receiving special leave for these reasons should talk to their union delegate.  

Home support workers are on the front line, so why haven’t they been paid?

Despite guaranteed government funding and subsidy schemes such as essential service leave, the largest employers in New Zealand’s home support sector have this week either not paid or vastly underpaid many home support workers, or forced them into taking annual leave.

The Public Service Association and E tū both represent home support workers, and the unions say the failure to pay essential workers is tantamount to wage theft and subsidy theft from the government, and is an illegal breach of staff Collective Employment Agreements.

“These breaches come at a time when support workers continue to risk their own wellbeing, often without adequate PPE, and go out day after day into the homes of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people”, says E tū Organising Director Kirsty McCully.

“Support workers are lifelines to our elderly people, those with disabilities or long term conditions. Despite weeks of government promises they still do not have reliable access to PPE, and on top of all that they now wake up to empty bank accounts. When will it end?”

The unions stand together and call on employers in the sector to urgently fix the situation and pay workers what they are owed.

“We are beyond disappointed to see employers breach their agreements with our members, forcing them into financial hardship at the worst possible time. While so many of us stay home over the long weekend, these workers will go from house to house putting themselves at risk to help others,” says PSA Assistant National Secretary Melissa Woolley. 

“Home support workers may only be guaranteed five hours a week, but routinely work forty or more. Some have now been sent home because of compromised immune systems, and are only being paid for their few guaranteed hours instead of the full time hours they normally work.”

The issue will be raised directly and firmly with all employers and relevant government agencies.

“Support workers have already used up every piece of goodwill they have left in order convincing themselves to continue to come to work in situations where they don’t have adequate PPE to protect themselves and their clients”, says Kirsty McCully.

“Today alone I’ve had 20 support workers come to me and say this is the final straw and they’re quitting the sector for good. They feel disrespected and used. It’s not good enough for those in caring professions to have their dedication to client care taken advantage of.”

The unions encourage workers to stand up to mistreatment and take whatever steps are necessary to protect their safety.

“Support workers have had enough. In recent years we have won equal pay settlements and guaranteed hours, but at every turn those higher up the chain try to undermine these advances and give workers less than they deserve,” says Melissa Woolley.

“Our members just want to look after those in need in a safe environment and get paid for their work. We have advised our members to defer unsafe work until their employers provide adequate PPE. It’s up to employers and government to make this right.”

ENDS

E tū member tells Phil Goff that cleaners are worth 100%

While directly employed non-essential Auckland Council staff are staying at home to save lives on 100% pay, some of their lowest paid colleagues are not so lucky.

Malia Lagi, a cleaner at an Auckland Council recreation centre that is currently closed, has taken a 20% pay cut, taking her pay for the hours she normally works to well below the minimum wage.

Malia usually has to work over 60 hours a week just to make ends meet.

With her partner also off work with just 80% of his wages, the lockdown is hitting them and their six kids very hard.

“I’m very worried that we’ll get behind on everything. Rent, power, water, and especially food – I want to buy healthy food like fruit and veges for my family my it’s too expensive now,” Malia says.

“I went to Mangere Pak’nSave yesterday and was in the queue for more than an hour. All the meat was gone except for the most expensive stuff, and I couldn’t afford that. So I had to leave with no meat, which my family was very sad about.

“Three of my kids are at uni. All they can do is study and eat. It’s really tough for the whole family.”

Malia attended Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s election campaign launch last year and calls for him to intervene.

“At the Mayor’s campaign launch, he promised that he was going to pay the Living Wage to contracted cleaners like me. We’re still waiting for him to deliver that, and we need it, but in the meantime, we need our normal wages back.

“There’s no reason Auckland Council shouldn’t make sure their workers all get 100% of their wages during lockdown. Aucklanders are still paying our rates during this lockdown period. The money is there to pay us properly.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says that hundreds of thousands of workers across New Zealand are in a similar position.

“When wages are already far too low, the 20% cut that many are facing is simply devastating,” Fala says.

“Every Kiwi is doing it tough in one way or another. But for those who already face hardships, the COVID-19 lockdown is making their lives extremely challenging.

“All employers need to take responsibility for all their workers, including those employed by contractors. E tū is calling for all employers to pay their workers 100%. For somewhere like Auckland Council to pass the cost of COVID-19 onto their lowest paid workers is ridiculous and unfair.

“Both as Malia’s employer and as Auckland’s mayor, Phil Goff needs to show leadership and fix this situation for all the families affected – he could change their lives overnight.”

ENDS

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

Air NZ cuts not good enough for Kiwis

Air New Zealand has announced specific details today about their decision to cut around 1500 jobs from their cabin crew workforce.

Savage, E tū’s Head of Aviation, says that the New Zealand public will share worker’s dissatisfaction with the news.

“Kiwis care about each other and about the success of our national carrier, so today’s news that Air New Zealand wants to rush to axe 1500 cabin crew roles will be of real concern to the public,” Savage says.

“Like all aviation workers, Air New Zealand cabin crew are trained and committed professionals. They want to see the airline succeed and prosper again. Like the New Zealand public, they want to see it carry on with even better safety, service, and standards.”  

However, Savage says, the company is risking their good reputation by speeding into a redundancy process.

“The company’s plan to lay off thousands of people while the country is still in lockdown is the wrong move. It’s too rushed and it doesn’t need to be. That is not what fair consultation looks like and is very disappointing to see a once proud company get it so wrong. They risk destroying the very organisation they are trying to save.

“The wage subsidy, Air New Zealand’s cash reserves, and the government loan means we have the time to properly work through a process and look to the future. E tū members can see the scale of the problem and want a ‘just transition’ approach, where people are at the heart of the process.

“We need time to develop plans for redeployment and repurposing, for retraining and a proper recovery for the airline. Only then can the company, with its workers, set themselves up for success. that’s what New Zealand needs right now.”

E tū has welcomed the news today that the Government has appointed former New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Ross Wilson as independent advisor to the Air New Zealand Board of Directors providing strategic advice from a unionised worker perspective.

“Having a worker’s voice at the top table will help steer or national airline through tough times and help the airline’s leadership see there are better options,” Savage says.

ENDS

For more info and comment:

Savage, 027 540 0074

Update for Fletchers members

E tū officials met with Fletcher and subsidiary company representatives to discuss the Bridging Pay Programme (BPP) they proposed and the consultation packet they have sent to workers who did not agree to the BPP by the company’s short time frames.

None of the options the company has offered in the packet are good enough in our view, and given the pressure of agreeing to something or potentially not having enough income for your needs, we view any choice you make as under duress.  However, we encourage you to do what works best for you so you have money to live.  You need to select the option that’s best for you in a bad situation.

E tū will continue to pursue all avenues to try to improve the situation for members and your families now and continuing after the lockdown.  Union reps have met with the company and been very clear that we will raise our deep concerns at all levels, including with MBIE, who we have now contacted.

Our understanding from the company is that those who did not agree before the company cut off to the BPP can still do so, and you also have access to the other options the company outlined in the consultation packs.  After you discuss the option that works best for you with your manager, if the company tells you that option isn’t available for you, please get that in writing and talk to your delegate.

E tū members at Fletchers: “We’ll be screwed”

E tū members at Fletcher Building Ltd are opening up about how they expect their pay cut to affect them and their families.

The company has announced that most workers are in line for a wage cut of up to 70%, while the top executives on millions of dollars a year will have a 30% cut.

Dave Asher, who works at Winstone Wallboards, which is part of the Fletcher building products division, feels betrayed.

“I feel bloody stabbed in the back,” Dave says.

“It’s as if we are worthless and of no value to the company. It would be awesome to get them to listen to us, but we’re getting no feedback through. It’s not good enough for us.

“I feel for the families who live paycheque to paycheque. How are they going to handle this? For the younger ones, it’s going to be a tough ask.”

Tame Wairepo-Bell is worried about what such a major pay cut would do for him, his partner, and their 5-month old daughter, Piper-Mae.

“If I was to lose 70% of my wage, I worry that I wouldn’t be able to give our child the support she needs. We’ll do everything we can to provide the essentials for her, but it would probably mean I myself won’t be able to eat.”

One E tū member spoke anonymously about what the cuts would mean for his shopping list.

“It will put me into severe hardship. At 50% pay I may be able to cover some costs but would have to skip buying some basic household items and would have a really limited choice of groceries.

“30% would mean potentially defaulting on my mortgage. We’d be screwed.”

Another anonymous worker shared the sentiment.

“Don’t know what to do when the money drops down – we’ll have to talk to the bank and see what we can do. We’ll be screwed.

“This is a big company that makes big profits. The people on the floor who put all the work out get nothing and the executives stay on high wages. I feel gutted, it wasn’t what I expected.

That worker also urged the company to make a more realistic offer and engage in good faith.

“It would take a lot of the stress away. If they don’t, I don’t know how we will survive, I really don’t.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says it isn’t over yet.

“We’re deeply concerned by Fletcher’s behaviour. We believe their proposal to date has been nothing short of unlawful, and our members desperately need the company to rethink it. We’ll be reporting the company’s behaviour to MBIE, as well as continuing to talk to the Government.

We are pleased that Fletchers are applying for the wage subsidy, but they need to come to the party with a meaningful contribution of their own in these unprecedented times.”

ENDS

For more info or comment: Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015