Category: Community Support

Iona College boarding school matrons strike over pay

The Boarding Supervisors/Matrons at Iona College in Havelock North will take strike action from this afternoon in support of a fair settlement of their pay claims.

The members will strike for 24 hours from 2.29pm today until 2.29pm tomorrow. 

E tū organiser, Thomas O’Neill says the members have been in talks to try to settle their collective agreement since November 2017.

“That’s almost two years, and the employer still won’t agree to offer them guaranteed hours or fair pay rates for the work they do,” says Thomas.

He says as well as guaranteed hours, members are seeking the same pay rates as care and support workers receive as a result of the equal pay settlement.

“It’s the same kind of work,” says Thomas. “Our members look after people. They are entrusted with the care of other people’s children, but their work is under-valued.”

The Boarding Supervisors/Matrons, including Iona College member spokesperson, Tracey Whittington say without secure hours and income, they are struggling.

“We feel undervalued and the pay rate doesn’t reflect our responsibilities or the unsociable hours we work. We all work shifts, including weekends,” says Tracey.

“We also need guaranteed hours because we lose money every time the school shuts down and that’s quite often and includes extra days on long weekends.

“I’m actually contracted to do 72 hours a fortnight, but I checked my pay recently and I haven’t been paid for that many hours since September.  

“That makes my life a struggle. I have a mortgage to pay. Most of us are sole income earners so this is important to us.”

The members say if pay is averaged out over a year, they are barely earning above the minimum wage.

“I’m lucky I have the support of my partner who receives super. A lot of these women don’t have that support and it’s very hard for them,” says Boarding Supervisor/Matron, Julia Alexander.

“Iona has offered nothing and that’s not good enough,” she says.

The members say they agreed to return to work on Thursday, so they are available to support the students ahead of their first NCEA exams which start the following day.

However, they say if there is no progress, they are prepared to strike again at a later date.

Thomas says care work at boarding schools used to be viewed as charitable work, and that attitude seems to still prevail at Iona College.

“Their employer has behaved very badly for a school that promotes women’s rights. The pay and conditions reflect a belief that the members don’t need secure work, that someone else can help them pay the bills.

“It’s actually strange to see these 19th century attitudes coming from an all-girls’ school.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Thomas O’Neill E tū organiser ph. 027 204 6350 – Thomas is the contact for media seeking interviews with our members.

Settlement at IDEA after 11 months of bargaining

The E tū and IDEA Services Support Workers Collective Agreement has been ratified by a vote of 83% in favour. This agreement was achieved by the fantastically committed and hardworking bargaining team delegates who can be truly proud of the way that they represented the E tū members interests over a period of 11 months, as well as all members who engaged in the process, attended meetings, and took industrial action.

Ratification is the just the beginning of an exciting year ahead as we work to achieve more funding in the disability sector and put in place a great plan of activities designed to win better lives for workers and consumers in the disability sector.

What’s in the deal?

  • Pay increases for Administrators and Service Coordinators with 5.5% backdated and a further 2% from 23 October 2019.
  • Scheduling Coordinators being covered by the Collective agreement for the first time with a 2% increase from 23 October 2019.
  • A new allowance of up to $70 per week for RIDSAS workers.
  • Specialist orientation for all staff working in RIDSAS.
  • Specialist training and clinical supervision for RIDSAS staff within six months of the agreement being ratified and regular updates to the union.
  • A new on-call allowance of $150 (gross) which will increase if the SM payment increases.
  • A process to remove SSW duties from support workers, a 50 cents per hour allowance for designated SSWs until those duties are removed, and two buy-out payment based on agreed criteria. These members will also be fast tracked through the Level 4 training, which provides for a pay increase of up to $2.50 per hour.
  • New scheduling clauses for unplanned situations including mileage and paid time, orientation and paid time to prepare in some cases, updates on equipment and support needs, overtime if you are left with people you’re not orientated to support, and a review process if you think these provisions are being misused. 
  • A two-year term expiring in October 2020 – so we’re back in bargaining in a year.
  • An agreement to work together with IDEA to lobby for more funding to address issues in the sector.

What do the bargaining team delegates say about the deal?

The union bargaining team endorses the outcomes that have been achieved as being all that is possible in the current environment and look forward to working with all the parties to achieve a better funded sector.

What does this mean for SSWs?

Any member who thinks they are a designated SSW or undertaking SSW duties under the agreed criteria will have until 22 November to make an application to be part of the buy-out and a further four weeks to provide evidence to verify they qualify.

Delegates will be released on pay to meet with support workers and help them make their applications for this process and put together the evidence needed. This will probably happen at facility meetings soon, so watch out for those. E tū has produced a template application form to make this easy for you.

Meanwhile, the new scheduling changes will not take effect for three months after the agreement is signed off. E tū will distribute flyers and info cards summarising your rights around these, so you have the information readily available if you need it.

Joint lobbying for more funding

E tū and IDEA have agreed to join forces to lobby the Government for more disability sector funding. We will want you to be actively involved in this work as your voice and your stories will make a difference. The goal is to make sure any government elected in November 2020 prioritises the under-funding of disability services, so money is available when we bargain again in a year’s time.

DHB members – you could be owed holiday pay!

Thanks to your union, a process is underway to make sure you get what you are owed.

Since 2016, health unions have been working with the Ministry of Health to agree on a process to check your holiday pay has been paid properly and to pay back anything you are owed. This will put right a decade of underpayments to health workers as a result of mistakes due to non-compliance with the Holidays Act.

This affects around 100,000 health workers, including our directly employed DHB maintenance, cleaning, catering, orderly’s, laundry, stores, driving, and security staff.

Initial sampling by DHBs indicates that between $550- $650 million is owed to both former and current health workers. E tū has been part of negotiating a signed agreement with DHBs, the Ministry of Health, MBIE, and other health unions, which outlines a process to ensure you get the pay you are owed.


This agreement includes:

  • agreement on the interpretations of the Holidays Act and calculations
  • back pay to 2010 of any money owed
  • inclusion of all types of payments such as allowances, relevant daily pay, and average daily pay across various leave entitlements
  • a transparent process done by auditors with union representatives and delegates involved
  • a requirement that every DHB must have started this review by April 2020.

It will take time to clarify who’s owed what and to timetable repayments. It’s a complex job involving more than 100 different collective agreements and a range of rostering, allowances and overtime provisions which have changed over time.

The work is expected to take 12 to 24 months to put right, but you will be paid what you are owed!

What about DHB contractors?

In 2016, we raised the issue of Holidays Act compliance with the DHB contractors who employ E tū members. Now that there is an agreed process with the DHBs, we have asked the contractors to undertake a similar process if they have not already done so. We will update you as we learn more.

Please note: if you were directly employed by a DHB at some stage since 2010 then you will be part of the DHB review as well.

Click here to read the Government’s media release.

Click here to read a useful article about Holidays Act non-compliance.

Not in the union yet? Click here to join today.

IDEA ratification meetings

Proposed Settlement at IDEA after 11 months of Bargaining!

After 11 months of bargaining to renew the IDEA Services Support Worker and Admin Collective Agreement, we finally have a proposed settlement for members to vote on.

Its been a tough process involving multiple days of bargaining, eight mediation sessions, Facilitation with the employment authority, and a series of strikes and collective actions by union members to get to this point.

Click here to read more info and to view the meeting schedule.

Blog: A history of unions and contractors in the public hospital system

The issues of low pay and poor conditions are very familiar to our many members working for contractors in our public hospitals. Until recently, procurement rules encouraged contractors to bid low to win contracts.  This may change after the Government this year moved to broaden the criteria for selecting contractors.

But familiarity with the history of contractors in our public hospitals presents a big red flag. From the first encroachment of contractors in our hospitals during the 1940s, through the dark days of the Employment Contracts Act and the slow, steady fight since then to improve the lives of all hospital workers, the historical record shows contractors have actively resisted decent pay for their workers, using anti-worker laws to drive down wages and conditions. The paper below, by our former Assistant National Secretary John Ryall, spells this out in detail.

The Early Awards

Occupational awards (Arbitration Court-set minimum mandatory pay rates and employment conditions for occupations) were in place from the 1890s but they didn’t really take off in a big way until the 1930s with the election of the First Labour Government, which brought in compulsory unionism and encouraged the formation of new awards in places where they had not existed before.

The Hospital Domestic Workers Award, first negotiated in 1940, covered orderlies, food service workers, cleaners, sewing room workers and male nurses, who were employed in public hospitals. At that time, they were all employed by Hospital Boards, but in the 1940s the first of the contractors started creeping into public hospitals.

Both the Canterbury and Wellington Hospital Boards contracted out their cleaning to Crothalls, which set off a tug-of-war between the Canterbury and Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Unions and the Canterbury and Wellington Cleaners Unions as to who covered these workers and under which Award (Hospital Domestic Workers Award or Cleaners Award).

Luckily for the cleaners, the Hotel and Hospital Workers won a case before the Arbitration Court in 1946 and at that point Crothalls and other contractors, who gained contracts in public hospitals, were covered by an award where pay rates and employment conditions were largely dictated by the Hospital Boards.

Pressure on Hospital Boards

In the early 1980s there was increased financial pressure placed by Government on the Hospital Boards and, as well as getting rid of continuing care beds to the private residential care sector, they also became more cost-conscious with changes of contract.

There were a number of disputes from 1981-85 (a big one in Wellington in 1981 and another in Auckland in 1983) regarding changes of contract and the cuts in hours of existing workers during these processes. Because the Award conditions were minimum industry conditions (including for any business, such as retail food stalls) that set up on a hospital premise, there was no room for a contractor to cut these conditions, but they could cut the hours of work of the cleaners.

At the time the Award had a provision that required the union to approve the appointment of any part-time worker through a permit system. This was used to control the cuts.

Later in the 1980s the part-time permit system was weakened (as most parts of the smaller unions were not using it) although this was replaced with a better provision to maintain hours of work if the contract changed and the workers were taken over.

The Dark Ages

The 1991 Employment Contracts Act broke up all previous arrangements and the national award broke up into site-based collective employment agreements.

In the periods 1992 (when the Hospital Domestic Award expired) and 1996, large parts of the public hospital system were contracted out as the Area Health Board system was broken up into competitive Crown Heath Enterprises, who were run by commercial, government-appointed directors and were expected to make a profit.

P&O Services (formerly Crothalls and now Spotless) were the dominant player and they took over all services at Counties-Manukau, Waitemata, Bay of Plenty, Mid-Central, Whanganui, Tairawhiti, Nelson-Marlborough and Southland. They already had cleaning services at Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Lakes.

The other contracting group that emerged was called Tempo and it started a cook-chill system and took over the food services at Taranaki, Lakes, Northland, Wellington, Canterbury and Wairarapa. Tempo, which was bought out by the US Delaware North Corporation also gained cleaning contracts in Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Auckland before it collapsed in 1995 leaving P&O Services (later bought by Spotless) to take over most of its contracts.

Because the Employment Contracts Act allowed employers to set up non-union collective agreements, P&O would do this and then employ all their new staff on these collective agreements despite a union collective agreement being in existence. If they wanted to cut conditions even further, they would set up a new non-union collective agreement while the others were still in existence and employ new staff on even lower conditions.

In Mid-Central Health, P&O Services had some existing workers on the old Award, some on the union collective agreement and others on collective agreements going from A to G, each with different cascading sets of employment conditions.

In the late 1990s there was a struggle at Mid-Central to get rid of all these collective agreements and force the company to offer all new workers the union collective agreement before other agreements.

The Victory Fund and the Fight for the DHB MECA

While a Labour-Alliance Government was elected in 1999 and the Employment Relations Act was introduced in 2000, it still took the unions time to adjust to public hospital organising and collective bargaining.

There were 45 separate collective agreements existing in the public hospitals and some of these local site-based agreements were so weak that their pay rates were very close to the minimum wage; the weekend, public holiday and night penal rates had been reduced to very low levels; and sick leave and other leave arrangements had been reduced in many parts of the country.

The union began a “Healthy Hospitals” campaign in 2006, focussed on the lowest paid workers in the public hospital system, moving the nearly 2000 SFWU members into one national Multi Employer Collective Agreement (MECA), and delivering a big lift in the wage rates and employment conditions of our members.

The DHBs were opposed to a National MECA, arguing that our members’ pay rates were determined by local labour markets rather than a national one (nurses) or an international one (doctors) and to complicate this the DHBs would not sit in the same room as the contractors (Compass, Spotless, ISS and OCS).

After nearly 12 months of bargaining, stopwork meetings and rallies, the Labour Government told the DHBs to conclude a MECA, although not with the contractors included. A case in the Employment Court arguing the DHBs had a duty to conclude a MECA was lost.

The union had discussions with the Minister of Health and the Government about funding a MECA settlement above the DHB financial allocations, including the cost for the contractors.

The Government put aside $17 million for a settlement and the union negotiators were forced to massage the conditions to meet these parameters in a settlement which was independently costed.

The DHB MECA was settled on good terms with many members getting back their weekend, public holiday and night penal rates and pay for cleaning supervisors, who had previously only been paid about 35 cents an hour above the cleaners’ rate, was boosted by about $2.00 an hour.

The base rate was set at $14.25 an hour ($3 an hour above the minimum wage) and a national service scale was introduced for the first time with a 5% increase at the second step and 3% increases up to step 5. To preserve the “local labour market” principle the DHBs managed to carve out an exception that non-metro DHB members could only progress up to step 4 and not be eligible for the top step. Current service and other allowances were incorporated into the high wage scale.

As there had previously been multiple DHB collective agreements, a standard set of conditions was negotiated into the MECA and any group that had better conditions had these preserved in separate DHB schedules.

The contractors then followed and each negotiated their Single Employer Collective Agreements on the basis that the same wage scale, progression system, penal rates and overtime rates would be applied, that the parties would try to reach agreement on a common set of employment conditions and any conditions above these would be preserved in separate schedules for each DHB group.

The implementation was mixed across contractors with resistance where contractors feared a reduction of their competitive advantage over other contractors and DHB directly employed services. Spotless members embarked on a stop-start form of strike action and Spotless responded by locking our 700 members out of their jobs until the union agreed to their terms for the collective agreement.

The Employment Court refused the union’s interim injunction application, but the members stood firm.

Eight days later, with pickets occurring daily outside each public hospital and the Auckland DHBs giving Spotless an ultimatum about fixing the dispute or having their contracts terminated, the Employment Court reversed its position and gave the union an injunction against the Spotless lockout.

Spotless had to quickly negotiate a settlement of the collective agreement and settle with the union for legal costs and back pay to the members. Over the next six months Spotless lost all of the Auckland contracts and the contract at Southland DHB.

Between 2008 and 2018 the contractors were compliant with settling for whatever the DHB offered in the MECA although the percentage increases during these years were low. The contractors also gradually all agreed to bargaining fee arrangements for their SECAs.

The 2018/19 Problem

In the 2018/19 round the union gained very large increases in wages and cemented in some strong obligations for employers around training and qualifications attainment.  However, again the problem looms that the DHBs could refuse to fund the contractor increases after signing off the SECAs and the contractors may be stuck with paying the rates but not getting the funding for them.

The struggle of these workers for stability, security and decent lives continues and the story of contractors in the DHBs will have a new chapter written in the near future.

By John Ryall

IDEA: great progress at bargaining!

Dear IDEA Services members,

We are pleased to announce that good progress has been made in bargaining over the last week and we are positive about the prospect of reaching a proposed settlement very soon for members to vote on.

This also means that the strikes notices for tomorrow until next week (14-22 September) have been withdrawn, so just work your usual hours.

We are looking forward to giving you more information as soon as possible.

Regards,
Your IDEA Services Bargaining Team

IDEA update: ERA responds

The Employment Relations Authority has rejected IDEA’s attempt to force flexibility onto staff and a lock workers into a three year term.

In a recommendation released Friday 23 August, the Authority says the flexibility change should not go ahead and any new collective agreement should expire in July 2020. IDEA had wanted an agreement that didn’t expire until some time in 2021 and the right to force staff to change workplaces.   The bargaining team sees this as a major step forward.

However, the Authority recommendation does not support the union’s call for weekend pay and higher rates for all SSWs and RIDSAS workers. The decision is not binding and with targeted strike notice going in this week, we expect to return to the Authority in the next two weeks to try and settle this long running dispute.  

For more information contact E tū Union Support on 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

IDEA Services stop-work meetings

Dear IDEA members,

Three days of formal hearings in the Employment Relations Authority concluded on Wednesday and we are now awaiting the formal recommendation of the Authority. The hearing was only granted because of your strike action. So well done!

However, no progress was made on our claim for weekend and SSW rates and the employer is still pushing ‘flexibility’. The good news is your strike action and the three day hearing did result in IDEA  backing down on their attempt to gut the health and safety clause and stop their cutting your rights around service reviews. We expect the Authority recommendation early August. This will be considered, along with more strike action at a national series of paid stop-work meetings in August.

Click here to view the meeting schedule.

ERA win opens new ground for IDEA, pay rise on the way

A series of strikes by E tū members employed by IDEA Services has been critical evidence in persuading the Employment Relations Authority to accept a union application for facilitated bargaining.

The Authority ruled that seven escalating strike actions were “likely to affect the public interest” and impact on IDEA clients. That was enough for them to direct IDEA to sit down and talk.

E tū advocate Alastair Duncan says the union welcoms the decision but was disappointed that IDEA had turned down earlier attempts at facilitation, leaving staff with little option but to take industrial action.

“Now we have a decision from the Authority that cannot be ignored.  After months of stubbornness, we hope IDEA will come back to the negotiating table willing to address very real staff concerns around staffing, safety and job security.

“To date, IDEA has been unresponsive to union attempts to find a middle ground and we hope that a move into a more formal setting will assist.

“IDEA is the operation arm of IHC, which is a multimillion-dollar business dependant on public funding and public good will. We hope IDEA will now stop trying to cut the rights of the workforce.”

Meanwhile, IDEA care and support worker workers will be getting pay rises of between 50 cents and $1 an hour as a result of the ground breaking equal pay win.

“IDEA tried to undermine vocational staff when we won the case, but the good news is that every care worker at IDEA gets a pay rise from 1 July,” Alastair says.

E tū will be holding paid membership meetings in August to report progress.