Category: Community Support

Essential migrant support workers relieved visa shock reversed

Hundreds of essential skilled migrant workers in the aged care and disability support sectors are relieved they can go back to work without the fear of being stood down, now that their lesser-paid ‘sleepover’ or overnight shifts will no longer count towards the remuneration terms of their visa.

In April, Immigration New Zealand determined that sleepover rates – which are paid at minimum wage of $20 per hour rather than the workers’ normal hourly pay rate – would be used in the calculation to assess their earnings, a key condition of their visa.

Essential Skills or Skilled Migrant Category work visas require aged care and disability support workers to paid at a minimum of $25.50 per hour or above for 30 hours per week.

However, many in the sector work both day and sleepover shifts, and the inclusion of the sleepover rate was bringing down their average pay rate too low to meet the remuneration requirements of their visa.

E tū delegate and health and safety representative Manni Sardana, who has a current visa, says due to Immigration New Zealand changing the regulation, her employer stood her down from her sleepover shifts for two weeks.

“The people I support were asking me why I was leaving them. I had to tell them I didn’t know who would be coming at night.

“They were furious as they don’t have the same trust in relieving workers. They can have a relaxed, sound sleep when they know the person staying over.”

Distressed, Manni immediately made contact with E tū and reached out to others to see what could be done.

She says although her manager was supportive, the experience had been stressful, and she will be seeking backpay for her regular missed sleepover shifts.

E tū health director Sam Jones says the impact on workers and the potential for thousands with disabilities to be left without support meant the union acted quickly to address the issue.

“We fully support the changes made by Immigration New Zealand to remove the sleepover rate from the wage rate calculations for the affected visa categories. This issue had the potential to affect hundreds of our members.

“It’s great to see a sensible and quick solution has been reached, ensuring the most vulnerable in our communities will receive the support they deserve, and that this group of support workers and their families can continue to earn a living and provide this crucial support, as they did during COVID-19.

The regulation change is effective from 24 May.

Sam says now Immigration New Zealand has reversed its decision, essential skilled migrants are fine to work their sleepover shifts – as long as they are guaranteed a minimum of 30 hours of work outside of that at or above the required hourly rate.

Having the 30-hours-per-week requirement also functions as protection for essential skilled migrant workers, he says.

However, Sam says the support sector still needs to raise the sleepover rate for workers.

“We won the right to proper wages for sleepover shifts back in 2012, when we proved this particular shift counted as ‘work’.

“Now it’s time for the Government to fund providers in the sector to step up and ensure sleepover pay rates match workers’ hourly day rate.”

ENDS

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

Support workers “can’t stop smiling”: Budget funds properly paid breaks & travel time

With funding confirmed in Budget 2021, home and community support workers will soon be paid their normal hourly rate while driving from one client to another.

Until now, this essential health workforce was only paid the minimum wage for ‘in between travel time’. Before 2015 they didn’t get a cent. Now there’s $81.822 million locked in to fund fair, consistently paid travel-for-work over the next four years.

Two unions represent support workers, the Public Service Association and E tū. Members of both organisations are celebrating the news, but they’re also reflecting on the long-haul campaign it took. 

E tū delegate and support worker Tarsh Dixon has been on the frontlines campaigning for better conditions in the sector, along with more sick leave for all workers.

Tarsh says she initially didn’t believe the news was real.

“I reckon when our pay finally goes up, it will click. At the moment, members are just so stunned we finally got there,” she says.

“It’s amazing. It feels like real progress and that we’re being listened to.”

Tarsh says having 10 days sick leave is also “amazing news”. She’s a solo mum, and her job has been threatened when she took time off to care for her daughters when they were ill. There was no one else.

She’s getting ready for the next battle; securing more guaranteed hours so she doesn’t have to “desperately ask around for clients” to survive.

Tarsh believes union activism has won progress for home support workers: “Working collectively with a vision is the reason we’ve got this far.”

Her sentiments are echoed by PSA delegate and support worker Jenny Goodman, who has spent years active in her union’s campaign to get consistent pay for all hours worked.

“I’m ecstatic. I can’t stop smiling, it’s long overdue justice,” says PSA delegate and support worker Jenny Goodman.

“If I worked in an office and the boss told me to deliver a parcel across town, then told me as I walked out the door my pay was dropping to minimum wage on the road, I wouldn’t agree to do it.”

Jenny never gave up hope, but it hasn’t been easy. She feels support workers have “soldiered on”, despite unjust treatment, in part because they are so dedicated to the clients they care for.

“We were told the funding isn’t there, if you want paid breaks you have to take it out of a client’s time,” she says.

“That puts you in the moral dilemma of deciding which elderly, vulnerable client you take support away from. It’s not a choice we’re prepared to make, so all too often we just didn’t get breaks.”

E tū health director Kirsty McCully says the increase to in-between travel rates and sick leave is a double win, and the government’s allocation of $8 million to fund an Aged Care Commissioner will support system-wide reforms.

“For so long, our members have fought for vital improvements to their working conditions,” she says.

“Now it feels like they are finally being recognised and appreciated.”

PSA Assistant National Secretary Melissa Woolley congratulates union members for remaining determined through thick and thin.

“This is a great start which fixes some issues for workers. However, the government still urgently needs to implement a shift model with guaranteed hours to provide secure work and secure pay,” she says.

“Support workers essentially have slightly prettier versions of zero-hour contracts. This must change.”

ENDS

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

Support for health reforms but worker voice vital

E tū, one of the largest unions for DHB-employed and contracted health workers, aged care, community, and disability support service workers, welcomes the Government’s announcement to reform and centralise health services to achieve consistency in conditions for workers and better health outcomes for Māori and Pasefika.

E tū represents more than 15,000 health workers, including hospital workers directly employed by or contracted to DHBs nationwide, such as kitchen, cleaning, and laundry staff, orderlies, and security guards.

This also includes aged care workers, home support, and disability support workers.

E tū Co-President Muriel Tunoho, who also works in primary health care, says the establishment of a Māori Health Authority is a “huge” step forward.

“It’s never been done before and will prioritise Māori healthcare and outcomes in the context of the Crown’s Te Tiriti obligations.”

E tū Director in Health Sam Jones says although many of the details around the reform are yet to come, it lays the foundation and vision for a system that promises better outcomes for workers and patients alike.

“We support the Government’s vision and agree that there’s a better way to deliver on primary and community healthcare services.

“We’ll have a publicly-funded, centralised health system that will allow for greater consistency, including in decisions around procurement and employment.

“It’s our hope that the establishment of Health New Zealand will also lead to more equitable terms and conditions for the current DHB-employed and contracted health workers across the country.”

However, Sam says that worker consultation and union involvement will be crucial to getting the changes right: “Unions and workers absolutely need to be part of the transition conversation with the voices of these essential workers at the forefront, including regarding future announcements about disability support services.”

Sam says it’s also vital that structural reform of the homecare support sector remains a top priority, after a joint-union meeting with the Minister of Health last week.

“This remains a sector in crisis, and we want to see homecare support workers, who provide care for our vulnerable in their own homes, treated in accordance with the recommendations of the Health and Disability System Review.

“They should have secure salaried contracts that provide decent pay and hours, instead of the piecemeal reality which is placing many workers under unbearable financial and mental strain.”

ENDS

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

“Crisis” in home support demands urgent Government overhaul

Thousands of care and support workers help sick, injured, and elderly New Zealanders live at home with dignity, but they are denied the pay, respect, and security of hours necessary to do the same.

Two unions represent these workers, the Public Service Association and E tū. Alongside Grey Power, they are calling for urgent government action to fix the broken sector. On the evening of Wednesday 14 April, support workers will gather at Parliament to discuss their plight with Ministers and MPs.

Despite years of promises and major reforms with various degrees of implementation, a landmark new study by AUT Business School confirms home support workers remain at the bottom of the heap in New Zealand’s public health system. They’re burned out, they don’t feel listened to, and they’re sick of it.

The current chaotic mess of competing provider companies, with fragmented funding from ACC, DHBs and the Ministry of Health, must be comprehensively overhauled and replaced with a nationally consistent funding framework that guarantees secure hours, breaks, paid travel time and safe workloads.

E tū delegate Jenny Stewart, who has been a homecare support worker for 14 years, says she feels the sector is “in crisis.”

“We are feeling very worn out and stressed a lot of the time. We feel that we don’t matter to anyone [higher up],” she says.

“We’re going out in our own vehicles, unseen – an invisible workforce. Home-based support is a vital service, but it relies on a workforce that doesn’t have proper job security.”

Despite milestones like the Equal Pay Settlement, guaranteed hours, and an in-between travel time payment, Jenny says few hours are actually guaranteed. Hours may not be not replaced if clients die or go into care, and insufficient travel reimbursement means insecure, low incomes. Many leave the sector for “more hours and more money”, she says.

Workers use their own cars, own mobile phones, and frequently work without breaks. Time allotted for client care is also being cut, Jenny says.

“We are subsidising the whole sector. The Government needs to look at the issue with eyes wide open. The demand for home-based support is going to grow and it needs to be sustainable.”

PSA delegate Donna Wealleans has worked in the industry for a decade, and she is tired of seeing improvements undermined in practice by systemic failures.

“Guaranteed hours haven’t worked out for a lot of support workers. Some of us can’t take time off, while others still can’t get the hours we need,” she says.

Donna worries high turnover and deep levels of stress among her colleagues have created a “ticking time bomb”, which will ultimately put the clients they care for at risk.

“New Zealand can’t afford this to continue when we have an ageing population and a lot more people will need support.”

“It doesn’t need to be this way, it shouldn’t be this way, but the system has not been properly organised and funded by the Government. That’s where the buck stops.”

Grey Power National President Jan Pentecost says client care is being sacrificed under the current model.

“The quality of care clients receive is dependent on the employment model for our carers, and carers cannot keep battling to survive in a sector which treats them, and their work, as expendable,” she says.

“Grey Power wants a home support system which allows people to stay healthy and safe at home, and ensures providers have sufficient numbers of fully trained staff, and relief staff, to meet their contracted case load at all times.”

ENDS

Community support workers wanted as researchers

What has been the impact of COVID19 on Community Support workers?

Are you interested in talking to other workers about their experiences?

In partnership with E tū and PSA unions, AUT Business School researchers are interested in hearing about the experiences of community support workers during the COVID-19 period, and the impact of these experiences on the wellbeing of community support workers.  We see community support workers as a core part of the essential workforce, and a part that needs their voices heard!

Our research aims to form recommendations in partnership with the workforce, to help initiate improvements in workers wellbeing, and to inform the response in any future disruptive events. 

The research is going to be conducted using a participant researcher approach, which means that community support workers, who have been trained by the research team, will be the interviewers.  This makes sure they have an understanding of what workers go through at work every day.

We are currently looking for people interested in being part of the project as participant interviewers. 

This would involve:

  • A training day, where you would be interviewed by the research team about your experiences, and trained in the interview process.
  • You would then interview three community support workers, recording the interviews on either your mobile phone or a digital recording device, at a time and place that suits you both. Each interview would last approximately one hour.
  • You would send the interview files to the research team.
  • After the research team has had the interviews transcribed and we have formed initial themes, we will have another meeting with participant researchers (possibly virtually) to get your feedback on our interpretation of what is being said by participants.
  • We will send you all draft recommendations to give feedback if you wish.

This work would be paid, with participant researchers being compensated for their time and travel in these activities. 

If you are confident in talking to others, and are wanting to be part of something that can potentially impact the wellbeing of the community support workforce, please contact us to find out more!

If you are interested in finding out more, please email Katherine Ravenswood: [email protected]

Lifewise under fire over treatment of homecare support workers and café fundraising drive

Homecare support workers employed by Lifewise – a church charity – are resorting to picketing yet again, as the organisation continues to refuse to negotiate liveable pay and better conditions, while also facing criticism over a recent fundraising campaign.

Lifewise is a charitable trust which is a part of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. The organisation has come under fire this week, as reported by The Spinoff, about the lack of transparency in its latest fundraising drive for Merge Café – a service it runs for homeless people in Auckland.

Meanwhile, E tū Lifewise homecare support members have been striking and picketing since December for increased sick and bereavement leave and fair hours of work to be incorporated into a first-time collective agreement.

Lifewise also threatened members with three separate lockout periods in February and reneged on improved leave and conditions agreed on before the first COVID-19 lockdown.

An E tū Lifewise member, who prefers not to be named, says they feel like the organisation is ignoring them.

“It’s going on two years of negotiations now and no results. We’re voicing all the nitty gritty about what we want in our collective, but it doesn’t seem to register,” she says.

“It’s like they’re not listening, they’re not really taking our needs into consideration. It’s the necessities we’re asking for – it’s not going to break the bank.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the moves by the charity are some of the most “aggressive” she’s ever seen against workers in the homecare sector.

“For the past four months, Lifewise workers have been driven to fight publicly for reasonable, simple improvements to their pay and conditions – all while their employer has tried to intimidate and disrespect with lockouts and broken promises.

“It seems like a crazy response when you consider the request: several additional days of sick and bereavement leave, and fair guaranteed hours, so that these already low-paid workers are not left struggling,” she says.

“It makes absolutely no sense to us that a church organisation, and a seemingly well-endowed one at that, is refusing to treat its own workers with integrity and to fund these modest, yet vital improvements.”

Desperation drove workers to the picket line in December, as they have now been in negotiations for their first collective agreement since mid-2019, Kirsty says.

“If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s the value of health and healthcare services.

“We can’t forget that Lifewise workers do jobs most of us wouldn’t or can’t – caring for the sick, elderly, and vulnerable in our communities.

“As an employer with such community standing and mission, Lifewise has a responsibility to ensure its own workers are looked after too.”

Lifewise community picket

When: Friday 19 March

Where: Outside Lifewise’s head office, 385 Queen Street, Auckland 1011

Time: 12.30pm–2.30pm

Available: Homecare delegates will be available for comment at the picket. Please contact Kirsty McCully for more information and to be put in touch with delegates.

ENDS

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

Lifewise workers continue strike action despite lockout threat

Lifewise homecare support workers are continuing their fight for better working conditions, even as they now face a possible lockout from their employer in response to their strike action and pickets.

From Saturday, members will be going ahead with more strike and picket action, outside the Lifewise offices in Mount Eden.

Lifewise, an Auckland-based organisation which is also part of the Methodist Church, has issued a lockout notice to all E tū Lifewise members.

For more than a year and a half, Lifewise members, who care for vulnerable Kiwis including seniors and those living with disability, have been trying to negotiate their first collective agreement with increased sick and bereavement leave.

Members also need fair guaranteed hours as they struggle to survive financially, with some on as little as nine guaranteed hours of work a fortnight.

E tū delegate Helen Taufa says the move to lockout members is “extreme”, but members will not back down.

“Instead of coming back to the bargaining table to negotiate and talk about things, [Lifewise] has gone to this extreme.

“For them to lockout all members – it’s harsh. We’re disappointed it’s come to that point,” she says.

Another member, who doesn’t wish to be named, says her family struggles to pay the bills even though she and her husband both work, and taking action is the only way to get the attention of Lifewise.

“Striking is the only way to get more money for my family,” she says.

Members of the Methodist church and family members of those receiving care have also strongly criticised the lockout move from Lifewise and are “deeply concerned” about the organisation’s treatment of members during the current dispute.

A church member says: “The Methodist Church has a strong culture of social justice and fairness. I am deeply ashamed of Lifewise’s behaviour.”

An E tū Director Kirsty McCully says in New Zealand, low-paid care workers shouldn’t have to go on strike to win hours they can survive on, or to know when they will be working from week to week.

“The employment model in homecare is broken, and these workers are bearing the brunt of it,” Kirsty says.

“Now, a ruthless employer, usually known for its good work in the community, is pushing its own workforce to the poverty line with a lockout which would see workers without income.

“However, the workers have said they are steadfast and will stick together until they achieve a fair deal at Lifewise.”

Lifewise members will be picketing on Saturday 23 January and Monday 25 January at 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden from 7am-11am, and striking from Saturday to Monday.

ENDS

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

Lifewise strike: complaints about care quality, Methodist Church members concerned

Lifewise homecare workers continue their action to win a fair collective agreement which protects quality care at the Auckland-based homecare provider, taking strike action from 6am-9pm tomorrow (Wednesday) and picketing outside their employer’s premises at 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am until 11:30am.

Family members have started to complain to the Auckland District Health Board in support of the reasonable demands of the workers but are unhappy about the poor coordination of care from Lifewise, and the increased turnover of long serving employees due to their working environment and low hours.

In addition to client complaints, members of the Methodist Church, of which Lifewise is a part, have begun to express their concern that the homecare arm of The Lifewise Trust is failing its employees and clients.

“It’s a shame to me that Lifewise is not responding to the direct concerns of homecare workers about their low hours which keep them in poverty,” says an Auckland lay preacher who prefers to remain anonymous.

“It’s up to those of us in the church who feel strongly about the social justice principles to make the church step up and practice what it preaches,” she says.                                                                                                                                     

“I and a number of my colleagues will be taking this up within all the channels available to us – within our Synods, with our church ministers, and with our church representatives.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says that the homecare workers are taking their stand for themselves, but also for future generations of homecare workers.

“They can’t survive on the hours they’re receiving and the model at Lifewise is set up to keep employees in poverty, shouldering all the financial risk for the organisation,” she says.

ENDS

All are invited to the picket tomorrow at 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am until 11:30am. Members of the Methodist Church will be attending the picket.

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

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]