Category: Community Support

PM must commit to pay equity settlement for care and support workers

The unions representing care and support workers are calling on Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to pledge his commitment to deliver pay equity for the lowest paid workers on the frontline of healthcare in aged care, home support, disability support, mental health support. The call comes after today’s announcement of a proposal to disestablish the Pay Equity Taskforce within Te Kawa Mataaho, Public Service Commission.

The three unions – PSA, E and NZNO – say while Aotearoa has persistent gender pay gaps, where women are paid less than they’re worth, it is unthinkable to disband the expert group of people tasked with supporting pay equity.

The pay equity claim for care and support workers is well underway. Their claim simply aims to update the landmark settlement delivered by the National Party in 2017. Thousands of families have waited for almost two years for a desperately needed, and deeply deserved, pay increase.

Tossing out frameworks that guide how we address pay inequity leaves a massive gap in mechanisms for solving this problem. This change will particularly affect community and iwi-based organisations.

We are seriously concerned about a change in funding direction for pay equity claims in funded services.

Everyone deserves fair pay for their work. Pay equity claims for funded public and community services must be fully funded by the Government. If they are not, our communities will continue to suffer from understaffed and overstretched services when we need them. Our whānau deserve better.

Care and support is extremely important work – making sure people take their medications, helping them take showers, changing colostomy bags. Give health support to our older ones at home or in aged residential care homes. They support people through mental ill-health or addiction, and support disabled people to live independently.

Mental health support worker and PSA delegate, Christie Cox, says the decision is disappointing.  

“This is going to make it harder for women to get paid what we’re worth. Our services are already at breaking point,” Christie says.

“We deserve fair pay, which is why we’re calling on the Prime Minister to make the pledge.”

Aged care worker and E tū delegate, Marianne Bishop, says claims will be harder and slower to process without the Pay Equity Taskforce.

“We’ve already struggled for almost two years for our claim to be settled. It’s really frustrating,” Marianne says.

“Women deserve better. That is why we are calling on the Prime Minister for clarity urgently for care and support workers.”

ENDS

The Government must fund care workers before landlords

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, is shocked to learn that the National Party’s coalition agreement with ACT would see planned tax breaks for landlords brought forward, costing at least $900 million according to analysis by the Council of Trade Unions.

The news comes as the new National-led Government is announcing more details about their fiscal plan. E tū urges the Government to prioritise workers and their communities, including essential workers in care and support.

One area that needs urgent attention is funding for the care and support pay equity claim. Care and support workers have already waited too long for proper recognition of their skills.

Caregiver and Convenor of the E tū Community Support Industry Council, Marianne Bishop, says funding the sector properly is long overdue.

“It’s stupid that the sector has always been so underfunded,” Marianne says.

“People pay taxes their whole lives, but then have to fight for the care they need when they are older.

“The new Government has some important decisions to make about their priorities. Landlords are not doing it tough, but care and support workers certainly are.

“We have only had up to a 3% pay rise in the last year, with some of us getting nothing, despite the cost of living increasing so much more than that. Everyone is really struggling, especially our colleagues in home support who have to cover their own vehicle costs and other expenses.”

Marianne says the Government needs to fund pay equity to ensure the care sector can function properly in the future.

“We have an ageing population and an ageing workforce. What’s going to happen in 10, or 20 years’ time? How are going to attract new people into the industry if they can’t earn a living? It’s just not going to work.

“We won the first settlement under a National Government in 2017, now it’s time for them to step up again. They keep saying that people voted for change, well now it’s time to really change things for people who need care and those who provide it.” 

Te Whatu Ora must stop unjustly delaying pay equity for 65,000 care and support workers

E tū, The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA), and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) are calling on Te Whatu Ora to stop interfering in the Care and Support Workers’ pay equity claim that has left 65,000 underpaid health workers waiting.

“For more than a year we have undergone a rigorous pay equity process. We have systematically proven and measured the undervaluation of care and support workers based on their gender,” says PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley.

The three unions filed the claim on 1 July 2022 with 15 employers that are representative of the wider care and support sector, employing around 30 percent of the workforce.

“We are disappointed that as we near the end of the process, Te Whatu Ora has interfered and overstepped its role by trying to initiate a review of work on the claim that has already been completed and received the necessary sign off,” says E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh.

Pay equity claims follow a prescribed process overseen by the Public Service Commission. Each milestone during the process is awarded appropriate signoff before advancing to the next stage and Rachel says the proposed review seeks to re-open elements of the work that have already been signed off.

“We are on the edge of a decision that would make sure care and support workers are paid fairly for what they do and that would strengthen our community-based health services. This unwarranted and damaging proposed review has significantly delayed reaching a settlement,” says caregiver and NZNO delegate Trish McKillop.

Unions have issued a legal challenge to the review.

An open letter has been launched calling on funders to provide sufficient resources to settle the claim as soon as possible and stop the interference. The letter is supported by community organisations including Grey Power, the National Council of Women, and the Council of Trade Unions.

The situation is now urgent as the Care and Support Workers Pay Equity Settlement Act is due to expire on December 31 st with no assurance of how its protections will be maintained.

“We are committed to working with the next government to ensure care and support workers receive a pay equity offer by the end of the year,” Melissa Woolley says.

Further information:

  • The Care and Support Workers’ pay equity claim covers home support workers, aged care workers, disability support workers, and mental health and addictions workers.
  • Aotearoa celebrated proudly in 2017 when unions won an historic pay increase for care and support workers following landmark legal wins championed by aged care worker Kristine Bartlett. But since then, their wages have regressed back to minimum wage while the cost of living has skyrocketed.

Support worker wellbeing report exposes huge psychosocial impacts during pandemic

A report into the wellbeing of home support workers during the Covid-19 pandemic calls for urgent measures to address workers’ concerns.

On Wednesday, researchers from AUT led by Associate Professor Katherine Ravenswood and union representatives from E tū and PSA, who collaborated on the report, will meet with Minister of Health, Andrew Little, to seek commitments to take crucial action on its recommendations.

The Wellbeing of Community Support Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic is unique in that the research was conducted not only by the AUT researchers but also by home support workers themselves, who were trained to interview their peers.

The research, funded by the Health Research Council, reveals the huge psychosocial and physical impacts on workers, due to their isolation, marginalisation, insecure working conditions, financial stress, and poor communication from employers.

“Most people think all we do is make cups of tea and do housework. But I am showering my clients, changing dressings – things that require me to be very up close and personal,” one support worker says.

“Yet we had no masks, no gloves, or aprons. In those early days I spent a lot of time crying in my car.”

Many workers said they felt a sense of insecurity about their work hours, if they could continue to work, and whether they would retain their incomes.

“I was in one of the vulnerable groups, and we didn’t know whether to continue work or to stay home or whether I will be financially supported or not.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says decades of systemic undervaluation of this mostly-women workforce has had a profound effect on their individual and collective wellbeing.

“The reflections in the report are honest and cut to the heart. There is no mistaking the stresses these low-paid women workers felt, or the brave actions they took to protect vulnerable clients.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the research shows, where they could, workers consistently went the extra mile to make sure clients were protected and gaps in care were filled.

“There are lessons not only about the Covid-19 pandemic, but about how this group of workers has ended up so forgotten and unrecognised despite the enormous importance of their work, and about what can be done to change this.”  

The report’s recommendations include upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, introducing wellbeing centred employment practices to reduce issues like isolation and financial insecurity, recognising workers’ contribution and expertise, and developing a well-resourced sector to sustainably deliver care and support services. 

The report will be delivered to Parliament on Tuesday 30 August and presented to the Minister of Health on Wednesday 31 August.

Unions lodge pay equity claim for care and support workers 

Unions representing care and support workers are lodging a pay equity claim today to raise pay rates for a majority female workforce that has always been undervalued.

The pay equity claim is a crucial step in stemming the crisis the care and support sector faces, E tū, NZNO, and PSA unions say.

Last week, the Government passed legislation which gives care and support workers a three percent pay increase for 18 months, while the pay equity claim is completed.

Unions say the disappointing pay increase is a “step backwards” in workers’ fight to win fair pay rates.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says unions are pushing to achieve pay equity as soon as possible.

“Care and support workers, who are mostly women, deserve recognition and fair pay for the crucial work they do in our communities.

“In 2017 when the Act was first passed, we finally achieved decent pay rises for workers who had been undervalued and underpaid for decades.

“But now with the cost of living sitting at 6.9%, this low-paid group of workers is struggling to survive and that directly impacts those who need care and support: elderly, people with disabilities, and those with mental health and addictions needs, and their whānau.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says unions are calling on the Government to “fast track” the pay equity process.

“We need the Government to value these essential health workers and respect the people they support by expediting the pay equity process and by funding an interim pay increase, as they have for all other health workers during their pay equity processes.”

NZNO Manager for Industrial Services Glenda Alexander says raising pay for workers by achieving pay equity is a key part of solving the crisis in the care and support sector.

“Workers are leaving the sector because they can’t survive on what they earn,” she says.

“Raising pay rates and creating viable career pathways is a major factor in ensuring care and support workers have decent work, but also in making sure that people in our communities have access to the care they need and deserve.”

ENDS For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū), 027 204 6354
Melissa Woolley (PSA), 0274 418 230
Glenda Alexander (NZNO), 027 201 6881

Renewed settlement for care and support workers still leaves sector in crisis, unions say

Unions representing thousands of care and support workers across Aotearoa New Zealand say the renewed care and support legislation that sets workers’ pay rates will leave workers and the sector in crisis for longer.

The legislation to amend the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017, which will update pay rates, is expected to pass on Wednesday.

However, unions say members are severely disappointed at the pay increase the Government has decided on – a “measly” three percent, far below the cost-of-living pressures workers are facing.

When the current Act expires on 1 July, unions will raise a pay equity claim to further increase the pay rates for support workers, but this process is expected to take 18 months.

Unions say they are equally disappointed the Ministry of Health did not share the content of the amendment bill or the new rates before the cut-off date of 21 June, despite ongoing negotiations for more than a year.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the current interim pay increase leaves support workers still struggling to survive in the meantime.

“With inflation at 6.9 percent and skyrocketing energy and fuel bills, these frontline workers face another 18 months of misery and it means their pay essentially goes backwards.

“It’s good news we’ll now be able to take a pay equity claim which wasn’t possible under the previous legislation, but workers can’t wait that long for a decent pay rise.”

PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies says the low pay increase leaves the sector in crisis.

“We believe this will see workers having to fight for higher pay or leave the sector – when it is the Government that holds the purse strings,” she says.

“Workforce shortages are already leaving elderly, vulnerable, ill, disabled clients and people in the community who have mental health and addiction needs in the lurch.”

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says unions will be lodging a pay equity claim on behalf of care and support workers as soon as possible after 1 July.

“We will fight to see this claim progressed as quickly as possible, as it is clearly the only pathway to achieving decent and respectful increases for the workforce.”

Note to editors: The 4.6 percent increase on pay rates quoted by Minister Little includes a 1.6 percent LCI adjustment, which was agreed in the 2017 Act. The amended bill only includes a pay rise of 3 percent.

ENDS

Kirsty McCully (E tū Director), 027 204 6354
Kerry Davies (PSA National Secretary), 027 430 6013

Rob Zorn (NZNO Communications Advisor), 027 431 2617

Ministry pay decision a “big setback” for care and support workers

Care and support workers are “gutted and disappointed” after a Ministry of Health recommendation that will not see workers get a pay rise of more than 70 cents an hour for at least a year.

In May, workers rallied around the country and presented a petition with more than 10,000 signatures calling on the Government for a bigger pay rise as part of the renewal of the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act to combat worker shortages and financial hardship.

While workers are relieved that the Ministry has recommended Government extend the settlement, which sets their pay and conditions, and remove the current ban on pay equity claims, workers, their employers, and unions say a 70 cent or 2.8 percent increase on all existing wage rates will only exacerbate existing worker shortages.

Union delegate Pania Love says the pay decision is “gut wrenching” and puts huge pressure on those who choose to stay in the care and support sector.

“It feels like the work I do supporting people with disabilities and my level of skill has not been acknowledged.

“We are already understaffed and overworked. Due to work and pay rates, many staff new to the disability sector do not stay long enough to build skills to provide the level of quality care required with empathy and compassion.”

Pania says this puts huge pressure on the few trained, experienced staff who are left working “huge hours and feeling burnt out”.

“While our work remains undervalued and underpaid, we will struggle to attract new workers to provide quality services to the people we support.”

Union delegate Ginny Sarich says the decision is a “big setback” for care and support workers and the whole sector.

“It will be an additional challenge for the people in our care, as they may lose the support workers that they’ve worked with for a long time to better, higher-paid jobs.

“It’s a very disappointing outcome, but we will keep pushing for justice, because ultimately, the conditions for workers are also the conditions for those receiving care.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the Ministry’s recommendation is disappointing to workers across the care and support sectors.

“The original settlement was historic as it started to value the work of these workers. With inflation sitting at 6.9 percent, the increase the Ministry of Health has recommended to workers will leave them still struggling to provide for themselves and their whānau.”

Melissa says unions will raise a pay equity claim on 1 July to ensure workers truly get the pay equity they deserve.

“But that process will take time to reach an outcome, and in the meantime, workers will struggle to live on low wages.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the decision not to raise wages for at least the next 18 months while a pay equity claim is processed will drive workers out of the sector – at a time when providers struggle to recruit them in the first place.

“We know there are already service shortages, and these will only increase as workers tell us they are leaving the sector to get better-paid jobs in work that’s less dangerous and difficult.”

Kirsty says not only is the care and support workforce losing its most skilled and experienced workers, but it’s also very difficult to attract new workers to the sector because of the low pay and inherently challenging nature of the work.

“The conditions for our workers also affect the thousands of people needing care in the community that they support.

“This isn’t just for workers, but for all who require care to live full and independent lives.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū Director), 027 204 6354
Kerry Davies (PSA National Secretary) 0274 306 013
Rob Zorn (NZNO Communications Advisor), 027 431 2617

Care and support workers deliver thousands of messages to Government pleading for better pay

After rallying around Aotearoa for a better pay offer, care and support workers and their unions are delivering their messages to Parliament in a petition signed by thousands in just 10 days.

They will hand over the petition, which has more than 10,000 signatures, on Tuesday afternoon.

Workers in the care and support sector are strongly pushing back on the Government’s current pay offer of around 70 cents more per hour for an 18-month period, which would start after legislation setting their pay and conditions expires on 30 June.

With negotiations set to conclude this week, workers are desperate for a resolution and want to see a sustainable future for their sector.

Union delegate and care worker Kiranjeet says working conditions are already poor: “I see people coming into our sector and leaving in days because the work is exhausting, high pressured.

“We are understaffed, and the pay is too low. Who would sign up to do this work for $21.84 an hour?”

Sector providers are fully behind their staff and launched the petition jointly with care unions to draw attention to what was going on.

The issue has also struck a chord with the community too, with many petition signers leaving personal messages of support for care workers.

“I want to support the support workers who make it possible for my elderly father, who has Alzheimer’s, to live independently,” Marion writes. “I am so grateful for the care my father receives, and I am appalled at the low rates of pay these ‘angels on the ground’ receive.

“They are so well trained, capable, and genuinely caring. I have learnt a lot from them. With my heartfelt thanks. We are incredibly fortunate to have them.”


With the time running out to secure an agreement, workers want to see the Government present a fair pay offer by the end of the week.

Care and support workers will present their petition to Labour MP Ibrahim Omer outside Parliament on Tuesday 24 May at 2.30pm.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354
Melissa Woolley (PSA assistant national secretary), 027 441 8230

Rob Zorn (NZNO communications advisor), 027 431 2617

Support workers, employers come together in fight for pay increase

Care and support workers, their employers, and the clients and residents they care for are rallying together for the first time to secure an urgent pay increase for workers in the sector before legislation that sets their pay and qualifications requirements expires in just over a month’s time.

Around 65,000 care and support workers fear an uncertain future if the Government doesn’t agree to boost funding to provide a substantial increase in their pay rates.

However, the Government has so far indicated there’s unlikely to be funding for more than 70 cents an hour per worker for an 18-month period.

Future fair pay is also far from guaranteed with the parties yet to determine how pay rates will be set beyond the current legislation expiry.

With inflation running at 6.9 percent, care and support workers, who perform essential services for elderly, disabled, or those with mental health and addiction needs, are already struggling to survive.

Aged care worker and union delegate Marianne Bishop says workers fought “for years” to get the original pay settlement put in place, which was negotiated by all three unions back in 2017.

“Workers don’t want to lose those gains, nor the important requirements that set out training and progression through the pay scales as workers grow their knowledge and experience.

“At the moment, they say they feel they are going backwards, only existing week to week.”

Many members share similar stories of hardship: having to choose between putting petrol in their car or food on the table, worrying about how they’ll pay their mortgage or rent.

Mental health support worker and union delegate Christie Cox says she cares for and loves the people she works with – some who, she says, wouldn’t be alive today without the vital work she and her colleagues do.

“But passion doesn’t pay my bills. Passion doesn’t put petrol in my car, buy me groceries.

“Passion for my job doesn’t afford me the things I need for my wellbeing.”

Home and Community Health Association CEO, Graeme Titcombe, say the Government needs to fund appropriate wage levels for support workers.

“It’s imperative if we are to retain and attract the staff necessary to continue to provide quality services to those receiving support in their homes.

“This valuable workforce has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and deserves to have their skill and dedication appropriately recognised.”

New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO, Peter Reynolds, says workers, some employers, and unions worked really hard to win the settlement for support workers back in 2017.

“We don’t want the efforts of those who fought for those gains to be wasted,” he says.

“At the end of the day, it is the impact on disabled people and others needing support that we need to keep in focus.”

Grey Power National President, Jan Pentecost, agrees: “Grey Power knows very well that care and support workers provide an essential service that many older people and others rely on every day.

“Without adequate pay and conditions, this leads to the loss of even more carers and inadequate care, leaving vulnerable people to suffer.

“A likely outcome, if nothing is done, is an increase in ill health and even fatalities – don’t these older folk, others, and the workers who care for them deserve better?”

Care and support workers and their allies are holding rallies and events across Aotearoa to push for a pay rise and highlight their concerns on Monday 23 May.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354
Liz Robinson
, (PSA communications advisor) 027 281 6173
Rob Zorn (NZNO communications advisor), 027 431 2617