Category: Community Support

Strike 3 tomorrow at Woburn Masonic Village

E tū caregivers strike tomorrow for a third time as they continue their fight to end their precarious hours and the 24/7 availability in case of roster changes which is required by their employer, Masonic Care Limited.

The members, who are seeking set shifts and hours, have likened their current conditions to the availability requirements of now illegal zero-hour contracts. 

The workers will be picketing outside the care home during the strike, which runs from 8.30am until 1pm.

E tū member, Mo Tonga says precarious hours are extremely challenging for caregivers like herself who have children, and she needs guaranteed hours so she can have a decent life.

“It’s difficult, being a young mum, having to try to sort out my child and work at the same time, it’s quite stressful. I could spend the times when I’m off work with my daughter, but I have to put her in day care from Monday to Friday.

“It’s a huge issue for me. I have to be available 24/7. If I don’t have enough hours in a fortnight, I have to pick up other shifts and it’s hard to plan my life around that, just having to leave my daughter to come to work. I’d love to have those set shifts just so I can plan my life properly.”

E tū organiser, Robert Ibell says the rosters undermine the intent of the equal pay settlement, which is being subverted by providers like Masonic Care Limited.

“The rosters at Woburn Masonic Village don’t give our members secure hours and a weekly income they can live on,” says Robert.

“The equal pay settlement was intended to place caregivers on a professional footing with training and pay to match but instead we are seeing hours cut, and workers on these very precarious contracts.

“For our members affected by this erosion of decent work, this is about winning rosters which give them a life and protect the care standards of the residents,” he says.

Meanwhile, the union is awaiting a response from Masonic Care Limited to its application for facilitated bargaining.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Robert Ibell E tū organiser ph. 027 436 0089.

To speak with our delegates, please contact Robert, or Karen Gregory-Hunt, Communications Officer, ph. 022 269 1170.

The members will be picketing from 8.30am outside Woburn Masonic Village, 63 Wai-Iti Crescent, Woburn, Lower Hutt

Facilitation sought as caregivers strike again

E tū has applied to the Employment Relations Authority for facilitation of the dispute over working conditions at Woburn Masonic Village in Lower Hutt.

Workers take strike action tomorrow for a second time over guaranteed hours and a requirement by facility operator Masonic Care Limited for 24/7 availability in case of roster changes.

Our members, who are seeking set shifts and hours, have likened this to the availability requirements of now illegal zero-hour contracts. 

The workers will be picketing outside the village during the strike, which is scheduled to begin at 8.30am through until 1pm.

The application for facilitation notes the difficulty settling a collective agreement and the lengthy bargaining period. Talks were initiated over a year ago.

It details issues relating to security of hours of work and appropriate roster arrangements, as well as weekend allowances and sick leave.

“Our members are only asking for what is fair,” says E tū Director, Sam Jones.

“What they are seeking are considered standard terms and conditions across residential aged care, and they need the ability to plan their lives outside the important work they do.”

Woburn Masonic Village delegate, Sela Mulitalo supports the application for facilitation.

“It’s something we need to do,” says Sela. “Our employer hasn’t responded to our strike and it shows they’re not really keen to do anything to resolve the issues.”

Meanwhile, Sela says the members are looking ahead to tomorrow’s strike.

“They were hyped by the Tuesday strike!” says Sela. “They felt good, they felt empowered by that. They’re looking forward to tomorrow and the support we’ve had has given our members good vibes all round.

“It’s sad we are forced to take this action – our members don’t want to strike. But they have been forced into it because they don’t want to be on-call 24/7 for their part-time guaranteed hours.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Sam Jones E tū Director ph. 027 544 8563. To speak with our delegates, please contact Robert Ibell ph.027 436 0089 or Karen Gregory-Hunt, Communications Officer, ph. 022 269 1170.

The members will be picketing from 8.30am outside Woburn Masonic Village, 63 Wai-Iti Crescent, Woburn, Lower Hutt; also, cnr Woburn and Wai-Iti Crescent

Mediation fails: Woburn Masonic members to strike

E tū members at Woburn Masonic Village have likened their rosters to zero-hour contracts ahead of strike action from tomorrow in support of a collective agreement.

The members strike on Tuesday 3 December for half a day (4.5 hours) from 8.30am-1pm, and again at the same time on 6 December and 11 December.

The strike follows eight months of talks including last ditch mediation last week which failed to reach agreement.

E tū organiser, Robert Ibell says a key claim for members is stable shifts and hours. The employer, Masonic Care Limited has offered guaranteed hours to some members, but they would have to be available 24/7 in case of changes from roster to roster, “which is unacceptable,” says Robert.

“Masonic Village has written to residents and their families telling them they value our members, but our members don’t feel that way.

“They want certainty over their shifts and the days and hours they work. Without a decent roster, how are people supposed to organise their lives?”  

Robert says the employer offered to increase weekend rates by $1 an hour, but only if it could cut the hours of care positions to pay for it.

“That would surely compromise the quality of care for residents, and we would resist any bid to reduce our members’ hours,” says Robert.

E tū delegate, Sela Mulitalo says currently, the “guaranteed hours” at Woburn Masonic are nearly all between 20 and 64 hours a fortnight, although members can be rostered on any day at any time. 

These hours do not provide enough income to live on and workers have to look for other supplementary work. However, because they don’t know their days and hours of work from one roster to the next, they cannot make commitments to other employers.

“I do believe we have a zero hours process,” says Sela. “I am one of three caregivers guaranteed 80 hours a fortnight, but for all the other members, it’s so hard for them.

“What happens is the roster comes out and if they see spare shifts they grab them because the work might not be there next week. 

“They end up working seven days, eight days straight and they burn out and get sick. We need proper guaranteed shifts and hours,” she says.

As well as secure work and weekend rates, the members are also seeking extra sick leave and long service leave in line with that provided by most other aged care employers in the Wellington area.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Robert Ibell E tū organiser ph. 027 436 0089. Robert can also put interested media in touch with Sela Mulitalo.

The members will be picketing during their strike:

Where: Woburn Masonic Village 63 Wai-Iti Crescent Woburn Lower Hutt; also, cnr Woburn and Wai-Iti Crescent

When: 8.30am-1pm Tuesday 3 December, 6December and 11 December.

Last-ditch talks ahead of Woburn Masonic strike

E tū care and support members at Wellington residential care home, Woburn Masonic Village head into mediation on Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to conclude collective agreement negotiations ahead of planned strike action next week.

The members have voted to strike for 4.5 hours from 8.30am-1pm, on 3 December and again on 6 December and 11 December.

E tū organiser, Robert Ibell says talks have dragged on for almost a year and, despite several sessions with the mediator, the members and their employer, Masonic Care Limited, are nowhere near agreement.

“We meet again with the mediator on Thursday and we are hoping for an offer we can work with,” says Robert.

“So far that hasn’t been the case,” he says.

A key issue is the employer’s refusal to offer members set shifts or hours.

“This employer wants to only guarantee a certain number of hours a fortnight, but our members don’t know what those hours will be. That’s unacceptable and unworkable for our members who wouldn’t be able to plan their family time.”

Robert says members are also seeking more sick leave, weekend pay rates and recognition of long service.

“The residents value the care and personal attention they get from staff at Woburn Masonic as do their families. That isn’t reflected in management’s position in the bargaining.

“One of the key things that attracts residents to this home is the quality care they receive. The staff know they’re important, but they don’t feel valued by their employer,” Robert says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Robert Ibell E tū organiser, ph. 027 436 0089

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