Category: Community Support

IDEA Services: leave payments update

YOUR RIGHTS – COVID-19 LEAVE PAYMENTS DISRUPTIONS AND DECLARATIONS

If you have been unable to work because you are following Ministry of Health guidelines to keep clients, your families and yourself safe, you will have just been notified by IDEA Services that from the 23 of April you will no longer continue to be paid your full wage.

IDEA have done this despite their commitment to you to provide you guaranteed hours and their commitment to the government to make best endeavour to pay at least 80% of your wage. Instead, they are dropping your wage to the amounts paid for by the government subsidy.

To add to this, you are now being asked by IDEA to complete a declaration/application for special leave including providing medical information on yourself or your vulnerable family members.

Below are some frequently asked questions.

Does the government subsidy mean IDEA doesn’t have to pay your wages?

  • No, the government subsidies for business in no way means the employer does not continue to have separate obligations to employees under employment law and their employment agreement.
  • Employment laws and regulations (subject to one small exception) have not changed due to COVID-19. These laws and obligations continue to apply.
  • This also means the employer cannot change or reduce rates of pay, hours of work, or other terms of employment without discussion and agreement with employees, regardless of whether the employer seeks the wage subsidy.
  • Employers accessing wage subsidies does not mean they do not have to continue to meet their legal and contractual obligations to workers and the union.

What are your rights in the view of E tū?

  • IDEA cannot reduce your guaranteed hours without your agreement or following a proper process which is covered in clause 16 of your collective agreement.
  • If you are available and willing to work your guaranteed hours, then they must be provided and paid. If IDEA can’t provide you a safe work environment and you are at home following government pandemic rules than you should be paid your normal wage.
  • You do not have to agree to be paid leave and can’t be forced to use annual leave.
  • You should not be forced back to work through financial hardship and IDEA should be paying you special leave.
  • You do not need to provide your or your family members’ medical information on a WINZ declaration. You may be required to discuss your vulnerability to a professional to undertake a risk assessment to determine whether its safe to work.

What is the union’s advice?

  • Do not agree to be paid less than your normal earnings.
  • Keep a record of what you lose.
  • You can use annual leave to top up this payment if you need the money, but write on the form that you feel forced to use leave to be able to survive and it should be reimbursed later.
  • Tick the box on the declaration applicable to your circumstances but you do not need to fill in the text box with detailed medical information, especially if you have been deemed to be at risk by your GP.
  • Organise so your voice is heard loud and clear.

Does IDEA have a moral obligation to pay as well as a legal one?

So far IDEA have continued to pay you at 100% of your wage which is great. They have done this knowing that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has said they will cover this cost to enable you to remain employed and your position to be back filled with other staff.

The MoH is doing a template for health employers to claim back the money for the back filling of staff now. The MoH expect more people to return to work at Level 3, however not everyone will be safe to return and E tū expects IDEA will continue to be able to apply for the top up for back filling staff meaning they would not be out of pocket.

So why cut your pay now?

Ralph Jones stated that this was because IHC/IDEA Services had not been able to secure a guarantee from MoH that the COVID-19 wages costs would be guaranteed. Mr Jones also stated that the MoH had advised IHC/IDEA Services apply for the COVID-19 leave subsidy.

Here is E tū’s understanding of the facts:

  1. IHC/IDEA Services has incurred significant wages costs covering the wages of those workers who were not permitted to attend the workplace for COVID-19 related reasons.
  2. IHC/IDEA Services could have applied for the various versions of the COVID-19 leave subsidies from 18 March 2020.
  3. On 14 April the MoH advised all Disability Sector employers that if there is any risk of them not being able to keep going through the COVID crisis and beyond then they only have to ask for assistance and the MoH will be there to provide that assistance.
  4. On Monday 20 April the MoH advised disability sector employers/providers that a template document was being prepared for them to complete to claim the COVID-19 back filling wages costs and other COVID-19 related costs, and that the funding would be available.
  5. What is required is that IHC complete a declaration which names you and confirms that you have been advised that you are being named in their application for a wages subsidy for you. The IHC Group is also required to declare to MSD that they are using their “best endeavours” to pay you at least 80% of your wages. The advice to all employers who apply for this funding is that they are NOT relieved of their obligations to pay you your wages and they are not permitted to compel you to use other leave balances.
  6. We have raised our concerns with IDEA and will continue to insist that you are all paid 100% of your wages without having to use other leave balances.
  7. E tū acknowledges that the MoH has been frustratingly slow to address the additional costs that essential service employers have had to face in this crisis. E tū has kept this item on the MoH agenda and will stand with the disability sector employers to keep this issue at the forefront of discussions with the MoH and government.  

In the meantime we expect IDEA to keep paying you and you should too!

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE TO WAGE REDUCTIONS OR TO USE YOUR LEAVE BALANCES. E TŪ IS HERE TO SUPPORT YOU – CONTACT US FOR ASSISTANCE IF YOU NEED TO. 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466) or [email protected]

Home support workers: half without adequate PPE

Half of New Zealand’s home support workers lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), according to initial results from an E tū survey which opened yesterday afternoon.

Home support worker Tarsh Dixon says the union launched the survey after the Government’s announced a rapid stocktake of PPE distribution midday yesterday.

The initial results are being released to coincide with a new international PPE campaign for support workers starting today.

Tarsh, an E tū national home support delegate, says the initial results are distressing.

“Immunosuppressed clients undergoing cancer treatment shouldn’t have to wait for another government report before their support workers get adequate PPE,” she says.

“Frontline staff know our PPE distribution system is broken; the Government needs to start listening to us and act today.”

The survey shows staff without adequate gear often have none not all, or employers are rationing the small amount available, she says.

“Some support workers have only had two masks since the lockdown started. One respondent just got her first protective equipment after five weeks of complaints. It was a single box of gloves.”

Survey feedback suggests clients are declining care because the lack of PPE makes them feel unsafe.

“In some cases, clients are being told to buy protective equipment if they are concerned their support workers have none.”

Initial results show workers are buying PPE, which Tarsh says is “an unfair expectation on low-paid workers”.

INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED IN NEW ZEALAND

Unions are launching an international PPE campaign “#ProtectHomecareWorkers” today, starting in New Zealand.

“Our Government deserves international recognition for its lockdown response,” Tarsh says.

“But our lack of PPE and poor distribution is part of a global problem and the system has let us down.

“Home support workers across the world face the same problem, and New Zealand has an opportunity to show the world how to respect our support workers,” she says.

Tarsh says the campaign demands are adequate PPE, correct payment, and respect.

“This is the minimum we need to ensure we can provide safe quality care to the world’s vulnerable people.”

ENDS
For more info and comment, contact Kirsty McCully, E tū Director, 027 204 6354.
Tarsh Dixon, home support delegate, is available for comment today. Please arrange with Kirsty.

Aged care funding “inadequate and lacks accountability”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary says the PPE issues need to be sorted immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E tū is calling for:

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

PPE victory for frontline health workers

Frontline health workers in aged care, home care, and community support are relieved by the Ministry of Health announcement that proper PPE will now be made available to them through DHBs.

E tū member Pam King, a support worker in Invercargill, congratulated the Ministry for listening to support workers.

“We are pleased with this decision by the Ministry of Health. It’s great that support workers and our clients will be better protected, and that we won’t unduly risk the spread of COVID-19 amongst our most at-risk populations,” Pam says.

“I regularly see 20 or more clients a day and, like me, they want to know we are protected as much as possible from spreading this awful virus.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says that while this is a good first step towards ensuring all care workers are protected, more needs to be done.

“There is still work to do on rostering arrangements and screening processes to further minimise risk, and we look forward to the Ministry, DHBs, and providers working across the sector to ensure the right decisions are made and implemented at pace,” Kirsty says.

“We also want to see clear guidance on the issue of pay for the immune compromised, over 70s, and those with caring responsibilities in essential services to ensure they don’t lose out for doing the right thing by everyone and staying home.”

Kirsty says these issues are being faced by workforces around the world.

“The provision of PPE for frontline care workers is a global issue. Care workers worldwide have been calling for protection for themselves and others using the hashtag #GetMePPE.

“E tū joins forces with care workers everywhere in calling for respect, protection, and support for our frontline carers who are out there working tirelessly at the moment to ensure our communities say safe.”

ENDS

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

Home support workers awaiting COVID-19 test results

Two groups home support workers may have been exposed to COVID-19 and are in self-isolation, as the family member of a client, who lives with the client, awaits test results.

E tū understands that up to seven home support workers may have been exposed.

One home support worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, is very worried about how many clients may have also been infected.

“I’ve been into the client’s home several times during the global pandemic. The job requires two support workers because we have to lift the client, so there are a few of us who might be affected,” they say.

“One support worker has also started a job at a local rest home recently, on top of her home support work, so we’re really worried about those residents as well.”

Test results are expected tomorrow.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says this demonstrates the massive need for proper PPE in home support.

“It’s just ridiculous that so many frontline health workers that care for vulnerable, elderly people, are not being given the right equipment,” Kirsty says.

“All it takes is for one person to get COVID-19 and spread it to other clients, or even around a rest home, for the virus to spin out of control.

“Home support workers have a simple message – get us PPE and manage the risks properly to minimise the spread of COVID-19.”

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Kirsty McCully 027 204 6354

Answers needed for PPE concerns in home support

Increasingly concerned home support workers are worried that without adequate personal protective equipment and mandatory protocols for risk assessments, they may end up spreading COVID-19 around the homes and communities they work in.

The news that 21 hospital workers are now self-isolating as a result of exposure to NZ’s first person to have died from COVID-19 has raised additional concerns for the support workforce who say processes and protocols in their sector are not robust enough to cope with the complexities and challenges of self-isolation requirements.

Jan, a support worker from the South Island who doesn’t want her last name published, is worried about safety.

“I sometimes visit 20 or more homes in a day, I visit our over 65s and people with disabilities or other long-term conditions, and I am concerned for the safety and wellbeing of my clients, and myself,” Jan says.

“We cannot stay six feet away from those we support when we provide personal cares such as showering, we’re usually in close contact. I think there’s a misunderstanding about what we do – we want to continue to support our clients, but we don’t want to be responsible for community spread here in NZ.”

“I know support workers around the country talking about quitting the sector for good if these concerns remain, and I know many are talking about refusing to work in situations which they consider to be unsafe.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says that Jan’s concerns are being echoed across the board.

“Care workers worldwide share these concerns and, alongside other frontline health workforces, are calling for PPE to be made available to them,” she says.

“We’ve heard that there isn’t a supply issue here in New Zealand, but support workers currently struggle to access it, and the current advice to support workers is that they do not need it unless they are dealing with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Providers with PPE including masks must urgently pass them on to the support workers they employ. If they don’t have any, DHBs must act to distribute the PPE support workers need at this time.

“Unless something is done fast, this could become a public health disaster – clients are beginning to cancel their care, and ultimately if they become unwell they will end up in hospital at a time when our health system must be prioritised for those requiring COVID-19 and other urgent treatment.”

E tū has met repeatedly with Ministry of Health and DHB representatives to raise the concerns of support workers and is calling for urgent action on the matter.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Kirsty McCully 027 204 6354

ERA facilitation win for Woburn Masonic members

E tū members at Woburn Masonic aged care home in Lower Hutt have won their application to the Employment Relations Authority for facilitated bargaining of their dispute with owners, Masonic Care Limited.

The union applied to the ERA for facilitation after members were unable to secure a collective agreement following nearly 12 months of talks, mediation and a series of strikes just before Christmas.

The members, who have likened their current rosters to the availability requirements of now illegal zero-hour contracts, want set shifts and hours as well as better sick leave, weekend pay rates, and long service leave.

Delegate Sela Mulitalo says the ERA decision in favour of facilitation is a big win and vindicates last year’s industrial action.

“This is a positive win for us, and we are hoping for a resolution. We didn’t know if we’d win it, because Masonic Care opposed it. And while we took strike action, we needed to have other channels to work through and that’s what we’ve got,” says Sela.

“What we are hoping for is just to be heard – for our truth to be heard, and our struggle, because we can’t live proper lives if we always have to be available to work.

“We just want a proper roster, that’s where we want the talks focussed, and not to be on call 24/7,” she says.

E tū organiser, Robert Ibell says facilitation is a chance for Masonic Care Limited to agree on conditions which respect the members and the work they do.

“We know it’s possible for the employer to run a roster that gives the members set shifts and set hours. Our members have already produced one.

“We are keen to work with the employer to make this a reality and to ensure these are decent jobs – people should know when they work, what shifts they work and what hours they’ll be working.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact;

Robert Ibell E tū organiser ph. 027 436 089

Robert can also provide contact details for Sela Mulitalo.

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