Category: Community Support

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

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