Category: Community Support

Strike action by Access Community co-ordinators

OUR WORK MATTERS: Access Community health coordinators, contact centre workers and administrators to take industrial action

Workers who co-ordinate the home support of over 20,000 aged, injured and disabled people across New Zealand have voted to take industrial action in total frustration at their employer’s refusal to raise their wages.

Despite playing a vital role in the care and support of around 3.8 million visits including scheduling visits and matching support workers to vulnerable clients, many of these workers are paid at the minimum wage.

“The employer’s latest offer was rejected unanimously at meetings around the country, with 100% of voters in support of industrial action and 100% rejection of the employer’s offer”, said their unions, PSA and E tū – the Home Support unions for New Zealand.

“We are really being stretched thin. Understaffing means we’re working longer and longer hours, in a job where more and more people need support out there in the community and in their homes. We are dedicated to our jobs and our clients, but we cannot continue under the current conditions – something has to change, and soon” says care coordinator, Kirsty Rowe.

“Industrial action is a last resort for these workers, but they believe it is also necessary to ensure that quality of care is maintained for their clients,” says Melissa Woolley, PSA assistant national secretary.

“Access says they can’t raise wages because of a lack of funding. But this is a business owned by Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem and Life Pharmacy, which reported a net profit of $8million in the six months to September 2018,” Ms Woolley says.

“Access is a major home support provider, delivering around 20% of all home and community support in New Zealand, but it hasn’t increased wages for coordinators in the same way that competitors have.”

“Support workers received a significant pay boost from the 2017 care and support pay equity settlement. But coordinators, admin, and contact centre workers have been left behind – and now earn less than the support workers they are responsible for coordinating,” says E tū Home Support coordinator Kirsty McCully.

“These workers are the glue that hold Home Support together in New Zealand. Their work matters, and they deserve to be respected and paid properly for the contribution they make,” Ms McCully says.

The PSA and E tū have agreed to urgent mediation with Access, but members are preparing to take unprecedented strike action for the week of the 13th unless mediations sees a significantly improved offer from the employer.

Key company info:

Access Community Health is a subsidiary business of Green Cross Health Limiting, a primary health care services company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. As of March 2019, the group had a market capitalisation of $143 million. 

Green Cross operates across three segments:    

  • Pharmacies: 362 pharmacies under its Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands
  • Medical: 41 medical centres under the doctors brand
  • Community: home support services to 21,400 clients through Access Community Health, with 3.8 million home visits in 2018, employing 3,500 support workers and 166 community nurses.[1]

Net profit attributable to shareholders increased from $16.9 million in 2017 to $18.7 million in 2018, and the company issued more shares and paid more in dividends to its shareholders. [2]


[1] https://www.greencrosshealth.co.nz/investors/GXH_Mar19%20Investor_Update_Presentation.pdf?a=get&i=132

[2] http://nzx-prod-s7fsd7f98s.s3-website-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/attachments/GXH/320080/281885.pdf

Mediation for IDEA Services dispute

IDEA Services E tū members head into mediation tomorrow with IDEA Services ahead of planned strike action next week.

A second round of industrial action by the members is scheduled to on Monday, 13 May, affecting 3000 IDEA Services E tū members nationwide.

That follows an overwhelming vote by union members for a series of separate strikes over the next two months to support bargaining claims for their collective agreement.

This would be the second round of industrial action, following a four-hour strike on 1 April.

The members, who provide residential and vocational care for the intellectually disabled, are striking for higher pay for senior service workers, weekend pay rates and action on unsafe staffing levels.

An employer attempt to claw back health and safety rights was a contributing factor in the 99% margin to strike, says E tū Industry Coordinator, Alastair Duncan.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Alastair Duncan E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 245 6593

Second strike at IDEA gets massive support

IDEA members have again voted by a 99% to 1% margin for further strike action in support of the E tū claim to lift pay and prevent IDEA rolling back existing rights.

The next strike is a one-hour strike starting on Monday 13 May at 3.30 pm and lasting till 4.30 pm.  A further strike is planned for the 20 May at the same time if needed.

On 8 May we will meet with IDEA to see if their position has changed and report any progress.

In the meantime, all affected members are reminded that the strike is your legal right and that if managers ask you if you are going to be working, you can tell them that we have advised IDEA of the strike and it’s your right to strike for the hour.

Auckland RIDSAS workers will start a paperwork ban at 10.00 am on the same day.

The full voting results will be published following the counting of special votes.

Opinion: Why IDEA Services members are striking

By Nic Corrigan

Most IDEA Services residential staff are physically at work between 50-70 hours a week. This includes weekends, evening and overnights.  Staff will often go that extra mile and even work in other towns away from home, to help out when there isn’t anyone else to fill a shift.  And often during our time off, we are rung day or night to sacrifice time with our families to cover shifts.

We do this because we know these vulnerable people need us. But this all comes at a significant personal cost to support workers’ personal lives, in terms of giving up time and milestones with their family and Friends. 

Now IHC/IDEA Services tells us they the support workers to be more ‘flexible’.  What they are saying is what we do is not enough; they want even more from us.

Members believe they already give everything they can to the people we support, and they can’t sacrifice anymore.  They are deeply offended by IDEA Service’s escalating demands and worried about how much more they and their families will have to sacrifice to keep their job and passion. For many, it’s already been too much and they have quit.

Senior Support Workers

While most people know support workers go the extra mile, some might not know that it is the Senior support workers who lead this.  They mentor, support and lead the team.  If something new needs to happen or a person we support wants to achieve something new in their life, it’s the Senior support worker who leads the way to enable the support team to make it happen for the person they support. We want these senior staff members recognised with a small pay rise, and celebrated for the extra contribution, commitment, knowledge and experience they bring to the organisation.  IHC/Idea Services wants the position gone.

Violence

We are striking to ensure the places we work are safe from violence and that there is adequate support to ensure this happens.   Too often our members are placed in a situation where they must choose whether to protect themselves or the people they support from physical harm – and thus we chose to ourselves in harm’s way to protect others. IHC/Idea Services wants to remove a section from our Collective Agreement that acknowledges that some of our service users have challenging behaviours which are a risk to health and safety. If this happens, members feel this will render invisible the fact that some support workers face the threat of violence from service users on a daily basis.

We take the hits, punches, bites and threats of violence and we try to manage this the best we can.  What we don’t expect is for our employer to add salt to our injuries by dismissing our real safety concerns.

Conclusion

Support workers need and have the right to be treated with respect, and to feel safe like every other working New Zealander. We are striking to ensure these principles are respected and upheld.

No April Fool as IDEA workers go on strike

Hundreds of IDEA members turned out across the Country on 1 April standing loud and proud for a better deal at work.

From Northland to Southland member grabbed picket signs, braved torrential rain and made headlines across the country.

With paid stop-work meetings coming up in the week of the 15  April, another strike could be on the  cards.

IDEA: April 1 strike is on after mediation fails

Mediation for nearly 3000 IDEA Services care workers has ended in failure after IDEA Services, the operational arm of IHC, refused to budge on key union claims to lift wages and conditions.

The members, who provide residential care for the intellectually disabled, are seeking higher pay for senior service workers, weekend pay rates and action on unsafe staffing levels.

E tū industry co-ordinator Alastair Duncan says IDEA Services refused a union request to even discuss options.

“Not only does IDEA Services want to cut current conditions, it also wants to undermine the job security of the workforce using the mantra of so-called ‘flexibility’.

“Union members are fed up with the way their long-standing concerns have been ignored.

“Every day support workers go the extra mile for IDEA Services but when it comes to staff rights, IDEA shuts down”, he says.

Delegates say they are sick of having problems like understaffing parked in working parties which go nowhere.

“Even our attempts to engage constructively around safe staffing and violence in the workplace have been continually met with a noncommittal response. We are feeling unheard and undervalued because of this,” says Marlborough-based union delegate Jeanine Sadd.

Union members have asked to meet with the board to discuss their concerns, but IDEA Services has yet to respond.

“IDEA has now followed the pattern of the corporate aged care world and is growing its property arm at the expense of its workforce,” says Manawatu union delegate Nic Corrigan.

“They seem to think safe staffing is an optional extra.”

The 4-hour strike begins at 7.00 am on Monday and will involve pickets and protests in both metropolitan and rural New Zealand.

ENDS

For further information, contact Alastair Duncan ph. 027 245 6593.

To speak to our delegates, please contact Karen Gregory-Hunt ph. 022 269 1170

IDEA Services care workers to strike 1 April

Three thousand care and support workers employed by IDEA Services, the operational arm of IHC, have voted to strike on 1 April.

E tū industry co-ordinator Alastair Duncan says members voted overwhelmingly to strike after five months of challenging bargaining, during which IDEA has failed to respond positively to key workforce and safety concerns.

“Support workers at IDEA do an extraordinary job of supporting young and old people with intellectual disabilities,” says Alastair.

“Every day and every night, seven days a week, staff go the extra mile. Just once a year we ask IDEA to reflect that contribution by working together to improve the working conditions of staff.”

Alastair Duncan says union members have sought a greater voice on health and safety, and recognition for working weekends as well as the restoration of responsibility margins.

“IDEA responded by wanting to cut sick leave accumulation, force staff to move workplaces without agreement or notice and simply refused to consider recognition that staff are required to work anti-social hours.”

Alastair says IHC operates the same business model as for-profit care providers, spinning off its financially successful property division from its operational arm.

“IHC is a major landlord and property company that depends on its care staff. It is tragic to see them ignoring their own workforce.

“IHC has a strong and growing asset base but refuses to do the smart thing and allow its property arm to support its operational arm.”

Alastair says staff are concerned that IDEA has dug its heels in leaving them little choice but to take what is lawful, modest but important industrial action.

The union is seeking urgent mediation but if the strike goes ahead, will be holding nationwide high-profile pickets.

“Support workers will be reaching out to families and the community to work with us to persuade IDEA to do the right thing and respect it’s staff,” he says.

Alastair Duncan says IHC locked its staff out of weekend pay and other allowances in the 1990’s and it is now well past time to return what was stolen.

The strike will begin at 7.00 am and affect several hundred residential, vocational and secure homes and facilities.

ENDS

For further information contact Alastair Duncan on 027 245 6593.

Care home staff shortages critical

E tū says staffing in aged care is inadequate and frequently unsafe for residents and carers.

An E tū/NZNO survey of 1200 caregivers reveals just one in ten staff believed their rest homes were sufficiently staffed to provide quality care.

Most report cares were missed on most if not all shifts as staff ration care.

In one tragic case, a resident died because they saw how over-worked the staff were and didn’t want to report an infected wound.

E tū members regularly report just two caregivers on shifts providing care for up to 60 frail and vulnerable people.

E tū delegate and care and support worker, Marianne Bishop says the survey reflects the reality of working life for the country’s aged care workforce. 

“We believe staffing is inadequate to deliver quality care. We know from the survey that many carers are in despair.

“They’re absolutely exhausted at their end of their shift. They can’t take breaks because they want to get the work done. Then at the end of the day, they’re sitting in their cars and crying.

“And it’s not just about them. It’s about the care that’s being denied to the people they care for. It’s not right.

“We love our jobs, but I feel I can’t do the job to the standard I think our residents deserve. If you’re really short-staffed basic cares like showers don’t get done. And frequently, you can’t toilet people on time which is an insult to people’s dignity.”

Both unions want a review of the voluntary staffing standards for aged care, which allocates just 6 minutes per hour per resident, and are calling for higher mandatory staffing levels.

“Care is being denied to vulnerable elderly people who need it,” says E tū Industry Coordinator, Alastair Duncan.

“Our caregivers are burning out as they struggle with unsafe workloads. The sector has long been under-funded, and staffing has been an issue for years. 

“But now it’s been cut to the bone at a time when residents are frailer with more complex care needs. At the end of the day it’s the vulnerable elderly who suffer,” he says.

“It means carers can’t spend any quality time at all with them. Our members get very upset that they can’t spare a moment to comfort an elderly person, or just talk to them.”

ENDS

For more information contact:
Alastair Duncan E tū Industry Coordinator Care and Support Ph. 027 245 6593.

We can also provide contact details for Marianne Bishop and other caregivers.

Changes urged to Equal Pay Amendment bill

E tū says without key changes to the Equal Pay Amendment bill, few women will be able to successfully pursue an equal pay claim.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall appeared before today’s Workforce and Education Select Committee hearing on the bill, together with E tū delegate, Marianne Bishop.

John says the union welcomes the Government’s decision to retain the Equal Pay Act 1972, which the previous National government would have scrapped.

The union is also pleased claimants must no longer prove they have a case before they can lodge a pay equity claim.

“However, too many hurdles remain,” says John.

“The process remains unnecessarily complex and time-consuming, and it needs to be simplified.”

John says the union’s position is founded on the principles of the Joint Working Group on pay equity, as well as the Court of Appeal ruling in the Terranova case which led to the equal pay settlement for care and support workers.

“The court found the Equal Pay Act 1972 was deficient and in need of change, which we support, but we don’t want it changed so it’s more difficult for women to get pay equity.

“There is a risk as things stand of closing the door for other women, because it’s so difficult that people give up.”

E tū delegate and care and support worker, Marianne Bishop says the new bill is an improvement on the Equal Pay Act 1972.

But she says, while women in unions will have support to navigate the process, many individual claimants would struggle.

She says it’s critical all women get the resources they need, including help with comparators so they can argue their case.

“The bill is better than it was but it’s quite complex for an individual person to navigate. Employers will have lawyers to help them but many women will flounder.

“There needs to be a support system – an agency – to help these people through the process,” she says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

John Ryall E tū Assistant National Secretary ph. 027 520 1380

To contact Marianne, please call:

Karen Gregory-Hunt, E tū Communications Officer, ph. 022 269 1170.