Category: COVID-19

E tū Komiti Pasefika calls for unity

The E tū Komiti Pasefika is calling for unity and kindness as Aotearoa bands together once again to eliminate COVID-19 in our community.

The latest outbreak has affected Pacific Island families in particular, which has resulted in a rise in racism, particularly on social media.

E tū National Executive and Komiti Pasefika member Gadiel Asiata says he is proud of the steps his whole community are taking to combat COVID-19.

“Our Pacific Island communities have pulled together to do our bit,” Gadiel says.

“We know that we can’t let this pandemic win. We know it’s important to stay calm, stay home, wear a mask, and adhere to the rules.

“I live with my elderly mother, and with how dangerous the Delta strain is, I know how important it is to stay home to keep my family safe. Many Pasefika people in South Auckland live with their elderly relatives – we know the stakes.

“We can’t let this pandemic divide us.”

Gadiel says that the Government should take any opportunities to work with the Pasefika community to fight the pandemic.

“We have been calling for vaccination stations to be set up at churches and give our community leaders the tools to get our people protected. A good plan needs to be by the community, for the community.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says the backlash against the Pasefika community has left her feeling upset.

“I feel really hurt for my people, as once again there is a narrative out there blaming our Pasefika people instead of blaming COVID-19,” Fala says.

“Our public health officials have praised the Pasefika community for doing the right thing – we are proud of our efforts. We are a very collective community. It is in our DNA and upbringing to always look out for each other.

“So many of our essential workers are Pasefika people as well, they are really holding things together. We need to be so grateful for their work and we owe them heaps.

“We just need to be kind to each other as we fight to stamp out COVID again. Kia kaha, Aotearoa! We have done it before, we can surely do it again!”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332

E tū: No nonsense from big business this lockdown

E tū says it won’t be sitting by if big corporates try to shirk their duty to pay workers their proper wages during the Alert Level 4 lockdown.

Last year, E tū was concerned by some major companies that accepted the Government’s wage subsidy but treated workers badly – cutting wages, making them use annual leave, and layoffs – and still turned a profit.

A worker from a large infrastructure company that was among those that claimed the most from the Government says so far there’s been no news of what’s happening with their pay this lockdown.

“It’s shaping up to be the same as last year. They are avoiding us – not getting in touch with workers,” he says.

The man says last year workers in his department initially agreed to a pay cut of around 20%, deeming it a reasonable request under the circumstances.

That was, until they found out the company intended to pay them 20% less – not of their normal, much higher, wage, but of an average base rate.

He says it amounted to about a 50% pay cut overall and the situation bred distrust: “People weren’t happy about it. There was a just the feeling of unfairness.”

Some workers have heavy financial commitments – such as supporting family overseas, paying for medical care, or are the sole providers in their families – and couldn’t afford to take such a huge cut in pay, he says.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says companies need to honour employment law and pay their workers as agreed in their collective agreements or individual employment contracts.

“Workers in Aotearoa New Zealand pulled us through this crisis last time, and a lot of the large companies that were ‘down and out’ went on to record big profits.

“We’re not going to tolerate workers not being paid what has been agreed to in their collective agreements.”

Joe says it’s unacceptable for companies to take advantage of the situation to get away with paying their workers less, leaving them dependent on legal measures to recoup what they should have been paid in the first place.

“Companies need to honour and respect employment law – do the right thing now and pay workers 100%.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

‘Do the right thing’ union says, after workers report reduced pay or annual leave requests

E tū says all employers in Aotearoa New Zealand must pay their workers 100% of their wages during the national lockdown period.

During the March 2020 lockdown and other elevated Alert Level periods, the union dealt with many cases where workers had to accept reduced pay or use their annual leave to get paid – even when employers were being supported by the Government’s wage subsidy.

E tū delegate Josephine Wiredu, a cleaner at Auckland’s City Council who normally works around 55 hours a week, was sent home from work on Tuesday night as the country prepared to go into lockdown.

She and her colleagues have been told not to come in during Alert Level 4, and don’t yet have any guarantees about whether they’ll receive their full wages during this time.

Josephine, who is paid at the Living Wage rate, says any drop in income would be a “big blow”.

“Our employer only paid the 80% last year during the second lockdown, as they were no longer eligible for the wage subsidy. But they paid this from their own pocket,” she says.

“They have applied for the wage subsidy again now, but we don’t know what will happen yet. At the same time, we still need to pay our bills no matter what, so the decision will affect our families.”

Another delegate and cleaner, who doesn’t wish to be named and also works at the council for a different contractor, says workers are fully entitled to be paid 100% of their wages.

“Nobody knew that lockdown would be happening again, and we don’t know how long it’s going to last. Lockdown doesn’t stop our rent or power money going out.

“We signed a contract with our employer, they must keep to it,” she says.

Last year, the cleaner, who usually works more than 60 hours a week, says she was forced to use savings when her income during lockdown dropped to around 70% of her usual pay.

She doesn’t know how her pay will be affected this time, but in her role as a supervisor, she’s already had to refuse a request from management asking her to get colleagues to sign a form agreeing to use their annual leave during this lockdown.

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says the union is also hearing from members in similar situations: being asked to take leave or agree to reduced pay.

“It is unacceptable that, through no fault of their own, some workers are having to bear the financial brunt of the lockdown.

“For someone on low pay, not being paid their full wages causes a financial crisis, because there’s no money to spare week to week.

“A cut in pay means not being able to pay rents, keep the lights on, and pay for essentials for kids. Sometimes it also means taking on high interest debt just to get by.”

Yvette says employers need to value the work their workers are doing – many of whom will be providing essential services as soon as the country is out of Alert Level 4.

“As soon as the alert levels drop, many other essential workers will be expected to be straight back to work – workers like cleaners who will expected to give everything a deep clean, so the rest of us feel safe going back to public spaces.

“We should be valuing this work by ensuring they are paid 100%, not just turning the tap off and on during alert level changes.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Yvette Taylor, 027 585 6120

Your work rights at Alert Level 4

You will have heard about the new COVID-19 cases in our community.

The Prime Minister has announced an Alert Level 4 lockdown, starting at 11.59pm last night for seven days in Auckland and Coromandel, and for three days everywhere else.

It is extremely important that we comply with official instructions. We know that Alert Level 4 means that we have to stay home to stay safe – click here to refresh your mind about the Alert Level 4 restrictions.

E tū has planned for any Alert Level increases. We are closely monitoring the latest developments and will make sure all E tū members are well informed and well represented as we get through this period.

In the meantime, here are some important things to keep in mind:

1. Do not sign any variations to your contract

Some employers may ask their workers to sign something that changes their employment conditions in response to Alert Level changes, such as agreeing to reduced pay. Do not sign this.

Instead, let them know that you will talk to your union first. Then contact your delegate, or E tū Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

2. You may only work during Alert Level 4 if you are an essential worker

Many E tū members are essential workers – we thank them for their hard work during this period. The rest of us need to stay home and stay safe.

There is a limited list of essential businesses that are able to operate under Alert Level 4. Your employer should be in touch if you are required to work your normal shift. If not, stay home.

3. You should not have to lose any pay or have to use your leave during lockdown

E tū’s position is that your boss has to pay you for your normal hours of work while we are in lockdown. They should not require you to use any of your leave.

The Government has set up various programmes to help your employer meet their costs, such as as the wage subsidy.

4. The union is here to help with any employment issues you have

E tū Support will be open for calls and emails during normal hours, even at Alert Level 4.

Get in touch with us for any advice or representation you may need regarding anything happening at your workplace.

Contact E tū Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

5. There are contingency plans for holding safe Biennial Membership Meetings online

You may be aware that our Biennial Membership Meetings (BMMs) are scheduled for September and October.

Although the current Alert Level increase does not affect any BMMs, we are prepared for the possibility than in-person meetings cannot go ahead.

We will communicate about this as we learn more, but we can be hopeful that BMMs may continue as scheduled.

6. Stay informed by following the official channels

The best and most accurate information about the COVID-19 response can always be found at www.covid19.govt.nz and by listening to the official announcements.

Look after your families and yourselves. Thank you for being an E tū member.

Union calls on Air New Zealand to rebuild better

E tū is calling on the country’s national carrier to ensure it rebuilds better than before, after the half-year announcement of a profit loss of $185 million, before other significant items and taxation.

E tū Head of Aviation, Savage, says the announcement comes as no surprise, but the issue now is whether the airline can balance its need to generate profits with its commitment to putting people before profits.

“The pandemic has focused attention on how vital Air New Zealand is to New Zealand’s economy – not just as part of our national infrastructure connecting the regions and to global markets, but also in terms of the standards Air New Zealand has itself set in industrial relations.”

Air New Zealand is a large, high profile employer that had turned a corner in the last five years, and committed to doing far better by its staff, he says.

E tū members represent a third of the workforce at Air New Zealand.

Savage says it is a hard time to be an airline worker.

“The company is rightfully scrutinising every cost increase, but workers still have bills to pay, housing costs continue to rise, and there are still people at Air New Zealand who earn below the Living Wage.

“Rebuilding a better airline that can serve the national needs and becoming a better employer is the challenge now.”

However, the company has made recent strategic statements that indicate its priorities in terms of people coming before profit, and that is the standard the company will be judged by, Savage says.

“Flying more passengers and cargo and vital to rebuilding, but the CEO and his management team will also need to keep supporting and recognising the thousands of workers who have kept the company going through all the tribulations of the last 12 months.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

E tū welcomes vaccine arrival

The expected early arrival of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first vaccine shipment is welcome news to E tū, the union representing many border and health workers.

The Government announced this morning that the first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be rolled out from next week and will be delivered to border and MIQ workers and their close contacts as a priority.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it is great news.

“This is a very important milestone for our COVID-19 response and takes us a step closer to getting this virus under control,” Annie says.

“It’s entirely appropriate that people working at the border and in MIQ will be vaccinated first, as they have the most risk of exposure.”

Annie says it is vital that workers are not disadvantaged by the vaccine roll-out.

“This means that workers need to be properly paid throughout the process. If they need time off work for the vaccination, that must be fully paid. If any part of the process prohibits them from working for a period, that time off should also be paid and not require workers to use up their leave.

“These basics will need to be followed for the whole roll-out, not just this first batch. As our healthcare workers and others begin getting vaccinated, all Kiwi workers deserve financial security for doing that which is in all of our best interests.

“E tū members across many industries have kept Aotearoa safe and thriving through the pandemic. Health workers, aviation workers, cleaners, security guards, food workers, and many more have shown exactly how essential they are. 

“The best way to thank these workers for their outstanding service is to make sure they are always properly paid for the work they do and any sacrifices they have to make.”

Annie also stressed the importance of following official advice and relying on the best information from the Ministry of Health.

“E tū members are encouraged to learn about the vaccine and why it’s so important in our fight against the pandemic. Excellent information is available on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine page.

“With proper protections, and good information, Aotearoa can once again show the world how it’s done.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Union welcomes border workers given priority for COVID-19 vaccine

E tū supports the Government’s commitment ensuring that border workers and their families are prioritised in the roll-out of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said workers such as cleaners, nurses who undertake health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, airline staff and hotel workers will be among the first to be vaccinated.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was given provisional approval by Medsafe today. The vaccines are expected to arrive in New Zealand by the end of the first quarter.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the priority status is fantastic news for both border workers and their families.

“Protecting our members at work and keeping them and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an ongoing concern for E tū.

“It’s a relief to know that their health and safety is considered a top priority.”

Annie says the union would like to see workers in care professions, such as aged care and home support, also given priority after the roll-out to border workers.

“During the lockdown, we saw that PPE was extremely slow and was not done with these workers in mind. We also need to make sure that workers on the frontlines in healthcare are taken into account, with worker consultation and rights at the forefront of any future processes.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Government walking the talk on the Living Wage for new MIQ guards

E tū is pleased with the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the Government is looking to directly employ any new security guards needed at managed isolation and quarantine facilities and guards will be paid at least the Living Wage.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says it is great news and very important.

“So many guards are doing really hard mahi through the COVID-19 crisis, and we need to be paid a wage that reflects that,” Rosey says.

“We’ve had to go above and beyond, doing extra duties and quickly reacting to the changing situation. We’re doing really important work that’s a big part of keeping the community safe at the moment.”

Rosey gets paid the Living Wage at one of her sites and says it has significantly improved her life.

“I now have a savings account. I can afford the things that my son and I need. I’ve been able to reduce my hours, so I can have more family time, rest, and even a social life!”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it shows the Government is finally honouring the Living Wage promise that all three Government parties made in the 2017 election campaign.

“E tū members have kept the pressure on to make sure the Government pay the Living Wage to all workers in the core public sector like cleaners and security guards,” Annie says.

“Just last month, the Government delivered the Living Wage for guards at the Ministry of Social Development. We now need to see the Living Wage in all government contracts.

“Throughout the crisis, we’ve been constantly reminded just how important and often difficult these jobs are. Higher wages lead to healthier and more vibrant communities. It makes perfect sense for the Living Wage to be an important factor in the COVID-19 response and rebuild.”

ENDS

For more information or comment
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

COVID-19: 17 August update

Dear members,

Auckland is now in Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country in Alert Level 2 until 11:59pm on Wednesday 27 August.

While we can be pleased that the current outbreak hasn’t made a full Level 4 lockdown necessary, these heightened alert levels still create a massive disruption for many. There is already renewed pressure on some E tū members’ jobs and many more are dealing with difficult changes at the workplace.

The most important thing to do right now is follow the public health advice. You should always get the most accurate information from th COVID-19 website: www.covid19.govt.nz

We’re compiling as much information for E tū members as possible about how the current situation affects different workplaces. Keep an eye on www.etu.nz/covid19 for regular updates.

Today, the Prime Minister announced her decision to delay the General Election until 17 October. For E tū, this means four extra weeks to make sure we are getting everyone enrolled to vote, engaged with election issues, and ready to elect a government that prioritises workers and our communities. Senior E tū staff will be doing a Facebook live update and Q&A tonight at 8pm, all about the latest developments