Category: COVID-19

E tū member tells Phil Goff that cleaners are worth 100%

While directly employed non-essential Auckland Council staff are staying at home to save lives on 100% pay, some of their lowest paid colleagues are not so lucky.

Malia Lagi, a cleaner at an Auckland Council recreation centre that is currently closed, has taken a 20% pay cut, taking her pay for the hours she normally works to well below the minimum wage.

Malia usually has to work over 60 hours a week just to make ends meet.

With her partner also off work with just 80% of his wages, the lockdown is hitting them and their six kids very hard.

“I’m very worried that we’ll get behind on everything. Rent, power, water, and especially food – I want to buy healthy food like fruit and veges for my family my it’s too expensive now,” Malia says.

“I went to Mangere Pak’nSave yesterday and was in the queue for more than an hour. All the meat was gone except for the most expensive stuff, and I couldn’t afford that. So I had to leave with no meat, which my family was very sad about.

“Three of my kids are at uni. All they can do is study and eat. It’s really tough for the whole family.”

Malia attended Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s election campaign launch last year and calls for him to intervene.

“At the Mayor’s campaign launch, he promised that he was going to pay the Living Wage to contracted cleaners like me. We’re still waiting for him to deliver that, and we need it, but in the meantime, we need our normal wages back.

“There’s no reason Auckland Council shouldn’t make sure their workers all get 100% of their wages during lockdown. Aucklanders are still paying our rates during this lockdown period. The money is there to pay us properly.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says that hundreds of thousands of workers across New Zealand are in a similar position.

“When wages are already far too low, the 20% cut that many are facing is simply devastating,” Fala says.

“Every Kiwi is doing it tough in one way or another. But for those who already face hardships, the COVID-19 lockdown is making their lives extremely challenging.

“All employers need to take responsibility for all their workers, including those employed by contractors. E tū is calling for all employers to pay their workers 100%. For somewhere like Auckland Council to pass the cost of COVID-19 onto their lowest paid workers is ridiculous and unfair.

“Both as Malia’s employer and as Auckland’s mayor, Phil Goff needs to show leadership and fix this situation for all the families affected – he could change their lives overnight.”

ENDS

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

Air NZ cuts not good enough for Kiwis

Air New Zealand has announced specific details today about their decision to cut around 1500 jobs from their cabin crew workforce.

Savage, E tū’s Head of Aviation, says that the New Zealand public will share worker’s dissatisfaction with the news.

“Kiwis care about each other and about the success of our national carrier, so today’s news that Air New Zealand wants to rush to axe 1500 cabin crew roles will be of real concern to the public,” Savage says.

“Like all aviation workers, Air New Zealand cabin crew are trained and committed professionals. They want to see the airline succeed and prosper again. Like the New Zealand public, they want to see it carry on with even better safety, service, and standards.”  

However, Savage says, the company is risking their good reputation by speeding into a redundancy process.

“The company’s plan to lay off thousands of people while the country is still in lockdown is the wrong move. It’s too rushed and it doesn’t need to be. That is not what fair consultation looks like and is very disappointing to see a once proud company get it so wrong. They risk destroying the very organisation they are trying to save.

“The wage subsidy, Air New Zealand’s cash reserves, and the government loan means we have the time to properly work through a process and look to the future. E tū members can see the scale of the problem and want a ‘just transition’ approach, where people are at the heart of the process.

“We need time to develop plans for redeployment and repurposing, for retraining and a proper recovery for the airline. Only then can the company, with its workers, set themselves up for success. that’s what New Zealand needs right now.”

E tū has welcomed the news today that the Government has appointed former New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Ross Wilson as independent advisor to the Air New Zealand Board of Directors providing strategic advice from a unionised worker perspective.

“Having a worker’s voice at the top table will help steer or national airline through tough times and help the airline’s leadership see there are better options,” Savage says.

ENDS

For more info and comment:

Savage, 027 540 0074

E tū members at Fletchers: “We’ll be screwed”

E tū members at Fletcher Building Ltd are opening up about how they expect their pay cut to affect them and their families.

The company has announced that most workers are in line for a wage cut of up to 70%, while the top executives on millions of dollars a year will have a 30% cut.

Dave Asher, who works at Winstone Wallboards, which is part of the Fletcher building products division, feels betrayed.

“I feel bloody stabbed in the back,” Dave says.

“It’s as if we are worthless and of no value to the company. It would be awesome to get them to listen to us, but we’re getting no feedback through. It’s not good enough for us.

“I feel for the families who live paycheque to paycheque. How are they going to handle this? For the younger ones, it’s going to be a tough ask.”

Tame Wairepo-Bell is worried about what such a major pay cut would do for him, his partner, and their 5-month old daughter, Piper-Mae.

“If I was to lose 70% of my wage, I worry that I wouldn’t be able to give our child the support she needs. We’ll do everything we can to provide the essentials for her, but it would probably mean I myself won’t be able to eat.”

One E tū member spoke anonymously about what the cuts would mean for his shopping list.

“It will put me into severe hardship. At 50% pay I may be able to cover some costs but would have to skip buying some basic household items and would have a really limited choice of groceries.

“30% would mean potentially defaulting on my mortgage. We’d be screwed.”

Another anonymous worker shared the sentiment.

“Don’t know what to do when the money drops down – we’ll have to talk to the bank and see what we can do. We’ll be screwed.

“This is a big company that makes big profits. The people on the floor who put all the work out get nothing and the executives stay on high wages. I feel gutted, it wasn’t what I expected.

That worker also urged the company to make a more realistic offer and engage in good faith.

“It would take a lot of the stress away. If they don’t, I don’t know how we will survive, I really don’t.”

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says it isn’t over yet.

“We’re deeply concerned by Fletcher’s behaviour. We believe their proposal to date has been nothing short of unlawful, and our members desperately need the company to rethink it. We’ll be reporting the company’s behaviour to MBIE, as well as continuing to talk to the Government.

We are pleased that Fletchers are applying for the wage subsidy, but they need to come to the party with a meaningful contribution of their own in these unprecedented times.”

ENDS

For more info or comment: Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

A sad end for Virgin NZ

E tū members are hugely disappointed that Virgin Australia has decided to shut up shop in New Zealand quickly, bringing a tight knit workforce to an abrupt end.

The company emailed staff last night, telling them a shutdown was effective immediately. Roughly 600 New Zealand-based staff have lost their jobs.

Kylie Halligan, flight attendant and E tū member, says the last three weeks “have been a complete roller coaster”.

“To say I’m devastated is an understatement. I’ve not only lost a job, I’ve lost a family. The Virgin Australia bases here in NZ were relatively small and we all knew everyone. The bonds formed while working and staying away from home all the time could never be replicated in any other profession.”

Other members anonymously shared their sadness.

“It came as a huge blow for my partner and me who were both employed by Virgin with combined service years of close to 20 years. It’s not just a job loss. It was a way of life and a career we cherished too, for me and the hundreds of others we’ve worked with. It’s an extremely sad time for all, as some of us have been here since the very beginning of the NZ operation and it breaks my heart seeing it all end so abruptly,” says one member.

Another member says the company hasn’t done enough to soften the blow.

“The tag line of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be ‘these are unprecedented times’. This phrase has been used to justify some of the most disappointing behaviour that I have seen from Virgin Australia to date. In the past month, my world and many others have been abruptly shaken, and rather than being given kindness, support and compassion from the company which I have served for the past 12 years, they have given me anguish, stress, and uncertainty.

“It will be very tough for many of us to move forward now, for people like me who have flown for the most of our lives, for the solo mothers who fly with us, for the pilots who have trained for a decade or more to get to where they were. The airline industry will not be what it was before. We are unlikely to find jobs working as crew again with much ease. My heart is broken from the sudden upheaval for my whānau and I feel dazed and lost.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that the union isn’t convinced Virgin needed to close so quickly.

“The company should have applied for the wage subsidy and done more to ensure the continuity of employment and pay for their workers. We are urging all employers, in aviation and beyond, to take advantage of the government wage subsidy and not let the workers bear the full brunt of the downturn.”

“The global aviation industry is in a precarious state. Airlines has been in a race to the bottom for over a decade and workers are paying the price.

“Fortunately, E tū members have been totally united though this which has allowed them to secure the full redundancy package under their collective agreement, plus some additional travel benefits. This had been uncertain through the last few weeks, but members stood tall.

“However, 19 members who have been employed for less than a year aren’t entitled to redundancy – this is a real concern for those members and their families. It’s not good enough.”

ENDS

For more info and comment
Rachel Mackintosh, 027543 7943

Message to Fletchers – don’t cut pay!

E tū members at Fletcher Building Ltd are not satisfied with the company’s announcement that they intend to cut pay by up to 70%, while top executives keep earning megabucks.

Last night, the company sent a letter to all employees outlining their proposal which would see thousands of workers severely out of pocket for many weeks.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher says that the unfairness is incredible.

“We expect companies to do the right thing and pay all workers 100% of their average weekly earnings, especially companies like Fletchers who can easily afford it,” Joe says.

“It’s frankly unbelievable that they want workers to take such a gigantic pay cut while the higher-ups, who earn up to half a million dollars a year, will take just a 15% cut in their pay.

“It shows a lack of respect for the workforce that keeps their company moving. It shows that they don’t seem to care about families getting through the crisis.

“This is not a struggling company. They have massive public and private contracts and could absolutely afford to keep everyone employed with the pay rates that union members have fought hard to secure. Instead, they’re passing the cost of COVID-19 directly onto the workers. It’s outrageous.”

Joe says that these issues should be addressed through proper consultation.

“We want proper consultation and engagement, but workers have only been given about 24 hours to consider the proposal.

“The Government subsidy enables Fletchers to pay 100% over the four weeks of lockdown, which allows meaningful time for proper engagement with the workforce.”

Joe says that Fletchers can’t unilaterally impose such changes across their workforce.

“The Employment Relations Act and our collective agreements are still fully in force. COVID-19 has not suspended our rights at work. The virus does not give license for companies to just do as they please.

“We’re very open to engaging properly through this process, but with the company already leaving workers out of crucial decision-making, we need to be clear: our bottom line is that workers are paid properly and given the job and wage security that they deserve and have fought for.”

ENDS

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

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

E tū tells Air NZ to ‘take a breather’ and delay redundancies

E tū is not convinced that Air New Zealand need to lay off as many people as quickly as they have proposed.

Last night, Air New Zealand told staff, including over 5,000 E tū members, that up to 3,500 people would lose their jobs in the next couple of months.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that the company is moving faster than it needs to.

“It’s time to take a breather and keep people employed until we actually know what’s going to happen in the aviation industry domestically and globally,” Rachel says.

“Regardless of the problems, Air New Zealand needs to remain a company where there are decent jobs and where workers are respected and valued.  Every Air New Zealand employee understands the massive challenge facing the airline, but the airline cannot recover if workers do not have a say.

“Forging ahead with extreme cuts will hurt too many people. It will undermine Air New Zealand and damage the economic recovery. It will damage the company’s culture and slash at the company’s brand promise. If they rush into this, Air New Zealand will forever be known as the company that kicked their workers while they were down.”

Rachel says that the company has alternatives to consider.

“We understand the scale of the problem, but the company have options. They have $1 billion in the bank. They have access to $70 million worth of wage subsidy and a $900 million dollar taxpayer loan to fall back on. To formally initiate redundancy talks while so many workers are on lockdown at home would be a mistake. It’s just wrong.

“The mid- and long-term future of flying in the Asia-Pacific region is open to speculation. No one can really say what will happen. Domestic and regional flying will start to recover in the next few months as New Zealand emerges from Alert Level 4 and can travel again.

“The Prime Minister has said we need to ‘go hard and go early’ to stop the spread of COVID-19, but Air New Zealand are wrong to take the same approach to firing thousands of their workers.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Rachel Mackintosh, 027 543 7943

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