Category: Politics

E tū urges Government to support NZ media by passing Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill

E tū, the union for journalists and media workers, is urging the Government to pass the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill as an important part of the solution to the problems facing the media in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Last week, it was announced that Newshub and Three will close in June. Recent redundancies affecting Stuff’s sports reporters, and uncertainty about job security across the wider media landscape, demonstrate the revenue constraints that will continue to harm the industry.

E tū senior delegate at Stuff, Tom Hunt, says the Government passing the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill would be a good balance of supporting the industry while maintaining media independence.

“Government help for the media can and has been appreciated, but it can also be a poisoned chalice. It has given people a weapon to attack us with, and that is understandable, even if the so-called media bias is a fiction,” Tom says.

“But the Government helping to create a level playing field against billionaire-owned tech giants is not a bailout. It is rational, and I can see no reason to stop it unless the Government is afraid of scrutiny.”

E tū National Secretary, Rachel Mackintosh, says the matter is urgent.

“Things will just keep getting worse if we don’t find sustainable approaches to the way the digital age has completely changed how people publish and access news,” Rachel says.

“The Government has one simple action it can immediately take to improve confidence in the news industry in the short term and significantly improve its financial viability in the medium term. That is, it must listen to the calls of basically everyone in the industry and support the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill.

“This is even more important now, given the way the tech giants have responded to similar moves overseas. They cannot be allowed to bully governments into getting their way – we must stand up for fairness as an international community.”

Rachel is concerned the Government doesn’t appear to understand the importance of a well-functioning media landscape.

“The Government can’t just sit on their hands and allow the Fourth Estate to crumble on their watch, they need to step up now.

“Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee should be a champion of new ways of raising revenue for the industry, but instead she has been slowing the progress of this bill, now using the development of AI as an excuse for inaction.

“Our country deserves much more serious leadership on this matter.”


Border security at risk with plans to cut staff at Customs

The Government’s plan to encourage workers at Customs to take voluntary redundancy puts at risk the vital work of the agency, facilitating a safe and smooth entry and exit through our border, supporting our exports, and keeping New Zealanders safe from organised crime and other threats.

The plans were revealed on Stuff this morning.

The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi, Aotearoa and E tū, two unions representing Customs workers, say the plan simply doesn’t stack up.

“We don’t believe Customs can achieve sufficient savings through voluntary redundancies without impacting the critical services Customs provides to protect our land and sea borders,” said Duane Leo, National Secretary for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi, Aotearoa.

“This plan means Customs stands to lose valuable and experienced workers who are our first line of defence against those who threaten the safety and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

“These are people helping protect our air and sea borders from dangerous illicit drugs, organised criminal gangs, and who support our importers and exporters by facilitating trade, and smoothing the passage of New Zealand and overseas travellers.

“The PSA finds it surprising that a government that wants to get tough on crime, and gangs, is now hamstringing the key organisation keeping dangerous drugs from falling into the hands of gangs through this badly thought through cost cutting plan. It makes no sense.”

E tū Director, Savage, says the plan will impact people and businesses who rely on a strong and well-functioning Customs Service.

“We should be employing more customs officers, not fewer,” Savage says.

“Customs works very closely with the Ministry of Primary Industries, Immigration New Zealand, and the Defence Force to ensure safe and secure air and seaports. From everyday Kiwis travelling overseas to our exporting industries, we all need a robust Customs Service.

“The Government seems to fail to understand that if we are to prosper as a nation and keep New Zealanders safe, then critical services, like Customs, need to be strengthened. This is another example of the consequences of taking a blunt axe to public services. A sloppy solution to an ill-defined problem. It is really more about finding money to fund tax cuts for landlords and the highest income earners.”

Duane Leo says this is just one example of the extensive attacks the Government is launching against our public services.

“New Zealanders will pay a high price for this, and Customs is just the latest in what is becoming a long line of examples of services suffering through this incoherent cost cutting exercise.” 

Government must keep Living Wage for Parliament cleaners

E tū, the union covering cleaners including at Parliament, is urging the National-led Government to ensure Parliament’s cleaners continue to receive at least the Living Wage, with the news today that Parliamentary Services is required to make budget cuts.

The cleaners are employed by OCS Limited, a large commercial cleaning company who are required to pay their workers at Parliament at least the Living Wage rate as part of their contract with Parliamentary Services.

The Living Wage was won by Parliament’s cleaners under the previous Government, honouring a commitment made by the Labour Party in the 2017 election campaign.

A cleaner at Parliament, who wishes to speak anonymously, says the Living Wage has been life changing.

“Getting the Living Wage makes a big difference to all of us,” they say.

“Our pay was just too low before, but I’ve been really happy with the raise. I can afford stuff for the kids and grandkids. With petrol money, car parking fees, and all costs going up, we need as much as we can get.”

The cleaner calls on the Prime Minister to step up for the cleaners at his workplace.

“He comes over to us and tells us we are doing a great job. Then they all go home to sleep, and we keep cleaning. We look after them, they need to look after us.”

E tū National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the Government must continue the work of the previous Government in maintaining and expanding the Living Wage in the public service.

“Service workers like cleaners and security guards were stuck on poverty wages for far too long,” Rachel says.

“There has been good progress for many over the last six years, with paying the Living Wage becoming a condition of procurement across different areas of the public service. The Government must keep this up.

“With the significant cuts the National-led Government is proposing across public sector spending, there is a real risk that the wages of workers employed by contractors could be on the chopping block. This is the same Government that wasted no time scrapping Fair Pay Agreements, which would have been the best chance in decades for these workers to get decent pay and conditions.

“The Government must commit to retaining the Living Wage, firstly for the cleaners at their very own workplace, but also for everyone who delivers these essential services across the public sector.”


Wellington rally to save Fair Pay Agreements!

Kia ora koutou,

Join members from across different unions in Wellington this Wednesday to tell the National-led Government not to cancel our Fair Pay Agreements.

When: Wednesday 13 December, 11:30am
Where: Parliament Steps

Fair Pay Agreements are our best chance in decades to really improve things for some of our most vulnerable workers. E tū members in cleaning and security have already initiated Fair Pay Agreements, along with bus drivers, supermarket workers, hospitality workers, and ECE teachers.

However, the new Government wants to cancel our Fair Pay Agreements before the first ones are even completed. We need to stand together and tell them not to! Join us at Parliament to make sure your voice is heard.

Immediately following the rally there will be a protest against the Government’s decision to scrap our world-leading smokefree legislation as well, so stick around if you can!

The Government must fund care workers before landlords

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, is shocked to learn that the National Party’s coalition agreement with ACT would see planned tax breaks for landlords brought forward, costing at least $900 million according to analysis by the Council of Trade Unions.

The news comes as the new National-led Government is announcing more details about their fiscal plan. E tū urges the Government to prioritise workers and their communities, including essential workers in care and support.

One area that needs urgent attention is funding for the care and support pay equity claim. Care and support workers have already waited too long for proper recognition of their skills.

Caregiver and Convenor of the E tū Community Support Industry Council, Marianne Bishop, says funding the sector properly is long overdue.

“It’s stupid that the sector has always been so underfunded,” Marianne says.

“People pay taxes their whole lives, but then have to fight for the care they need when they are older.

“The new Government has some important decisions to make about their priorities. Landlords are not doing it tough, but care and support workers certainly are.

“We have only had up to a 3% pay rise in the last year, with some of us getting nothing, despite the cost of living increasing so much more than that. Everyone is really struggling, especially our colleagues in home support who have to cover their own vehicle costs and other expenses.”

Marianne says the Government needs to fund pay equity to ensure the care sector can function properly in the future.

“We have an ageing population and an ageing workforce. What’s going to happen in 10, or 20 years’ time? How are going to attract new people into the industry if they can’t earn a living? It’s just not going to work.

“We won the first settlement under a National Government in 2017, now it’s time for them to step up again. They keep saying that people voted for change, well now it’s time to really change things for people who need care and those who provide it.” 

National Government cancelling Fair Pay Agreements will increase inequality

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, says the new National-led Government’s 100-day plan announcement that they will repeal the legislation for Fair Pay Agreements is a giant step backwards.

Fair Pay Agreements were set up under the previous Government as a mechanism for sector-wide collective bargaining, establishing new minimum pay and conditions that would apply to every covered worker. The law provides full democratic participation from both workers and employers and is similar to sector-wide bargaining processes used around the world, such as Australia’s modern awards.

Security guard Rosey Ngakopu, who has been a key member leader in E tū’s campaign for Fair Pay Agreements, is hugely disappointed.

“It just feels like a slap in the face, it’s completely disrespectful and stupid to cancel our Fair Pay Agreements,” Rosey says.

“Us security guards and our brothers and sisters in cleaning really need improvement in our industries. That’s what Fair Pay Agreements are all about. We need better wages, we need better job protection, and we need proper health and safety. They’ve taken it all away.”

“That’s just the National Party for you though, that’s what they do. Whatever we are able to win, they’ll just rip it away.”

E tū National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the decision will mean workers who have initiated Fair Pay Agreements are missing out on a huge opportunity.

“Fair Pay Agreements were the best improvement to employment law in decades,” Rachel says.

“The mechanism was carefully developed to give workers a real chance at finally winning better pay and conditions. E tū members in cleaning and security have long faced a working life of low wages and inadequate conditions, especially relating to key issues like health and safety, job security, and opportunities for career progression.

“We know that low wages are the key driver of inequality, and workers in industries like cleaning and security suffer the consequences. By removing Fair Pay Agreements before the first ones have even been negotiated, the Government is attacking the most vulnerable people in Aotearoa’s workforce.”

Rachel says this is a poor start for the new Government.

“This decision adds to many more that demonstrate the Government’s backwards priorities. They have announced the return of 90-day trials for all, despite evidence they threaten job security without any meaningful benefit to business or job opportunities.

Further, Rachel says the proposal to remove peoples’ rights to challenge their employment status as contractors in the Employment Court will lock in exploitation and severely constrain the access to justice that is fundamental to our democracy.

“E tū is also deeply concerned about National’s attack on working people on a range of fronts, including through its tax policy. It is galling that this government will remove our world-leading smokefree initiative to help pay for tax cuts for landlords and those already well-off.”

National’s tax plan “deeply misleading” – E tū

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, is hugely disappointed with the National Party’s policy to implement a tax regime that benefits the wealthy while leaving many others no better off.

The plan, released today, includes an adjustment of tax brackets, reinstating interest deductibility for landlords, removing the Government’s recent public transport subsidies, ending the foreign buyer ban on homes worth over $2 million, and cancelling other government projects.

“This is a deeply misleading policy, because it doesn’t factor in everything National will take away from working families,” says E tū Director, Sarah Thompson.

“Their policy says that average families will be ‘better off’ because of their FamilyBoost policy, but they have not factored in the extra costs on families resulting from the removal of Labour’s ECE funding extension.

“Their numbers also don’t reflect that families will be paying more for public transport under their plan, nor does it include the congestion charges they are planning to implement as part of their transport policy.

“Families who rely on public transport or the extra ECE funding will not be nearly as well off as National claim. They’ll also be paying extra costs when National bring back prescription fees. It’s all smoke and mirrors.”

Sarah says landlords like Christopher Luxon are the real winners from this policy, with $2.3 billion going to them over four years.

“Christopher Luxon does not need to pocket more money. He is on the record saying he doesn’t even know how much his seven properties are worth – he’s doing extremely well.

“That money should be going to increasing essential services, building core infrastructure, supporting those who need it most, and investing in the future of Aotearoa. Instead, he’s going to give billions to himself and his rich mates.”

Sarah says that with lower- and middle-income New Zealanders doing it tough during the cost-of-living crisis, the money should be targeted based on real need.

“It’s galling to hear Luxon describe this as a cost-of-living policy when so much goes to the richest people.

Sarah says today’s announcement is another example that the National Party are going into the election with an anti-worker agenda.

“This is just the latest indicator that National doesn’t really care about working people. Yesterday, they re-committed to extending 90-day trials, despite the evidence clearly showing they don’t work. They will also scrap Fair Pay Agreements, robbing low paid workers of their best opportunity in decades to make real gains.”


Funding holes in National’s policies deeply worrying for workers

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, is deeply concerned about the prospect of a National-led Government’s ability to fund essential services and infrastructure, after figures released today show their policies create a large fiscal shortfall.

The figures have been released by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, using all the information the National Party have published about their own policy costings to date, as well as data from Treasury and the Reserve Bank. It reveals a shortfall of $3.3bn to $5.2bn, numbers which do not even include major spending promises that remain uncosted by National.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Rachel Mackintosh, says the National Party must front up now about how they would pay for their election policies.

“National’s promises are expensive, and the party simply cannot make it work without new revenue or significant cuts,” Rachel says.

“The Council of Trade Unions have had to carry out this work because National are still not being upfront with the public about their financial plan. It should really be National’s own responsibility to explain to the voting public how they are going to balance the books. The closer we get to Election Day, the more worrying it is that the National Party can’t present a credible explanation for how they’ll pay for their promises.”

Rachel notes that other parties have been able to present their numbers – Labour through Budget 2023, and the Greens and ACT with their published alternative budgets.

“With National not even able to make their own announced policies stack up financially, we are deeply worried about what this would mean for continued funding of key services. The money must come from somewhere, and so adequately funding things like health and education is at serious risk.”

E tū Co-President, Muriel Tunoho, has worked in community health for decades. She is particularly concerned about what the budget hole would mean for health funding.

“National underfunding the health system is a tale as old as time,” Muriel says.

“People working in the community health spaces are particularly worried because we’ve been forgotten about before. While we have made some gains under Labour, there is still so much more we need to make the health system work for everyone, especially our most marginalised communities.

“Not funding health properly means real hardship for families in Aotearoa. Both the workers and the service users suffer. I have seen poor health outcomes result in all sorts of huge challenges for whānau, it’s heartbreaking.

“E tū members in health need pay equity, safer staffing, and many more improvements. These things require a proper boost to health funding, which we have been campaigning for. Seeing that National can’t even fund their headline election policies is a clear sign that community health would be neglected again.

“Quite simply, National need to turn their policy programme around so that it helps everyone, not just the wealthy few. Now is not the time for tax cuts for the most well-off. It’s the time for serious investment in the communities of Aotearoa.”


ACT Party’s contractor policy would lock in the worst for affected workers

E tū, the biggest private sector union in Aotearoa New Zealand, is shocked by the ACT Party’s new policy to stop workers being able to correct their employment status.

The policy, announced today, would mean that contracted workers would not be able to challenge their status in the Employment Court, even when the real nature of their employment relationship meant they should be entitled to the rights and protections employees get.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says this would be a huge setback for the workforce.

“We already know that employers use contracts instead of employment agreements unfairly – that’s why we have taken cases to court, and won,” Annie says.

“In 2017, labour hire workers at LSG Sky Chefs proved they were entitled to the benefits and protections of a normal employment relationship. Last year, Uber drivers proved in court that the company is really their employer, and they also deserve the rights of employees.

“While these court cases have been victories for the workers who have taken them, they have also shown the need for employment relations reform that better reflects the changing world of work.

“Instead, the ACT Party are proposing the opposite – locking workers into these exploitative arrangements without any recourse. It’s a terrible position that will bed in the worst outcomes for many people.”

Annie says this is just the latest policy from the Opposition that demonstrates their hostility to working people.

“ACT have also promised to end Fair Pay Agreements and bring back 90-day trials. They have opposed every increase to the minimum wage, opposed doubling sick leave, and even oppose moves to make wage theft a criminal offence.

“These are disastrous positions that will worsen poverty and inequality. Working people in Aotearoa have a lot at stake this election – we must stop politicians from actively pushing us down.”