Category: Politics

Minimum wage increases vital for over 250,000 workers

Tomorrow’s scheduled minimum wage increase is vital for the hundreds of thousands of minimum wage earners who are doing it tough through the COVID-19 global pandemic.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that while life is difficult for minimum wage workers at the best of times, the current economic conditions make things a lot worse.

“Far too often, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society bear the brunt of economic downturns,” Annie says.

“We know that low wage workers spend the largest chunk of their wages in the local economy. Keeping money in the pockets of our lowest paid will be vital for stimulating the economy as we go forward.”

Annie says that the minimum wage will help many of the people in essential industries and services.

“Many minimum wage workers are also on the COVID-19 frontlines, including in security and cleaning. These workers get up every day to make sure our communities are safe and healthy. Yet they are paid as low as they legally can be – it’s an injustice.

“A minimum wage increase tomorrow means it will be easier for these workers to keep food on the table and keep the heaters on through the pandemic. Surely there’s not much more important than protecting our frontline workers.”

Annie dismisses the claims from some groups that the minimum wage increase should be delayed.

“These are the same groups that argue against minimum wage increase in any weather. Their fears are always unfounded – their predicted economic outcomes never come to pass.

“New Zealanders will get through the COVID-19 crisis by sticking together and looking out for each other. Scheduled minimum wage increases are one part of that picture. While the minimum wage will still be short of the Living Wage, the increase is a hell of a lot better than nothing.”

ENDS

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

Aviation package: workers await more detail

E tū welcomes the Government’s emergency package for the aviation industry, announced today.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says it’s one part of the right approach.

“It’s responsible to take care of basic infrastructure, and the package should stop the industry grinding to a complete halt,” Rachel says.

“However, we still don’t know what this means for workers both at Air New Zealand and in the aviation industry in general.

“Our priority is always working people, and we are looking forward to the specific support for our members from both the Government and the employers.”

Rachel added that we can’t forget how imbalanced wealth distribution is in New Zealand and across the world.

“We know that extreme global inequality has been driven by a select few hoarding most of the wealth. So, while the stock markets are taking a big hit, I doubt that the world’s billionaires are struggling to put food on the table.

“The top 1% didn’t create their wealth – their workers did that. If we’re to weather this crisis, we simply have to make fair distribution of wealth the top priority.”

ENDS

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

COVID-19 package “A strong start”

E tū is welcoming the Government’s first phase of the financial stimulus package.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says that the announcement is a strong start and will help some workers deal with the stress that COVID-19 (coronavirus) is causing in their work lives and beyond.

“We have now been assured that the Government is taking an appropriate leadership role in protecting New Zealand workers, businesses, and communities,” Rachel says.

“We particularly welcome the aspects of the package that support all working people, whether they are employees, contractors, or casual workers.

“It’s very important to get this right, as the gig economy sees more and more workers without the protections that they need.”

However, Rachel acknowledges that many E tū members will need further assurance that they will be looked after.

“The $100 million allocated for assisting with redeployment will be crucial for our members who are already facing redundancies. Redeployment needs to happen effectively, which means consolation with workers, unions, iwi, and the wider community.

“We eagerly anticipate the details of the package that will relate to certain E tū members, such as the over 5,000 E tū members at Air New Zealand. We urge Air New Zealand and other aviation employers to come to the party, as the Government has done.

“The Finance Minister has described the response as ‘swift, decisive, and compassionate’ which is exactly the right direction to be heading in.

“We will stay together in union and engage with the Government and employers to end up in the best possible position. This is the start of a very rocky road, and the voice of working people will be vital at every twist and turn.”

ENDS

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

Another much-needed minimum wage increase

The Government are continuing their commitment to raise wages for Kiwis with the announcement that the statutory minimum wage will go up to $18.90 in April 2020.

The increase of $1.20 is equal to this year’s increase, which was the biggest increase in the adult minimum wage in dollar terms in New Zealand’s history.

Auckland security guard Lavinia Kafoa is thrilled with the news.

“It really sounds great to me. As a single mother, every bit of extra income makes a lot of difference,” Lavinia says.

“For my family, being on minimum wage means I spend many more hours at work than with my boys at home. I explain to them that mum has to work more hours to earn more money so we can afford everything we need.

“It’s a struggle to keep up the all the rising costs, especially rent.

“It can be especially hard during the school holidays. My boys are at home, so I have to get everything ready for them before I go to work. I wish I could spend more time with them.”

Lavinia says that the struggle is felt by her colleagues as well.

“Lots of us at work are single parents so we’re on the same page. We don’t like working for only the minimum wage, but we have no choice. We need to get out there and earn what we can.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that while minimum wage increases are very important, they are only one part of the picture.

“We’re very pleased that the Government has kept to their commitment of significant increases to the minimum wage,” Annie says.

“However, we’re still waiting for the Government to deliver on some of their other promises. In the 2017 election campaign, all three coalition partners committed to paying the Living Wage to all core government workers, including those employed by contractors.

“Time’s running out to deliver the Living Wage for the people who need it most.”

Annie says that it’s not just all about wage increases.

“If the Government is to oversee fundamental changes to the New Zealand workforce, they need to implement strong Fair Pay Agreement legislation as soon as possible.

“Many thousands of workers on low wages are exploited by the contracting model, which sees businesses in a ‘race to the bottom’ – paying low wages to stay competitive.

“Fair Pay Agreements would put a stop to that by setting minimum standards bargained by unions and employers. Security guards like Lavinia, as well as cleaners, retail workers, and many others would have their lives transformed by decent Fair Pay Agreement legislation.

“We whole-heartedly commend the Government for lifting wages – now let’s see the transformational changes that we need to fix inequality in New Zealand.

ENDS

For more info or comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Lavinia Kafoa may be available for limited interviews this afternoon. To arrange:
Sam Gribben, 027 204 6329

E tū members welcome FPA progress

E tū members in cleaning and security are welcoming the Government’s call for consultation on the development of Fair Pay Agreements.

The ‘Designing a Fair Pay Agreements System’ discussion paper, released today, proposes many solutions to exploitation of whole sectors of low paid workers.

E tū cleaner Mele Peaua says that a Fair Pay Agreement could be an answer to low pay and conditions in the cleaning industry.

“I think we need a Fair Pay Agreement for cleaners to fix the problems of low pay and not enough hours of work,” Mele says.

“Cleaning companies undercut each other because they compete for contracts on the lowest cost.  That means we suffer.

“When cleaning contracts change, we have to start all over again. We lose our hours of work. It happens all the time. With Fair Pay Agreements, we would be protected from these constant changes.

“We have to draw a line, so that we can have fair standards for everyone.

“It’s not just about the pay. We also have a race to the bottom on conditions. If I have to spend all my minimum sick leave on looking after my sick kids, then when I get sick, I have no choice but to take unpaid leave. So, it’s about pay, it’s about leave, it’s about job security, and it’s about our lives as working people.”

Mele says that all Kiwis will benefit from addressing poor pay and conditions for the most vulnerable.

“If we have a happy family, we’ll have a happy community. If we have a happy community, we’ll have a better country. It’s about making life better for all New Zealanders. So, we need our Government to take the lead for all of our people.”

E tū security guard Rosey Ngakopu is looking forward to a Fair Pay Agreement to give her more money in her pocket, allowing her to spend more time with her son.

“I want to be more present in my son’s life. Our children are our future,” Rosey says.

“I don’t get enough time to help my son with his studies or make sure he’s doing ok because of the hours and days I have to work just to keep our heads above water.

“Even the time I do spend with him, sometimes I’m not really present with him, because I’m so tired from being on my feet for a 12-hour shifts. And he notices that. It sucks, to tell you the truth.

“Security guards feel undervalued because the mahi we do is not reflected in our pay, due to the undercutting in the competitive market in the security industry.”

“A Fair Pay Agreement will be a game-changer. And not just for me, or my colleagues, but for all security guards in the industry.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that E tū is looking forward to the consultation process.

“E tū is taking the time to carefully consider the questions and we will be putting together a comprehensive response on behalf of our members,” Annie says.

“However, there are some questions where the right answers for workers are very clear.

“E tū does not support proposed regional variations in pay rates. The Living Wage experience shows that decent wages are viable wherever you are and no matter what the size of the business. 

“We think that 10% of the workforce or 1,000 workers should be able to trigger bargaining for a Fair Pay Agreement, whichever is fewer, because that represents a significant portion of a workforce and anything higher would be an unnecessary barrier. This was the Working Group’s recommendation and one we support.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:

Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Workers may be available for some media interviews this afternoon.
Please contact Sam Gribben on 027 204 6329 to arrange.

NZI misses the blindingly obvious

E tū is annoyed by the deliberate misrepresentation of collective bargaining in relation to Fair Pay Agreements by the New Zealand Initiative (NZI), in a report they released today.

The report purports to make the case against the findings of the Fair Pay Agreements Working Group, which was a group of union and business representatives, academics and experts, chaired by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

However, as meticulously detailed by the Council of Trade Unions, NZI has cherry-picked claims, ignored crucial evidence, and has not contributed constructively to the discussion on the issue.

E tū National Director of Campaigns Annie Newman said that NZI had completely ignored the main issue.

“Tens of thousands of working New Zealanders are living in poverty, working in industries where tendering processes mean a race to the bottom on wages,” Annie says.

“Fair Pay Agreements will set minimum standards to make sure that paying people poorly is not the way to be competitive. It really is as simple as that.”

Annie pointed to the recent Care and Support (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement, which won equal pay for everyone in the industry.

“Carers in New Zealand won equal pay through an industry-wide agreement, similar to a Fair Pay Agreement. It was negotiated by unions, businesses, and government, and has lifted over 50,000 people off poverty wages.

“The facts are on our side – even the OECD now officially acknowledges the importance of collective bargaining. International evidence is clear that countries with mechanisms for industry-wide bargaining have better social and economic outcomes.

“However, even when proper analysis is in our favour, the most important thing for E tū members is that they are lifted out of poverty. That means proper wages and conditions, which is exactly what Fair Pay Agreements are all about.”

Annie says that people shouldn’t be tricked into thinking the debate is about different interpretations of economic analysis.

“Our priority areas for Fair Pay Agreements are cleaning and security, where it is blindingly obvious that we need better wages and conditions. Any argument against that, especially one that offers no meaningful solutions, doesn’t deserve the attention of New Zealand workers.”

ENDS

Media enquires: Sam Gribben, 027 204 6329

E tū welcomes BERL Fair Pay Agreement report

E tū has welcomed the BERL independent report emphasising the role of Fair Pay Agreements in making lives better for Kiwi workers.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says the findings aren’t a surprise, as New Zealand is in the minority of OECD countries that don’t have industry bargaining in the private sector, contributing to our poor record on poverty and inequality.

“The countries with the highest standards of living invariably have national or sector bargaining that ensures decent living standards. We do not.

“Fair Pay Agreements are well overdue in Aotearoa New Zealand, as workers have suffered from inadequate laws.”

Annie says that cleaning and security are two industries in real need of sector-wide bargaining.

“One of the main problems in security and cleaning is the contracting model, which sees companies in a race to the bottom with wages and conditions.

“Some of the biggest companies have told us they’d really like to pay better wages but can’t afford it as they’ll be undercut by exploitative employers. Fair Pay Agreements can be a solution to that.”

E tū members spoke at the launch of the BERL report this morning, and the union is getting ready for a big push for Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’ve been campaigning for this since before the last election, and we were very excited to see Fair Pay Agreements in Labour policy,” Annie says.

“Now’s the time to see some action – low paid workers have waited long enough.”

E tū welcomes the Wellbeing Budget

E tū is applauding the Government for today’s Wellbeing Budget, which puts significant investment in areas important for Kiwi families.

John Ryall, E tū’s Assistant National Secretary, says the Budget demonstrates that the Government has “people in need at the front of their minds”.

“This Wellbeing Budget will bring significant change for some of society’s most vulnerable people,” John says.

“The big increase in funding for mental health services was long overdue. It was good to see the Government accept nearly all of the recommendations from the mental health and addictions inquiry yesterday. Today, they’ve put their money where their mouth is.

“Indexing the main benefits to wage increases is also a good idea. For many lower income people, living costs are rising well above inflation, particularly housing costs. This new approach is more reasonable. However, benefits remain at poverty level and that still needs to be fixed.

“We are also pleased with investments in child poverty reduction, decent infrastructure, better services at schools, our hospitals, and more.

“There’s a lot to celebrate for the people who need the government’s attention most, but there’s a lot more to be done.”

ENDS

For more information and comment, contact John Ryall: 027 520 1380

Statement on behalf of E tū members employed at Parliament

We broadly support the findings and recommendations of Debbie Francis’ independent review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace. We want to thank staff for taking the difficult and brave step of making their voices heard in this review. 

The report highlights the unique and high-pressure environment of this workplace where an unusual employment relationship exists that has the effect of leaving staff extremely vulnerable.

There are several proposed actions outlined in the report that we believe, if taken urgently, can make a meaningful difference to address the systemic bullying and harassment in the parliamentary workplace. These are:

1.       Appoint an Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Conduct

–        There needs to be an independent whistle-blowing mechanism for bullying and harassment in the workplace that puts accountability above political interests.

2.       Establish a Sanctions Working Group

–       We support training for Members of Parliament (MPs) to become good managers but we also want to ensure there are protections for staff entering offices where there is a high-turnover of staff.

–       We want to see additional training and mentoring for offices where this occurs before further permanent staff are hired.

–       Agencies should be responsible for temporary staff and their wellbeing in these offices.

–       Where inappropriate behaviour persists, the public should be made aware of a member’s behaviour in extreme circumstances.

3.       Identify a single employer for each job role

–        The Review’s recommendations go into significant detail outlining a new HR system but we feel that until there is absolute clarity on who is the employer for each of the roles at parliament there will be no accountability.

4.       Replace current events-based contracts for Member support and political staff with new fixed term employment agreements for the duration of a parliamentary term

Unfortunately, some of the recommendations ignore the reality of political parties who need to function in the parliamentary workplace.

The Francis Review also mentions remuneration reviews for staff who work long hours in an extraordinary environment. It is important to note that some political parties have the means to provide additional benefits to staff and others do not. 

It is our view that it is critical that an independent authority oversees remuneration for staff instead of political parties, who are incentivised to keep staff wages low compared with the rest of the public service due to the media scrutiny that any increases via agencies would attract.

This is the collective lived experience of staff who believe that these are the changes that need to be a priority for the next steps in the response to the Review.

ENDS

For more info or comment: Paul Tolich 027 593 5595