Category: Politics

Renewed settlement for care and support workers still leaves sector in crisis, unions say

Unions representing thousands of care and support workers across Aotearoa New Zealand say the renewed care and support legislation that sets workers’ pay rates will leave workers and the sector in crisis for longer.

The legislation to amend the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017, which will update pay rates, is expected to pass on Wednesday.

However, unions say members are severely disappointed at the pay increase the Government has decided on – a “measly” three percent, far below the cost-of-living pressures workers are facing.

When the current Act expires on 1 July, unions will raise a pay equity claim to further increase the pay rates for support workers, but this process is expected to take 18 months.

Unions say they are equally disappointed the Ministry of Health did not share the content of the amendment bill or the new rates before the cut-off date of 21 June, despite ongoing negotiations for more than a year.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the current interim pay increase leaves support workers still struggling to survive in the meantime.

“With inflation at 6.9 percent and skyrocketing energy and fuel bills, these frontline workers face another 18 months of misery and it means their pay essentially goes backwards.

“It’s good news we’ll now be able to take a pay equity claim which wasn’t possible under the previous legislation, but workers can’t wait that long for a decent pay rise.”

PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies says the low pay increase leaves the sector in crisis.

“We believe this will see workers having to fight for higher pay or leave the sector – when it is the Government that holds the purse strings,” she says.

“Workforce shortages are already leaving elderly, vulnerable, ill, disabled clients and people in the community who have mental health and addiction needs in the lurch.”

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says unions will be lodging a pay equity claim on behalf of care and support workers as soon as possible after 1 July.

“We will fight to see this claim progressed as quickly as possible, as it is clearly the only pathway to achieving decent and respectful increases for the workforce.”

Note to editors: The 4.6 percent increase on pay rates quoted by Minister Little includes a 1.6 percent LCI adjustment, which was agreed in the 2017 Act. The amended bill only includes a pay rise of 3 percent.

ENDS

Kirsty McCully (E tū Director), 027 204 6354
Kerry Davies (PSA National Secretary), 027 430 6013

Rob Zorn (NZNO Communications Advisor), 027 431 2617

International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security: E tū highlights Fair Pay Agreements

Today is International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security – a day marked around the world by affiliates of UNI Global, the international union body for the service industries.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, E tū is celebrating our campaign to win Fair Pay Agreements for some of our lowest paid workers, including cleaners and security guards. The Fair Pay Agreements Bill is currently before Select Committee, and E tū members and supporters made over 1,000 written submissions in support of the bill.

While all submitters told their own story, some clear themes came through. Submitters were particularly concerned about low wages, the cost of living, health and safety, workplace stress, safe staffing levels, a lack of respect at work, hours of work, and the ‘race to the bottom’ which sees companies using low wages to stay competitive.

An E tū delegation also made an oral submission to the Select Committee on Monday. E tū member and security guard, Lavinia Kafoa, described why essential workers like her deserved better pay and conditions through Fair Pay Agreements.

“Security workers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, enabling the public to stay safe,” Lavinia said.

“We ask that we are paid fairly for the important role that we play in society. We have been given the support of the public and been thanked for the work that we do, but unfortunately this does not pay the bills.

“I hope that Fair Pay Agreements give the opportunity to earn liveable incomes for security guards in Aotearoa.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says the whole world is watching.

“We are proud to have the support of UNI Global and other international union bodies as we work to win great Fair Pay Agreement legislation,” Annie says.

Just last week, the ILO gave Fair Pay Agreements a big green light, dismissing a vexatious complaint from a New Zealand business representative. The international employment relations community recognises the importance of sectoral bargaining, and we are thrilled that it will finally return to Aotearoa.”

ENDS

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

Fair Pay Agreements win big at the ILO

E tū is celebrating the conclusion reached by the Committee on the Application of Standards at the International Labour Conference, after a tenuous case against Fair Pay Agreements raised by Business New Zealand has been effectively dismissed.

BusinessNZ took the complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), claiming that Fair Pay Agreements would undermine ILO Convention 98, which protects the right to organise and bargain collectively.

Instead of agreeing with BusinessNZ’s position, the Committee simply asked the Government to keep working with the social partners while developing the legislation, essentially giving Fair Pay Agreements the ILO seal of approval.

Of particular note was representatives from across the world standing up to commend Fair Pay Agreements and condemn BusinessNZ for wasting the ILO’s time. President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Michele O’Neil, explained how inappropriate the case was.

“In New Zealand’s case, employers will only have to bargain in good faith and agreements will be struck. Arbitration only kicks in to ensure vulnerable workers are protected. Which makes it all the more shocking that what appears to be a blatantly political and without merit case has been presented to this Committee. When this Committee has such a competing list of extreme cases of standards being breached in many cases with life and death consequences,” Michele told the Conference.

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says she is pleased by the conclusion, but isn’t surprised.

“It was always clear that BusinessNZ’s case wasn’t going to get anywhere, as sectoral bargaining is a common feature in workplace relations systems across the world,” Annie says.

“Fair Pay Agreements will allow some of our most vulnerable workers to have a real opportunity to improve pay and conditions that have been kept so low for so long. Of course, the ILO is going to see the merits in that.”

Annie says it’s time for BusinessNZ to apologise for their actions and to start engaging with Fair Pay Agreements in good faith.

“This frivolous complaint has been a key focus of BusinessNZ’s campaign to misinform people about Fair Pay Agreements. Just a few weeks ago, they published an edited version of a UN document to imply that their complaint had put New Zealand on a “worst case breaches” list – an utter misrepresentation.

“BusinessNZ leaders owe Kiwis and the ILO an apology for this embarrassing stunt.”

E tū members and supporters have made over 1,000 written submissions on the Fair Pay Agreements Bill, explaining exactly why this new mechanism is needed. An E tū delegation will be making their oral submission to the Select Committee on Monday afternoon in Auckland.

ENDS

Photo attached: E tū members celebrating the First Reading of the Fair Pay Agreements Bill

For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 0272046340

E tū oral submission on the Fair Pay Agreements Bill
Monday 13 June, 1:00pm – 1:15pm
Hunterville Room, Ellerslie Event Centre, Auckland Race Course
Please contact Sarah Thompson for more details: 027 591 0024

Ministry pay decision a “big setback” for care and support workers

Care and support workers are “gutted and disappointed” after a Ministry of Health recommendation that will not see workers get a pay rise of more than 70 cents an hour for at least a year.

In May, workers rallied around the country and presented a petition with more than 10,000 signatures calling on the Government for a bigger pay rise as part of the renewal of the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act to combat worker shortages and financial hardship.

While workers are relieved that the Ministry has recommended Government extend the settlement, which sets their pay and conditions, and remove the current ban on pay equity claims, workers, their employers, and unions say a 70 cent or 2.8 percent increase on all existing wage rates will only exacerbate existing worker shortages.

Union delegate Pania Love says the pay decision is “gut wrenching” and puts huge pressure on those who choose to stay in the care and support sector.

“It feels like the work I do supporting people with disabilities and my level of skill has not been acknowledged.

“We are already understaffed and overworked. Due to work and pay rates, many staff new to the disability sector do not stay long enough to build skills to provide the level of quality care required with empathy and compassion.”

Pania says this puts huge pressure on the few trained, experienced staff who are left working “huge hours and feeling burnt out”.

“While our work remains undervalued and underpaid, we will struggle to attract new workers to provide quality services to the people we support.”

Union delegate Ginny Sarich says the decision is a “big setback” for care and support workers and the whole sector.

“It will be an additional challenge for the people in our care, as they may lose the support workers that they’ve worked with for a long time to better, higher-paid jobs.

“It’s a very disappointing outcome, but we will keep pushing for justice, because ultimately, the conditions for workers are also the conditions for those receiving care.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the Ministry’s recommendation is disappointing to workers across the care and support sectors.

“The original settlement was historic as it started to value the work of these workers. With inflation sitting at 6.9 percent, the increase the Ministry of Health has recommended to workers will leave them still struggling to provide for themselves and their whānau.”

Melissa says unions will raise a pay equity claim on 1 July to ensure workers truly get the pay equity they deserve.

“But that process will take time to reach an outcome, and in the meantime, workers will struggle to live on low wages.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the decision not to raise wages for at least the next 18 months while a pay equity claim is processed will drive workers out of the sector – at a time when providers struggle to recruit them in the first place.

“We know there are already service shortages, and these will only increase as workers tell us they are leaving the sector to get better-paid jobs in work that’s less dangerous and difficult.”

Kirsty says not only is the care and support workforce losing its most skilled and experienced workers, but it’s also very difficult to attract new workers to the sector because of the low pay and inherently challenging nature of the work.

“The conditions for our workers also affect the thousands of people needing care in the community that they support.

“This isn’t just for workers, but for all who require care to live full and independent lives.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū Director), 027 204 6354
Kerry Davies (PSA National Secretary) 0274 306 013
Rob Zorn (NZNO Communications Advisor), 027 431 2617

Care and support workers deliver thousands of messages to Government pleading for better pay

After rallying around Aotearoa for a better pay offer, care and support workers and their unions are delivering their messages to Parliament in a petition signed by thousands in just 10 days.

They will hand over the petition, which has more than 10,000 signatures, on Tuesday afternoon.

Workers in the care and support sector are strongly pushing back on the Government’s current pay offer of around 70 cents more per hour for an 18-month period, which would start after legislation setting their pay and conditions expires on 30 June.

With negotiations set to conclude this week, workers are desperate for a resolution and want to see a sustainable future for their sector.

Union delegate and care worker Kiranjeet says working conditions are already poor: “I see people coming into our sector and leaving in days because the work is exhausting, high pressured.

“We are understaffed, and the pay is too low. Who would sign up to do this work for $21.84 an hour?”

Sector providers are fully behind their staff and launched the petition jointly with care unions to draw attention to what was going on.

The issue has also struck a chord with the community too, with many petition signers leaving personal messages of support for care workers.

“I want to support the support workers who make it possible for my elderly father, who has Alzheimer’s, to live independently,” Marion writes. “I am so grateful for the care my father receives, and I am appalled at the low rates of pay these ‘angels on the ground’ receive.

“They are so well trained, capable, and genuinely caring. I have learnt a lot from them. With my heartfelt thanks. We are incredibly fortunate to have them.”


With the time running out to secure an agreement, workers want to see the Government present a fair pay offer by the end of the week.

Care and support workers will present their petition to Labour MP Ibrahim Omer outside Parliament on Tuesday 24 May at 2.30pm.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354
Melissa Woolley (PSA assistant national secretary), 027 441 8230

Rob Zorn (NZNO communications advisor), 027 431 2617

Support workers, employers come together in fight for pay increase

Care and support workers, their employers, and the clients and residents they care for are rallying together for the first time to secure an urgent pay increase for workers in the sector before legislation that sets their pay and qualifications requirements expires in just over a month’s time.

Around 65,000 care and support workers fear an uncertain future if the Government doesn’t agree to boost funding to provide a substantial increase in their pay rates.

However, the Government has so far indicated there’s unlikely to be funding for more than 70 cents an hour per worker for an 18-month period.

Future fair pay is also far from guaranteed with the parties yet to determine how pay rates will be set beyond the current legislation expiry.

With inflation running at 6.9 percent, care and support workers, who perform essential services for elderly, disabled, or those with mental health and addiction needs, are already struggling to survive.

Aged care worker and union delegate Marianne Bishop says workers fought “for years” to get the original pay settlement put in place, which was negotiated by all three unions back in 2017.

“Workers don’t want to lose those gains, nor the important requirements that set out training and progression through the pay scales as workers grow their knowledge and experience.

“At the moment, they say they feel they are going backwards, only existing week to week.”

Many members share similar stories of hardship: having to choose between putting petrol in their car or food on the table, worrying about how they’ll pay their mortgage or rent.

Mental health support worker and union delegate Christie Cox says she cares for and loves the people she works with – some who, she says, wouldn’t be alive today without the vital work she and her colleagues do.

“But passion doesn’t pay my bills. Passion doesn’t put petrol in my car, buy me groceries.

“Passion for my job doesn’t afford me the things I need for my wellbeing.”

Home and Community Health Association CEO, Graeme Titcombe, say the Government needs to fund appropriate wage levels for support workers.

“It’s imperative if we are to retain and attract the staff necessary to continue to provide quality services to those receiving support in their homes.

“This valuable workforce has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and deserves to have their skill and dedication appropriately recognised.”

New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO, Peter Reynolds, says workers, some employers, and unions worked really hard to win the settlement for support workers back in 2017.

“We don’t want the efforts of those who fought for those gains to be wasted,” he says.

“At the end of the day, it is the impact on disabled people and others needing support that we need to keep in focus.”

Grey Power National President, Jan Pentecost, agrees: “Grey Power knows very well that care and support workers provide an essential service that many older people and others rely on every day.

“Without adequate pay and conditions, this leads to the loss of even more carers and inadequate care, leaving vulnerable people to suffer.

“A likely outcome, if nothing is done, is an increase in ill health and even fatalities – don’t these older folk, others, and the workers who care for them deserve better?”

Care and support workers and their allies are holding rallies and events across Aotearoa to push for a pay rise and highlight their concerns on Monday 23 May.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354
Liz Robinson
, (PSA communications advisor) 027 281 6173
Rob Zorn (NZNO communications advisor), 027 431 2617

Budget brings positive relief measures and the promise of long-term progress

E tū welcomes Budget 2022, which includes a range of measures that will help E tū members and their communities during a time of increased hardship coming out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says this Budget both addresses the immediate challenges facing many in Aotearoa and lays the groundwork for improving our country’s longer-term prospects.

“The headline news of $1 billion in payments for low- and middle-income earners comes at exactly the right time,” Annie says.

Annie says global pressures that have spiked inflation have seen many people and families finding it harder and harder to keep up with the daily cost of living.

“People will also find immediate relief in the two-month extension of half-price public transport fares and the fuel tax reduction. It means more money in people’s pockets.”

Health funding has always been a concern for E tū members, particularly frontline workers in areas like aged care and DHBs, she says.

“While the record boost for health is needed to establish the new health structure, E tū is disappointed to see the care and support workforce left out.

“Addressing wages in care and support would make the biggest impact on cost of living for these workers and their whānau.” 

Annie says E tū is heartened to see more than $15 million of specific funding set aside to operationalise Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’re also looking forward to seeing more detail about the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, which will be a lifesaver for any workers who are made redundant or are unable to work due to long-term illness.

“We have long called for publicly funded dental care as critical to the health and wellbeing of our communities, and so we are delighted to see a significant increase in funding for dental care, which will make a real difference to the lives of low-paid workers.”

Annie says that many E tū members identify the costs of housing as being the most significant issue affecting their household finances.

“Support for both first home buyers and public housing is great to see,” she says.

Annie says there will be a lot more to unpack over the coming days and weeks.

“We’re looking forward to diving into the details and discussing with our members what Budget 2022 will mean for them.”

ENDS

Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Workers rejoice as Fair Pay Agreement Bill gets First Reading

The First Reading of the Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) Bill in Parliament today has been met by applause from low-paid workers across the country.

The bill will enable workers and their unions to negotiate minimum pay and conditions with their employers, which will then become minimum standards for the whole industry.

E tū member and security guard, Kajal Mani, is thrilled.

“As a young mother and a security guard, I am very excited to have Fair Pay Agreements here in Aotearoa,” Kajal says.

“It will mean better work conditions to keep me safe, to return home to my young family. It will mean fair wages so that I don’t have to work long hours, which supports holistic health and wellbeing for all.

“FPAs will also mean equality for all workers and effective partnership between unions and good employers to stop the race to the bottom.”

E tū member and cleaner, Madeleine Natua, agrees.

“Introducing Fair Pay Agreements will help a lot the lowest paid workers and our families, as it will set a benchmark in improving our terms and conditions to stop the race to the bottom,” Madeleine says.

“For so long, 30 years or so, New Zealand has been a low wage economy. Fair Pay Agreements will help lift Aotearoa to a high wage economy, and when workers are paid more, they will feel valued and appreciated.

“Long term, this will help lift hard working Kiwis, their whanau, and their communities out of poverty, which will also benefit everyone, including local businesses.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says that the Fair Pay Agreements Bill gets right to the heart of the issues facing workers like Kajal and Madeleine.

“Today is an exciting and historic day for Aotearoa,” Annie says.

“The Fair Pay Agreements Bill sets out a comprehensive framework for finally getting some of our lowest paid and most vulnerable workers the respect and dignity they deserve at their jobs.

“It means more time with family, more money for food, rent, and other expenses, better access to health and safety, better training, and much more.

“It gives workers and employers the flexibility to negotiate fair minimum standards properly and means that good employers won’t be undercut by cowboys, who win contracts by giving their workers the lowest possible wages and conditions.

“Along with commitments to the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, the Living Wage, and a Just Transition, Fair Pay Agreements show that this Government really is transformational.”

ENDS

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

FPAs will be the best change for workers in decades

E tū is thrilled to welcome the introduction of the Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) Bill to Parliament today.

The bill will provide a regulatory foundation for setting pay and conditions across whole industries, through negotiations between employers and workers through their unions.

This will be transformational for many industries, especially those where workers employed by contractors suffer low wages and poor conditions as a result of competitive tendering.

E tū member and security guard, Rosey Ngakopu, is excited about the development.

“It’s awesome that we’re finally here, after years of campaigning,” Rosey says.

“Security guards like myself are ready for FPAs. Having minimum standards across the whole industry will be very important.

“It’s not just about pay. In our industry, guards also need FPAs to ensure we have the right conditions across the board, especially decent training and proper health and safety practices.

“We need an FPA in security, because we are worth more than the bare minimum.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says that FPAs will provide a voice for workers who usually miss out on collective bargaining.

“Low paid workers often simply cannot negotiate fair pay and conditions, as they don’t have proper access to collective bargaining, and wages and conditions are suppressed by competitive tendering.

“Providing this foundation to protect workers from these effects is essential in building an economy that works better for everyone.

Annie says that FPAs make good business sense for firms that want to do the right thing for their workers.

“We’ve heard from employers that they would like to improve things for their workers, but they simply cannot lift wages or meaningfully improve conditions, or they will be undercut by competitors in the tendering process. This creates a race to the bottom – a race that workers lose.

“E tū will continue to work constructively with the Government on developing great FPA legislation as the bill goes through Parliament, and we’re excited about negotiating the first FPAs in Aotearoa very soon.”

ENDS

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