Category: Politics

E tū wāhine highlight domestic violence on Suffrage Day

As E tū women celebrate Suffrage Day in Aotearoa New Zealand, they also urge communities to remember the fight that’s still going for many women.

Research shows that during emergency situations such as the COVID-19 crisis, gender-based violence gets worse.

According to an online survey by researchers at the University of Otago, around nine percent of New Zealanders said they’d experienced some kind of family harm over the lockdown period last year.

E tū Women’s Committee Convenor Wheeti Haenga says the issue of family violence comes up often in committee meetings.

“We are hearing stories about women who have been affected by domestic violence, and there’s a real concern that during COVID, because we know this tends to get a lot worse.

“Every woman and child in Aotearoa should live in homes that are free from violence.”

Wheeti says the committee wants all women to know there is help out there, including places such as Women’s Refuge.

“There’s practical and genuine support – they’ll get you to a secure house, make sure you have fresh food, PJs for the kids, and petrol vouchers.”

Family Violence Leave is also available for up to 10 days, she says.

Wheeti says that despite the many issues that remain for women, she wants to recognise their mahi and strength during the COVID crisis.

“A shout out to our wonderful wāhine everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand, including our Māori and Pasefika women – they’ve all done a brilliant job.

“Suffrage Day is about remembering all our wāhine and their individual struggle to secure their rights as a collective.”

Where to get help

Concerned about a child?

  • If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call the Police on 111.
  • For non-urgent cases where you suspect a child may be in an unsafe environment, call Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459 or email [email protected]
  • Child Matters: Full consultation service free of charge. Contact Child Matters National Services Manager Megan West on 022 547 7505 for more.

Commission lays foundation for necessary Just Transition

E tū welcomes the latest Climate Change Commission, He Pou a Rangi, report to the Government as it lays firm foundations for a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy.

Ināia tonu nei: a low emissions future for Aotearoa sets out a policy direction for a fair, inclusive, and equitable transition for workers and their communities.

E tū researcher Sam Huggard says the advice covers the core components advocated by E tū for a Just Transition: proactive transition planning with all parties at the table, widely accessible education and training, dedicated support for workers in transition, and better analysing the distributional impacts of climate policies on population groups.

“For key industries in transition, a collective approach is needed to map out the transferable skills across a workforce as a whole and actively manage the process of redeployment into new work.

“Workers know that change is coming to their jobs as a result of climate change and other trends, such as automation — that’s why a Just Transition is so necessary.

“We welcome the Commission’s recognition of the call from unions and others for this work to be secure, well paid, and decent work.”

Sam says the union also endorses the Commission’s views on the need to partner with iwi, hapū, and whānau to design an equitable transition that works for Māori, and to ensure Māori social and economic interests are protected and Te Tiriti is upheld.

“This report shows that the foundations have been laid for genuine involvement of workers in designing their future, which is necessary to give people confidence we can achieve this.”

However, key challenges remain, with significant investment needed to develop new industries or support existing ones to transition to a low-carbon future, he says.

“We think further government investment, beyond that set aside in Green Investment Finance and the Regional Strategic Partnership Fund, will be needed,” Sam says.

“Many of the support measures needed to mitigate the impact of decarbonising will come with a cost, and so we also need an honest debate and further action on tax reform, to ensure we are bringing in necessary revenue to fund the transition.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Huggard, 021 462 148

Why New Zealand needs Fair Pay Agreements

By E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman, as published on Stuff on 3 June 2021: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/prosper/300323156/why-new-zealand-needs-fair-pay-agreements

It has been 30 years since the Employment Contracts Act 1991 removed sector-wide bargaining from our industrial relations system, implementing one of the most radical individualised employment relations systems in the world.

In-work poverty simply was not a reality of New Zealand life at the time, but in the intervening 30 years it has become an albatross around this country’s neck, dragging down household incomes, local economies and national standards at work.

The recently proposed law to establish Fair Pay Agreements is about sector-wide bargaining for minimum standards that ensure decent work, where workers earn enough to live on and receive the protections that any developed country should expect for its workforce.

Sector-wide bargaining is just that – it means negotiating employment agreements that cover whole sectors and industries, whether that’s security, cleaning, home-care work or retail (those workers we have come to appreciate as our essential workforce in the age of Covid-19).

Most developed economies have some form of sector-wide bargaining and the OECD promotes the concept as benefiting workers, businesses and the wider community. This is a reversal of the position they held in the 90s, when the experiment of deregulation ran wild. It’s time now for us to catch up to the 21st century.

Closer to home, the case for sector-wide bargaining was put forward in independent research conducted by Business and Economic Research (BERL). The evidence is clear: there is no economic reason not to implement sector bargaining but many social and individual wellbeing reasons to do so.

Fair Pay Agreements will not be a return to the awards system, nor to the much-maligned compulsory unionism of yesteryear, but rather they will help us re-establish notions of decent work, where workers and their families can thrive and fully participate as active citizens in society, safe in the knowledge that stability, security, safety and liveable incomes are assured.

One problem that highlights the need for workplace transformation is the contracting model. Services like cleaning and security are delivered by businesses that contract to a third party, the “client”. The in-built competitive tendering for services drives the cost of the contract down in a race to the bottom, where the most vulnerable workers bear the cost in loss of hours, poverty wages, and inadequate health and safety practices.

Some employers report that they would much prefer to pay decent wages but cannot do so while being undermined by the “cowboys” paying the bare minimum. Fair Pay Agreements would mean services compete on the quality of the service rather than the cost of the labour.

Most unfortunately, some commentators have chosen to misrepresent Fair Pay Agreements. It is important that we set the record straight, in order to have a properly informed public conversation.

It has been suggested that only a small number of unions and employers will have a say in the negotiation of a Fair Pay Agreement.

This is categorically untrue.

Every single worker and employer will have the opportunity to be represented in negotiations and to vote on the agreement itself.

Fair Pay Agreements come into force through a majority ratification of the parties.

Only when bargaining is protracted and ratification fails twice, or because the parties choose to, is there a determination through the Employment Relations Authority.

To suggest that a much-improved system for workplace democracy is somehow unfair is quite disingenuous.

Some argue that Fair Pay Agreements would add an extra layer of complexity for affected employers. In fact, the status quo, which sees most workers on individual employment agreements, is far more complex.

By collectivising and centralising the bargaining process, employers can simply apply the terms and conditions set in the Fair Pay Agreement, knowing they are meeting the market standard.

It is time we normalise decent work and discourage arguments that anyone – the worker, the business or the economy – benefits from exploitation and poverty. We all lose. The current pandemic has exposed how interconnected all our lives are in this small country.

Fair Pay Agreements are just a mechanism to normalise decent behaviour at work, things like the Living Wage, protection against unsafe practices, 10 days of sick leave and the right skills to do the job. Who can argue for less?

Nelson Mandela said: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” Let’s normalise a decent life with Fair Pay Agreements.

The Government is expected to take Fair Pay Agreement legislation to Parliament before the end of the year.

We must be on the lookout for bad faith arguments and ensure that our collective will to improve our working lives is the winner on the day.

Essential migrant support workers relieved visa shock reversed

Hundreds of essential skilled migrant workers in the aged care and disability support sectors are relieved they can go back to work without the fear of being stood down, now that their lesser-paid ‘sleepover’ or overnight shifts will no longer count towards the remuneration terms of their visa.

In April, Immigration New Zealand determined that sleepover rates – which are paid at minimum wage of $20 per hour rather than the workers’ normal hourly pay rate – would be used in the calculation to assess their earnings, a key condition of their visa.

Essential Skills or Skilled Migrant Category work visas require aged care and disability support workers to paid at a minimum of $25.50 per hour or above for 30 hours per week.

However, many in the sector work both day and sleepover shifts, and the inclusion of the sleepover rate was bringing down their average pay rate too low to meet the remuneration requirements of their visa.

E tū delegate and health and safety representative Manni Sardana, who has a current visa, says due to Immigration New Zealand changing the regulation, her employer stood her down from her sleepover shifts for two weeks.

“The people I support were asking me why I was leaving them. I had to tell them I didn’t know who would be coming at night.

“They were furious as they don’t have the same trust in relieving workers. They can have a relaxed, sound sleep when they know the person staying over.”

Distressed, Manni immediately made contact with E tū and reached out to others to see what could be done.

She says although her manager was supportive, the experience had been stressful, and she will be seeking backpay for her regular missed sleepover shifts.

E tū health director Sam Jones says the impact on workers and the potential for thousands with disabilities to be left without support meant the union acted quickly to address the issue.

“We fully support the changes made by Immigration New Zealand to remove the sleepover rate from the wage rate calculations for the affected visa categories. This issue had the potential to affect hundreds of our members.

“It’s great to see a sensible and quick solution has been reached, ensuring the most vulnerable in our communities will receive the support they deserve, and that this group of support workers and their families can continue to earn a living and provide this crucial support, as they did during COVID-19.

The regulation change is effective from 24 May.

Sam says now Immigration New Zealand has reversed its decision, essential skilled migrants are fine to work their sleepover shifts – as long as they are guaranteed a minimum of 30 hours of work outside of that at or above the required hourly rate.

Having the 30-hours-per-week requirement also functions as protection for essential skilled migrant workers, he says.

However, Sam says the support sector still needs to raise the sleepover rate for workers.

“We won the right to proper wages for sleepover shifts back in 2012, when we proved this particular shift counted as ‘work’.

“Now it’s time for the Government to fund providers in the sector to step up and ensure sleepover pay rates match workers’ hourly day rate.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563

Support workers “can’t stop smiling”: Budget funds properly paid breaks & travel time

With funding confirmed in Budget 2021, home and community support workers will soon be paid their normal hourly rate while driving from one client to another.

Until now, this essential health workforce was only paid the minimum wage for ‘in between travel time’. Before 2015 they didn’t get a cent. Now there’s $81.822 million locked in to fund fair, consistently paid travel-for-work over the next four years.

Two unions represent support workers, the Public Service Association and E tū. Members of both organisations are celebrating the news, but they’re also reflecting on the long-haul campaign it took. 

E tū delegate and support worker Tarsh Dixon has been on the frontlines campaigning for better conditions in the sector, along with more sick leave for all workers.

Tarsh says she initially didn’t believe the news was real.

“I reckon when our pay finally goes up, it will click. At the moment, members are just so stunned we finally got there,” she says.

“It’s amazing. It feels like real progress and that we’re being listened to.”

Tarsh says having 10 days sick leave is also “amazing news”. She’s a solo mum, and her job has been threatened when she took time off to care for her daughters when they were ill. There was no one else.

She’s getting ready for the next battle; securing more guaranteed hours so she doesn’t have to “desperately ask around for clients” to survive.

Tarsh believes union activism has won progress for home support workers: “Working collectively with a vision is the reason we’ve got this far.”

Her sentiments are echoed by PSA delegate and support worker Jenny Goodman, who has spent years active in her union’s campaign to get consistent pay for all hours worked.

“I’m ecstatic. I can’t stop smiling, it’s long overdue justice,” says PSA delegate and support worker Jenny Goodman.

“If I worked in an office and the boss told me to deliver a parcel across town, then told me as I walked out the door my pay was dropping to minimum wage on the road, I wouldn’t agree to do it.”

Jenny never gave up hope, but it hasn’t been easy. She feels support workers have “soldiered on”, despite unjust treatment, in part because they are so dedicated to the clients they care for.

“We were told the funding isn’t there, if you want paid breaks you have to take it out of a client’s time,” she says.

“That puts you in the moral dilemma of deciding which elderly, vulnerable client you take support away from. It’s not a choice we’re prepared to make, so all too often we just didn’t get breaks.”

E tū health director Kirsty McCully says the increase to in-between travel rates and sick leave is a double win, and the government’s allocation of $8 million to fund an Aged Care Commissioner will support system-wide reforms.

“For so long, our members have fought for vital improvements to their working conditions,” she says.

“Now it feels like they are finally being recognised and appreciated.”

PSA Assistant National Secretary Melissa Woolley congratulates union members for remaining determined through thick and thin.

“This is a great start which fixes some issues for workers. However, the government still urgently needs to implement a shift model with guaranteed hours to provide secure work and secure pay,” she says.

“Support workers essentially have slightly prettier versions of zero-hour contracts. This must change.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully, 027 204 6354

Budget 2021: Social insurance “long overdue”

E tū is celebrating the release of Budget 2021 today, which makes significant moves improve the lives of Aotearoa’s workers and their communities.

In particular, E tū applauds the plan for an ACC-style ‘social insurance’ scheme, which would give workers income protection if they lose their jobs.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it’s great that the Government are prioritising the idea, which was in the Labour Party’s 2020 election manifesto.

“COVID-19 reminded us again how important it is to support people as they move in and out of work,” Annie says.

“Losing an income, even for a short while, can have extremely negative effects on workers and their families. Social insurance schemes have been proven to work well to mitigate this in many other counties, and its high time that Aotearoa New Zealand caught up.

“We fully support the idea and urge the Government to move quickly on this, as it is long overdue.”

E tū home support members will be celebrating increases for in-between travel.

“Finally, there is funding for home support workers to be paid properly when they are travelling between clients. Until 2015, workers weren’t paid at all for this travel. E tū members won the minimum wage for that time spent in the car, and Budget 2021 will see them getting their proper wage for that part of their work.

“There’s also funding for home support workers to have proper paid breaks – which is also long overdue.

“MSD security guards can also celebrate, with the Government’s commitment to paying them the Living Wage now cemented in the Budget.”

The Budget contains more pro-worker initiatives, such as restoring the Training Incentive Allowance, new funding for vocational education growth, and a further commitment to a Just Transition.

“Increased capital funding for Green Investment Finance will support growth in new, clean industries to replace those in fossil fuel sectors – but workers will need an assurance that this investment will lead to good, secure jobs.”

Annie says there is a lot more to celebrate in this Budget.

“We are very happy that the Government is finally making substantial moves on raising benefits – this will help people who lose their jobs from now, before the social insurance scheme is implemented. It will mean that if people are out of work long term, for whatever reason, they can live happier and healthier lives.

“We also commend initiatives supporting tangata whenua, new investment in education, and a lot more.

“Finance Minister Grant Robertson has described the three Budgets this term as a ‘package’ – we are looking forward to the next instalments for workers and our communities.”

ENDS

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

E tū welcomes next steps for Fair Pay Agreements

E tū members are pleased to learn today about the next steps in the Government’s plan to implement Fair Pay Agreement legislation in this term of Government.

The Government has announced more details about what Fair Pay Agreements will look like, and their proposal is in line with recommendations made by the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group, which E tū supports.

E tū member and Auckland Council cleaner Josephine Wiredu, who is employed by a contractor, supports Fair Pay Agreements to secure decent pay across the cleaning industry.

“My colleagues and I have just won the Living Wage at our workplace. This is wonderful, after so long struggling to support my family on the minimum wage,” Josephine says.

“But we now need to get the Living Wage for the whole cleaning industry. A Fair Pay Agreement will mean cleaners will have certainty that we will get decent pay wherever we work.”

Fair Pay Agreements about more than just wages. They will also make it possible to set better conditions and protections, such as improved health and safety standards. Security guard Rosey Ngakopu says that’s desperately needed in her industry.

“Health and safety is the biggest issue at the majority of sites I have worked on,” Rosey says.

“We need regular welfare checks, decent facilities, and a lot more to keep us safe at work. Security guards are often overworked because it’s hard to fill positions on sites where guards don’t feel safe.”

“A Fair Pay Agreement will secure us better health and safety, as well as improving pay, training, and other conditions that guards need.”

The announcement today was made with the support of Geneva Healthcare, where Ana Palei works as a home support worker. She says a Fair Pay Agreement would address many of the main problems for workers in her industry.

“Work has become unbearable sometimes because of the lack of training and support for new people coming in, unrealistic expectations, unreasonable rosters, and demands which do not cater for any person’s health and wellbeing – especially for the vulnerable clients,” Ana says.

“When we won Equal Pay, our wages increased, which was great, but our hours reduced. Some home support workers feel we are now worse off. My hours have been reduced a lot.

“A Fair Pay Agreement means protecting us and our rights as human beings. It will promote equality in the workforce. It will prioritise health and safety and the wellbeing of each person, so that we can return home to our loved ones happy and not too stressed out.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says today’s announcement shows that the Government is on the right track with Fair Pay Agreements.

“This will be the best change at workplaces in decades,” Annie says.

“Setting fair wages and conditions across the board will stop the race to the bottom, which sees employers competing for contracts by paying poverty wages.

“Workers deserve better pay, better job security, better health and safety, and better work. Fair Pay Agreements will become an important part of the picture.

ENDS

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

Annie and Ana are available for media interviews in Auckland at the announcement venue.

Security guards’ job terms and conditions legally protected from July

Working life for Aotearoa New Zealand’s security guards is about to get a whole lot more secure, now they’ll be legally entitled to keep their job with its terms and conditions if another security company takes over the contract they’re employed on.

On 1 April, the Government added security guards as a category of employees to be protected under Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.

For security guards, this means maintaining the terms and conditions of their original employment, such as pay and accrued leave, even when their contract with one security company ends and is taken over by another.

The new legislation will come into effect on 1 July.

E tū delegate and security guard Jayson Ormsby says the news is a “great accomplishment” for those in the industry.

“I always found it odd that security work was never secure. I feel really glad and happy for those workers who will now be protected, who may have lost a lot of entitlements due to contract changes in the past.”

E tū Organiser Mat Danaher says the inclusion of security guards as protected workers under Part 6A is a really positive step forward.

“At last, security guards will have some certainty as to their pay rate and benefits when they are moving from one contract and employer to another.

“They’ll have access to the hard-earned leave they’ve accumulated and won’t have to start from zero each time a contract changes hands.”

Jayson says he hopes the new law will be the start of a better foundation of employment conditions for guards, who are also campaigning for Fair Pay Agreements or industry-wide regulation across employers.

“Security guards are usually paid different rates at different sites, and they don’t have control over the sites they are deployed to work at – Fair Pay Agreements are definitely needed.”

Mat says the Part 6A protection is the first of many changes that are needed in order to create real certainty and security in the lives of this group of workers.

“We see this as important milestone in working towards Fair Pay Agreements, which will stop the inevitable driving down of workers’ terms and conditions in a ‘race to the bottom’ as employers compete for contracts.

“All security guards deserve certainty in their employment conditions and to be paid at least the Living Wage, regardless of the site they are working on.

“These workers provide a valuable and important service, while also often facing personal risk on the job,” Mat says.

“E tū will continue to campaign with and on behalf of security guards to see them further protected and the industry transformed.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Mat Danaher, 021 336 519

Commendable increase to minimum wage but further rises needed

E tū welcomes the Government’s minimum wage rise and hopes its progression will continue to increase year-on-year to help lift more New Zealanders out of poverty wages.

From 1 April, the minimum wage will rise to $20 per hour – an increase of $1.10 up from $18.90.

The increase will benefit many groups of workers, including essential workers who are often the lowest paid, such as those in the cleaning, security, manufacturing, and aged care sectors.

E tū member Lavinia Kafoa says the increase will make a real difference to her pay packet, boosting it from what she earns hourly, which is just over the minimum wage.

“My rent is going up and I need to buy food for the kids – as single mother, it will really help me.”

E tū Team Leader Yvette Taylor says the rise is a commendable milestone, but the struggle is not over.

“This will make a substantial difference, but there’s still a long way to go before workers are receiving the Living Wage – the amount that workers need to truly survive and participate in society.

“We hope that the Government continues on this trajectory of increases to the minimum wage, to bring our national wage floor into line with what we know our essential workers need and deserve to live with choice and dignity.”

ENDS

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