Category: Public and Commercial Services

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.” 

E tū takes major cleaning companies to Employment Relations Authority

E tū, the union for cleaners in Aotearoa New Zealand, has filed an application for fixing with the Employment Relations Authority, after the companies party to the Commercial Cleaners Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) have refused to budge, offering their workers no improvements to pay and conditions.

An application for fixing means the union is asking the Employment Relations Authority to determine the terms and conditions of the MECA, as a result of the employer parties breaching good faith provisions, leading to a breakdown in negotiations.

E tū initiated for bargaining in February last year. Since then, the employers party to the MECA have offered no pay increase above the minimum wage and no improvement to terms and conditions such as health and safety protections. They have used both the Fair Pay Agreements process and potential future increases to the minimum wage as excuses not to negotiate constructively with the union and employees.

E tū delegate and cleaner, Mele Peaua, says: “Most of the cleaners are on the minimum wage. We all know how much of a struggle that is for workers.

“I was part of the bargaining team, and we were not happy that the companies didn’t want to bargain for a better deal for cleaners. All we want is to improve wages and get better conditions, beyond the minimum.”

E tū National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the companies have been particularly difficult in this bargaining round.

“It’s unprecedented, and frankly quite unbelievable, that the companies are still taking this hardline position of a zero-offer beyond minimum wage,” Rachel says.

“These companies hold some of the biggest cleaning contracts in the country, in both the public and private sectors. The cleaners often work long and unsociable hours, doing the essential job of keeping workplaces and public spaces clean and healthy.

“It wasn’t long ago that cleaners were being celebrated by all of Aotearoa as part of the essential workforce that kept us going during Covid-19 disruptions. The companies need to show they respect and value their employees, instead they are demonstrating the complete opposite.”

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.”


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.”

Cleaners strike at Auckland Airport to reject zero increase

Cleaners at Auckland Airport will be stopping work today and going on strike, after their employer OCS has offered zero increase in recent negotiations.

The workers will strike in groups and will be on a picket line at the Auckland Domestic Terminal (Air New Zealand side) from 1:30pm until 2:30pm.

OCS is one of the parties to the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) for commercial cleaners, which also includes ISS, City Cleaning, PPCS, Total Property Services (TPS), Millennium, Kleenrite, Watershed, United Cleaning Services, and Westferry. These companies hold some of the biggest cleaning contracts across both the public and private sector.

While the MECA has been settled with some margin above the minimum wage in previous years, this time the employers aren’t budging.

Jacqueline Davis, an airport cleaner who will be going on strike today, says the zero offer shows the companies don’t care about their workers.

“Personally, I think they just don’t give a damn about us. We’re nothing in their eyes, we’re just the little cleaners,” Jacqueline says.

“OCS and all the other companies need to treat us with respect. If it wasn’t for us cleaners, the airport would be a hell of a mess. They need to treat us like people, we are sick of being treated like doormats.”

E tū has been campaigning for the Living Wage for cleaners. Jacqueline says getting the Living Wage would be a huge help, including for her health.

“Right now, if I get sick, I can’t afford to take the day off or go to the doctor. I had to use up all my sick leave after an accident, so I simply have no choice.

“Getting a decent wage would mean not having to worry about finding the money for a simple day off and a doctor’s visit.”

E tū Director, Sarah Thompson, says OCS and the other cleaning companies need to step up.

“This is such a harsh position from the employer group,” Sarah says.

“It shows that they just don’t value the essential work of cleaners like Jacqueline and thousands of others.”

Sarah says it’s a clear demonstration of why cleaners need a Fair Pay Agreement.

“Right now, we’re getting ready to bargain the very first Fair Pay Agreement for the cleaning industry, which will be the best opportunity in decades to really improve things for this essential workforce.

“The National and ACT parties have promised to scrap Fair Pay Agreements before they even get started. It’s another slap in the face to working people like Jacqueline, and we can’t let that happen.”

Cleaners picket as employers refuse to offer any pay rise at all

Cleaners employed by multiple large cleaning companies will form a picket line today in Auckland as the companies have offered them nothing at all in recent negotiations. The picket will be outside a special general meeting of the Building Service Contractors of New Zealand, the employer association for cleaning companies.

E tū members have been in negotiations for the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) for commercial cleaners seeking a pay increase to the Living Wage and other improvements to conditions, such as the provision of first-aid kits.

The employer representatives have offered nothing at all – not even the 30c above the minimum wage which has been negotiated in previous terms of the agreement.

The employer parties to the MECA are OCS, ISS, City Cleaning, PPCS, Total Property Services (TPS), Millennium, Kleenrite, Watershed, United Cleaning Services, and Westferry. These companies hold some of the biggest cleaning contracts across both the public and private sector.

“We feel that cleaning companies don’t care about the cleaners, and they don’t respect us,” says Jackie Clark, cleaner at Auckland International Airport.

“Getting no offer is stressful for us. We have whānau to feed, and rent and other bills to pay. It’s also affecting our health physically and mentally, and these cleaning companies don’t care.

“We’re doing this for all the cleaners around the country, because we deserve more.”

E tū Director Sarah Thompson says the zero-offer is a particularly stubborn position.

“Although cleaners have traditionally been paid near the minimum wage, we have usually been able to negotiate some increases above that rate in MECA bargaining,” Sarah says.

“For companies to not budge even one cent above the minimum wage is unprecedented and frankly insulting, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.”

Sarah says the employers’ position is a clear demonstration of the need for a Fair Pay Agreement in the cleaning industry.

“We’ve initiated bargaining for a Fair Pay Agreement for cleaners because our members are sick and tired of being undervalued for so long.

“When employers are committed to offering literally nothing to their own workers, the system is broken. We need to negotiate a Fair Pay Agreement that truly values the essential work of cleaners across Aotearoa, and that’s why E tū will be campaigning to re-elect a Labour-led Government which will keep this vital mechanism in place.”

Zero offer from cleaning employers – not good enough!

Our E tū team has been in bargaining on your behalf for your collective agreement, to try and get better pay and conditions for cleaners across Aotearoa New Zealand. Last week the companies told us they are offering us nothing – no pay rise, no better conditions, just nothing.

That’s not good enough.

We are holding meetings over this week and next to discuss our path forward. As E tū members, we know that we don’t win anything without fighting for it, and we will be working together to pressure the cleaning employers into improving their offer.

Our next steps

We will be working on different ways to make progress on our agreement. The E tū cleaners on our bargaining team are extremely disappointed and we have been talking about all options, including things we can do on site, media opportunities, and the possibility of taking further action. Keep an eye out for more info from your union organiser and delegates as this progresses, so you can have your say.

In the meantime, as usual, the best thing to do is encourage all your workmates to join E tū. They can visit to get started today!

Stay tuned for Fair Pay Agreements news

The good news is that we’re nearly ready to start negotiating our Fair Pay Agreement, which will give us a much better opportunity to win much more meaningful increases to cleaners’ pay and conditions. We’ll be sending you more information about this very soon!


Fair Pay Agreement for cleaners approved!

Cleaners across Aotearoa New Zealand are getting a huge opportunity for real improvements to their pay and conditions, with the Chief Executive of MBIE approving the initiation of a Fair Pay Agreement for cleaners.

The news couldn’t have come any sooner. E tū and large cleaning companies involved in a multi-employer collective agreement for commercial cleaners are in negotiations today with much at stake for these low paid workers.

Historic underpayment of cleaners has meant cleaning companies compete for contracts, which drives down pay and conditions – the exact problem the Fair Pay Agreements Act 2022 was passed to address.

E tū member and cleaner, Mele Peaua, who is part of the union’s commercial cleaners negotiating team, says years of inadequate results from bargaining are a clear demonstration of the need for a good Fair Pay Agreement to cover cleaners.

“A Fair Pay Agreement will be ground-breaking for low wage cleaners like us. It will give collective bargaining power to many cleaners who currently have no access to it,” Mele says.

“Normal collective bargaining just isn’t working for cleaners. We have a wonderful opportunity right now to win a good Fair Pay Agreement and reduce inequality and poverty in our communities.”

E tū Transformational Campaigns Director Sarah Thompson agrees.

“The contracting model creates a ‘race to the bottom’ where labour costs are the significant factor in competitive tendering,” Sarah says.

“Having our multi-employer collective agreement has meant negotiating some marginal improvements for cleaners over the years, but it doesn’t stop non-union employers from undercutting companies who might otherwise be open to paying reasonable wages.

“It’s a particular problem in the cleaning industry, and also in security, where E tū has also been approved to negotiate a Fair Pay Agreement.”

Sarah says that all workers should see the value of Fair Pay Agreements and vote for political parties who support them.

“There is currently a huge political focus on the cost of living. Just as we are finally starting to fix these systemic issues through Fair Pay Agreements, the Opposition has promised to tear them up. That’s just appalling, and we need to make sure as a country that we don’t let that happen.”

Doing the beat with the right feet

“Perfect,” “wonderful,” “grateful,” and “awesome,” are just some of the words that Te Whatu Ora members are using to describe how they feel after organising to win for a special shoe voucher, which means they can pick out their own work shoes.

For those working as orderlies and cleaners at the hospital, the change has put a smile on everyone’s faces, an E tū delegate Barbara says.

Members working in these services roles at Te Whatu Ora Counties Manukau and Waitematā were previously provided with a pair of shoes by Te Whatu Ora – even though there was a clause in their collective agreement around having a shoe voucher so they could go out and buy their own.

So, when it came to light that many members were resorting to buying their own shoes as they were so uncomfortable, Te Whatu Ora delegates organised a survey to see how widespread the problem was.

After 150 responses to their shoe survey, it became clear that the issue was urgent, and management acted quickly.

Now members have the choice of between five and nine different shoe styles and pay for them using a voucher. They also have the option of spending the remainder of the voucher on socks if there’s anything left over.

Barbara says, “Members are really rapt. It’s put a smile on everyone’s faces – they really appreciate what they’ve got, which is so much better than before.

“Workers do beat the feet a lot during their shifts, especially the orderlies. They’re grateful for the work that’s been done by the union and across the board.”