Category: Public and Commercial Services

Living Wage promise: Government running out of time

The Government are running out of time to honour their 2017 promise to pay the Living Wage to core government workers employed by contractors.

All three Government parties made the commitment in the 2017 election campaign to “support and promote changing government procurement policies to ensure that all contracted workers, who are delivering a regular and ongoing service to the core public service, move to the Living Wage within the next term of government”.

Today, on International Day of Justice for Cleaners and Security Guards, E tū members are urging the Government to recognise their value by sticking to that Living Wage commitment.

E tū member and Otahuhu Police Station cleaner, Rose Kavapalu, was recognised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the COVID-19 lockdown for the hard work that she does.

Now, Rose and her family have had to move in with relatives because they simply cannot afford Auckland rents.

“I am left with no choice but to move in with my family and live with my parents as I couldn’t afford the $400 rent anymore,” Rose says.

“Even though I work two jobs, 65 hours a week on the minimum wage. By the end of the week, my body is sore and so tired I am left with no energy to enjoy life with my family.”

Rose says receiving the Living Wage could change her family’s situation overnight.           

“I will be able to work one job, able to afford the rent, and most of all enjoy spending quality time with my family.”

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says COVID-19 has led to public recognition of essential workers and the crucial work they do.

“The crisis and response has highlighted what cleaners and security guards have always known – that their work is essential, difficult, and risky, while their low pay is barely enough to make ends meet,” Annie says.

“As we rebuild our economy, we must no longer accept that low wages are OK for anyone, especially essential workers. The Government has a responsibility to play a leadership role here.

“They have done the right thing by paying the Living Wage to directly employed workers in the core public service. Now’s the time to honour the promise to their cleaners and security guards – they are the stars who are shining bright through COVID-19.”

ENDS

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

Union calls for investigation into security guards injured in hospital attack

E tū is calling for a serious harm investigation into the case of two security guards who were injured when a staff member was attacked at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital.

On 21 May, two security guards were stabbed with a pair of scissors when they intervened in the attack on a health care assistant.

One of the guards was stabbed in the hand, while the other received stab wounds to the back of the neck.

E tū delegate Gareth Liley is one of the guards who was stabbed and says it’s not the first time workers have been injured on the job.

“We have been warning the DHB of the risk of something like this happening. We want to go home safely to our families, just like everyone else does.

“What we need is the right support, personal protective equipment, staffing levels, and training, to ensure we can keep ourselves and our colleagues safe at work,” Gareth says.

E tū Director Sam Jones says the union has demanded an improvement in working conditions at Counties Manukau District Health Board and that WorkSafe be notified to conduct a serious harm investigation into the incident, with worker representation.

“It appears that despite the stabbings, because no one was in hospital overnight, they don’t see it as serious enough. It’s just unacceptable,” Sam says.

“Violence in the workplace cannot be treated by our health system like business as usual for our essential service workers.”

Bringing in standardised training, pay rates and hours, appropriate PPE, staffing levels and personal support at all DHBs would go a long way to helping the situation, Sam says.

These were all recommendations included in a March 2020 report on New Zealand’s hospital security services by the National Bipartite Action Group. It found that during a 12-month period, there were more than 5000 security incidents, including 230 reported assaults, logged across 13 of 20 DHBs.

Respondents also agreed the number and frequency of acts of aggression in hospitals was on the rise.

Sam says the review was an important piece of work and a good example of health unions and the DHBs working collaboratively to find solutions to an increasingly serious problem across our hospitals.

“We see the recommendations and their integration into the workplace as a crucial step in keeping our frontline health workers and patients safe.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones 027 544 8563

Disgust as OCS stops Vic Uni from topping up cleaner wages

OCS Limited NZ, the contractor for cleaning services at Victoria University, has refused an offer from the university to top up the wages of cleaners who are at home in lockdown.

University cleaners are doing their part for the community and staying home, with many only being paid 80% of their wages during the Alert Level 4 period. They earn just above the minimum wage, and paying bills and supporting families on these very low wages is already very hard. 

Victoria University cleaner and E tū delegate Henok Gebre says the news is disheartening for all of his workmates.

“Most of my colleagues are fathers and mothers who are the sole earners of their households and were already struggling to get by on minimum wage,” Henok says.

You can understand why learning that they are going to only earn 80% of their wages was really terrible news.

“With government subsidies factored in, OCS probably could have afforded to pay us 100% as it is. If you add in the university’s offer, they would have been more than capable of paying us 100%.

“It’s not too late – we’re urging OCS to reconsider their position and do the right thing.”

E tū organiser Yvette Taylor says the company’s behaviour is appalling.

“As the country went into Alert Level 4 lockdown, Victoria University decided to do the decent and fair thing by offering funding to OCS to go towards paying the cleaners.  They know that their cleaners have it tough as it is,” Yvette says.

“However, OCS refused, citing some ambiguous reasons that don’t make any sense. It is totally ridiculous that they won’t accept the money and pass it on”.

“The money is there, and the workers desperately need it. A 20% pay cut, when you’re on the minimum wage is devastating. So a responsible employer would welcome this opportunity with open arms. To reject it is simply disgusting.”

Marlon Drake, student and former VUWSA President says the Victoria University student community support the cleaners.

“Cleaners aren’t just staff at university, they’re a part of our community. They’re the people keeping our campus safe. Every single one of our students knows this.

“We’re supposed to be kind to each other. The students know this, and clearly the university does too. Now is the time for OCS to do right by the cleaners, anything less is unacceptable.”

ENDS

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

E tū member tells Phil Goff that cleaners are worth 100%

While directly employed non-essential Auckland Council staff are staying at home to save lives on 100% pay, some of their lowest paid colleagues are not so lucky.

Malia Lagi, a cleaner at an Auckland Council recreation centre that is currently closed, has taken a 20% pay cut, taking her pay for the hours she normally works to well below the minimum wage.

Malia usually has to work over 60 hours a week just to make ends meet.

With her partner also off work with just 80% of his wages, the lockdown is hitting them and their six kids very hard.

“I’m very worried that we’ll get behind on everything. Rent, power, water, and especially food – I want to buy healthy food like fruit and veges for my family my it’s too expensive now,” Malia says.

“I went to Mangere Pak’nSave yesterday and was in the queue for more than an hour. All the meat was gone except for the most expensive stuff, and I couldn’t afford that. So I had to leave with no meat, which my family was very sad about.

“Three of my kids are at uni. All they can do is study and eat. It’s really tough for the whole family.”

Malia attended Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s election campaign launch last year and calls for him to intervene.

“At the Mayor’s campaign launch, he promised that he was going to pay the Living Wage to contracted cleaners like me. We’re still waiting for him to deliver that, and we need it, but in the meantime, we need our normal wages back.

“There’s no reason Auckland Council shouldn’t make sure their workers all get 100% of their wages during lockdown. Aucklanders are still paying our rates during this lockdown period. The money is there to pay us properly.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says that hundreds of thousands of workers across New Zealand are in a similar position.

“When wages are already far too low, the 20% cut that many are facing is simply devastating,” Fala says.

“Every Kiwi is doing it tough in one way or another. But for those who already face hardships, the COVID-19 lockdown is making their lives extremely challenging.

“All employers need to take responsibility for all their workers, including those employed by contractors. E tū is calling for all employers to pay their workers 100%. For somewhere like Auckland Council to pass the cost of COVID-19 onto their lowest paid workers is ridiculous and unfair.

“Both as Malia’s employer and as Auckland’s mayor, Phil Goff needs to show leadership and fix this situation for all the families affected – he could change their lives overnight.”

ENDS

For more info and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332

Workers celebrate minimum wage increase

About a quarter of a million Kiwi workers will get a much-needed pay rise today, as the Government’s scheduled minimum wage increase comes into effect.

The minimum wage has gone up from $17.70 to $18.90 an hour, giving our lowest paid and often most vulnerable workers a little extra in their pocket through the COVID-19 crisis.

E tū member and cleaner at Otahuhu Police Station, Rose Kavapalu, is pleased with the Government’s decision to make the increase as planned.

“Thank you, Jacinda, and all of the Government for this increase that’s needed now more than ever,” Rose says.

“I am currently working 13 hours a day, Monday to Friday, to put food on the table for my family and pay the bills.

Rose says that her essential worker status demonstrates the importance of her job.

“Being an essential services worker at the police station, all of a sudden people realise how important your job is.

“I’d rather not be at work as I have many family commitments, but the police officers really need us to keep the place clean and free from COVID-19. So, I am happy to do the work, but honestly, I deserve more than the bare minimum.”

E tū member and security guard at an Auckland train station, Lavinia Kafoa, agrees with Rose that more is needed.

“We need more money because of the risky work that we do. We also need proper PPE, but we’re still waiting for that. The minimum wage increase is better than nothing, but we should be doing more for our frontline health and service workers,” Lavinia says.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says that the minimum wage increase is more important now than ever.

“Low paid and vulnerable workers always bear the brunt of economic downturns like the one we are facing now,” Annie says.

“While it’s not much, the minimum wage increase will make a huge difference for hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs and livelihoods are rapidly changing.”

ENDS

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

Hospitals: Another pay rise won through E tū union power!

In this time of need, amazing E tū members at public hospitals are stepping up to keep us all alive and well. We are pleased to remind you that the next increase in your pay scales applies from today. The pay increase was won by members like you organising our workplaces to get what we deserve.

To stay connected with regular COVID-19 updates during this time join our E tū Hospitals and Laundry Workers Facebook Group Click here https://www.facebook.com/groups/etuhospitals/

Your March 30 increase is between $1.10 and $1.38 per hour.

Orderlies/attendants/cleaners/kitchenhands/laundry

  25 March 2019 30 March 2020 29 March 2021
Commencement $18.60 $19.70 $20.90
12 months $20.40 $21.63 $22.98
Level 2 Qualification $21.61 $22.92 $24.34
Level 3 Qualification $22.70 $24.08 $25.58

Designated security officers/security orderlies

  25 March 2019 30 March 2020 29 March 2021
Commencement $19.10 $20.20 $21.40
12 months $20.90 $22.13 $23.48
Level 2 Qualification $22.11 $23.49 $24.84
Level 3 Qualification $23.20 $24.58 $26.08

Catering assistants/food service assistants (ward-based)

  25 March 2019 30 March 2020 29 March 2021
Commencement $19.10 $20.20 $21.40
12 months $20.90 $22.13 $23.48
Level 2 Qualification $22.11 $23.49 $24.84
Level 3 Qualification $23.20 $24.58 $26.08

Cooks/menu processors/collators

  25 March 2019 30 March 2020 29 March 2021
Commencement $20.60 $21.70 $22.90
12 months $22.40 $23.63 $24.98
Level 2 Qualification $23.61 $24.92 $26.34
Level 3 Qualification $24.70 $26.08 $27.58

Supervisors/team leaders

  25 March 2019 30 March 2020 29 March 2021
Commencement   $23.10 $24.20 $25.40
Level 2 Qualification   $24.90 $26.13 $27.48
Level 3 qualification   $26.19 $27.42 $28.84
Level 4 Qualification $27.20 $28.58 $30.08

We’ve won the Living Wage at schools!

Pressure from E tū members wins living wage commitment for directly employed school cleaners, caretakers, canteen workers, and ground staff

As you may have heard over the weekend, the Labour Party has confirmed their intention to lift wages for E tū members directly employed in schools to the Living Wage. This announcement came on the back of pressure from E tū not to leave the lowest paid in schools out of their commitment to the Living Wage at schools. 

Your E tū bargaining team is in negotiations with MOE officials on December 11 and will be discussing how and when the Living Wage will be delivered, as well as margins recognising skills, qualifications, services, and duties undertaken by caretakers and ground staff. 

Another priority in this process will be protections against contracting out of this commitment and potential cuts in hours with added pressure on schools operations budget funding which currently also covers your wages. 

We are seeking reasonable compensation for availability for caretakers who have been carrying phones and/or attending call-outs. This is a requirement of a legislative change from 2016 so we will be seeking back pay for members. 

We will update you following this meeting, but in the meantime, keep the pressure on making this change happen quickly by asking your fellow cleaners, canteen workers, caretakers, and ground staff, to join with you in E tū! They can join online at etu.nz/join 

Blog: A history of unions and contractors in the public hospital system

The issues of low pay and poor conditions are very familiar to our many members working for contractors in our public hospitals. Until recently, procurement rules encouraged contractors to bid low to win contracts.  This may change after the Government this year moved to broaden the criteria for selecting contractors.

But familiarity with the history of contractors in our public hospitals presents a big red flag. From the first encroachment of contractors in our hospitals during the 1940s, through the dark days of the Employment Contracts Act and the slow, steady fight since then to improve the lives of all hospital workers, the historical record shows contractors have actively resisted decent pay for their workers, using anti-worker laws to drive down wages and conditions. The paper below, by our former Assistant National Secretary John Ryall, spells this out in detail.

The Early Awards

Occupational awards (Arbitration Court-set minimum mandatory pay rates and employment conditions for occupations) were in place from the 1890s but they didn’t really take off in a big way until the 1930s with the election of the First Labour Government, which brought in compulsory unionism and encouraged the formation of new awards in places where they had not existed before.

The Hospital Domestic Workers Award, first negotiated in 1940, covered orderlies, food service workers, cleaners, sewing room workers and male nurses, who were employed in public hospitals. At that time, they were all employed by Hospital Boards, but in the 1940s the first of the contractors started creeping into public hospitals.

Both the Canterbury and Wellington Hospital Boards contracted out their cleaning to Crothalls, which set off a tug-of-war between the Canterbury and Wellington Hotel and Hospital Workers Unions and the Canterbury and Wellington Cleaners Unions as to who covered these workers and under which Award (Hospital Domestic Workers Award or Cleaners Award).

Luckily for the cleaners, the Hotel and Hospital Workers won a case before the Arbitration Court in 1946 and at that point Crothalls and other contractors, who gained contracts in public hospitals, were covered by an award where pay rates and employment conditions were largely dictated by the Hospital Boards.

Pressure on Hospital Boards

In the early 1980s there was increased financial pressure placed by Government on the Hospital Boards and, as well as getting rid of continuing care beds to the private residential care sector, they also became more cost-conscious with changes of contract.

There were a number of disputes from 1981-85 (a big one in Wellington in 1981 and another in Auckland in 1983) regarding changes of contract and the cuts in hours of existing workers during these processes. Because the Award conditions were minimum industry conditions (including for any business, such as retail food stalls) that set up on a hospital premise, there was no room for a contractor to cut these conditions, but they could cut the hours of work of the cleaners.

At the time the Award had a provision that required the union to approve the appointment of any part-time worker through a permit system. This was used to control the cuts.

Later in the 1980s the part-time permit system was weakened (as most parts of the smaller unions were not using it) although this was replaced with a better provision to maintain hours of work if the contract changed and the workers were taken over.

The Dark Ages

The 1991 Employment Contracts Act broke up all previous arrangements and the national award broke up into site-based collective employment agreements.

In the periods 1992 (when the Hospital Domestic Award expired) and 1996, large parts of the public hospital system were contracted out as the Area Health Board system was broken up into competitive Crown Heath Enterprises, who were run by commercial, government-appointed directors and were expected to make a profit.

P&O Services (formerly Crothalls and now Spotless) were the dominant player and they took over all services at Counties-Manukau, Waitemata, Bay of Plenty, Mid-Central, Whanganui, Tairawhiti, Nelson-Marlborough and Southland. They already had cleaning services at Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Lakes.

The other contracting group that emerged was called Tempo and it started a cook-chill system and took over the food services at Taranaki, Lakes, Northland, Wellington, Canterbury and Wairarapa. Tempo, which was bought out by the US Delaware North Corporation also gained cleaning contracts in Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Auckland before it collapsed in 1995 leaving P&O Services (later bought by Spotless) to take over most of its contracts.

Because the Employment Contracts Act allowed employers to set up non-union collective agreements, P&O would do this and then employ all their new staff on these collective agreements despite a union collective agreement being in existence. If they wanted to cut conditions even further, they would set up a new non-union collective agreement while the others were still in existence and employ new staff on even lower conditions.

In Mid-Central Health, P&O Services had some existing workers on the old Award, some on the union collective agreement and others on collective agreements going from A to G, each with different cascading sets of employment conditions.

In the late 1990s there was a struggle at Mid-Central to get rid of all these collective agreements and force the company to offer all new workers the union collective agreement before other agreements.

The Victory Fund and the Fight for the DHB MECA

While a Labour-Alliance Government was elected in 1999 and the Employment Relations Act was introduced in 2000, it still took the unions time to adjust to public hospital organising and collective bargaining.

There were 45 separate collective agreements existing in the public hospitals and some of these local site-based agreements were so weak that their pay rates were very close to the minimum wage; the weekend, public holiday and night penal rates had been reduced to very low levels; and sick leave and other leave arrangements had been reduced in many parts of the country.

The union began a “Healthy Hospitals” campaign in 2006, focussed on the lowest paid workers in the public hospital system, moving the nearly 2000 SFWU members into one national Multi Employer Collective Agreement (MECA), and delivering a big lift in the wage rates and employment conditions of our members.

The DHBs were opposed to a National MECA, arguing that our members’ pay rates were determined by local labour markets rather than a national one (nurses) or an international one (doctors) and to complicate this the DHBs would not sit in the same room as the contractors (Compass, Spotless, ISS and OCS).

After nearly 12 months of bargaining, stopwork meetings and rallies, the Labour Government told the DHBs to conclude a MECA, although not with the contractors included. A case in the Employment Court arguing the DHBs had a duty to conclude a MECA was lost.

The union had discussions with the Minister of Health and the Government about funding a MECA settlement above the DHB financial allocations, including the cost for the contractors.

The Government put aside $17 million for a settlement and the union negotiators were forced to massage the conditions to meet these parameters in a settlement which was independently costed.

The DHB MECA was settled on good terms with many members getting back their weekend, public holiday and night penal rates and pay for cleaning supervisors, who had previously only been paid about 35 cents an hour above the cleaners’ rate, was boosted by about $2.00 an hour.

The base rate was set at $14.25 an hour ($3 an hour above the minimum wage) and a national service scale was introduced for the first time with a 5% increase at the second step and 3% increases up to step 5. To preserve the “local labour market” principle the DHBs managed to carve out an exception that non-metro DHB members could only progress up to step 4 and not be eligible for the top step. Current service and other allowances were incorporated into the high wage scale.

As there had previously been multiple DHB collective agreements, a standard set of conditions was negotiated into the MECA and any group that had better conditions had these preserved in separate DHB schedules.

The contractors then followed and each negotiated their Single Employer Collective Agreements on the basis that the same wage scale, progression system, penal rates and overtime rates would be applied, that the parties would try to reach agreement on a common set of employment conditions and any conditions above these would be preserved in separate schedules for each DHB group.

The implementation was mixed across contractors with resistance where contractors feared a reduction of their competitive advantage over other contractors and DHB directly employed services. Spotless members embarked on a stop-start form of strike action and Spotless responded by locking our 700 members out of their jobs until the union agreed to their terms for the collective agreement.

The Employment Court refused the union’s interim injunction application, but the members stood firm.

Eight days later, with pickets occurring daily outside each public hospital and the Auckland DHBs giving Spotless an ultimatum about fixing the dispute or having their contracts terminated, the Employment Court reversed its position and gave the union an injunction against the Spotless lockout.

Spotless had to quickly negotiate a settlement of the collective agreement and settle with the union for legal costs and back pay to the members. Over the next six months Spotless lost all of the Auckland contracts and the contract at Southland DHB.

Between 2008 and 2018 the contractors were compliant with settling for whatever the DHB offered in the MECA although the percentage increases during these years were low. The contractors also gradually all agreed to bargaining fee arrangements for their SECAs.

The 2018/19 Problem

In the 2018/19 round the union gained very large increases in wages and cemented in some strong obligations for employers around training and qualifications attainment.  However, again the problem looms that the DHBs could refuse to fund the contractor increases after signing off the SECAs and the contractors may be stuck with paying the rates but not getting the funding for them.

The struggle of these workers for stability, security and decent lives continues and the story of contractors in the DHBs will have a new chapter written in the near future.

By John Ryall

VTNZ workers to strike over low pay

VTNZ driving test and vehicle testing officials will take strike action for 24 hours on Monday 5 August, in protest over their poor pay.

The strike takes effect just after midnight (12.01am) tonight nationwide.  

E tū advocate, Sunny Sehgal says E tū’s VTNZ driver testing members are qualified professionals who do a dangerous job, but that’s not reflected in their wages.

“The pay is between $21.00 and $22.50 an hour, which may look good to some people, but it’s a skilful job. And it’s hazardous. They are in a car with people who may not be competent to drive,” he says.

Since 2014, VTNZ has been run by German company Dekra, which members say has consistently resisted improving their pay scales.   

E tū member, Harun Ali says he’s a trained and qualified professional who has to manage multiple risks on the job “but the pay doesn’t recognise that.

 “I have a passion for this job. It’s something I love to do, but it’s risky,” says Harun, who has 14 years of experience as a driver testing official.  

“Drivers are often poorly prepared. There are a lot of accidents and a lot of us are being hurt. We face people who come out of jail, who are very threatening.

“We’ve been chased around the cars, bullied and threatened. A lot of times we end up calling the cops.”

Sunny says VTNZ mechanics are also qualified tradesmen whose pay rates are well below the industry standard.

Mediation has failed to resolve the dispute, leaving members little choice but to walk off the job, he said.

“Members are only asking for a fair increase to their wages to properly value their work and to cover the growing costs of housing, fuel and food.”

ENDS

The members will be picketing on Monday morning.

Where: Sylvia Park VTNZ site, 5 Sylvia Park Road, Mount Wellington, Auckland

When: from 8am-midday.

For further information, contact:

Sunny Sehgal E tū organiser ph. 027 590 0075

We can provide contact details for Harun for interested media.