Article Category: May 2021

Prepping for a Just Transition

With the challenges of climate change, new technology, and COVID-19 faced by many workers, E tū wants to make sure no one is left behind.

Since December, E tū has been running one-day workshops on the concept of “Just Transition” – the idea that workers should be engaged in their own futures, supported through change, and shouldn’t bear the brunt of inevitable changes to the economy.

Funded by the Government as part of the country’s COVID-19 recovery, E tū’s workshops are geared towards members working in manufacturing – a sector currently going through much change.

Members look at what a Just Transition is, why it’s needed, and how they can go about getting one on their own worksites. E tū delegate Ralph Greig, who works a night shift in manufacturing, says being well informed as delegates will definitely help to see the transition process carried out.

“We can relate it to our colleagues at work, and it would resolve many issues at the grassroots level.”

Another delegate Jennifer O’Brien-Finau, who has worked in manufacturing for 16 years, says she can take the information back to her workplace: “Now I understand the rights of our union – between us and the company, between us and the Government.”

“One union language”: standing tall as a Solidarity Member

Muti Saifiti knows how important unions are – she was part of one for almost 20 years – and her son, Gadiel, is following in her footsteps.

Now the former Service Workers Union member is giving back to E tū as a Solidarity Member – a new type of membership for those who don’t need workplace representation but want to stay connected to E tū.

Samoan-born Muti came to New Zealand in the 1960s, following her husband, as they immigrated to what they saw as a land of opportunity for their growing family.

Muti worked in many sectors E tū represents today: cleaning, manufacturing, and home support. While working as a cleaner at Middlemore Hospital, Muti remembers fighting for and winning the right to a taxi home (a provision in her collective) on weekends and public holidays.

“I more or less threw my boss ‘under the bus’ as it was, but the union played a pivotal role in helping us fight for our rights.”

E tū National Executive member Gadiel Asiata with his mother, Muti Saifiti

Muti also became a Solidarity Member as a nod to one of her sons, Gadiel, who sits on E tū’s National Executive. Unions are important because of the support they provide, she says: “Whether you speak English or not, there’s only one union language.”

Solidarity membership is also open to existing members as a top-up to your fees. For more, check out for more.

Sharing stories and finding new voices: our Komiti Pasefika Fono

With tapa cloths lining the floor and bright bursts of traditional Pacific colour, E tū held its biennial National Komiti Pasefika Fono over two days in February.

More than 70 Pasefika members came from around the country to hear guest speakers, participate in workshops, and discuss important issues for Pasefika members.

Delegates Maggie Grieg, Leaa Veukiso, and Ironui Feilokitohi

For Griffins’ worker and new E tū member Sago Feagaiga, it was her first Fono and “absolutely amazing”.

“It was great to be around like-minded people who are passionate and clearly in it for the right reasons – not only for ourselves but being a voice for those who are most vulnerable, marginalised, and unaware of their rights as workers.”

Sago says she became a member of E tū for her parents, who have “worked the struggle”.

Guest speakers included Mana Labour MP Barbara Edmonds, Manukau Ward Councillor Efeso Collins, and Will ‘Ilolahia from the Polynesian Panthers, alongside E tū members sharing stories of their own organising.

The evening saw members battle it out for the best fiafia performance before turning their talents to karaoke.

After much listening and discussion, Sago says members came away feeling really motivated: “We talked a lot about situations in workplaces and on the picket line – introducing it to new workers and letting them know their rights so they aren’t afraid to have a voice and use it.”

Evening entertainment

Teisa Unga gets into the workshop discussions

Zooming to the future with online Delegate Forums

Thousands of E tū delegates across the country joined our Delegate Forums in April, for a jam-packed day of learning, discussion, and preparation for the future of our union activities.

Delegate Forums 2021 were held online using Zoom, with delegates joining from their own devices or in small groups. While nothing beats a face-to-face meeting, our delegates stepped up to the challenge and showed that COVID-19 would not stop us having successful Delegate Forums.

Gisborne-based home support worker Monique Behan-Kitto “absolutely loves” going to the Delegate Forums.

“It’s all about networking and building a union whānau. I’ve made some awesome mates through the Forums.”

Monique Behan-Kitto

“It’s great to meet other delegates from our sectors and beyond. It’s all about networking and building a union whānau. I’ve made some awesome mates through the Forums,” Monique says.

“As I am on the Industry Council as well, Delegate Forums make it so easy to report back – I can tell my fellow Industry Council members exactly what’s happening on the ground in Gizzy.”

Monique says that having the Delegate Forums on Zoom meant that more could participate.

“Some of the delegates were able to join from home when they usually wouldn’t be able to travel all the way to their Delegate Forum, so that was really cool. A lot of people were first time Zoom users, and while that was challenging for some, we now have more local delegates empowered with the tools of Zoom. That’s great!

“It’s definitely the way of the future, and now that union members are becoming more comfortable with Zoom, I’m looking forward to doing even more union activities online.”

The agenda included an overview of the E tū story in 2021, coverage of our recent wins and ongoing challenges, discussion and activities about strategic planning to build our power, and a session about how to get involved in the political process and hold our politicians to account.

Aircraft engineer Whittaker Hamilton’s favourite part of the Delegate Forum was discussing Fair Pay Agreements.

“The Fair Pay Agreement section was the most valuable part for me. There was a lot of good information about the idea and how it might affect our collective agreements going forward,” Whittaker says.

“It was very beneficial and was well suited for the online platform. I think it would be great to be able to do those sorts of shorter sessions online more frequently.”

Editorial: 2021 takes shape

Kia ora E tū members,

Welcome to the first edition of our membership magazine for 2021. I want to open by personally acknowledging some E tū members.

E tū members employed by Lifewise Trust work hard to provide care and dignity to vulnerable people. Their employer promised them a collective agreement with various improvements, but this was then snatched away from them. They stood together for a better deal throughout the summer. I was privileged to stand with them on their picket lines. They had their ups and downs, but they won. In March, they ratified their first collective agreement, with a range of positive improvements. Standing up together for a better deal is what E tū is all about.

I acknowledge members employed by the Whakatāne Board Mill, Charta Packaging, and Nestlé who are facing stress and uncertainty as we represent them in restructuring and potential redundancy negotiations. Our E tū Job Match continues to be an important service to such members needing to find the security of a decent new job.

And, on a positive note, I congratulate our flight attendant members who are back in the air following the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble.

The year of the vaccine

The year 2020 really was extraordinary and challenging, and we are not out of the COVID woods yet. It is encouraging that our country’s response limited the worst effects of COVID, and we are now well into the vaccination programme.

However, it’s a race between the vaccine programme and the so-called “third-wave” of COVID mutations emerging overseas. E tū supports the Government’s vaccination programme, and we recommend that members and their families participate.

E tū democracy goes online

E tū is an acknowledged leader in workplace health and safety and we continue to lead by example, by holding our Delegate Forums online during April. Delegate Forums are a critical cornerstone of our E tū democracy, and we had to cancel them last year due to COVID. We didn’t want to have to do that again, so we have held all our forums online throughout April.

I want to thank all of our delegates who attended – many experienced a Zoom meeting for the first time. In-person engagement on issues affecting our members is important, and we have also really increased our union’s digital engagement capability which puts us in a great position to face future crises together.

A workers’ voice in our new industry training system

Throughout the COVID period, our Government has continued the biggest overhaul of our industry training system in 30 years with the Review of Vocational Education (called RoVE).

In consultation with our E tū Trades Reference Group, we made submissions on the proposed changes in order to ensure trainee and apprenticeship training serves the best interests of working people.

We are strongly involved with E tū representatives on the board of the new consolidated national polytechnic organisation, Te Pūkenga, the new Workforce Development Councils that set apprenticeship and trainee qualifications, and the new Regional Skills Leadership Groups that identify skills and labour market needs in the regions.

These new structures are being established during 2021, and I look forward to keeping members informed in future editions of our magazine.

Now’s the time for fairness at work

E tū has a clear view that we must “Rebuild Better” with a focus on health and wellbeing creating sustainable jobs, a Just Transition approach to restructuring, workers having a better say on issues at work, and an active government strategy to address inequality.

Ensuring a wages-led recovery is critical and that’s where Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs) come in. Fair Pay Agreements will be the most significant change in employment legislation since the 1991 Employment Contracts Act stripped away our last system of a minimum platform of pay and conditions. We expect business, politicians and media to mount a well-resourced campaign of misinformation against FPAs. This is because they are a major challenge to employers’ power over their staff.

A relevant minimum industry platform for pay and conditions helps all workers do better and having a system of minimum industry pay and conditions, which can be improved by enterprise agreements, is common in countries with better pay and conditions than we have. In fact, the OECD recommends such a system because it is better for the economy overall.

This is about more than pay. It is about achieving better minimum industry standards in things like health and safety, hours of work, skill recognition, and redundancy provisions. We need to work hard to ensure that we get the right FPA laws in place under this Government. The opportunity won’t come again.

E tū continues to thrive

While the COVID-19 crisis presented many challenges for our union, we have weathered the storm and are proud to be able to provide the high-quality representation, campaigning, and organising that E tū members expect and deserve. I’m particularly pleased that we have been able to maintain and improve our presence in all corners of Aotearoa New Zealand, including with the appointment of two new Nelson-based E tū staff.

On behalf of our National Executive, thank you for being an E tū member.

In memoriam

Percy Harrison, E tū delegate

Percy Harrison, a staunch and passionate unionist and delegate, was a Mangere school caretaker for many years, who served on the Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota National Executive and Regional Organising Committee. Percy never stopped campaigning for justice for working people. He was a vocal leader for the Living Wage over the last 10 years and most recently, led the mihi whakatau for the launch of E tū’s General Election campaign in 2020. Moe mai rā, Percy. Moe mai rā e te rangatīra.

John Gardner, E tū organiser

John was a long-serving organiser based in Timaru, South Canterbury, for all of his time at E tū, until his passing. Before coming to E tū, John was a delegate at Telecom and served as Vice President of the Communication and Energy Workers Union (CEWU), as well as a short time on the Executive of the Engineers Union (now part of E tū). We remember John’s passion for his work and his absolute commitment to the members with whom he worked. His legacy will be felt by all, and he will be truly missed.