Author: E tū

Ovato redundancies highlight need for income insurance

Over 100 workers have lost their jobs and are set to be out of pocket, as Auckland printing company Ovato goes into liquidation.

Ovato NZ announced its closure earlier this year. However, outstanding debts to IRD mean that workers may only end up receiving the statutory cap of $25,480, no matter how much they are owed.

Workers have outstanding wages, leave, and notice payments owed to them. There is also a claim for unpaid wages from the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says that workers are really feeling the pressure.

“Through no fault of their own, Ovato’s workers are faced with the prospect of losing money that is rightfully theirs,” says Joe.

“It’s hard enough to make ends meet during this cost of living crisis. Without money that they’ve already earned, things are looking really tough for these workers.

“Ovato should be pulling out all stops to make sure that their workers are looked after properly, first and foremost. The workers have kept the company going for all these years – the company must pay out in full.”

Joe says that this insecurity shows why the proposed New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme is so important.

“It’s not fair that workers are bearing the full brunt of this development. People can have the best redundancy provisions in the world, but it doesn’t mean much if there isn’t the money to pay it out.

“Instead, E tū strongly supports the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme (NZIIS), so that there is a universal mechanism to make sure workers have enough money to make ends meet when faced with job insecurity.

“It might be too late for the workers at Ovato, but we need to make sure the NZIIS is developed and implemented as quickly as possible to reduce workers facing such hardships in the future.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Joe Gallagher, 027 591 0015

E tū to National: Don’t cut health funding!

E tū is appalled to hear this morning that National Party leader Christopher Luxon has reneged on a commitment to keep health and education funding at least in line with inflation.

Despite recent assurances, Luxon told the AM Show this morning under a National government, increases may fall behind inflation after all.

The back track has sent shockwaves through the health community, with many worrying that National will cut funding when and where it is needed most. Theatre orderly at Middlemore Hospital, Taatahi Phillips, says the pressures in the health system are already having a huge impact at his workplace.

“We are losing more and more staff, and we have another three nurses leaving our team in the next two weeks,” Taatahi says.

“It means we have to cover and do work that we might not have specialist training in.”

However, Taatahi says that while there are many reasons for the current pressures in the health system, there have been real improvements in the sector under the Labour Government.

“We still have a way to go, but we have had seen a massive pay increase under Labour. The old regime was broken, and they are fixing it. Labour might be getting the blame because everyone wants problems fixed tomorrow, but we are in a lot better position than we were.

“We are finally starting to see the positives of the new money that has been invested in the new health system. It might still be in the teething stage, but it is real progress.”

Taatahi says that he and his colleagues are very worried about what a National government would mean for the sector.

“We really do dread what will happen if National gets in. If we start going backwards again, well, I don’t know what to say. My daughter says ‘Dad, come over to Australia’. Any more cuts will just make the brain drain worse.

“People forget that under National last time, we actually had pay freezes. National took away everything. I was there, I know how bare the money was. Christopher Luxon will do no good for the country. He will make it worse.”

Taatahi says it’s not just a lack of funding that worries him about National.

“Take the Māori Health Authority. A lot of people of my generation know what it was like to feel like second-class citizens in our own country. Labour is finally doing something about this, and Luxon wants to undo it all – this just will not work!”

E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says Luxon’s comments today are just one example of the National Party not understanding the reality of challenges in health funding.

“We actually need more than just keeping up with inflation in health funding, given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the much-needed improvements to health infrastructure, and the changing demographics in our population,” Annie says.

“To indicate that funding won’t even keep up with inflation is just astounding and will amount to cuts to the health system in real terms.

“The final insult is that National’s gutting of the health system will be to pay for a wildly irresponsible tax cut plan, that will give top earners tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Annie says there is a common theme of the National Party opposing anything that will help the people who need it most.

“Luxon’s National Party opposes minimum wage increases, Fair Pay Agreements, the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, the Cost of Living Payment, and many more Government initiatives designed to help working families get ahead.

“The contrast could not be clearer.”

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

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

E tū and PSA members at parliament want protesters gone

Union members who work at parliament are calling for an end to intimidation, harassment and violence from the protestors who are occupying Parliament grounds.

A survey this week of members who work in the parliamentary precinct showed over 90 percent of members were either ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the protest and the impact it is having on their health and safety.

E tū and PSA have many different groups of members at parliament, including cleaners, security, Parliamentary Service staff, Ministerial Services staff, Office of the Clerk and DPMC staff and MPs.

The most common reason for concern was worry about the physical safety of their colleagues. Other reasons included worrying about their own safety, being harassed while travelling to and from work, and the safety and wellbeing of children at the protest and in the community around Parliament.

Nearly half of respondents reported being verbally harassed on their way to and from work. Women and younger workers were more likely to be harassed. Six percent of respondents had been physically harassed and over 80 percent knew someone who had been.

There was strong support that the protest should end and protesters be removed from the surrounding streets.

“Imagine it – weeks of people camped outside your workplace targeting you and your colleagues for doing your jobs,” E tū organiser, Anaru Ryall says.

“While almost everyone finds the protests annoying and frustrating, many are finding it genuinely scary, as some of the protesters call for executions and other violence.

“On top of that, they are calling for removal of the public health measures that have kept us safe and continue to keep us from worst effects of the pandemic that we have seen overseas. The level of disinformation about the vaccine is deeply concerning.

“E tū strongly supports the Government’s vaccine roll out plan and urges the protesters to leave peacefully now, and please get vaccinated.”

PSA organiser, David Coates agrees, “Everyone supports the right to protest, to democratically express our views. Nobody disputes that. But these public health measures are in place to keep us ALL safe. To suggest otherwise is a disturbing aspect of the wider spread of disinformation.

“PSA supports the vaccination programme as an important aspect of the Covid-19 response and urges the protesters to leave peacefully and, in the interests of all, to get vaccinated.

“I am sure the results of this survey reflect the concerns of workers throughout the city.

“The impacts of the harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and general intimidation has an obvious and concerning impact on mental wellbeing. This occupation is affecting people’s ability to attend their place of work, to conduct their normal duties and go about their daily lives.”

ENDS

Next steps for social unemployment insurance

E tū is pleased to see progress on the Government’s plan to set up a system for social unemployment insurance.

Similar to ACC, social unemployment insurance would cover a substantial portion of lost income when a worker is made redundant. The details announced today propose that the scheme will cover up to 80% of a worker’s wages for six months, up to $1820 a week. It will be funded by a 1.39% levy on both employers and workers.

E tū has been campaigning for a social unemployment insurance scheme since before the last election. E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for better income security.

“While Aotearoa has so far managed to avoid catastrophic levels of unemployment, the pandemic has reminded many of us that pay insecurity could be just around the corner,” Annie says.

“E tū members in some industries like aviation and hospitality have been hit hardest. Many workers have had to quickly find other jobs, sometimes on much lower wages. It’s been extremely difficult.

“Our members have been discussing the idea of social unemployment insurance as part of our Decent Work campaign. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the concept – it makes a lot of sense to workers.

“It’s also reassuring to see that the scheme takes into account the nature of work in the gig economy, where many people have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

“We congratulate the Government, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, and Business New Zealand for working together constructively to design this system.”

Annie notes that social unemployment insurance will not be a panacea for poverty in Aotearoa.

“While this will make a gigantic difference for workers and families who will benefit from it, E tū also supports expanding the wider social safety net, particularly by increasing current welfare payments.”

ENDS

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

Carer’s legal victory shows need for employment reform

The father and full-time caregiver of a severely disabled woman has won his case in the Employment Court arguing that the Ministry of Health, and not his own daughter, is his employer.

The father, Peter Humphreys, was challenging the ‘Funded Family Care Model’, which sees people needing care considered the employers of those providing the care, even if they don’t have the capacity to carry out legal obligations as the employer.

Key to the case were issues like the minimum wage for time worked, the health and safety obligations of the employer, and who directs the work.

The Employment Court declared that Mr Humphreys is in fact employed by the ministry as a homeworker, and that his daughter could not have ever been his employer.

This means that the ministry has a range of obligations and liabilities, including to “remunerate Mr Humphreys appropriately for his work and in respect of health and safety,” the judgment reads.

Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh says the judgment is a great outcome.

“E tū congratulates the Humphreys family on their victory and stands with all people with disabilities and their caregivers as they fight for a fair deal.

“Families in the same situation as the Humphreys have faced ongoing discrimination on pay and conditions from the parts of government which fund vital care work. Often, a family member acting as full-time caregiver actually saves our health system a lot of money, because it lessens the need for other and more expensive service providers.

“For too long, the Ministry of Health has skirted their obligations as the employer, using a model that describes the person needing care as the nominal employer, even when they do not fund or direct the work in any way.

“This judgment challenges that way of thinking, and it’s a very good step.”

Rachel says that the relationship between funders, clients, and workers creates problems across many areas of employment in Aotearoa.

“The case has similarities with Prasad v LSG Sky Chefs, where E tū members successfully argued that their labour hire arrangement did not permit LSG Sky Chefs to dodge their responsibilities as the real employer.

“We see similar issues across sectors that use the contracting model, such as cleaning and security.

“The ‘funder’ is often a large organisation such as a corporate or even a government department, but they have a hands-off approach to the affected workers because of these ‘triangular’ employment arrangements.

“E tū continues to campaign for meaningful solutions to unfair contracting, by supporting legal actions, organising vulnerable workforces, and campaigning for minimum standards to be upheld through mechanisms like Fair Pay Agreements and social procurement.”

ENDS