Category: Aged care

Unions lodge pay equity claim for care and support workers 

Unions representing care and support workers are lodging a pay equity claim today to raise pay rates for a majority female workforce that has always been undervalued.

The pay equity claim is a crucial step in stemming the crisis the care and support sector faces, E tū, NZNO, and PSA unions say.

Last week, the Government passed legislation which gives care and support workers a three percent pay increase for 18 months, while the pay equity claim is completed.

Unions say the disappointing pay increase is a “step backwards” in workers’ fight to win fair pay rates.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says unions are pushing to achieve pay equity as soon as possible.

“Care and support workers, who are mostly women, deserve recognition and fair pay for the crucial work they do in our communities.

“In 2017 when the Act was first passed, we finally achieved decent pay rises for workers who had been undervalued and underpaid for decades.

“But now with the cost of living sitting at 6.9%, this low-paid group of workers is struggling to survive and that directly impacts those who need care and support: elderly, people with disabilities, and those with mental health and addictions needs, and their whānau.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says unions are calling on the Government to “fast track” the pay equity process.

“We need the Government to value these essential health workers and respect the people they support by expediting the pay equity process and by funding an interim pay increase, as they have for all other health workers during their pay equity processes.”

NZNO Manager for Industrial Services Glenda Alexander says raising pay for workers by achieving pay equity is a key part of solving the crisis in the care and support sector.

“Workers are leaving the sector because they can’t survive on what they earn,” she says.

“Raising pay rates and creating viable career pathways is a major factor in ensuring care and support workers have decent work, but also in making sure that people in our communities have access to the care they need and deserve.”

ENDS For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū), 027 204 6354
Melissa Woolley (PSA), 0274 418 230
Glenda Alexander (NZNO), 027 201 6881

Renewed settlement for care and support workers still leaves sector in crisis, unions say

Unions representing thousands of care and support workers across Aotearoa New Zealand say the renewed care and support legislation that sets workers’ pay rates will leave workers and the sector in crisis for longer.

The legislation to amend the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017, which will update pay rates, is expected to pass on Wednesday.

However, unions say members are severely disappointed at the pay increase the Government has decided on – a “measly” three percent, far below the cost-of-living pressures workers are facing.

When the current Act expires on 1 July, unions will raise a pay equity claim to further increase the pay rates for support workers, but this process is expected to take 18 months.

Unions say they are equally disappointed the Ministry of Health did not share the content of the amendment bill or the new rates before the cut-off date of 21 June, despite ongoing negotiations for more than a year.

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the current interim pay increase leaves support workers still struggling to survive in the meantime.

“With inflation at 6.9 percent and skyrocketing energy and fuel bills, these frontline workers face another 18 months of misery and it means their pay essentially goes backwards.

“It’s good news we’ll now be able to take a pay equity claim which wasn’t possible under the previous legislation, but workers can’t wait that long for a decent pay rise.”

PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies says the low pay increase leaves the sector in crisis.

“We believe this will see workers having to fight for higher pay or leave the sector – when it is the Government that holds the purse strings,” she says.

“Workforce shortages are already leaving elderly, vulnerable, ill, disabled clients and people in the community who have mental health and addiction needs in the lurch.”

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says unions will be lodging a pay equity claim on behalf of care and support workers as soon as possible after 1 July.

“We will fight to see this claim progressed as quickly as possible, as it is clearly the only pathway to achieving decent and respectful increases for the workforce.”

Note to editors: The 4.6 percent increase on pay rates quoted by Minister Little includes a 1.6 percent LCI adjustment, which was agreed in the 2017 Act. The amended bill only includes a pay rise of 3 percent.

ENDS

Kirsty McCully (E tū Director), 027 204 6354
Kerry Davies (PSA National Secretary), 027 430 6013

Rob Zorn (NZNO Communications Advisor), 027 431 2617

Ministry pay decision a “big setback” for care and support workers

Care and support workers are “gutted and disappointed” after a Ministry of Health recommendation that will not see workers get a pay rise of more than 70 cents an hour for at least a year.

In May, workers rallied around the country and presented a petition with more than 10,000 signatures calling on the Government for a bigger pay rise as part of the renewal of the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act to combat worker shortages and financial hardship.

While workers are relieved that the Ministry has recommended Government extend the settlement, which sets their pay and conditions, and remove the current ban on pay equity claims, workers, their employers, and unions say a 70 cent or 2.8 percent increase on all existing wage rates will only exacerbate existing worker shortages.

Union delegate Pania Love says the pay decision is “gut wrenching” and puts huge pressure on those who choose to stay in the care and support sector.

“It feels like the work I do supporting people with disabilities and my level of skill has not been acknowledged.

“We are already understaffed and overworked. Due to work and pay rates, many staff new to the disability sector do not stay long enough to build skills to provide the level of quality care required with empathy and compassion.”

Pania says this puts huge pressure on the few trained, experienced staff who are left working “huge hours and feeling burnt out”.

“While our work remains undervalued and underpaid, we will struggle to attract new workers to provide quality services to the people we support.”

Union delegate Ginny Sarich says the decision is a “big setback” for care and support workers and the whole sector.

“It will be an additional challenge for the people in our care, as they may lose the support workers that they’ve worked with for a long time to better, higher-paid jobs.

“It’s a very disappointing outcome, but we will keep pushing for justice, because ultimately, the conditions for workers are also the conditions for those receiving care.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the Ministry’s recommendation is disappointing to workers across the care and support sectors.

“The original settlement was historic as it started to value the work of these workers. With inflation sitting at 6.9 percent, the increase the Ministry of Health has recommended to workers will leave them still struggling to provide for themselves and their whānau.”

Melissa says unions will raise a pay equity claim on 1 July to ensure workers truly get the pay equity they deserve.

“But that process will take time to reach an outcome, and in the meantime, workers will struggle to live on low wages.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the decision not to raise wages for at least the next 18 months while a pay equity claim is processed will drive workers out of the sector – at a time when providers struggle to recruit them in the first place.

“We know there are already service shortages, and these will only increase as workers tell us they are leaving the sector to get better-paid jobs in work that’s less dangerous and difficult.”

Kirsty says not only is the care and support workforce losing its most skilled and experienced workers, but it’s also very difficult to attract new workers to the sector because of the low pay and inherently challenging nature of the work.

“The conditions for our workers also affect the thousands of people needing care in the community that they support.

“This isn’t just for workers, but for all who require care to live full and independent lives.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū Director), 027 204 6354
Kerry Davies (PSA National Secretary) 0274 306 013
Rob Zorn (NZNO Communications Advisor), 027 431 2617

Care and support workers deliver thousands of messages to Government pleading for better pay

After rallying around Aotearoa for a better pay offer, care and support workers and their unions are delivering their messages to Parliament in a petition signed by thousands in just 10 days.

They will hand over the petition, which has more than 10,000 signatures, on Tuesday afternoon.

Workers in the care and support sector are strongly pushing back on the Government’s current pay offer of around 70 cents more per hour for an 18-month period, which would start after legislation setting their pay and conditions expires on 30 June.

With negotiations set to conclude this week, workers are desperate for a resolution and want to see a sustainable future for their sector.

Union delegate and care worker Kiranjeet says working conditions are already poor: “I see people coming into our sector and leaving in days because the work is exhausting, high pressured.

“We are understaffed, and the pay is too low. Who would sign up to do this work for $21.84 an hour?”

Sector providers are fully behind their staff and launched the petition jointly with care unions to draw attention to what was going on.

The issue has also struck a chord with the community too, with many petition signers leaving personal messages of support for care workers.

“I want to support the support workers who make it possible for my elderly father, who has Alzheimer’s, to live independently,” Marion writes. “I am so grateful for the care my father receives, and I am appalled at the low rates of pay these ‘angels on the ground’ receive.

“They are so well trained, capable, and genuinely caring. I have learnt a lot from them. With my heartfelt thanks. We are incredibly fortunate to have them.”


With the time running out to secure an agreement, workers want to see the Government present a fair pay offer by the end of the week.

Care and support workers will present their petition to Labour MP Ibrahim Omer outside Parliament on Tuesday 24 May at 2.30pm.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354
Melissa Woolley (PSA assistant national secretary), 027 441 8230

Rob Zorn (NZNO communications advisor), 027 431 2617

Support workers, employers come together in fight for pay increase

Care and support workers, their employers, and the clients and residents they care for are rallying together for the first time to secure an urgent pay increase for workers in the sector before legislation that sets their pay and qualifications requirements expires in just over a month’s time.

Around 65,000 care and support workers fear an uncertain future if the Government doesn’t agree to boost funding to provide a substantial increase in their pay rates.

However, the Government has so far indicated there’s unlikely to be funding for more than 70 cents an hour per worker for an 18-month period.

Future fair pay is also far from guaranteed with the parties yet to determine how pay rates will be set beyond the current legislation expiry.

With inflation running at 6.9 percent, care and support workers, who perform essential services for elderly, disabled, or those with mental health and addiction needs, are already struggling to survive.

Aged care worker and union delegate Marianne Bishop says workers fought “for years” to get the original pay settlement put in place, which was negotiated by all three unions back in 2017.

“Workers don’t want to lose those gains, nor the important requirements that set out training and progression through the pay scales as workers grow their knowledge and experience.

“At the moment, they say they feel they are going backwards, only existing week to week.”

Many members share similar stories of hardship: having to choose between putting petrol in their car or food on the table, worrying about how they’ll pay their mortgage or rent.

Mental health support worker and union delegate Christie Cox says she cares for and loves the people she works with – some who, she says, wouldn’t be alive today without the vital work she and her colleagues do.

“But passion doesn’t pay my bills. Passion doesn’t put petrol in my car, buy me groceries.

“Passion for my job doesn’t afford me the things I need for my wellbeing.”

Home and Community Health Association CEO, Graeme Titcombe, say the Government needs to fund appropriate wage levels for support workers.

“It’s imperative if we are to retain and attract the staff necessary to continue to provide quality services to those receiving support in their homes.

“This valuable workforce has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and deserves to have their skill and dedication appropriately recognised.”

New Zealand Disability Support Network CEO, Peter Reynolds, says workers, some employers, and unions worked really hard to win the settlement for support workers back in 2017.

“We don’t want the efforts of those who fought for those gains to be wasted,” he says.

“At the end of the day, it is the impact on disabled people and others needing support that we need to keep in focus.”

Grey Power National President, Jan Pentecost, agrees: “Grey Power knows very well that care and support workers provide an essential service that many older people and others rely on every day.

“Without adequate pay and conditions, this leads to the loss of even more carers and inadequate care, leaving vulnerable people to suffer.

“A likely outcome, if nothing is done, is an increase in ill health and even fatalities – don’t these older folk, others, and the workers who care for them deserve better?”

Care and support workers and their allies are holding rallies and events across Aotearoa to push for a pay rise and highlight their concerns on Monday 23 May.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354
Liz Robinson
, (PSA communications advisor) 027 281 6173
Rob Zorn (NZNO communications advisor), 027 431 2617

Pay negotiations for care and support workers set up to fail

Unions representing care and support workers, E tū, NZNO, and PSA, have entered discussions with the Government to improve pay rates and lock in existing training rights for 65,000 care and support workers.

The historic 2017 Care and Support Workers Settlement raised wages for care and support workers. But the settlement expires at the end of June and workers need new pay rates to be agreed, so the value of the settlement is maintained.

Workers will lodge a claim under the updated Equal Pay Act once they are legally able to do so but need a pay rise while work happens on the claim, which is estimated to take around 18 months.

The Government’s offer of approximately 2.5-3% amounts to less than half of the current rate of inflation and would apply for 18 months while the work is being conducted.

This amounts to a significant pay cut for workers and is inadequate. It leaves this predominantly female workforce with a difficult choice: leave for a better paid, less stressful job elsewhere, or keep supporting vulnerable people in our communities while facing soaring living costs they cannot keep up with.

Care and support unions say an extension to the settlement with increased pay rates to keep pace with inflation is essential, giving time to work through a full pay equity process. This is needed to avoid further erosion of the already tough conditions care and support workers face.

Union members say their sector is in crisis, with employers struggling to staff shifts to care for our most vulnerable.

Short staffing, low pay, and poor working conditions have led to care and support workers struggling to provide the quality of care their residents and clients need, with many workers choosing to simply leave the sector altogether.

The unions urge the Government to provide the adequate funding needed to value these workers properly.

ENDS

For more information and comment:

Kirsty McCully (E tū director), 027 204 6354, [email protected]
Lesley Harry (NZNO industrial adviser), 027 499 0778,
[email protected]
Liz Robinson (PSA communications), 027 281 6173, [email protected]

Urgent need for PPE for care and support workers

Care and support workers are in urgent need of PPE to keep their vulnerable clients safe.

These workers, some of whom visit more than 10 clients a day to care for them in their homes, say despite being essential health workers, they’re struggling to get enough PPE and supplies to work safely even in phase three of the Omicron outbreak, and their employers say they don’t have the stocks needed to make this possible.

E tū and PSA unions are calling for full PPE kits and RAT tests to be consistently supplied to care and support workers who look after vulnerable people in the community.

E tū member Tarsh Dixon says going from house to house without full PPE puts workers and clients at risk.

“In phase two, we barely had aprons – some workers had none – and only low-grade gloves and masks. We aren’t even given enough aprons to protect our clothing from the usual bodily spills and keep safe from other infections, let alone protect us from Omicron.”

Tarsh says workers are “incredibly frustrated and burnt out” by the situation.

“We work hard in the community to keep clients in their own homes and out of hospitals. These are the same hospitals that are filling up with Covid cases and are under increasing pressure.

“We need a supply of proper, full PPE and RATs, enough for a couple of weeks, couriered out to all workers so we can test at home to make sure we’re still ok to go to work.

“We’ve run out of time to keep emailing our providers and MPs, begging for full PPE to protect us.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the care in the community that this group of workers provides is essential, not optional care.

“It’s things like showering and toileting, wound care, and monitoring medication – essential in making sure people get their basic needs met each day.”

She says the requirements to receive full PPE are flawed, as workers don’t have access to it when clients are isolating or when support workers notice symptoms, only once they’ve tested positive for Covid. But by then, it’s too late.

“This method of eligibility and distribution puts workers at risk because it’s simply too slow. We believe all support workers should have access to all appropriate PPE including N95s for each client at this stage of the outbreak.”

PSA assistant national secretary, Melissa Woolley asks the Ministry of Health to immediately supply workers with N95 masks, face shields, nitrile gloves, and other PPE to stop Covid-19 spreading to their clients.

“Currently, workers are caring for a mix of people with Covid-19 and those without. They need to keep themselves safe so they can continue to provide these essential services and they must ensure they are not the cause of an outbreak.

“Workers also need extra time in their rosters to safely don and doff their PPE and pick up supplies.”

Currently, workers are only provided with one week’s supply of minimal PPE – which needs to be continually reordered – with some workers being required to drive to collect it, unpaid and in their own time.

E tū and PSA have written to health ministers outlining a host of issues workers face, including slow and limited PPE rollout, not having access to full PPE and N95 masks unless a client is confirmed positive, and no reliable supply of RAT tests.

“Government direction on these matters to providers and the Ministry of Health is needed urgently,” Ms Woolley says.

“The employers in the sector have advised us of ongoing issues getting access to PPE in a timely way. Their requests are not fully filled which leaves workers at risk or client care cancelled.” 

ENDS

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

Fifth strike for rest home workers over proposed cuts to pay and hours despite staffing shortage

Tension is growing at a Northland town’s only rest home, as union members prepare to strike again with management refusing to back down on plans to cut weekend rates and making fresh proposals to reduce hours for some, despite bringing in unvaccinated workers when the home was short staffed.

E tū members working at the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home in Kaitaia have been in negotiations for a new collective agreement since March.

However, the trust refuses to remove problematic clawbacks, including a proposal to reduce weekend allowance rates from $5 extra per hour to $12 for a whole shift, which for some would mean losing thousands from their annual income.

Several E tū members are now also facing a possible reduction in their overall hours. However, in the past fortnight, the employer brought in unvaccinated workers under exemption to fill staffing shortages – a move members say neither they nor the residents were notified about.

An E tū member, who doesn’t wish to be named, says morale at work is at an all-time low and the situation is getting worse.

“Members are unhappy – the whole picture is unhappy. This has just been ongoing and ongoing and ongoing. The collective needs to be sorted and it needs to be signed.

“We also want to see our hours secured. It’s ridiculous and makes no sense why they would suggest cuts to workers’ hours when we are so short staffed already.”

The member says they are also seriously concerned about the lack of training and supervision for new staff.

Annie Tothill, E tū spokesperson and organiser at the site, says she believes the current situation could have been avoided, had the trust offered a fair settlement of the members’ collective agreement.

“Staff turnover is already high, and when workers feel disrespected and undervalued, it inevitably affects their commitment and desire to stay.

“That’s why fair conditions and pay are so important to retain safe levels of staffing and quality care for residents.

“In our view, it defies all logic and morality to propose a reduction in some members’ hours, when the management claims there is a staffing shortage and was prepared to risk having staff who are not vaccinated caring for vulnerable and elderly residents.”

Annie says strike action was not a decision that was taken lightly, nor without regard for the vulnerable residents that E tū members care for.

“They feel this is their only option to defend their current terms and allowances. It’s a last resort.”

Members would welcome a meeting with the board of Claud Switzer Memorial Trust to raise their concerns, resolve the current impasse, and come to a fair agreement on the members’ collective agreement, she says.

E tū members are also calling on the community to support them: “We need them to back us up and tell the rest home to sort this out.”

E tū members will be striking outside Claud Switzer Memorial Trust rest home, 71 South Road, Kaitaia on Thursday 16 December and Friday 17 December from 7am to 9am.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934

Aged care workers: Safe staffing must be mandatory in 2022

Workers at aged care home and hospitals across Aotearoa New Zealand will take action at their workplaces and at Parliament this December in the fight to win mandatory safe staffing.

On 9 December, union members from E tū and NZNO, supported by national seniors network, Grey Power, plan to present a parliamentary petition and an open letter with almost 7000 signatures, calling for safe staffing levels to become mandatory across the sector.

Current staffing guidelines are voluntary only, implemented at the discretion of each aged care provider. They are also woefully outdated, having been drawn up nearly 20 years ago in 2005.

E tū Community Support Services Industry Council Convenor and aged care worker Marianne Bishop says workers feel incredibly stretched and frustrated due to low staffing numbers, and they aren’t able to provide the level of care they’d like – an issue that has only been compounded during the Covid crisis.

“We want to be able to provide quality care and have quality time with residents. It’s not enough to just ‘do what we have time to do’.

“We hate not being able to answer bells quickly and not being able to check on residents more regularly, because sometimes when we do get there, it’s too late,” she says.

“If we were an older person or not able to do things for ourselves, how would we feel – having to wait half an hour, or an hour? If that was a member of our whānau, how would we feel?”

Marianne says to win safe staffing, aged care workers need the support of the whole country.

Grey Power President Jan Pentecost says that the organisation is 100% behind the push for safe staffing.

“We absolutely support aged care workers in their fight to win mandatory safe staffing, quite simply because many of our members and their families rely on staffing levels to be safe.

“But for that to happen, there needs to be mandatory standards in place.”

E tū spokesperson Jody Anderson says aged care workers and unions want to see a law setting down the minimum staffing levels that an aged care home or hospital must have in place.

“Our members and the residents they care for simply cannot wait any longer for this. They have been asking and campaigning for this protective legislation for more than a decade,” she says.

“In the meantime, the care they are being asked to provide gets more complex as workers are treating residents with higher needs, all with the same number of staff – a number that’s often all too low as worker shortages and lack of staffing laws bite.”

“We need everyone – aged care workers, their whānau, the family members of those in care homes, and our communities – to join together to send a strong, clear message to our Government: we need safe staffing and we need it now.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Jody Anderson, 027 204 6370