Category: Community Support

Support worker wellbeing report exposes huge psychosocial impacts during pandemic

A report into the wellbeing of home support workers during the Covid-19 pandemic calls for urgent measures to address workers’ concerns.

On Wednesday, researchers from AUT led by Associate Professor Katherine Ravenswood and union representatives from E tū and PSA, who collaborated on the report, will meet with Minister of Health, Andrew Little, to seek commitments to take crucial action on its recommendations.

The Wellbeing of Community Support Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic is unique in that the research was conducted not only by the AUT researchers but also by home support workers themselves, who were trained to interview their peers.

The research, funded by the Health Research Council, reveals the huge psychosocial and physical impacts on workers, due to their isolation, marginalisation, insecure working conditions, financial stress, and poor communication from employers.

“Most people think all we do is make cups of tea and do housework. But I am showering my clients, changing dressings – things that require me to be very up close and personal,” one support worker says.

“Yet we had no masks, no gloves, or aprons. In those early days I spent a lot of time crying in my car.”

Many workers said they felt a sense of insecurity about their work hours, if they could continue to work, and whether they would retain their incomes.

“I was in one of the vulnerable groups, and we didn’t know whether to continue work or to stay home or whether I will be financially supported or not.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says decades of systemic undervaluation of this mostly-women workforce has had a profound effect on their individual and collective wellbeing.

“The reflections in the report are honest and cut to the heart. There is no mistaking the stresses these low-paid women workers felt, or the brave actions they took to protect vulnerable clients.”

PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley says the research shows, where they could, workers consistently went the extra mile to make sure clients were protected and gaps in care were filled.

“There are lessons not only about the Covid-19 pandemic, but about how this group of workers has ended up so forgotten and unrecognised despite the enormous importance of their work, and about what can be done to change this.”  

The report’s recommendations include upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, introducing wellbeing centred employment practices to reduce issues like isolation and financial insecurity, recognising workers’ contribution and expertise, and developing a well-resourced sector to sustainably deliver care and support services. 

The report will be delivered to Parliament on Tuesday 30 August and presented to the Minister of Health on Wednesday 31 August.

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]

Lack of PPE puts workers at risk of infection and disease

Today’s announcement about Covid care in the community means that New Zealanders need to be confident that community support workers, who will increasingly be coming into contact with Covid positive people, have the PPE they need including N95 masks, aprons, gloves, and all other adequate PPE for covid infection prevention.

PSA and E tū are the unions for thousands of care and support workers who provide essential health support to people in their own homes.

These care workers are at risk because the gloves being provided to them to deliver personal care are breaking, exposing workers to bodily fluids and putting them at risk of infection and disease.

Southland care and support worker, Samantha says, “It’s not acceptable that we have to wear food grade gloves. Food grade gloves don’t protect us from anything – they roll down our wrists and they break at the fingertips. Sometimes I wear two pairs but even then there’s no guarantee that will protect us from faeces and bodily fluids.”

“You would never see a healthcare worker in a hospital or GP practice wearing food gloves – it’s totally unthinkable. So why does the Ministry of Health think it’s ok for us?”

“Care and support workers are in every community in New Zealand and we are not being protected from Covid or anything else. We need the appropriate PPE, now!”

Another support worker, from Northland, agrees. “We go from home to home providing essential care and support services to vulnerable clients, but the work we do is often misunderstood, and we are treated as the second-class citizens of the health system, when the system couldn’t work without us.”

A care and support worker, who doesn’t want to be named, says the gloves are not appropriate or acceptable for using when caring for clients. “They tear or rip and do not come up far enough on the wrist, which means we get water in them.

“Personal cares with my clients are difficult enough, without constantly having to worry about my own safety when bodily fluids get into my gloves. This is a serious health and safety issue.”

“Like every other support worker, I hope that the providers of these gloves are informed and brought up to speed with the differences between food grade gloves and medical grade gloves – we’re not making sandwiches.”

E tū health director Kirsty McCully says that despite raising the matter with their employers, the Ministry of Health and chief nurse, workers are being told the gloves are safe.

“This simply isn’t their experience. Home support workers put themselves at risk to care for the most vulnerable in our communities at home. That risk increases with Covid circulating in the community too.”

Kirsty says workers need to be listened to: “The health risks they face become risks to everyone eventually, if not managed properly.”

PSA national sector lead Jocelyn Pratt says, “It is shameful that the Ministry of Health is not following its own health and safety guidelines and putting these workers and clients at risk.”

“The gloves used for serving food at a school fundraiser are not the same as the gloves needed when you are providing intimate care for a vulnerable client.”

Jocelyn says these frontline essential workers should be treated with dignity, “This work force is publicly funded but the basic health and safety protections are not being provided to them.”

ENDS

For more information contact:

Liz Robinson | Communications, PSA  [email protected], 027 281 6173

Amy Baker | Communications, E tū [email protected], 022 269 1170

Geneva Health home support worker ratification meetings

Come along to a meeting to ratify (vote on) your new collective agreement!

Note: These meetings are for HOME SUPPORT WORKERS ONLY.

Your bargaining team has been working hard, and we’re excited to let you know that it’s time for you to have your say and vote on your proposed new collective agreement!

Please attend one of the following meetings. They will be one-hour long and paid for union members, including those who join at the meetings.

Mobile users – please scroll to the right to view this table in full.

AreaSuburbDateStartVenueAddress
NorthlandWhangareiWednesday, 28 July 20211:00 PMMcDonalds WhangareiCnr Bank & Apirana Sts, 145 Bank St 
NorthlandWhangareiThursday, 29 July 20211:00 PMMcDonalds WhangareiCnr Bank & Apirana Sts, 145 Bank St 
NorthlandRuakakaWednesday, 11 August 20211:00 PMThe Porthouse 163 State Highway 15A
NorthlandDargavilleThursday, 12 August 20211:00 PMBlah Blah Blash101 Victoria St
AucklandWarkworthThursday 5th August, 20211:30 PMWarkworth Community Hall corner of Neville and Alnwick St
AucklandOrewaFriday 30th July  20211:30 PMOrewa Community Hall40/46 Orewa Square.
AucklandAlbanyWednesday 11th August 20211:30 PMAlbany Geneva Office 112/119 Apollo Drive, Albany.  Ph 916 0200
AucklandHelensvilleFriday 6th August 20211:30 PMHelensville Library 49 Commercial Road, Hellensville
AucklandNorthcote Wednesday 28th July1:30 PMNorthcote War Memorial Hall 2 Rodney Road, Northcote Point
AucklandMt Albert Thursday 29th July 20211:30 PMMt Albert War Memorial Hall 773 New North Road, Mt Albert (next to Rocket Park)
AucklandMangereTuesday 3rd August 20211:30 PMClover Park Community House16A Israel Avenue, Clover Park
AucklandManukauWednesday 4th August 20211:30 PMFriendship House Manukau Town Centre20 Putney Way, Manukau
AucklandBirkenhead Tuesday 27th July 20211:30 PMHighbury House110 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead. 
WaikatoHamiltonMonday, 26 July 20211:30 PMPSA Hamilton Office, Taupiri Room489 Anglesea Street
Bay of PlentyTaurangaWednesday, 28 July 20211:30 PMThe Historic Village17th Avenue West
Bay of PlentyRotoruaThursday, 29 July 20211:30 PMThe Arts Village1240 Hinemaru Street
East Coast / TairawhitiGisborneMonday 2nd August 20211:00 PMtbctbc
TaranakiNew PlymouthWednesday 21 July 202111:00AME tū office109 Vivian Street, New Plymouth. 
TaranakiNew PlymouthWednesday 21 July 20214:00 PME tū office109 Vivian Street, New Plymouth
TaranakiHaweraThursday 22nd July 202111:00 AMTheatre Lounge Albion Street Hawera 
WhanganuiWhanganuiWednesday  21st July 20211:30 PMCaroline’s Boatshed181 Somme Parade, Aramoho, Whanganui 
ManawatuPalmerston North Tuesday 20th July 202112 NOONE tū Office 234 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
ManawatuPalmerston North Tuesday 20th July 20212:00 PME tū Office 234 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
ManawatuPalmerston North Tuesday 20th July 20214:00 PME tū Office 234 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
HorowhenuaLevinThursday 22nd July 20211:30 PMCosmopolitan ClubOxford Street
WairarapaMastertonThursday, 22 July 20212:00 PMREAP Wairarapa340 Queen Street
Wellington RegionHuttThursday, 22 July 20212:00 PMNZPFU Boardroom178 Jackson St, Petone
Wellington RegionKapatiTuesday, 27 July 20212:00 PMKapiti Impact Hub6 Tongariro Street, Paraparaumu
Wellington RegionWellingtonWednesday, 28 July 20212:00 PMToitu Poneke49 Kilbirnie Crescent, Kilbirne
Wellington RegionPoriruaThursday, 5 August 20212:00 PMPorirua RSA5-7 McKillop Street, Rānui
TasmanMotuekaWednesday, 21 July 20212:00 PMToad Hall502 High Street
TasmanTakakaThursday, 29 July 20211:00 PMThe Wholemeal Café 60 Commercial Street 
MarlboroughBlenheimTuesday, 20 July 20213:00 PMFairweathers36 Scott Street
CanterburyShirleyMonday, 2 August 20211:00 PMShirley Rugby League Club33 Briggs Road
OtagoDunedinMonday, 9 August 20211:30 PMNew Life Church48 Stafford Street, Dunedin