Category: Community Support

Lifewise homecare workers: still striking for better conditions and pay

Home support workers are hoping their strike action on Friday will lead to positive change in conditions and culture for both support workers and their clients at their Auckland-based provider Lifewise.

Last year, the organisation agreed to increase sick leave and bereavement leave in a proposed collective agreement but then went back on their word.

Workers have also asked for their guaranteed hours to be increased, as for many the low number of weekly hours means a constant financial struggle and daily disruption.

A home support worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she thinks there is definitely “hope for a better deal”.

“We need more sick leave than we are given, and my hours are terrible. I’m signed up for work each day from 8am until around 3pm, five days a week, but I often finish the day having only done around 2.5 hours.”

“We really want [Lifewise’s] respect and I hope they’ll take notice of the reasons behind all our strikes.”

Another member says she feels the organisation doesn’t care about their workers.

“The low number of guaranteed hours is a constant strain for workers – there are always fewer hours work than our availability to work,” she says.

Many members felt they couldn’t afford to risk taking time off work to strike for better conditions, she says.

“I know of one worker who had jobs booked at 1pm and 6pm, but then there’s a big gap in-between. We’re just robots running around from A to B – there’s no consideration given to how we’ll get there or the gaps in our workdays.”

A Director at E tū, Kirsty McCully, says home support workers are desperate for better working conditions.

“The financial stress of having so few guaranteed hours means workers are even considering leaving the sector,” she says.

“They feel deeply disrespected, ignored, and undervalued by the organisation they work for, which is really upsetting, considering the absolutely vital role they play in making sure families and their communities can continue to function every day.”

Kirsty says anyone could find themselves in the situation of needing home support at some point in their lives.

“How would we feel knowing our home support workers were struggling to survive themselves, or had to come to work sick because they didn’t have enough sick leave left not to put us at risk?

“This is about our elderly and some of our most vulnerable who really need assistance to keep living in their own homes.

“If anything, we urgently need to rebuild better in the face of COVID-19. Lifewise, with their dedicated workforce, has a chance to do this right now.”

Lifewise workers will strike and picket on Friday 18 December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, from 7am to 11am.

ENDS

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

Lifewise home support workers put on pressure with continued strike action

Home support workers employed by Auckland-based provider Lifewise are continuing to strike for fair hours, more sick leave, and the terms of a much-needed collective agreement.

Workers have been on strike since Monday, in an effort to get the organisation to listen to their concerns and to action what was agreed to in bargaining sessions.

Before the COVID lockdown, Lifewise agreed to terms and conditions for a collective agreement, including more sick leave, which it then went back on, despite receiving full government funding for their homecare services during the heightened alert levels.

A home support worker and E tū member, who prefers not to be named, says being on the picket line on Monday has empowered workers and made them realise their issues are important.

“We want to keep going – we’re all on fire for what we need at Lifewise.

“I spoke to one of our homecare members on the picket line and she’s available for more than 30 hours of work but only gets around nine hours of work a week. For some of us, it’s a real struggle.

“We just can’t survive – we’re looking to leave the sector at a time when society needs home support workers the most.”

The key issues remain, including increasing the number and security of guaranteed hours and improving leave, such as sick leave.

Client representative Peter West says home support is a key service that has helped his elderly parents greatly.

“When my father had a stroke, he went into a private hospital for a while and he hated it – he just gave up the will to live,” Peter says.

“We brought him home for Christmas a year ago and he never went back [to the hospital], because we saw he came alive again. It’s because of the support of [Lifewise] people coming in and looking after their needs.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the issues Lifewise workers are bringing to the table are significant.

“Having enough hours to live on from week to week and enough sick leave to keep clients safe – these should be no less than basic rights for our essential workers.”

“The things these workers are seeking, speak to the needs of support workers in this critical, but vastly undervalued, sector.

Kirsty says we all rely on our home support workforce to keep our growing numbers of elderly and vulnerable safe and well in their homes, rather than needing residential care or hospitalisation.

“It’s better for our elderly, and it’s better for society, but we need to ensure the workers can live on their incomes and are treated with respect.”

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff agrees: “It’s pretty simple – Lifewise need to show some respect to the excellent homecare workers they employ.”

Lifewise home support workers will strike and picket on Wednesday 16 December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road from 7am to 11am. Strike notices have been issued until Friday 18 December.

ENDS

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

Lifewise workers strike for fair hours and sick leave

Workers at an Auckland home support provider will be striking this week, after talks to establish their first-ever collective agreement have failed.

On Monday, Lifewise workers will strike for certainty of hours, more sick leave, and respect from their employer, to be reflected in a collective agreement.

In bargaining sessions, the company agreed to increase sick and bereavement leave, as well as other benefits, but then went back on its word.

A Lifewise worker, who prefers not to be named, says the strike is about getting the collective agreement finalised, including the original terms and conditions Lifewise agreed to.

“Everybody’s just had enough of going through this – it’s been about a year and a half since we started bargaining the terms and conditions for our first collective.

“Now it’s about getting it on the table so we can get it finalised, and for the company to include the benefits they originally agreed to.”

Another worker, who remains anonymous, says the issue now is as much about the company’s integrity as the conditions themselves.

“It’s minimal, what we’re asking for. It’s frustrating for us as workers to have things like pay that is up and down, with no guarantee of hours and what we’ll earn every fortnight.

“The strike is a positive thing, so our voices are heard.”

E tū director Kirsty McCully says the organisation has a good reputation in the community, but workers are frustrated that this doesn’t match their experiences as employees.

“In a lengthy negotiation process, Lifewise has undermined bargaining by making offers and then withdrawing them,” she says.

“They are refusing to genuinely seek to resolve the core concern for workers – their ongoing security of hours and income. To these longstanding, dedicated homecare workers, many of whom have worked for Lifewise for 20 or 30 years, this has felt extremely disrespectful.”

Kirsty says sick leave is another key issue.

“Workers feel they don’t have enough sick leave to keep their clients safe, but these are essential frontline workers who put their clients first every day of the pandemic,” she says.

“Decent work means decent pay, hours, and enough sick leave, and we need to provide this for all workers, and not least of all, our essential workers.”

Lifewise workers will strike and picket on Monday 14December at Lifewise offices, including 227 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, from 7am to 11am. Strike notices have been issued until Friday 18 December.

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

NZ Government needs to mandate staffing ratios like Australian states

E tū is calling on the New Zealand Government to follow the example of Victoria’s Labour Government and recognise the need for minimum staff-to-resident ratios in private aged care homes.

On Tuesday, the Victorian Government announced it would provide up to $40 million to introduce mandatory staffing levels in the private sector, if the Australian Government as the primary regulator and funder, agreed to assist.

Both Victoria and Queensland mandate staffing numbers in public aged care facilities.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, staff-to-resident ratios are not mandatory in any aged care home. Current suggested staffing guidelines, drawn up in 2005, are voluntary and now woefully out of date.

E tū member and aged care worker, Kiran, says aged care workers and residents face the effects of short staffing on a “daily basis”.

“We are rushing to do the cares, finish their showers already. It’s not fair on the residents or the staff – we feel guilty at the end of the day, like we didn’t do our best because we didn’t have time.”

Not having enough staff means increased risk of falls and like, which staff are then often blamed for, she says.

“The Government doesn’t really know what’s happening inside rest homes – loopholes can be hidden during audits. They need to implement staffing standards urgently.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the implementation of safe staffing ratios in New Zealand rest homes is crucial to ensuring the wellbeing and safety of residents and workers.

“COVID-19 has cast a spotlight on the many and very real dangers to residents when there are insufficient numbers of staff.

“This was highlighted with deadly results in Victoria, when comparing the performance of mandated public homes, which had no deaths, versus privately-owned facilities, which saw more than 600 COVID-related deaths,” she says.

“In Aotearoa New Zealand, we cannot finish another term of government without increasing staffing numbers and making them mandatory.”

Kirsty says it’s all part of making sure that aged care homes in Aotearoa New Zealand rebuild better in the wake of the pandemic, by ensuring decent lives with dignity for workers and the residents they care for.

“There’s no reason our country can’t lead the way in terms of the quality of care we provide for our senior New Zealanders. However, that means listening to our aged care workers and giving them the support they need to provide the care residents deserve.”

ENDS

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

Heritage bargaining update: The Heritage Way? Good news, bad news, and work to do!

In early October, union delegates from E tū and NZNO met with Heritage management to continue the push for a fair deal for all Heritage workers.

Over a year ago, we told Heritage that we wanted a union agreement that protects all staff in all Heritage facilities, and we’ve been working on that ever since.

Last week was a mix of good news and bad news.  Recently Heritage received a 3% funding increase from the DHBs. 

  • The good news is that Heritage is offering pay increase of 3% to all household staff and further pay rises to nurses.
  • The bad news is that care staff were not included. We continue to push for carer to move faster up the pay scales.
  • The good news is that Heritage has offered to include the sites that used to have a collective, including the BUPA and Oceania sites.
  • The bad news is that most other sites are shut out.

Your bargaining team have told Heritage that their proposal is not fair.

E tū and NZNO are recommending to members that we accept the pay rise for household staff, RNs, and ENs, and that we continue to push for a fair deal for all Heritage staff.

If you want to add you voice to the call for a fair deal at Heritage you can help by making sure everyone at your work is union member!

For more information, please call E tū Support on 0800 1 UNION (0800 186 466).

Thanks!

Aged care workers highlight need for urgent reform with international action day

On International Day of the Older Person, New Zealand aged care workers are adding their voices to the global call to create a “shield against COVID-19” with better conditions for workers and residents in aged care homes around the world.

E tū members are participating in the Global Nursing Homes Day of Action on 1 October, coordinated by UNI Global Union, representing around 20 million workers in unions worldwide.

The day of action calls for increased staffing, safer workplaces, and increased union representation.

Aged care worker and E tū delegate Gill Butcher says COVID-19 has simply been a catalyst to “shine a light” on issues in aged care that desperately need attention.

“Already before COVID-19, we were on the brink of catastrophe with short staffing levels. In one incident, we had a situation where there was a ratio of one caregiver to 22 residents,” she says.

“Ask yourself how a single caregiver, in a seven-and-a-half-hour shift could look after 22 people, which includes toileting and feeding, let alone have a chat and a cup of tea.”

Gill says now more than ever, worker and union voices need to be part of the conversation to improve conditions, particularly as COVID-19 has exacerbated existing issues, such as short staffing.

“At my care home, we didn’t have anyone walk in with COVID-19 but that was just a matter of luck, not due to good management or adequate staffing. Many facilities could have ended up like Rosewood.”

An E tū director, Kirsty McCully, says listening to workers and increasing the ratio of carers to residents, as well as making those guidelines mandatory, is a first step to improving the situation.

“We know from research, both in New Zealand and internationally, that short staffing issues, poor pay and lack of training all contribute to worse outcomes for residents and workers.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we acknowledge and respect the vital role that aged care workers – our essential workers – play in our families and communities.

“One way we can show that respect is by providing the proper conditions and, most importantly in New Zealand, mandatory safe staffing rules, which would ensure that our vulnerable loved ones are kept safe and are able to maintain a life of dignity.

“On this global day of action, we stand with aged care workers worldwide who have braved the frontlines of COVID-19, we celebrate workers’ efforts to keep residents safe, and we encourage all aged care workers to join together in their unions so we can continue to bring improvements to the sector.”

ENDS

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

Grey Power, PSA and E tū launch campaign for home support with dignity

The unions representing home care and support workers have joined forces with the association for New Zealanders over 50, launching a campaign to fix our country’s fragmented and failing home support system.

Members of the Public Service Association and E tū have this week begun holding nationwide meetings, and have as a first step launched an online petition that calls on politicians across the political spectrum to take action.

The campaign is called “They Deserve the Best”, and further actions will be announced in coming weeks depending on Covid restrictions and the response from politicians.

Home care and support is publicly funded by DHBs, the Ministry of Health and ACC, but provided by a web of for-profit companies and charitable NGOs.

The petition urges politicians to overhaul the home support system and commit to:

·  Investing in home support services which enable high quality care and support for our most vulnerable, so people who need support services can continue to live with dignity in their own homes.

·  Decent jobs for home support workers. This means permanent regular shifts like other health workers have, hours and income which don’t fluctuate all the time, a proper wage for travel time, and genuine access to breaks so our jobs can be safe.

Donna Wealleans is a Tauranga-based support worker and PSA union delegate. Last week she was only offered two hours of work.

“I can’t explain what’s going on, but it’s clear the system doesn’t work. Our union negotiated a guaranteed hours agreement that means I’ll still get paid enough for last week to get by, but it doesn’t make any sense that I would get so few hours while other colleagues are given almost more than they can handle,” she says.

“It’s one example among many of how broken this system is. The only thing that keeps me coming back to this work is how much I care about my clients. They need support workers to help them keep living in their own homes, and that’s what keeps us going.”

Support workers have prepared a series of videos in which they share their experiences of the job and discuss what could be done to improve their lives, and those of their clients.

These videos will be released in the coming days on the PSA and E tū Facebook pages.

Napier’s Tamara Baddeley has been a support worker for about 20 years, but the E tū union member struggles to achieve work-life balance with the demands of a difficult and undervalued profession.

“It’s time for change, and frankly it’s long overdue. We are essential health workers and all we want is the respect and decent treatment that should go with that,” she says.

“All through lockdown, support workers went house to house, often without the PPE we needed to keep us and our clients safe. We are sick and tired of being treated like we’re expendable, and it’s time for the Government who funds our work to step up and fix the problems with it.”

Roy Reid is President of Grey Power in his home turf of Golden Bay, and Treasurer of the national organisation.

A Queen’s Service Medal recipient, his concerns about New Zealand’s home support system are informed by conversations with the former support worker who for years visited his wife at home for an hour every week.

“The same problems can directly impact on both support workers and their clients, some of whom are Grey Power members. I know of support workers who had to leave the job because they can’t tolerate the hurdles, hassles and injustices any more, and when that happens, a client can lose someone they’ve built a relationship with over many years,” he says.

“Our organisation is deeply worried by reports of home support clients having their hours cut. With some DHBs starting to propose significant overall budget cuts, we worry this could flow on to make life hard for the New Zealanders over 50 who rely on home support. It’s time to take a stand.”

Fight for #safestaffingnow continues around the country

The joint campaign to push the Government to commit to safer staffing levels in aged care continues around the country with two North Island actions.

E tū members and delegates will be holding two photo opportunities in Gisborne on Thursday to raise awareness of how a lack of staff affects carers and residents as part of the union’s national #safestaffingnow campaign.

E tū delegate and aged care worker at Te Wiremu House Josephine Culshaw says not having enough staff makes it “very hard” to provide safe care.

“You’re very quick – just getting what you need to get done and moving onto the next resident.

“On our rest home’s website, it’s all about quality for the resident and giving them the best, but we can’t do that when it’s just me and one other person [on duty].”

Without mandatory staffing levels, it makes it hard to get the company to take workers’ concerns seriously, Josephine says.

“It would be great to say, by law, we need to have so many staff to residents. It gives you something to stand on. As things are now, it’s the company’s call if they want to save some money [by having less staff on].”

Home support workers will also be holding a stop-work meeting at Age Concern Tairawhiti on the same day to discuss the impacts of moving key coordinator roles to Auckland and the gross underfunding, reduction of hours, and understaffing across the sector.

Staffing levels in aged care homes are not mandatory and voluntary guidelines are woefully outdated, with as little as three staff for more than 60 residents.

E tū Director Sam Jones says the situation won’t change until the Government updates the recommended staff-to-resident ratios and makes them mandatory at all rest homes.

“Not only are the current guidelines completely out of date, but they’re also voluntary, which means aged care facilities are not held accountable at all for providing an adequate and safe number of staff to residents.

“As far back as 2010, Labour and the Greens recommended making staffing levels compulsory. But since their election in 2017, so far there’s been no follow-through,” he says.

“In the wake of COVID-19, having a regulated number of staff to care for residents is absolutely essential.”

The #safestaffing photo opportunities will be at Te Wiremu House at 12pm and Age Concern Tairawhiti at 1pm on Thursday 6 August.

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Jones, 027 544 8563

Campaign for mandatory staff-to-resident ratios in aged care homes

‘Deliver safe staffing for our seniors’ is the key message residents in rest homes and those working in the sector are urging the Government to commit to in the build-up to this year’s election.

With the support of Grey Power, E tū union and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) are launching an online open letter to Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Tuesday to push for mandatory staffing levels to ensure a minimum ratio of carers to residents in the aged care sector.

Actions to support the nationwide campaign, #safestaffingnow, will also be taking place around the country in the coming weeks.

E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo says not having mandatory staffing requirements for rest homes and hospitals means poorer outcomes for residents and their carers too.

“For us, rushing around means that we do tend to miss a lot of things. Sometimes when we’re short-staffed, residents end up missing out on showers, for example,” Sela says.

“Residents feel rushed, like they’re not valued, but they don’t want to complain as they know it will fall back on us.”

Sela also says the needs of many residents are much more complex than they were when the guidelines were set down 15 years ago, meaning their care takes more time and staff need more training.

“This campaign will make a real different to those of us who work in this industry and the residents we look after.”

In 2010, the New Zealand Labour Party recommended making minimum staffing guidelines compulsory and referred to the sector as “desperate for a revolution”.

However, 10 years on, the recommendations are still not regulation, while the sector’s profit-driven model continues to drive chronic understaffing and dangerous working conditions for those working in the sector, and their vulnerable residents.

E tū Team Leader Jody Anderson says safe staffing is essential to providing respectful, high-quality, safe care.

“The health system hasn’t had the investment it needs, and as a result, we are now cutting corners to cut costs. COVID-19 has only re-emphasised the risks of unsafe practices in the sector, and the lack of staffing regulations,” she says.

“To make sure we rebuild our society better after COVID-19, we need to prioritise the wellbeing of our communities and our seniors, which means providing decent pay and adequate numbers of staff to facilitate the highest level of care for all.”

Share and sign the open letter at together.org.nz/safestaffingnow

#safestaffingnow launches at Woburn House, 57 Wai-iti Crescent, Lower Hutt on Tuesday 21 July at 3.30pm, where residents, aged care workers and special guests, including Labour MP Ginny Andersen and Green MP Jan Logie, will hold a street meeting outside a residential care facility.

E tū delegate Sela Mulitalo and Team Leader Jody Anderson will be available for comment at Woburn House.

ENDS

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