Category: Politics

Budget brings positive relief measures and the promise of long-term progress

E tū welcomes Budget 2022, which includes a range of measures that will help E tū members and their communities during a time of increased hardship coming out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says this Budget both addresses the immediate challenges facing many in Aotearoa and lays the groundwork for improving our country’s longer-term prospects.

“The headline news of $1 billion in payments for low- and middle-income earners comes at exactly the right time,” Annie says.

Annie says global pressures that have spiked inflation have seen many people and families finding it harder and harder to keep up with the daily cost of living.

“People will also find immediate relief in the two-month extension of half-price public transport fares and the fuel tax reduction. It means more money in people’s pockets.”

Health funding has always been a concern for E tū members, particularly frontline workers in areas like aged care and DHBs, she says.

“While the record boost for health is needed to establish the new health structure, E tū is disappointed to see the care and support workforce left out.

“Addressing wages in care and support would make the biggest impact on cost of living for these workers and their whānau.” 

Annie says E tū is heartened to see more than $15 million of specific funding set aside to operationalise Fair Pay Agreements.

“We’re also looking forward to seeing more detail about the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, which will be a lifesaver for any workers who are made redundant or are unable to work due to long-term illness.

“We have long called for publicly funded dental care as critical to the health and wellbeing of our communities, and so we are delighted to see a significant increase in funding for dental care, which will make a real difference to the lives of low-paid workers.”

Annie says that many E tū members identify the costs of housing as being the most significant issue affecting their household finances.

“Support for both first home buyers and public housing is great to see,” she says.

Annie says there will be a lot more to unpack over the coming days and weeks.

“We’re looking forward to diving into the details and discussing with our members what Budget 2022 will mean for them.”

ENDS

Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

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

Emissions Reduction Plan – workers need a Just Transition

With the release of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan consultation document today, workers need assurance there will be a Just Transition that puts their communities at the forefront.

Sam Huggard, Strategic researcher for E tū, Aotearoa’s largest private sector union, says that workers need confidence that the transition to a decarbonised country will be managed fairly, in order for affected workers to get in behind the necessary moves to reduce our emissions.

“The benefits of a more stable climate are for everyone, and so the heavy lifting of decarbonising cannot rest disproportionately on those with fewer resources,” Sam says.

“There absolutely can be a fair pathway to a zero carbon New Zealand, where workers rights are protected, low-income communities’ economic security is safe guarded, and Tiriti partners are co-designing the change.”

Sam says the consultation document does not reflect the importance of this part of the programme strongly enough.

“The document released today is not there yet and is missing core aspects of what we would expect from a Just Transition, and so it is now up to all of us to make sure we get this right. Unions are committed to bringing our experience in managing change to the table to help this.”

Sam says an equitable transition strategy is needed sooner rather than later if we are committed to preventing inequalities as we decarbonise.

“That strategy will need to inform all other parts of the Emissions Reduction Plan itself. It can’t be an add-on or extra chapter on the side.”

“For example, supporting congestion pricing in transport but then also agreeing to “look at ways to reduce the equity/distributional impacts of pricing tools” is problematic – equity needs to be incorporated into the decisions from day one.”

E tū will be mobilising its members to be involved in the consultation and will be seeking commitments to avoid market-based mechanisms that hit low-income workers as we decarbonise, guaranteeing workers a voice in transition processes for their industries, and a stronger focus on equity for Māori and Pacific workers.

All workers deserve the right to decent work

E tū stands alongside unions around the globe on World Day for Decent Work and continues to advocate for the right of workers everywhere to decent work.

Our definition of decent work is simple: it’s about a decent income, having secure work, a quality working environment, and for workers to have a voice in the workplace.

Currently, E tū is developing a Decent Work Charter and is hosting a Decent Work Summit in 2022 for Auckland-based member leaders.

New Zealand Post worker Misty Fergusson attended one of E tū’s first Decent Work trainings and knows what Decent Work means to her.

“It’s things like Fair Pay Agreements and the Living Wage. That’s a really big one – if I was getting paid over the Living Wage for my job, I’d be so much better off. It wouldn’t be as much of a struggle as it is now.

“It’s about giving everyone a fair fighting chance,” Misty says.

Misty’s Decent Work training also looked at the idea of social insurance – a guaranteed income for people who are made redundant, set at a much more liveable level than the current basic benefit.

Social insurance would be a good last resort to help families while they look for other employment – especially better employment – after losing their job, she says.

“It would mean you had so many better options, instead of MSD just shoving you into the first job they can get you, expecting you to stick it out on the minimum wage.”

E tū organiser Amy Hansen says no worker should be left behind in the fight for decent work.

“There’s so many aspects of jobs today that still don’t meet our criteria, and the criteria of organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, for what decent work involves.

“From seeing workers earning the minimum wage instead of the Living Wage, the rise of insecure, contract work, workplaces that present health and safety risks, and industries where workers don’t have the right to collectively bargain or don’t have industry standards – the need for decent work is more important than ever.”

Amy says events such as the planned E tū Job Summit will help to spread the word about decent work.

“We want workers to understand what decent work is and be part of the fight to create a better work future for themselves, their whānau, and communities.

“Decent work should be the right of all workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

ENDS

E tū wāhine highlight domestic violence on Suffrage Day

As E tū women celebrate Suffrage Day in Aotearoa New Zealand, they also urge communities to remember the fight that’s still going for many women.

Research shows that during emergency situations such as the COVID-19 crisis, gender-based violence gets worse.

According to an online survey by researchers at the University of Otago, around nine percent of New Zealanders said they’d experienced some kind of family harm over the lockdown period last year.

E tū Women’s Committee Convenor Wheeti Haenga says the issue of family violence comes up often in committee meetings.

“We are hearing stories about women who have been affected by domestic violence, and there’s a real concern that during COVID, because we know this tends to get a lot worse.

“Every woman and child in Aotearoa should live in homes that are free from violence.”

Wheeti says the committee wants all women to know there is help out there, including places such as Women’s Refuge.

“There’s practical and genuine support – they’ll get you to a secure house, make sure you have fresh food, PJs for the kids, and petrol vouchers.”

Family Violence Leave is also available for up to 10 days, she says.

Wheeti says that despite the many issues that remain for women, she wants to recognise their mahi and strength during the COVID crisis.

“A shout out to our wonderful wāhine everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand, including our Māori and Pasefika women – they’ve all done a brilliant job.

“Suffrage Day is about remembering all our wāhine and their individual struggle to secure their rights as a collective.”

Where to get help

Concerned about a child?

  • If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call the Police on 111.
  • For non-urgent cases where you suspect a child may be in an unsafe environment, call Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459 or email [email protected]
  • Child Matters: Full consultation service free of charge. Contact Child Matters National Services Manager Megan West on 022 547 7505 for more.

Commission lays foundation for necessary Just Transition

E tū welcomes the latest Climate Change Commission, He Pou a Rangi, report to the Government as it lays firm foundations for a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy.

Ināia tonu nei: a low emissions future for Aotearoa sets out a policy direction for a fair, inclusive, and equitable transition for workers and their communities.

E tū researcher Sam Huggard says the advice covers the core components advocated by E tū for a Just Transition: proactive transition planning with all parties at the table, widely accessible education and training, dedicated support for workers in transition, and better analysing the distributional impacts of climate policies on population groups.

“For key industries in transition, a collective approach is needed to map out the transferable skills across a workforce as a whole and actively manage the process of redeployment into new work.

“Workers know that change is coming to their jobs as a result of climate change and other trends, such as automation — that’s why a Just Transition is so necessary.

“We welcome the Commission’s recognition of the call from unions and others for this work to be secure, well paid, and decent work.”

Sam says the union also endorses the Commission’s views on the need to partner with iwi, hapū, and whānau to design an equitable transition that works for Māori, and to ensure Māori social and economic interests are protected and Te Tiriti is upheld.

“This report shows that the foundations have been laid for genuine involvement of workers in designing their future, which is necessary to give people confidence we can achieve this.”

However, key challenges remain, with significant investment needed to develop new industries or support existing ones to transition to a low-carbon future, he says.

“We think further government investment, beyond that set aside in Green Investment Finance and the Regional Strategic Partnership Fund, will be needed,” Sam says.

“Many of the support measures needed to mitigate the impact of decarbonising will come with a cost, and so we also need an honest debate and further action on tax reform, to ensure we are bringing in necessary revenue to fund the transition.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Sam Huggard, 021 462 148