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Count us in!

2015 International womens dayNZNO’s representatives on the Council of Trade Unions Women’s Council discuss what International Women’s Day on 8 March means to them. Lyn Olsthoorn is the NZNO representative on the NZ Council of Trade Unions Women’s Council and co-chair as well. Georgia Choveaux is the StandUp representative on the Council. StandUp is the youth arm of the union movement.

Both Lyn and Georgia are passionate advocates for workers rights, women’s rights and hold a firm belief in the power of collective action to change lives, workplaces and society.

Lyn: Well hello Georgia, what a lovely way for us to have a conversation! For me, the way to honour the theme of this International Women’s Day, “Count us in!” is by telling our stories. I love listening to a story, thinking about it and passing it on. It feels like it is part of our nature, as women. We enjoy being together and talking about what is important in our lives comes easily.

Georgia: Hey there Lyn. Yeah, and I want more women’s stories, more often. My passion, enthusiasm and commitment to the advancement women is something that kuia , the ones who have gone before me and the one I stand gladly with now (that’s you Lyn!), have gifted me. Their stories of struggle and strife and solidarity and success call me to join them like no flyer or facebook invite ever could.

Lyn: And it’s not just those who currently stand with us that we should share stories with. Stories are an invitation to other women to come stand with us as we deliver meaningful change. Last weekend I had over an hour talking with a nurse friend about things we value in our community. The conversation developed and we ended up talking about how we had to work six day weeks, every week, when I started my career. She was astounded that we had not always enjoyed a standard 40 hour week! We yarned over that and a whole lot more. My friend is not the kind of person to read a flyer or a paragraph in the paper, but she loved chatting!

Georgia: Yup, when I hear stories like starting nursing with a six day working week, not having paid parental leave, or it being okay, by law, to have a different male and a female pay rates in a collective agreement, I hear that there are changes to be made; we can overcome, and we can win.

Lyn: By sharing our stories we also ensure women are a part of setting the agenda for change. Our stories talk of things that are important to us and our families.  We have never been afraid to fight for our whānau. And let’s not forget that when we fight for our rights, we’re also fighting for the rights of our families and our communities.

Georgia: More broadly too, our stories can not only set the agenda, but reclaim and refocus them. Pay Equity and the Kristine Bartlett case is not really about the legislative interpretation of section 3 (1) (b) of the Equal pay Act 1972. It’s about finally listening to the work stories of those women who do such valuable work and saying at long last – ‘I hear you, I hear about the work you do and the value it has’. It’s about ending the stories of poverty and deprivation of our caregivers on such low wages. And it’s about new stories yet to be written for the women and families who could soon have a life-changing fair wage.

Lyn: So true! Let’s make 2015 a happening year for women and my challenge is to us all. Talk about it, share your stories, and make sure the decision-makers who effect our working and family lives know to “Count us in!”.


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All the way for fairness, justice, value and equal pay

Film-Colour-160Yesterday the Government announced that on 1 April the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents to $14.75 an hour.

A 50 cent increase in the minimum wage is a shame on our whole society. As the Council of Trade Unions says, we are now in a situation where the minimum wage is also the maximum wage for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Workers in aged care, who are underpaid because the work they do is seen as “women’s work”, are being unfairly impacted by this poverty-wage. Caregiver roles are physically and emotionally exhausting with many caregivers going above and beyond what is required.

There is a huge injustice happening here. Aged care workers are bearing the brunt of unfair gender-based pay rates, and a Government minimum wage rate that seems designed to increase poverty and hardship.

Aged care workers are providing care to residents that is worth much, much more than they are getting paid. The residents benefit, the employers benefit and the workers don’t.

Oh, I am sure they are “valued” for what they do. Every time I hear a Government Minister or Rest home owner talking about the aged care workforce they talk about the incredibly important and valuable work aged care workers do. To their shame, it’s a value that is not being reciprocated with an appropriate pay rate.

NZNO and SFWU members have been working for justice for aged care workers and others in low-paid jobs for many years. We have negotiated collective agreement, lobbied successive Governments, and worked together with other groups and organisations who care deeply about fairness and equality, like we do.

A big leap forward in our struggle came at the end of last year when union member Kristine Bartlett won her equal pay court case. The next step is for the employment court to decide what the monetary value of equal pay is. When that happens we expect aged care workers around the country to benefit enormously.

We’re going All the way for equal pay and we’re going to win. This pathetic increase in the minimum wage won’t slow us down – every injustice just strengthens our resolve. Watch this space.

 

 


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A demand to be taken seriously

dilbert-ceo-payNZNO delegate Ady Piesse is an activist for fairness at work and an advocate for collective action. This blog post has previously been published as a comment on Facebook. 

I’m a thinker….I think a lot. Sometimes I’m accused of over thinking, but generally my thinking usually provides me with ideas or helps me problem solve.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking – what do I do in my job that is so different from my CEO’s that justifies our salaries?

At the start of every shift I check my equipment so if that cardiac arrest, acute SOB, trauma or the blue floppy baby arrives unannounced, I have the confidence that myself and my colleagues will be able to use that equipment to potentially save a life.

My CEO makes sure his lap top ‘on’ button works.

I monitor numerous pieces of equipment attached to my patients, checking for those spiralling trends so I can intervene early if I need to.

My CEO monitors computer screens that check to make sure my patients are meeting the six hour targets.

I do ‘end-of-bed-o-grammes’ all day every day, with new patients, existing patients, other nurses’ patients, to monitor change, deterioration or improvement.

My CEO looks at spread sheets to see how hard I’m working or how much harder I can be made to work.

I hold in my hand medication that has the potential to kill or to cure.

My CEO holds a pen, an iPhone.

I sit holding a patient’s hand while a doctor tells her and her family her condition is terminal. I hold a child’s hand. I hold the hand of a terrified patient who can’t breathe. I hug people I only met today and know won’t be here tomorrow.

I don’t know if my CEO has ever held a hand or given a stranger a hug.

Every day I take home people’s stories; for some it will be the worst day of their lives. These people have faces and I know some will never leave my memory.

My CEO takes home statistics.

Some days I leave wondering if I have it in me to keep doing what I’m doing – less is not more in my job – but my CEO seems to think so.

I know it’s all more complex than that.

I use my knowledge and observation skills to think ahead and intervene early to avoid a failure to rescue situation, my CEO uses their knowledge and observations to think strategically, for example.

What I’m thinking doesn’t take away from the important role my CEO plays in the day to day running of my organisation, but thinking simply – that’s about the bones of it.

Then some more thinking. I play a damned important role in this organisation too, so how is it I only get paid maybe a quarter of what my CEO earns?

And why should I feel guilty or scared of standing up and asking for more? So I’ve decided I owe nobody an apology for feeling the way I do.

More thought. Stand up and be counted, get as many colleagues on board as I can to speak out and say enough is enough!

I’ve become quite vocal in the past couple of weeks –I’ve decided to stand up for myself. I’ve realised that complaining to colleagues is not going anywhere. We need to be the very visual faces behind our MECA.

I’m guilty like many of having not gone to meetings in the past, been so apathetic to expect Government and the Boards to realise my worth and support me accordingly – I’ve been ridiculously naive! I know there are many colleagues feeling the same way and I’m hoping my ranting will given colleagues the confidence to stand up too and speak out for change!

MECA representatives at these current negotiations can only push the “we’re serious about this…” boat so far – we need to make ourselves visible to Government and our Boards and not just ask, but demand to be taken seriously,  otherwise we have another long three years of the same and more than likely, a lot worse to come.

So, be at those MECA meetings that are coming up and come with ideas! It’s time we got tough!

 

 


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Control vs power

People powerAmendments to the Employment Relations Act are due to come into law on 6 March next year.

Over the last year many of us have been trying to stop the changes. Thousand of nurses, midwives, caregivers and kaimahi hauora made submissions to the Select Committee considering the amendments – and NZNO is really proud that every single one of those submissions were written by members, no tick-box form submissions for us!

Thousands of us protested, attended rallies, participated in the “Give us a break” workplace actions, talked to our families and friends about the issues, used social media and much more. We did it to stand up for decent working rights for nurses, health workers and the rights of all workers in Aotearoa.

The Government didn’t listen.

This legislation gives employers the right to remove tea breaks, withdraw from collective bargaining, trample on new employees rights to equitable working conditions with their colleagues and to refuse to collectively bargain with other employers

But one thing the legislation doesn’t do is give employers power – what it’s giving them is control.

It’s control of the ugliest kind. The kind of control that can legally demand employees work with no breaks or strip loyal staff of paid hours of work and pit employees against one another.

What we have is power! Power is about strength, sharing that strength with others and growing stronger as a result. It’s about standing beside our colleagues, our whānau, and our community so we all have the strength to stand together for what is right and just.

As a fledgling union in the 1990s when the Employment Contracts Act was introduced – our members and other union members lost significant pay and conditions.

Over the last decade and a half we have demonstrated what real power is.

We have worked together to rebuild national and multi-employer collective agreements.

We took up the fight for pay equity through the Fair Pay campaign.

We supported settlements that extended fair pay across the primary health, aged care and private hospital sectors.

We stand with Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota in support of pay equity for caregivers.

Our engagement and participation builds real power – our strength in standing together can’t be taken away by the stroke of a pen or the drying ink on legislation.

Governments may make laws that give employers more control; but we hold the power – people power!

 


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Women working for free

 181452_10151675081935992_1023129958_nGeorgia Choveaux is the StandUp representative on the CTU Women’s Council and an organiser at NZNO. She wrote this yesterday – the day women in New Zealand started working for free.

Today I’m furious.

I’m furious because from today for the rest of the year New Zealand Women are working for free.

Hold on one moment … I will explain.

Right, so based on the average hourly wage rates for men and women, women earn on average 14.1 percent less a year.*  Yes 14.1 percent less. In other words New Zealand women work 51 days a year and don’t get paid for it. And our 51 days start today.

Now before you even go there, let me set you straight. The pay difference can’t be explained away with a difference in qualifications or education. Research undertaken by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in 2010 showed a 6 percent gender pay gap for graduate starting salaries. So the gender pay gap often begins with a woman’s first job, irrespective of the field or education level. I was so angry about the fact I would be paid less than a male graduating with the same degree I wore a moustache to my graduation. I’m not even kidding.

But that is just the start of the pay inequity journey I, as a newly graduating woman, will experience. According to the same Ministry of Women’s Affair’s research, within five years the gender pay gap for graduate starting salaries will increase to a  substantial gap of 17 percent. Now that is a whole new level of irritation.

So anyway, today I’m inviting you to get angry about the gender pay gap.

But I’m also telling you there is hope. Kristine Bartlett won a stunning victory in the Court of Appeal just two weeks ago which could smash one of the reasons our gender pay gap is so disgraceful. Kristine Bartlett, with the support of SFWU and NZNO, won for all New Zealand woman a ruling which confirms  there is legal obligation to ensure equal pay for work of equal value and that  means that as well as women getting the same pay as men for the same job, women should get the same pay as men for doing a different but comparable job – that is, a job involving comparable skills, years of training, responsibility, effort and working conditions.

Finally, I’m inviting you to take action.

Support the campaign for equal pay here www.facebook.com/Allthewayforequalpay

And make sure you always belong to a union, because the same good folk who bought you many of the employment rights we take for granted today are fighting hard for equal pay and together we will win.

 *No really have a look I didn’t make this stuff up Statistics New Zealand report on it every quarter here http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/income-and-work/Income/NZIncomeSurvey_HOTPJun14qtr.aspx

** Also worth noting it is the average hourly rate we are comparing not annual earnings so the fact that women are disproportionately in part-time or casualised employment doesn’t explain away this shocking figure.

 

 

 


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Equal pay is here to stay

This is me (listening hard!) at an NZNO delegate training day a couple of weeks ago.

My name is Dilani Perera. I am an NZNO delegate and a caregiver at a resthome in Wellington. I have been following Kristine Bartlett’s equal pay case with interest.

When I heard yesterday about the Equal Pay case decision I couldn’t say anything for a moment. It took a while to sink in. It is such a wonderful decision and I will celebrate with my family at home and my other family at work. This decision means a lot to me and to every woman who works as a caregiver in aged care.

My life has not been easy but I love my job. Most days I get up before dawn to go to work and care for my old people at work. They are my second family. I look after them and care for them the way I would want my mother to be looked after.

I feel it is a privilege and a joy to care for our elders even though it is tiring and hard work. I’m always tired when I get home and I often feel bad that my family misses out.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal has told me that this country cares about me and the work I do and that the money I get is not enough.

I have worked here for 10 years and I have passed all the qualifications and still only get one dollar more than the minimum wage.

I am a solo mother and I have brought up my three children myself, and I never have enough for them. Our house is always cold. When my children ask me for something I have to think whether it is possible this week, or next week.

If I had equal pay I would have a better home and better food and better clothes. Better everything!

I would also spend more time with my family. It took me seven years to save enough money to visit my mother back home. If I had equal pay I could visit more.

Lots of my friends at work have two jobs and are so, so tired. I want them to be happy and well and enjoying their families.

I thank my sister Kristine Bartlett and my union for giving me a better life ahead. On behalf of all caregivers and their families too, thank you.

Thank you also to the Court of Appeal who finally made me feel like the work I do is valued.

This is a short clip we filmed late last year about equal pay.


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Value our elders by valuing us

2014-10-01 Day of the older person FB picToday is International Day of the Older Person; a day to celebrate the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society and tackle the barriers faced by older people.

American politician Hubert H. Humphrey was paraphrasing Ghandi when he said “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

He’s right. And there’s plenty that NZNO members might want to say about that (check out NZNO’s priorities for health here), but let’s have a look at how we value our older citizens today.

The government approach to care of older people in Aotearoa is ageist. By under-funding this sector, the government is signaling that older people don’t matter. And by extension, neither do the workers who care for them. Staff in residential aged care facilities are some of the lowest paid workers in New Zealand, and successive governments, for over 20 years, have allowed that to continue.

In one of our many submissions to government we put it this way:

The high cost of providing substandard aged care is unsustainable and unjust: public health resources are unaccounted for; where there is a failure of care it is public health which ‘picks up the tag’ for care it has already paid for; services are being contracted out for care of our parents and grandparents with even less protection for their physical and mental wellbeing than for their financial wellbeing; public safety and our professional health workforce are being undermined: and an underclass of undervalued and underpaid workers is being embedded in our workforce while highly educated workers are leaving.”

That’s not valuing our elders or the people who care for them. We are failing to provide sufficient protection for the health, welfare and financial stability of either older people or those who work with them.

So, how do we change things? How can we show older people the respect and dignity they deserve?

Well, one way of doing that would be to value the people who care for them, and there’s a few ways of getting there…

Increase government funding to residential aged care providers; it’s just plain unfair that health care assistants and caregivers who work in aged care facilities get nowhere near as much as their colleagues who work in DHBs. The Government also needs to make sure that funding is passed on to workers, not retained as private sector profits.

A quality, nationwide training and education programme would achieve two things: consistently provided quality care for residents and a career pathway that would attract and retain great staff.

Regulate for safe staffing! Our members want to provide quality care, but at the same time as residents care needs increase, our members face continuous cuts to care hours. How can workers enjoy their work when they are stressed, overworkerd and worried about missing something and making a mistake? There must be enough staff to provide quality care for every resident.

None of this is rocket science, and none of it is news to the sector or the government. All that’s needed now is action! Action to value older New Zealanders and the people who care for them.

Our elders should be valued and celebrated. The workers who are carrying out the responsible and skilled work of caring for our elders should be valued, celebrated, admired and supported for their important work too.