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Celebrating NZNO’s Living Wage journey

By NZNO president, Grant Brookes

Today we celebrate NZNO’s accreditation as a Living Wage employer. The announcement is confirmation from the Accreditation Advisory Board that NZNO has met all the criteria to wear this badge of honour.

The impact of today’s announcement won’t be felt by anyone directly employed by NZNO. They are already paid above the current Living Wage of $19.80 an hour.

But the decision to become an accredited Living Wage employer means all our contracted staff get this rate, too. So it will be felt by people like Yong, who cleans the NZNO National Office after hours.

Yong has told me that she works two cleaning jobs – both for minimum wage. She starts at a motel at 8.45am in the morning, and finishes at NZNO at 9pm at night.

Yong has now received her first pay at her new rate, and was so happy that she could buy better food at the supermarket, instead of the cheapest food. Her dream is that now she might be able to go home to China to visit her father, who she hasn’t seen in four years.

She wanted me to write this, she said, so everyone could understand how much NZNO’s decision  means.

It has been a long journey to reach this point, with plenty of debate and discussion along the way. So it’s fitting today to look back on how we got here, and pay tribute to the NZNO members who kept us moving forward.

It’s now over four years since the Living Wage was launched in Auckland, in May 2012. NZNO was one of the first organisations to sign up to the statement of principle:

“A living wage is the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life. A living wage will enable workers to live with dignity and to participate as active citizens in society. We call upon the Government, employers and society as a whole to strive for a living wage for all households as a necessary and important step in the reduction of poverty in New Zealand.”

Our support was based on our understanding – as nurses, midwives and healthcare workers – that poverty and inequality are a root cause of much ill health. Some of us, especially those in aged care, and Māori and Pasifika members, knew this from personal experience of low pay.

Back in 2012, economists calculated that the Living Wage needed to live with dignity and participate as an active citizen in society was $18.40 an hour.

In the DHB elections the following year, NZNO asked candidates to support the idea that all DHB staff should get at least the Living Wage, which by 2013 had been recalculated as an hourly rate of $18.80.

At this time, we were coming to understand that it wasn’t enough to just agree with the Living Wage in principle. We should also contribute to the organisation which was working to make it a reality. In August 2014 NZNO took its place alongside other organisations as a full member of Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ Incorporated.

What propelled us along was growing support for the Living Wage among NZNO members.

Using the Nursing Matters manifesto, we’d been calling on voters and politicians from all parties in the 2014 general election to see a Living Wage for all as fundamental to a fair and healthy society.

Those of us who attended the DHB MECA endorsement meetings in late 2014 then showed our support by voting overwhelmingly for a set of claims which included progress towards the Living Wage (which by then meant at least $19.25 an hour) for HCAs.

When we couldn’t get agreement on this from employers, members expressed their frustration and reaffirmed their belief in the Living Wage at DHB MECA ratification meetings around the country.

By 2015, awareness was growing further. If we were asking our health sector employers to pay a Living Wage, then NZNO needed to walk the talk and do it, as well. That awareness culminated in a vote at last year’s NZNO AGM. Delegates from across New Zealand decided, by a large margin of 85 percent to 15 percent, to set a deadline of today ­­- 1 July 2016 – for NZNO to become an accredited Living Wage employer.

There are also some NZNO members who deserve special mention, for helping our organisation to reach this goal.

They include people like Maire Christeller, a Primary Health Care nurse and workplace delegate, who has been involved in the Lower Hutt Living Wage Network since the beginning. She helped to spread the message to other NZNO delegates in the Hutt Valley, and has also lobbied for Hutt City Council to become a Living Wage employer.

Left-right: Maire Christeller and baby Iris, with HVDHB delegates Monica Murphy and Puawai Moore, at the Hutt Living Wage Network launch

Left-right: Maire Christeller and baby Iris, with HVDHB delegates Monica Murphy and Puawai Moore, at the Hutt Living Wage Network launch

Kathryn Fernando is a delegate at Capital & Coast DHB, who joined me on last year’s “Mop March” to Wellington City Council, aimed at extending the Living Wage to contracted council workers, like cleaners and security guards.

CCDHB delegate Kathryn Fernando (left), NZNO Organiser Danielle Davies (right) and I at the Living Wage “Mop March” for Wellington City Council contract cleaners

CCDHB delegate Kathryn Fernando (left), NZNO Organiser Danielle Davies (right) and I at the Living Wage “Mop March” for Wellington City Council contract cleaners

Litia Gibson works at Porirua Union and Community Health Service. She has led the nursing team’s support for their workplace paying the Living Wage (even if they aren’t accredited yet).

Litia Gibson works at Porirua Union and Community Health Service

Litia Gibson works at Porirua Union and Community Health Service

Kieran Monaghan is a Primary Health Care nurse and a leader of the Living Wage Movement in Wellington. It was his tireless efforts last year – presenting on the Living Wage at the NZNO Greater Wellington Regional Convention, getting the issue into Kai Tiaki, writing for NZNOBlog, and drafting the successful remit for the NZNO AGM setting a deadline for accreditation – which helped us take the final step.

Kieran Monaghan (left) and fellow Living Wage activist Naima Abdi at the “Mop March” for Wellington City Council contract cleaners

Kieran Monaghan (left) and fellow Living Wage activist Naima Abdi at the “Mop March” for Wellington City Council contract cleaners

 

As NZNO President, I have spoken of the need to strengthen union values within our organisation, as we continue to sharpen our professionalism – values like social justice, equity and solidarity.

By walking the talk on the Living Wage today, I believe we’re doing just that.


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Trading places, part III

Joys and Perils of Caregiving

We are re-blogging this article by Jan Logie with her kind permission.

It was a real joy and privilege to be able to do a “job swap”, organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, with caregiver Dilani Perera. You can read about it here but I just want to share a personal view of it and a couple of stories that residents told me.

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I’ve never been a paid caregiver. My primary memory until this experience was as a child singing carols and visiting at the old folks homes in Invercargill (yes I was that kind of child). I can still remember the large empty room with the edges full of old people sitting and staring out from their immobile chairs. I never associated those old people with any possible future of my own but I was still a bit scared and horrified by the vulnerability and a terrible aching stasis.

So it was really wonderful to spend some time with Dilani who is so very generous, warm and loves caring for people. Her favourite part of the job is helping people with the most intimate tasks. I’m sure it’s not because those jobs are the most fun but rather because it means so much to the residents to have someone they trust.

When I went back on National Caregivers Day, one of the residents Sylvie read a poem to the caregivers. It brought a tear to my eye. I can’t remember it all but the last line was, roughly, ‘if I was to scatter roses at your feet in gratitude, I would need your help.’ When I spoke to Sylvie afterwards she reinforced this saying that she really doesn’t have the words to describe what it is like to be so dependent.

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I spoke to another resident Thomas, who had been given two days to live about a year ago but was pushing on. From our chat I learnt that he had previously been a senior public servant and was still absolutely engaged in what was happening politically in New Zealand. We had a really good chat about the state of our nation.

The whole team at Enliven, is a wonderfully multicultural team of staff originating from many continents. Thomas indeed commented on this and said how wonderful it was to live in a place where you really felt the world was getting on. I think he described it as a functional United Nations. How wonderful is that.

He read a letter of thanks to the caregivers, and then needed rescuing while trying to return to his seat as his legs stopped working. It was impressive to watch the caregiver work together to avert any accident and ensure Thomas was able to recover calmly.

My brain resists truly understanding what it must be like to have lived a full life having grown into yourself and then find yourself so completely dependent on strangers. Kindness surely has never been more important. If your caregiver is inattentive or grumpy, you could end up physically hurt or maybe even worse, stuck in a place of complete misery.

These caregivers are paid the bare minimum wage and it would be very easy for them to be grumpy and resentful. It is a testament to the good of people that after 16 years Dilani and others are still fully engaged and focused on caring for their “extended family”. They bloody well deserve to be paid and valued a whole lot more than they are now.


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International Women’s Day 2016

2016 Womens DayBy our representative on the CTU Women’s Council, Erin Kennedy and organiser, Georgia Choveaux.

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. Like much of what is good in the world, this day was bought to you by women who had the courage and conviction to demand fairness and dignity in their community and workplaces. They were, of course, union women. So today, we look back to see just how far we union women have advanced fairness and dignity in our community. We also let you know, we union women have not finished yet!

International Women’s Day honours the struggles of women worldwide, and originated with a strike by garment workers in New York in 1857. The strikers, who were seeking better working conditions and a 10-hour day, were broken up by the police. Fifty-one years later, on 8 March 1908, needles trades workers marched again, honouring the 1857 strikers and calling for an end to sweatshops and child labour.

At the same time New Zealand union women were fighting battles of their own. An early battle New Zealand women won was the right to choose to work. Not everyone was quite as clever as our early union sisters; many thought a woman’s place was exclusively in the home. In 1890 Dr Stenhouse of Dunedin cautioned against women working, even noting that women working led to vice.

“The tendency of overwork is unquestionably to lead to vice. The health is reduced and when the constitution is enfeebled the mind is not so able to resist temptation in any form.”   

While women won the right to work, the idiotic view that a woman’s place was primarily in the home kept women’s wages artificially low and locked women out of certain industries entirely. It did this by creating the idea that it was only important that men’s wages could support a family. This devastated women’s wages: up until World War Two New Zealand women earned half of what men did.

But again courageous union women campaigned tirelessly to have their skills fairly remunerated. They won the Government Services Act 1960 and the Equal Pay Act 1972. Their victories have bumped up working women’s pay significantly. But we are not there yet.  According to Statistics NZ, for every dollar men aged between 25 and 64 earn today, women made just under 86 cents. Yet here again, unions and union wāhine are fighting to address this inequity.

Aged care worker and hero Kristine Bartlett, backed by her union, E tū,   lodged a successful equal pay claim against her employer TerraNova, arguing that aged care bosses were breaching the Equal Pay Act 1972 by not paying her for the skills of her job; rather they were paying her gender. The Government has now set up a working group to develop principles for dealing with claims under the Act, and legal cases filed by E tū and the New Zealand Education Institute are on hold till the end of this month, when the working group is due to present its principles.

The legal acknowledgement that the insultingly low wages in traditional female dominated occupations are unlawful is a huge victory and one that will smash the historic hangover women’s wages have been suffering from. Union wāhine will be leading this work and leading these wins. Which is exactly where we they belong, and have been for the last hundred and fifty years.

So here’s to union wāhine  – fighting the good fight since forever!

 


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Equality – because we can’t live on love

Equal pay day NZNOYesterday was Equal Pay Day – the day where women in New Zealand start working for free, until the end of the year. We held an Equal Pay Day picnic at Parliament to mark the occasion.

We celebrated the success of our campaign to get commitment and support for equal pay from MPs across all political parties – the biggest cross-party commitment to end gender-discrimination of pay ever made. Over a thousand people from all over the country sent their stories to women MPs; and each story highlights a very personal reason why equal pay is a “must have”, not a “nice to have”.

Equal Pay is an unstoppable force. Now is the time for us all to decide whether we want to be on the side of fairness, justice and equality… or not.

NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne spoke at the picnic. You can watch her speech here, and the transcript is below:

Haere Mai and a big warm welcome to the equal pay picnic at Parliament. Thank you for adding your voice in unity today with others who seek equality for women: equality for women in all spheres of our lives.

IMG_3713Courageous people such as Kristine Bartlett, Michelle Payne & Justin Trudeau and our wonderful Lower Hutt resthome worker Kristine Bartlett. Kristine, in her Terranova Case for Equal Pay said, “I love our residents – I love where I am working – and making people happy – they are people who need love and support. We caregivers feel so deeply about our job but we can’t live on love. Our employers disrespect our compassion”.

Who joined with me in a big whoop last week when Michelle Payne, the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup in its 155 year history, and wearing the colours of the suffragette movement – purple, white and green, said “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed because women can do anything and we can beat the world!”?

And then to cap it off newly elected Prime Minister of Canada Justine Trudeau made the decision to give Canada it’s first Cabinet with equal numbers of women and men. When he was asked to explain his decision around gender parity he responded simply with “Because it’s 2015”.

IMG_3805It is 2015 and today 10 November is a symbolic day. 86% of 2015 is over, finished today.

In 2015 women in Aotearoa still earn only 86% of men’s pay. Please give a big round of applause for our coffee cart vendor Espresso Rescue -they are offering coffees for women at 86% of the regular price today.

Would you feel short changed if 2015 was to finish today? Like Michelle Payne – the women in Aotearoa have felt short changed for over 150 years!

We are relying on you to use your voice and shift women’s pay in NZ to 100%

We are determined to go all the way for equal pay and end this injustice.

12232997_10153835485860992_1300725150_n31 members of parliament across five political parties have told us we can rely on them too. They have pledged to pay the job not the gender and to never support gender discrimination in pay… Each of you thank you.

It has been said Rosa Parks was the “Queen Mother of a movement”, whose single  act of heroism sparked the movement for freedom, justice and equality. Her greatest contribution is that she told us that a regular person can make a difference.”

The women of NZ are relying on you.

Thank you, each of you, for making a difference today.


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The Budget and the MECA

scalpel12This past week has been a busy one. Thursday 21 May was Budget Day. It’s a day we are always on the edge of our seats, hoping for a plan for health that delivers for our members and all New Zealanders.

And the day after that we held our final meetings about the offer from DHBs for our multi-employer collective agreement. The results of those meetings did not surprise us but what we didn’t expect was the extent to which NZNO members working in DHBs rejected the DHBs’ offer. Over 82 per cent voted no.

This years’ Budget does not provide enough funding to meet the health needs of New Zealanders. In order to meet the costs of rising prices, an increasing population, an ageing population, an ageing health workforce, long overdue decent wage increases, new services etc etc, we estimate the funding allocated is at least $260 million short.

District Health Boards (DHBs) are short-changed by at least $121 million. And we know almost all of them are already struggling to manage massive deficits, meaningless health targets and the continuing push from government to “centralise” services at any cost.

How are DHBs going to deal with the likely flow-on impacts on safe staffing, workplaces that are healthy for staff and patients and quality care?

Nurses, midwives, caregivers and other health care workers are telling us they are already stretched to the limit. Some are having to sacrifice tea and lunch breaks and are working unpaid overtime just to keep up with the care they need to give to ensure needs of patients are met. Support for training and development is decreasing. Stress levels are rising and morale is low.

And it’s not only DHBs that are bearing the brunt of reduced spending. Efforts to reduce poverty related illness are not being tackled in a “joined-up” way.

Health workforce planning is proceeding at a snail’s pace. New graduate nurses are still looking for jobs that aren’t there. Older nurses are still being pressured to work night shifts.

Health workers need a fair deal to cope with the increasing demands that are being placed on them.

And this means we need to stand together to make progress in our bargaining with the DHBs for our multi-employer collective agreement.

NZNO members working in DHBs don’t feel valued. They instructed the negotiating team to retain what’s already in the MECA, secure a decent pay increase, improve access and support for professional development and advance safe staffing and healthy workplaces.

The DHBs’ offer clearly didn’t cut it. They need to do better for their largest group of workers.

We’re heading back into bargaining on Thursday with a clear mandate: the offer must be improved. Nurses can no longer continue to take up the slack for a sick health system.

We can’t do all the work here! DHBs need to take some responsibility for advocating for the funding that provides appropriately for every member of staff and every patient. New Zealanders won’t settle for anything less.


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A word from the Mayor of Wellington

Kilmarnock HouseI visited Kilmarnock Heights Rest Home during Caregiver’s Week last month to do my part to recognise the contribution of this work force. I met some wonderful people and enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with the carers, managers and union representatives. The delicious morning tea was very pleasant and made me glad I had biked there!

Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs there is. You have to be kind, compassionate and efficient all at the same time. I wanted to take the opportunity to tell the caregivers gathered at Kilmarnock in Wellington that I admired them, and appreciated the work they do. Their cultural diversity is a strength for the Capital.

Caregivers have the challenge of supporting our most vulnerable citizens when they are happy, sad, scared, angry or lonely. It is up to the staff to turn a Rest Home into a real home, and that is a huge responsibility.

Caregiving is a predominately female workforce, at 93 percent. The battle for wages that reflect the value of the job caregivers do is ongoing.

As I am sure you are all aware, the Wellington City Council supports the Living Wage. In 2013 Wellington City Council increased the wages of our lowest paid employees including parking wardens and lifeguards. This has made a significant difference to the lives of our staff and their families.

None of us can be 100 percent certain what the future holds for us or our family members. Let’s all show our appreciation and support of those in the caregiving industry.

Ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa.

Caregivers blog entry JR Mayor Wade-Brown

Celia Wade-Brown
Mayor of Wellington


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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!”.