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Workers overdue a pay catch up

4 Feb

Workers are well overdue a pay catch-up and 2015 will be a year where workers’ expectations of a decent rise will increase, the Council of Trade Unions said today.

Labour Cost Index statistics out today show that wages are up marginally over the past year at 1.7 per cent.

"The New Zealand economy is growing but real wages have not grown nearly as fast as they should have," said CTU Secretary Sam Huggard. "Simply, workers are not getting a fair share."

"We are also seeing mixed messages from the government, who on one hand are modelling for wage increases of over 3 per cent for coming years, but in the same breath are attempting to talk down expectations among public sector workers, who have already waited too long for a decent rise. Health care workers pay went up by only 0.7% in the last year, for example."

Many workers have had low pay increases or no pay increases at all in the last few years, Sam Huggard said.

"This is especially true for those without access to a union. Last year, while only 2% of people who came together to negotiate collectively didn’t get a payrise, over 50% of workers who had to go it alone on an individual agreement didn’t get a raise."

Sam Huggard said that the rise in unemployment in today’s figures was completely unacceptable.

"143,000 people are unemployed, up significantly on September. It is disturbing that the economy is not providing enough new jobs for those who want to work. New Zealand’s ranking in the OECD for unemployment has fallen from 9th to 10th despite the strong economic growth compared to other OECD countries."

The wider jobless figure is at 256,800, little different from a year ago (257,100), and lack of hours for workers remained a problem, he said.

"There are also still 112,800 part-timers who need more hours, and for thousands of these people the hours they have are not enough to make ends meet. For many workers, it is not just wage levels, but overall take home pay including the need for secure, reliable hours, that is the critical factor," Sam Huggard said.

Ends.

For further comment:

Sam Huggard, Secretary, NZCTU, on 021 462 148

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NZ Labour Letter

12 Jan

Produced by AIL NZ for the labour movement of New Zealand

January 2015, Vol. 6 No. 1


National Labour News

NZ Meat Workers Union launched a national campaign to highlight job insecurity within the meat industry. The union said in a statement that it will call on ‘Jobs that Count‘ for workers in the industry in an effort to help alleviate some of the major pressures meat workers face both financially and in the workplace. More than 20,000 meat workers provide labour for the industry "yet their job security is on more shaky ground than ever," the union said. Union National Secretary, Graham Cooke explained, "Seasonal work, dangerous jobs, casual and zero hours contracts, and increasing pressure on workers to join non-union individual agreements. As if that’s not enough, the Government’s recent Employment Law changes mean meat workers will face a tougher time settling collective agreements and earning a decent living." He said the union understands the industry faces challenges, "but we don’t believe workers and their families should pay the price." The Council of Trade Unions put its clout behind the campaign, citing a CTU report which found that at least 30 per cent of New Zealand workers are in insecure work.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand welcomed ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention by the National Government. The union called The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) a "seafarers bill of rights." The MLC is an international treaty adopted by the International Labour Organisation which lays out minimum rights for seafarers and promotes good employment practices across the shipping industry. The union has been pushing for years for New Zealand to be a signatory. "Most developed nations including Australia are signed up to the MLC and it was an anomaly that New Zealand was not," said Maritime Union National Secretary Joe Fleetwood. "The Maritime Union works with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to recover wages and deal with crew welfare issues. We note that this work is done by the unions, not by the Government, and we deal with constant issues on flag of convenience vessels on the New Zealand coast," he explained. "The deregulated approach to this and other aspects of the maritime industry has been recognised as a failure, so now the move is back towards proper oversight of the industry by Government." He also expressed thanks to Business New Zealand for supporting ratification.

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Saturday, Jan 10th: Join Cuban Ambassador to celebrate return of Cuban Five. 6pm, Maritime Club, Anzac Ave.

7 Jan

CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM

OF THE CUBAN FIVE!

SPECIAL GUEST: MARIA DEL CARMEN HERRERA, CUBA’S AMBASSADOR TO NEW ZEALAND

Maritime Club, 68 Anzac Ave, central Auckland

Speeches, music, snacks, cash bar

Sat, January 10

6pm-9pm

Organised by the Cuba Friendship Society

Email cubafriends.ak

Phone Ina (09)303 1755, Malcolm 021 151 7887

Please feel free to send a message if you cannot come to this celebration.

Thanks to the Maritime Union of NZ for use of their venue.

New Leadership at Unite

10 Dec

The 2014 AGM of Unite Union saw many new leaders step up and a farewell to one of the Union’s

Featured imageMatt McCarten stood down as National Secretary. Matt had been on leave for the most of the year after taking up the Chief of Staff position for the Labour party in parliament. Matt played the pivotal role in the transformation of Unite from a small union with a few hundred members to a ground breaking movement that achieved what was thought internationally to be impossible – organising casualised and low paid workers and negotiating national collective agreements. Matt’s skills and leadership will be missed but it is no surprise that he is once again taking the fight for working people onto the bigger stage of national politics.

Gerard Hehir was elected unopposed as National Secretary. Gerard has been Unite President for the past five years. Mike Treen remains as National Director and Tom Buckley as Assistant Secretary.

There was a change to the Presidental positions with the President and Vice-Presidental roles being replaced by two Co-Presidents (one of whom is required to be a woman). Elected were Tina Barnett (SkyCity, Auckland) and Heleyni Pratley (Unite Union, Wellington). A special thanks is due to Duncan Allan who has served as Vice-president over the past few years.

Of the thirteen strong Executive members (ten elected, three co-opted at the AGM to ensure good representation) there are eleven new faces: Continue reading

Why bother joining a union?

28 Nov

Workers protest over how Carl’s Jr sale was handled by company

By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director

This past couple of weeks Unite has had a number of graphic examples on why it can make a huge difference in you work life whether you are a union member or not.

100 cleaners jobs at SkyCity were saved when an employment authority decision stopped the company from contracting out their work. The collective agreement that Unite has with SkyCity says that the company will treat workers with decency and respect. Too often claims or promises to treat workers well are simply empty words designed to remain on paper. This time a company has been forced to comply with its promises.

Hotel cleaning staff at a major hotel have received thousands of dollars in back pay after they were discovered paying thir staff by the room and not meeting their legal obligations under the minimum wage act.

The owner of seven Carl’s Jr stores in Auckland sold them to Restaurant Brands without a thought about what would happen to the workers. After the intervention of Unite we got three weeks pay in lieu of a full four week’s notice as required in our collective agreement. In addition, after a three way discussion between the union, the new owner and the old owner of the stores all of the migrant workers with visas specific to the old owner will be able to continue to be employed. We still have some back pay issues to settle through a separate process with the old owner but everyone has a job and their service will be recognised by Restaurant Brands.

The cleaning manager at a major hotel in Auckland announced that because of the law change she didn’t have to provide breaks for staff until the end of the shift. We have individual members at the hotel and no collective agreement as yet but with a judicious bit of media attention the hotel management got the message and apologised to all staff for the “misunderstanding”.

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Casual work putting pressure on families

27 Nov

By Thomas Heaton

(Reprinted from the Manawatu Standard)

A job market with more casual labour and an increasing number of zero-hour contracts is leaving Manawatu families wanting.

Palmerston North’s Methodist Social Services food bank co-ordinator Stacey Rohloff said there were a number of people using the food bank to make up the difference.

More zero-hour contracts added to the problem, as it meant workers did not have guaranteed hours of work.

"They never have a budget that’s secure," she said.

Massey University research has found almost two-thirds of work was casual, part-time or contracted.

Methodist Social Services found "the worst thing" was the increasing number of zero-hour contracts.

In Work Tax Credits are designed to go to those who are not on government benefits and who work a certain amount of hours each week.

To qualify for the tax credit a single parent with a dependant child, under 18, must work a minimum of 20 hours per week, while a couple must work 30.

Their hours were also insecure, so could fall short of the 20 or 30-hour threshold, Rohloff said.

There is an option that allows families to obtain the tax credit at the end of the financial year, in a lump sum.

"It sounds great, but generally they [families] have struggled the whole year."

Receiving the tax throughout the year was also possible, but anyone overpaid at the end of the year would have to pay it back.

The money from the lump sum would go to paying off debts accrued throughout the year, Rohloff said.

It was hard for some parents, who thought they could not do without it, because they still had to feed their children, she said.

Rohloff said she believed the In Work Tax Credit was a "bit of a sham".

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) also expressed dissatisfaction with the tax credit system in light of the current employment market, as workers were missing out due to "red tape".

Although parents were missing out on the extra money, it was their children who were being affected.

CPAG economics spokeswoman Susan St John said that the "discriminatory and inflexible" family assistance package failed to protect children in a casual work environment, where parents’ work hours were uncertain.

"The unrealistic, rigid hours-worked requirements must go as a first step in badly-needed reforms to reduce child poverty."

A spokeswoman for Minister of Revenue Todd McClay said the tax benefit was always designed to "ensure people in work were better off than being on welfare".

"On the wider issue of child poverty, the Government’s absolutely committed to improving living standards for all children, particularly our most vulnerable," she said.

"Cabinet is working on a range of options right now and they will form part of next year’s Budget."

CTU criticises poor government advice to workers on drive-offs

21 Nov

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions has raised concerns with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (‘MBIE’) regarding their reported advice to workers about the petrol station drive away issue.

Jeff Sissons, CTU General Counsel, says “Clauses in employment agreements allowing employers to deduct money from workers’ wages to compensate them for loss caused by workers are unlawful. In the case of petrol station drive offs the worker will not even be at fault so deducting pay will almost certainly be against the law.

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