Once again residential aged care workers are in the front line. Previous actions that come to mind are the 2012 nationwide strikes and the struggle through the courts from 2012 to 2017 for pay equity, led by Kristine Bartlett, which resulted in better wages for workers in residential aged care, disability support services and home support services. This time, however, it is workers in just one facility taking action – at the Claud Switzer residential home in Kaitaia – who must not be left isolated but receive support from the trade unionists generally.
The E tū union members went on strike on 26 October and again for two hours on the morning of Saturday 30 October. The imposition of Level 3 COVID restrictions on northern Northland from 3 November has put any further balloting by the union on hold.
The main issue is that the employer wants to get rid of penalty rates for weekend work. One of the strikers is reported as saying, “Inflation is going up, everything is going up, yet they want to reduce wages!”
That 2017 pay equity settlement substantially increased basic pay. Claud Switzer management evidently seek to roll back that gain by attacking penalty rates.
Management have tried blackmailing the staff into submission. E tū says, “Management also circulated documents to workers that threaten possible redundancies and a decrease in the number of beds, due to an implied lack of building and refurbishment funds if workers don’t accept the new collective agreement.” Such threats have not cowed the workforce; the union says, “The positive support and response they’ve received from the community only reinforce their commitment to stand together for decent pay and conditions, which are so badly needed in the aged care sector.”
Send messages of support to E tū’s Annie Tothill, 027 573 4934, and post them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EtuUnion/