Saturday, November 27

Union ‘Do the Right Thing’ Says, After Workers Report Requests for Annual Leave or Reduced Wages

Workers shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden of the Covid-19 shutdown, says New Zealand’s largest private sector union.

Wellington court workers were among 2,000 employees who went on strike for two hours Wednesday for higher pay and better conditions.

Workers cannot actively protest under lockdown, but some are being asked to bear the financial brunt of lockdown, says the E tū union (file image).
Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Some workers have claimed that their wages have been cut despite the fact that employers are backed by the government wage subsidy.

Employers can apply for the government wage subsidy starting today.

E tu organizer Yvette Taylor said the union is also listening to members in similar situations who are being asked to take leave to receive their full salary.

“It is unacceptable that, through no fault of their own, some workers have to bear the financial burden of the closure.

“For someone with a low salary, not receiving his full salary causes a financial crisis, because there is no money to spare week after week.

“A pay cut means not being able to pay rent, keeping the lights on and paying for essentials for the children. Sometimes it also means taking on high-interest debt just to survive.”

Taylor said employers should value the work their staff are doing, many of whom, he adds, will provide essential services as soon as the country emerges from alert level 4.

He said employers must “do the right thing.”

“As soon as alert levels drop, many other essential workers will be expected to return directly to work, workers like cleaners waiting for everything to get a deep clean, so the rest of us feel safe returning to public spaces.

“We should value this work by making sure they are paid 100 percent, not just turning the faucet off and on during alert level changes.”

The union said the situation was similar during the close of March 2020 and other periods of high alert levels.

Yvette Taylor.

Yvette Taylor said she has heard that union members were asked to take leave to receive their full salary during the shutdown.
Photo: Supplied / standing

No guarantee of full salary – cleaner

E tū’s delegate, Josephine Wiredu, is a cleaner at Auckland City Council and normally works about 55 hours a week.

Wiredu was one of the colleagues sent home from work Tuesday night as the country prepared to enter a lockdown.

He said they were told not to enter during alert level 4.

But Wiredu said they have no guarantee yet on whether they will receive their full salary during this time.

Wiredu, who is paid a living wage, said any drop in income would be a “big hit.”

“Our employer only paid 80 percent last year during the second shutdown as they were no longer eligible for the wage subsidy. But they paid it out of their own pocket,” he said.

“They have reapplied for the wage subsidy now, but we still don’t know what will happen. At the same time, we still have to pay our bills no matter what, so the decision will affect our families.”

Another steward and cleaner, who does not want to be appointed and works on the board for a different contractor, said workers have a full right to be paid 100 percent of their wages.

“No one knew that the lockdown would happen again, and we don’t know how long it will last. The lockdown does not prevent rent or electricity from running out.

“We signed a contract with our employer, they must fulfill it.”

The cleaner, who typically worked more than 60 hours a week, said she was forced to use her savings when her income at the close of last year fell to about 70 percent of her usual salary.

She doesn’t know how her salary will be affected this time, but in her role as supervisor, she has already had to reject a request from management asking her to get her colleagues to sign a form agreeing to use their annual leave during this closing.

E tū has more than 50,000 members nationwide.

Lifewise employees are on strike over the terms of their first collective bargaining agreement.

Lifewise employees went on strike last year over the terms of their first collective agreement (file image).
Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *