Author: E tū

Lack of PPE puts workers at risk of infection and disease

Today’s announcement about Covid care in the community means that New Zealanders need to be confident that community support workers, who will increasingly be coming into contact with Covid positive people, have the PPE they need including N95 masks, aprons, gloves, and all other adequate PPE for covid infection prevention.

PSA and E tū are the unions for thousands of care and support workers who provide essential health support to people in their own homes.

These care workers are at risk because the gloves being provided to them to deliver personal care are breaking, exposing workers to bodily fluids and putting them at risk of infection and disease.

Southland care and support worker, Samantha says, “It’s not acceptable that we have to wear food grade gloves. Food grade gloves don’t protect us from anything – they roll down our wrists and they break at the fingertips. Sometimes I wear two pairs but even then there’s no guarantee that will protect us from faeces and bodily fluids.”

“You would never see a healthcare worker in a hospital or GP practice wearing food gloves – it’s totally unthinkable. So why does the Ministry of Health think it’s ok for us?”

“Care and support workers are in every community in New Zealand and we are not being protected from Covid or anything else. We need the appropriate PPE, now!”

Another support worker, from Northland, agrees. “We go from home to home providing essential care and support services to vulnerable clients, but the work we do is often misunderstood, and we are treated as the second-class citizens of the health system, when the system couldn’t work without us.”

A care and support worker, who doesn’t want to be named, says the gloves are not appropriate or acceptable for using when caring for clients. “They tear or rip and do not come up far enough on the wrist, which means we get water in them.

“Personal cares with my clients are difficult enough, without constantly having to worry about my own safety when bodily fluids get into my gloves. This is a serious health and safety issue.”

“Like every other support worker, I hope that the providers of these gloves are informed and brought up to speed with the differences between food grade gloves and medical grade gloves – we’re not making sandwiches.”

E tū health director Kirsty McCully says that despite raising the matter with their employers, the Ministry of Health and chief nurse, workers are being told the gloves are safe.

“This simply isn’t their experience. Home support workers put themselves at risk to care for the most vulnerable in our communities at home. That risk increases with Covid circulating in the community too.”

Kirsty says workers need to be listened to: “The health risks they face become risks to everyone eventually, if not managed properly.”

PSA national sector lead Jocelyn Pratt says, “It is shameful that the Ministry of Health is not following its own health and safety guidelines and putting these workers and clients at risk.”

“The gloves used for serving food at a school fundraiser are not the same as the gloves needed when you are providing intimate care for a vulnerable client.”

Jocelyn says these frontline essential workers should be treated with dignity, “This work force is publicly funded but the basic health and safety protections are not being provided to them.”

ENDS

For more information contact:

Liz Robinson | Communications, PSA  liz.robinson@psa.org.nz, 027 281 6173

Amy Baker | Communications, E tū amy.baker@etu.nz, 022 269 1170

Emissions Reduction Plan – workers need a Just Transition

With the release of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan consultation document today, workers need assurance there will be a Just Transition that puts their communities at the forefront.

Sam Huggard, Strategic researcher for E tū, Aotearoa’s largest private sector union, says that workers need confidence that the transition to a decarbonised country will be managed fairly, in order for affected workers to get in behind the necessary moves to reduce our emissions.

“The benefits of a more stable climate are for everyone, and so the heavy lifting of decarbonising cannot rest disproportionately on those with fewer resources,” Sam says.

“There absolutely can be a fair pathway to a zero carbon New Zealand, where workers rights are protected, low-income communities’ economic security is safe guarded, and Tiriti partners are co-designing the change.”

Sam says the consultation document does not reflect the importance of this part of the programme strongly enough.

“The document released today is not there yet and is missing core aspects of what we would expect from a Just Transition, and so it is now up to all of us to make sure we get this right. Unions are committed to bringing our experience in managing change to the table to help this.”

Sam says an equitable transition strategy is needed sooner rather than later if we are committed to preventing inequalities as we decarbonise.

“That strategy will need to inform all other parts of the Emissions Reduction Plan itself. It can’t be an add-on or extra chapter on the side.”

“For example, supporting congestion pricing in transport but then also agreeing to “look at ways to reduce the equity/distributional impacts of pricing tools” is problematic – equity needs to be incorporated into the decisions from day one.”

E tū will be mobilising its members to be involved in the consultation and will be seeking commitments to avoid market-based mechanisms that hit low-income workers as we decarbonise, guaranteeing workers a voice in transition processes for their industries, and a stronger focus on equity for Māori and Pacific workers.

E tū Komiti Pasefika calls for unity

The E tū Komiti Pasefika is calling for unity and kindness as Aotearoa bands together once again to eliminate COVID-19 in our community.

The latest outbreak has affected Pacific Island families in particular, which has resulted in a rise in racism, particularly on social media.

E tū National Executive and Komiti Pasefika member Gadiel Asiata says he is proud of the steps his whole community are taking to combat COVID-19.

“Our Pacific Island communities have pulled together to do our bit,” Gadiel says.

“We know that we can’t let this pandemic win. We know it’s important to stay calm, stay home, wear a mask, and adhere to the rules.

“I live with my elderly mother, and with how dangerous the Delta strain is, I know how important it is to stay home to keep my family safe. Many Pasefika people in South Auckland live with their elderly relatives – we know the stakes.

“We can’t let this pandemic divide us.”

Gadiel says that the Government should take any opportunities to work with the Pasefika community to fight the pandemic.

“We have been calling for vaccination stations to be set up at churches and give our community leaders the tools to get our people protected. A good plan needs to be by the community, for the community.”

E tū organiser Fala Haulangi says the backlash against the Pasefika community has left her feeling upset.

“I feel really hurt for my people, as once again there is a narrative out there blaming our Pasefika people instead of blaming COVID-19,” Fala says.

“Our public health officials have praised the Pasefika community for doing the right thing – we are proud of our efforts. We are a very collective community. It is in our DNA and upbringing to always look out for each other.

“So many of our essential workers are Pasefika people as well, they are really holding things together. We need to be so grateful for their work and we owe them heaps.

“We just need to be kind to each other as we fight to stamp out COVID again. Kia kaha, Aotearoa! We have done it before, we can surely do it again!”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Fala Haulangi, 027 204 6332

Blog: Riding the Neo-Liberal Tiger

By John Ryall, former Assistant National Secretary of E tū

Working as a public hospital orderly, food service worker or cleaner in 1991 was not a very exciting job but was critical to the effective functioning of the public hospital system.

Workers employed in these roles by the Wellington Area Health Board were mainly of Maori or Pasifika origin and through their cultural bonds, their union and their solidarity had developed the hospitals into secure and enjoyable places to work.

The only exception were the Wellington Hospital cleaners, whose work had been contracted out since the 1940s and had to face a three-yearly cycle of re-tendering, which could mean their jobs disappearing or their working hours being reduced.

Even the restructuring of the public health service in the 1980s, with the downsizing of psychiatric hospitals, the privatisation of continuing care and the closure of some smaller facilities had not changed their jobs very much and the processes negotiated with their union had ensured that they had input into every change that occurred.

In the 1990s a double attack on this work occurred through the National Government introduction of the Employment Contracts Act, which destroyed nationally consistent pay rates and employment conditions in public hospitals, and the so-called health reforms, which set up the public hospitals as competing business units (Crown Health Enterprises) bidding for contracts from four regional public funding authorities.

The Crown Health Enterprises (CHEs) were established as wholly-owned Crown companies and their boards were made up of people who had private business experience, with almost none having any experience in the public health and disability system. The CHE management teams were appointed on a similar basis, with our local Capital and Coast Health CHE Chief Executive and Human Resources General Manager both coming from Telecom.

The Service Workers Union members employed in the Wellington hospitals did not notice much difference initially although they were notified that the Area Health Board’s Facilities General Manager, John Dixon, had left his employment to form a company called Tempo Health Support, a company that would later have a big impact on their working lives.

John Dixon had previously worked for one of the cleaning contractors and then became the Hutt District Manager of the Wellington Area Health Board. He was a strong advocate for more competition in health and organised lucrative weekend seminars for aspiring health managers in which they played games pretending that they were representing designated public and private health providers competing for public funding.

One of the Hutt District managers, who was appalled by the pending competitive model of healthcare, commented to me that John Dixon was so captured by the game that he thought he could be a winner if he could set up the right service provider.

New manager steps in

John Dixon was replaced in July 1993 by one of his lieutenants, Walter Baumann, who did not have a health sector background, although had worked since 1990 in the Area Health Board facilities department in charge of maintenance services.

Although he admitted later to the Employment Court that he had no specialist knowledge about orderlies, food services or cleaning, he was driven by a strategy of savings in so-called “non-core” services to put more money into medical services. He called it “medical dollars”.

Almost immediately from the time of his appointment as Facilities General Manager he was reviewing options for saving money including contracting the services out. He held a “brainstorming session” with his senior managers, and they agreed that contracting the services out was a good option, even though as he later told the Employment Court, he had no direct personal experience of contracting out.

He approached various contractor companies for expressions of interest in taking over the Capital and Coast CHE orderly, food and cleaning services. This included the newly formed Tempo Health Support.

He knew that the Service Workers Union employment agreement, and the previous Area Health Board protocols, required him to notify the union of any review of services. However, as he later told the Employment Court, he saw these agreements as a “roadblock” to running an effective business, so decided to ignore them.

In late September 1993 the union received calls from hospital members reporting that Walter Baumann had met with them and told them that he was “considering options” for the future of their services, which would include various contracting companies visiting their worksites to have a look at their work.

I contacted Walter Baumann, who denied that any review of services was taking place and said he was merely throwing a few ideas around. I wrote to him seeking an undertaking to cease the review until such time as the union was notified and a mechanism for union involvement was agreed.

On 30 September Walter Baumann, having failed to give the union an undertaking, put out a media statement saying that the CHE was looking for ways to save money in “non-core services” through carrying out services differently.

This was enough for us. The Service Workers Union filed an application in the Employment Court for an interim injunction against the CHE to restrain any further work on the review until such time as the CHE complied with the union employment agreement and the previous Area Health Board protocols.

The application seemed to have the required effect and the CHE agreed to formally initiate a review of orderly, cleaning and catering services with the involvement of the union. This was done on 6 October 1993.

Covert behaviour

On 21 October 1993 I met with two facility services managers and agreed on a mechanism for the review, which would include joint work on the service specifications, a transparent tendering process and once a preferred tenderer was selected a meeting between the union and the CHE to compare the contractor’s proposal with the current in-house provision so hopefully a joint recommendation could be made to Walter Baumann.

While our meeting was taking place to agree on a mechanism for union involvement, Walter Baumann was, as the Employment Court later described it, covertly presenting a proposal to the CHE board. This proposal was to not proceed with a tender, but to support the contracting out of the services to Tempo Health Support.

Without any knowledge of the CHE board’s decision union delegates worked with the facility service managers on the tender specifications, which we thought was to be let in December 1993. We did not know that all our work was in vain, as the decision about the contracting out and preferred contractor had already been made.

From December onwards all communication with Walter Baumann and his team ceased despite numerous calls from the union. On 24 February 1994 new cook-chill carts appeared at Kenepuru Hospital and the food service workers were told they were converting from a cook-fresh to cook-chill system, an option that had not been a specific part of the tender.

An angry threat of union legal action led Walter Baumann to announcing a 1 March meeting to discuss “the next stage of the review”. While the union representatives thought the meeting was to discuss the comparison between the preferred tenderer and the current service, Walter Baumann opened the meeting to announce that the CHE had  awarded the contract for their hospital cleaning, food services and orderlies (at Kenepuru Hospital only) to Tempo Health Support. He then proceeded to introduce Chief Executive of Tempo Health Support, John Dixon, and said the union should talk to him about the transfer of the required staff over to their new employment.

The union was blindsided by this turn of events and realising that the contract was due to start by the end of April 1994 immediately convened meetings with members to discuss the union options.

Members were worried about their jobs, concerned about cook-chill and concerned about the maintenance of their employment conditions during any transfer. Some members wanted to leave provided they were paid redundancy pay while others wanted to fight against the CHE and not let the contracting out take place. Some even blamed the union, believing a deal had been done with the CHE. It was a difficult job working out a union strategy given the divergent member views.

After long discussions the union delegates recommended to members that we should all transfer over to the contractor, that we should seek CHE agreement for the maintenance of all employment conditions during this transfer and subsequent transfers and that the union should submit personal grievances for every member who had been affected by the CHE contracting out decision.

Walter Baumann disappears

Within two weeks of his announcement of the awarding of the contract to Tempo Health Support Walter Baumann was dismissed from his employment at the CHE for reasons that have never been revealed.

Ongoing discussions took place with the CHE management about the transfer of employment and while they agreed that all employment conditions would be maintained during the initial transfer to Tempo Health Support they would make no commitments about transfers if the CHE decided to change contractors in the future.

The first stage of the transfer was due to occur at Kenepuru and Porirua Hospitals with the cleaning and food service workers. On the first day of the transfer all workers were expected to sign-on for employment with Tempo Health Support before they commenced work. While the workers all turned up at their start times they refused to start work or sign-on for employment with Tempo Health Support until the union’s demands for security of employment were met.

The sit-down action brought things to a head very quickly. It was a brave step to take with a lot of risks, but the workers were angry at the way they had been treated and this anger gave them strength.

After CHE threats of dismissals and injunctions (given the workers were no longer employed by the CHE it was difficult to dismiss them or injunct them) they realised that there was no food being produced, so quickly adopted a more conciliatory tone and signed an agreement guaranteeing the continuation of the workers’ employment conditions during this contract change and any future contract changes.

Given that New Zealand workers would not gain the legal protection of maintaining conditions in a transfer from one employer to another until 10 years later this was a great victory, which built solidarity amongst the workers going into an uncertain employment with a new employer.

Personal grievances raised

The next day the personal grievances against the CHE and Tempo Health Support were raised on behalf of nearly 200 union members.

Tempo Health Support, later morphing into Tempo DNC Health Support, had a tumultuous two years in the Capital and Coast CHE services until it went into liquidation leaving the CHE to take the orderlies back in-house and, with few providers to choose from, to mothball the cook-chill equipment and transfer the food service and cleaning services to another contractor on a cost-plus basis.

The personal grievance claims, headed up by union delegates Mihi-Tuarangi Andersen, Randall Peterson, Martha Crawford, Jane Butler, Faye McVicar and Falanika Siania, slowly moved their way through the courts, although it took five years, one strike-out application and two interlocutory hearings before their big day arrived.

On 19 October 1999 the Employment Court hearing opened with a prayer by Union Pasifika Convenor Elizabeth Lee-lo in front of a court room packed with union members and their families. Judge Coral Shaw gave a wry smile as Aunty Liz asked God to recognise the poor workers and give the judge wisdom to make the right decision.

The court heard evidence from 15 worker witnesses and from myself on behalf of the union. My evidence took a full day with most of the cross-examination around diary notes from my meeting with the CHE managers, which had been the subject of forensic examination at the instigation of the CHE.

The court case took 11 days finishing just before Christmas 1994, with the decision not being delivered until April 2000.

The decision said that the CHE had made 10 breaches of the collective employment agreement and the other agreements with the union, had acted in a covert manner to bypass the union, and wrongfully dismissed the union members even though all those who wanted to transfer maintained their employment conditions.

Employment Court Judge Coral Shaw said the workers were entitled to damages for the way they had been treated and suggested that the union negotiate the appropriate sum with the CHE, which by this time was in the process of becoming a District Health Board.

Negotiations with the District Health Board management commenced soon after the decision and when they did not reach agreement it was proposed that a Labour Department mediator be asked to hear the arguments on behalf of the union and the DHB and make a final and binding decision.

Union claims $1 million

Mediator Walter Grills convened a session to hear from the union and the District Health Board. The room was packed with current and ex-workers who were involved in the case. The Union proposed that in addition to appropriate apologies from the DHB chief executive, each of the workers be given $5000 tax-free and the union be paid $70,000 for its legal costs. The claim on the DHB was exactly $1 million.

Union lawyer Luci Highfield asked each of the workers present to speak to their damages claim and they did so, telling tearful stories about the way their jobs and lives had been turned upside down and put under considerable stress by the underhand way the CHE had treated them.

Porirua Hospital cook Lucy Rodgers, who had worked at the hospital for almost 20 years, described the betrayal that she felt at the actions of the CHE management. She said that her secure world had been turned upside down, that her health had suffered and that she had to withdraw her daughter from a boarding school because she was uncertain about her family’s economic future.

Walter Grills released his decision, which included support for the full union claim. It was accompanied by a District Health Board agreement for official apologies to be extended by way of a letter each to the affected workers and the DHB hosting a dinner at Takapuwahia Marae for the workers and their families, where another apology would be given.

For the 300 people who turned up to Porirua’s Takapuwahia Marae for the dinner and apology it was a sweet end to an eight-year struggle for justice.

Even though the District Health Board Chief Executive Margot Mains had not been involved in any of the events of 1993/94 it was appropriate that she fronted up and personally apologised for the hurt and damage that her predecessor managers had caused for the workers and their families.

Tai Elkington, a Kenepuru Hospital orderly, was proud that the apology and dinner could be held on his marae in front of his family. He said that even though time had passed it was important for him that there was formal recognition of the hurt that had been caused.

It was the closing of a page on a very sad period in the history of the Wellington public hospital system, where the mad scientists of the neo-liberal market-led health reforms were let loose and allowed to make the lives of workers from the communities with the highest health needs the subjects of their experiments.

While the position of these workers could never be restored to what they enjoyed in the 1980s they had the satisfaction of knowing that through their solidarity and perseverance they had exposed the duplicitous conduct of their public sector employer and created greater job security for workers into the future.

New Zealand unions take on Uber

E tū and First Union today filed a claim in the Employment Court seeking employment rights for Uber drivers.

The claim asks the court to declare that Uber drivers are employees and are entitled to the same minimum wage rates and leave entitlements as other New Zealand workers.

Uber has traditionally argued that their 7000 drivers are not employees or contractors but are simply paying to use the Uber app in order to connect them to passengers.

Uber have also stated that they are not in the business of passenger transport, but simply providing a platform for independent business operators to connect with customers.

E tū spokesperson Yvette Taylor said that this case follows similar cases in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and parts of the USA, which had ruled in favour of the drivers.

“The Uber system is designed to get around New Zealand employment laws and deprive the drivers of their minimum legal entitlements,” Yvette says.

“Gig workers, such as those employed by Uber, are at the forefront of a new form of exploitation where management is replaced by an algorithm built into an app, with its ability to deactivate workers without reason and take away their income.”

ENDS

Our week in action – 16 July 2021

Members win 8% at McKechnie’s Aluminium in Taranaki

After nearly 18 months of bargaining, standing strong to fight off proposed clawbacks of redundancy, sick leave and allowances, McKechnie’s workers have won an 8% increase over 30 months – their best pay rise since 2005!

The proposal was narrowly accepted by members, who remain unified despite having a close vote.  Thirteen new ember-leaders have been confirmed, making our delegate and member-leader team 17 strong.  During the course of negotiations, our membership grew by 15 members, bringing us over 80%. 

E tū and First Union to take Uber to court

We announced that we will go to court seeking employment rights for Uber drivers. We want the court to declare that Uber drivers are employees and deserve the same minimum standards (such as pay and leave) as other workers.

This case follows similar cases in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and parts of the USA, which had ruled in favour of the drivers.

E tū Job Match and Solidarity Membership launched

We have re-launched our Job Match service, to help people find and prepare for new jobs, and our Solidarity Membership, for members and non-members alike to pay from just $2 a week to further support our important work.

Click here to check out E tū Job Match

Click here to check out Solidarity Membership

Komiti Pasifika Auckland Fono

E tū’s Komiti Pasifika held their Northern Regional Fono today, to celebrate the successes of the Komiti and plan for the future. Today members met with EEO Human Rights Commissioner Dr Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo about becoming an active force in the Commission’s Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry.

Geneva Health home support worker ratification meetings

Come along to a meeting to ratify (vote on) your new collective agreement!

Note: These meetings are for HOME SUPPORT WORKERS ONLY.

Your bargaining team has been working hard, and we’re excited to let you know that it’s time for you to have your say and vote on your proposed new collective agreement!

Please attend one of the following meetings. They will be one-hour long and paid for union members, including those who join at the meetings.

Mobile users – please scroll to the right to view this table in full.

AreaSuburbDateStartVenueAddress
NorthlandWhangareiWednesday, 28 July 20211:00 PMMcDonalds WhangareiCnr Bank & Apirana Sts, 145 Bank St 
NorthlandWhangareiThursday, 29 July 20211:00 PMMcDonalds WhangareiCnr Bank & Apirana Sts, 145 Bank St 
NorthlandRuakakaWednesday, 11 August 20211:00 PMThe Porthouse 163 State Highway 15A
NorthlandDargavilleThursday, 12 August 20211:00 PMBlah Blah Blash101 Victoria St
AucklandWarkworthThursday 5th August, 20211:30 PMWarkworth Community Hall corner of Neville and Alnwick St
AucklandOrewaFriday 30th July  20211:30 PMOrewa Community Hall40/46 Orewa Square.
AucklandAlbanyWednesday 11th August 20211:30 PMAlbany Geneva Office 112/119 Apollo Drive, Albany.  Ph 916 0200
AucklandHelensvilleFriday 6th August 20211:30 PMHelensville Library 49 Commercial Road, Hellensville
AucklandNorthcote Wednesday 28th July1:30 PMNorthcote War Memorial Hall 2 Rodney Road, Northcote Point
AucklandMt Albert Thursday 29th July 20211:30 PMMt Albert War Memorial Hall 773 New North Road, Mt Albert (next to Rocket Park)
AucklandMangereTuesday 3rd August 20211:30 PMClover Park Community House16A Israel Avenue, Clover Park
AucklandManukauWednesday 4th August 20211:30 PMFriendship House Manukau Town Centre20 Putney Way, Manukau
AucklandBirkenhead Tuesday 27th July 20211:30 PMHighbury House110 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead. 
WaikatoHamiltonMonday, 26 July 20211:30 PMPSA Hamilton Office, Taupiri Room489 Anglesea Street
Bay of PlentyTaurangaWednesday, 28 July 20211:30 PMThe Historic Village17th Avenue West
Bay of PlentyRotoruaThursday, 29 July 20211:30 PMThe Arts Village1240 Hinemaru Street
East Coast / TairawhitiGisborneMonday 2nd August 20211:00 PMtbctbc
TaranakiNew PlymouthWednesday 21 July 202111:00AME tū office109 Vivian Street, New Plymouth. 
TaranakiNew PlymouthWednesday 21 July 20214:00 PME tū office109 Vivian Street, New Plymouth
TaranakiHaweraThursday 22nd July 202111:00 AMTheatre Lounge Albion Street Hawera 
WhanganuiWhanganuiWednesday  21st July 20211:30 PMCaroline’s Boatshed181 Somme Parade, Aramoho, Whanganui 
ManawatuPalmerston North Tuesday 20th July 202112 NOONE tū Office 234 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
ManawatuPalmerston North Tuesday 20th July 20212:00 PME tū Office 234 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
ManawatuPalmerston North Tuesday 20th July 20214:00 PME tū Office 234 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North
HorowhenuaLevinThursday 22nd July 20211:30 PMCosmopolitan ClubOxford Street
WairarapaMastertonThursday, 22 July 20212:00 PMREAP Wairarapa340 Queen Street
Wellington RegionHuttThursday, 22 July 20212:00 PMNZPFU Boardroom178 Jackson St, Petone
Wellington RegionKapatiTuesday, 27 July 20212:00 PMKapiti Impact Hub6 Tongariro Street, Paraparaumu
Wellington RegionWellingtonWednesday, 28 July 20212:00 PMToitu Poneke49 Kilbirnie Crescent, Kilbirne
Wellington RegionPoriruaThursday, 5 August 20212:00 PMPorirua RSA5-7 McKillop Street, Rānui
TasmanMotuekaWednesday, 21 July 20212:00 PMToad Hall502 High Street
TasmanTakakaThursday, 29 July 20211:00 PMThe Wholemeal Café 60 Commercial Street 
MarlboroughBlenheimTuesday, 20 July 20213:00 PMFairweathers36 Scott Street
CanterburyShirleyMonday, 2 August 20211:00 PMShirley Rugby League Club33 Briggs Road
OtagoDunedinMonday, 9 August 20211:30 PMNew Life Church48 Stafford Street, Dunedin

‘Sense of mourning’ as Norske Skog mill set to close

Workers at Norske Skog’s Tasman Mill now know they’ll be losing their jobs in little over a month’s time.

On Wednesday afternoon, workers were told the mill will be stopping production from the end of June, with most taking redundancy from 16 July once a clean-up has been completed at the site.

The closure affects about 160 workers, including more than 30 E tū members who work in maintenance.

Delegate and E tū industry spokesperson Bruce Habgood says while there’s relief from some workers that there is more clarity around what their future holds, the sense of loss is real.

“There’s a strong sense of mourning that the mill is shutting down – it’s been a big part of the town’s history for several generations and is the reason Kawerau township was built in the first place.

“While the mill now isn’t the huge employer it used to be, there’s many other businesses that have been created to support it – and they may really suffer ‘death by a thousand cuts’ once the mill’s gone.”

Bruce says the closure highlights the importance of workers being unionised, so that they have access to collective agreements that contain redundancy provisions and protections.

“Some of the workers at the mill are of an age and skillset that means they aren’t so employable anymore and might never work again. We also really need businesses to have their own transition plans going forward so that workers have choices and alternatives.”

Outplacement services will be available to workers, but E tū will be looking at how to formally recognise workers’ skills gained on the job so they can take up other employment opportunities, Bruce says.

E tū organiser Raymond Wheeler says E tū will also be discussing re-skilling and training opportunities for all mill workers.

Having a ‘Just Transition’ plan in place is crucial to ensuring workers have a future when businesses close, and this includes provisions such as social insurance as the Government proposed in Budget 2021, he says.

“A Just Transition is vital, both now and for future generations to come, and is a concept which the Climate Change Commission has recognised is key in transitioning to a low-carbon future.

“We also need to continue to progress the Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the forestry and wood processing sector and see what can be done to bring more of the manufacturing supply chain back to Aotearoa New Zealand.”

ENDS

For more information and comment:
Raymond Wheeler, 027 597 5404