Red Alert

Archive for the ‘aged care’ Category

Equal Pay getting Further Away

Posted by on February 21st, 2013

Today the Business and Professional Women of NZ are commemorating Equal Pay Day to mark the number of days extra each year that women have to work to earn the same as men.
Sadly, Equal Pay Day this year is three days later than it was last year because the gender pay gap has grown again according to the StatisticsNZ Quarterly Employment Survey.
It shows the average hourly wage for men is $29.09, while women earn $25.25 per hour – a gap of almost 12%.
This comes on the back of the Minister for Women’s Affairs telling a select committee that the correlation between gender and low occupational status is “debatable.”
She was responding to a petition signed by 10,607 people calling on the Government to properly fund aged care services.
Her answer was that women would get better pay if they did jobs that men had traditionally done and this would fix the gender pay gap.
All very well, Minister Goodhew, but who is going to take care of you when need rest homecare if all of those hard-working women go off to be plumbers?

Planet Reality

Posted by on July 23rd, 2012

When the National Party talks about Planet Labour, they think they are being very funny. Actually, I believe they’re the ones living on another planet, and it’s certainly not Planet Reality.

I just met a couple of great women who know Planet Reality. They are caregivers in an aged care facility, which includes a dementia unit, some with years of service. Most of them are on minimum wage.

They and their fellow workers were on strike three days last week to get a collective agreement. They haven’t had one since the Home was sold by the Baptists to a private owner in 1997.

They want a pay scale that recognises their experience, skill and service, that isn’t dependent on minimum wage movements or the will of the boss. They want a way to ensure that taxpayer funded increases are passed onto the workers when they are intended to be.

They’ve been bargaining with their employer since last October. They’ve been in mediated bargaining since February. They’ve done everything they can under the law to get their employer to agree to a new agreement and they will do more – at least while they still can.

The government’s going to change the law so employers don’t have to keep bargaining. When they’ve had enough, they can say, that’s it, had enough, bargaining over. Bad luck. Back onto your individual contracts where you belong.

Minister Wilkinson tries to soft soap this by saying this change will return the law to how it was under Labour until 2004. But the law was changed because some employers were “surface bargaining” – going through the motions until they could pull the plug by saying bargaining was concluded.

I know this doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. It certainly means nothing to those who don’t understand the realities of low wage workers and how hard it is to get a collective agreement settled when your employer doesn’t want a union on the job, because it’s a whole lot easier to have all the power.

I just hope these women get a deal before Wilkinson manages to get the law changes before parliament.

Carers wages – enlightened or archaic?

Posted by on May 27th, 2012

A very courageous report from HRC equal employment opportunities commissioner Dr Judy McGregor was released today. This exceptional woman worked undercover in the elder care industry to find out for herself what is happening. We need more of this. There is too much pontificating from so-called experts who never get down and dirty and find out the real story.  If they did, they might be giving different advice to the government.

Dr McGregor’s report describes the work of aged care workers as a form of modern-day slavery.

It offends against human decency. The reliance on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-$14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery. It exploits the goodwill of women, it is a knowing exploitation. We can claim neither ignorance nor amnesia.

McGregor goes on to question why DHBs pay equivalent health care workers in the Public Health Sector up to $5 an hour more, when both hospitals and aged care are funded by the government.

There’s a structural and legislative answer to that. Years ago, before the National Government of the 1990’s, there was an industry award for Aged Care workers (and Hospital Caregivers), but that was decimated with the labour market reforms in 1990. Thousands of aged care workers in the sector lost their minimum pay rates, overtime pay, weekend penal rates and qualification allowances. Over time, Religious and Welfare organisations (who weren’t perfect, by the way) exited, handing the sector over to international corporates who dominate aged care today.

So,what did Labour in government do?  We changed the Employment Relations Act to enable multi-employer collective bargaining. That helped workers in the Public Hospital Sector, who managed to win multi-employer agreements. But it wasn’t enough for workers in Age Care, who are mainly women and part-time workers on low wages. Corporates resisted collective bargaining. Ryman Healthcare, for example. who has reported a huge profit, successfully evaded the collective bargaining requirements of the Employment Relations Act, reportedly paying up to $300 an hour for an advocate to sit at the table stymying good faith requirements.

Labour’s insistence that DHBs pass on targeted funding to providers giving an increase of $1 an hour to aged care workers ended up in Court. Some workers got the money ; others didn’t. The behaviour of the sector has demonstrated there is much more needed. Our 2011 work and wages policies for industry agreements would have made a difference, but one-eyed commentators from mainstream media didn’t get the picture.

Maybe they will now, when they understand that the reliance on the goodwill and commitment of low paid workers doesn’t mean better wages and conditions.

I’m hoping that if Judy McGregor talks to Kate Wilkinson soon she will explain that the government’s plans for  big reforms to collective bargaining will make it worse, not better for aged care workers.

Like it or not, there’s no way this issue can be separated from the rights of aged care workers to have a voice, to collectively bargain and for a fair rate across the industry to be set – as it once used to be, in, according to National and some media commentators, the dark old days.

Doesn’t seem so archaic to me.

Now it’s aged care workers

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

Tomorrow morning 1500 nurses, health care assistants and support staff employed by the 20 facilities in the Oceania chain of Aged Care Facilities are striking.  Some of the residents they care for will join them in the protest.

Caregivers do magnificent work caring for members of our families as they get older and less able to look out for themselves. But they are underpaid and undervalued.  I know.  I was privileged to be a Rest Homes organiser and advocate before I became an MP and I have nothing but admiration for the work that aged care workers do and the commitment they make.

This isn’t an easy job. Looking after older people in aged care facilities requires skill and intensive responsibility for people with enormous support needs.

There’s been a change from “mum and dad” owned rest homes or Religious and Welfare homes, where older people could have a sedate and dignified retirement, to “ageing in place”  where older people stay in their homes with support from Home Support Services.  I support this approach, but it means our aged care facilities have been taken by corporate interests, looking to cash in our growing population.  Oceania is a private equity firm, whose parent company is Macquarie Global Infrastructure.

While much of New Zealand’s aged care support comes from our health budget – funded by you and me, corporates are shipping off the profits to their overseas shareholders.

I also know how much former Labour Ministers did to try to address the problem of low pay in this burgeoning industry, and how much it was resisted by the industry.  They seem to be more interested in discussing their return on investment rather than the terrible state of the workforce and the crises that keep occurring through low-paid workers caring for very vulnerable old people.

Some Oceania workers are paid as little as $13.61 an hour.  They shouldn’t have to strike.

But that’s all they can do.

Respect for our seniors

Posted by on October 4th, 2011

In 2011, Red Alert has done a few new things. One of them is to introduce you to some new Labour candidates who will do the occasional guest post.

This gives them the opportunity to put forward some ideas and you the opportunity to get a sense of who they are before the upcoming election.

Today’s guest poster is Ben Clark, the Labour candidate for North Shore.


It’s Age Concern Awareness Week , and the International Day of the Older Person was on October 1.

Although I spent Saturday being told how young I looked while out door-knocking and at Mairangi Bay market, I was pleased to be able to tell a number of people about Labour’s newly released Aged Care Policy.

And it impressed them.  It’s not just important to an older electorate like the North Shore, because all of us don’t know how we will spend our final years.  So having some of our money protected against rest-home costs ($180,000 currently and increasing $10,000 per year) is important.  Having the certainty of quality care is also vitally important.

And mandating trained staff, with minimum staffing levels and decent pay will make a huge difference.

At the moment there are problems with overstretched nurses and too little knowledge.  The care levels aren’t always what they should be.  With the higher quality care mandated, we can all be assured of the respect we deserve in our final years.

A number of people compared the importance of qualified carers to Labour’s requirements for qualified Early Childhood Education teachers.  If we’re going to pay our taxes, then we deserve proper quality – at both ends of our lives.

Ben Clark lives in Devonport, and has worked as a computer programmer in hi-tech exporting industry for his whole career (mostly in computer games!).  He’s a regular blogger on The Standard and created John Key’s Asset Sales Hoover Game earlier in the campaign.

Healthy Older New Zealanders a Priority for Labour

Posted by on September 29th, 2011

Today I’m excited to be launching Labour’s Aged Care policy. I started working on this policy the instant it was allocated to me a few months ago and it’s been full-steam ahead since then.

To get an idea of the issues, ideas and concerns surrounding Aged Care I’ve met with people from all across the sector, all across the country. It’s been fascinating. I’ve spoken at Grey Power branch meetings, with the Aged Care Association, the Retirement Villages Association, Age Concern, the Service and Food Workers Union, Career Force, Presbyterian Support, the Human Rights Commission, those in the health sector like Alzheimer’s New Zealand and Arthritis New Zealand plus many members of the public. With that much input you start to build a picture of the sector pretty quickly and the insight of everyone involved has been invaluable.

This insight plus ideas from within the Labour Party have all contributed to the policy I’m proud to be releasing today.

The funding and delivery of aged care in New Zealand faces significant strain as our population is ageing and costs are rising. This requires a comprehensive, well thought out and long-term government plan of action, which this government is showing no signs of creating.

Labour’s plan includes:
• Government-funded training for all aged care staff
• Minimum staffing levels for nurses and caregivers and
• When government finances allow, pay parity between aged carers and their equivalents in the public health system.

Additionally, a Technical Working Party to be set up by Labour will investigate all the recommendations in the ‘What the Future Holds for Older New Zealanders’ report which Labour produced last year with Grey Power and the Greens, and the Auditor General’s Home-based support services for older people report.

The working party will report back on the recommendations by May 2012. It will then be tasked to chart the way for a New Model of Service Delivery, which Labour believes is essential for New Zealand to meet the growing challenges in the aged care sector.

Labour has a strategic and long-term plan for the aged care sector and the values and drive to implement it. Aged care in the future needs to be built on the values of accessibility, dignity and respect for all older New Zealanders, underpinned by transparency and accountability in the way the services are provided.

Update: For the full press release on Labour’s Aged Care policy please use this link.