In Brief - September


Volunteers collect shoes for suicide prevention

In August and September volunteers helped collect hundreds of shoes to draw attention to New Zealand’s alarming suicide rates. 579 pairs of shoes were gathered from communities around the country to represent each Kiwi lost to suicide in 2016.

The shoes are being set up at events around the country where communities will be invited to share their stories and talk about the change they want to see to reduce New Zealand’s suicide rate.

YesWeCare.nz coordinator Simon Oosterman says the shoes will provide a striking visual reminder of the toll suicide has on communities: "the aim is to have every party commit to setting a suicide prevention target and to holding an urgent independent inquiry into our mental health crisis.”

The final event will be at Parliament on 10 September, International Suicide Prevention Day. Some of the families will travel to the event at Parliament and speak at a public meeting on 11 September, the first day of advanced voting.

YesWeCare.nz and the Public Service Association, New Zealand's mental health union, are supporting groups and families running the events.

Social Work Bill an assault on the profession 

The PSA’s Social Workers Action Network is calling on members to oppose a new bill which essentially gives employers the ability to decide who is and who is not a ‘social worker’ by refusing to link social work to a defined scope of practice. SWAN organiser Amy Ross says the Social Workers Registration Bill, introduced to Parliament in August, represents a major assault on social work and social workers.

“In practice this bill means that unless your employer actively chooses to use the words social work to describe your role there is no need for registration, and certainly no need to actually employ a skilled, qualified social worker. We know equal pay for social workers is currently being negotiated. This bill would make it easier for employers to hire someone to fulfil the role of a social worker without the title or the pay cheque – that’s not ok.”

No other profession anywhere in the world has been faced with such an arbitrary and ineffectual protection of title and role. Being clear about who and what social workers are is important for the profession and for the communities we work with. The PSA will be making a submission opposing the bill and welcome your views.

Standing up for AsureQuality meat inspectors

PSA leaders showed their support for meat inspectors this quarter, meeting with MPs from Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and a Political Advisor at the Maori Party to voice the union’s opposition to past and recent bans on individual inspectors from some meat plants.

Glenn Barclay, PSA National Secretary, Jeff Osborne, Assistant National Secretary, Keith Gutsell (Meat Inspectors national delegate convenor) and Barry Jones told MPs meat inspectors ought to have legal right of entry on meat plant sites to be allowed to do their jobs. Under current legislation meat inspectors don’t have an absolute clear right of entry to meat plants putting New Zealand’s export industries at risk. The PSA has scheduled ongoing meetings with MPI and has met with the AsureQuality CEO and is hopeful a resolution will be reached. MPI has begun an audit process into this situation and Minister of Food Safety David Bennet is aware this is in train.

Employers overstepping the mark on election activity

In the lead up to the General Election we’ve heard a number of reports of employers issuing overly restrictive advice or instructions about what state servants can and can’t do in election year. 

If an employer issues instructions suggesting you can’t attend a particular forum in your own time, or that you need to let your manager know about election-related events you’re attending in your own time, the employer is likely to be overstepping the mark. If you’re not sure of what you are and are not allowed to do here is a refresher with our general advice to members:

In your own time

During election year the PSA encourages PSA members to:

  • Get involved in the administration of the election, for example through scrutineering
  • Get informed about election issues – attend candidates meetings, read party campaign materials, read PSA campaign materials, discuss issues with friends and family
  • Volunteer to help out any political parties you support, for example with leaflet drops, driving people to polling stations on election day or by having a hording on your property

Members can do all of this in a way that supports the state services’ obligation to maintain political neutrality as long as it is in your own time and you don’t identify your opinions with, or give the impression that you are speaking on behalf of your employer; use information obtained in your role that is not in the public domain for political purposes or use your organisation’s resources or premises for electioneering.

45 Years of advocacy

On 14 June, PSA activist John Shennan celebrated his 45th year with the PSA. John joined us on 14 June 1972 after starting his first job as a psychiatric assistant at Kingseat Hospital. Since then, he has been a loyal member, delegate and organiser. We want to recognise John for his long-service, especially in the Manawatu where he has been active in numerous political and industrial campaigns. A keen student of union and political history, John always highlights the lessons learned from earlier struggles. John took a lead role in establishing Health and the DHBs as a key sector of the PSA and more recently worked as a national and sector organiser in local government. We wish John a restful and relaxing retirement, but can’t promise not to call him up to support the next protest!

Winners of the June Giveaway

Congratulations to Lenore Heather the winner of our June competition. We asked members to write in telling us why they loved New Zealand non-fiction. Here’s what Lenore had to say: “I was raised in a houseful of New Zealand books, collected by my father.  I loved going through his books and reading about the history of the Nelson/Marlborough region, the gumdiggers of Northland, and the settlement of Otago just to name a few.  These books inspired me to spend holidays in New Zealand and explore the history of the different regions.  We are so lucky to have such a beautiful land at our back door.” Thanks Lenore and to all our members who shared their thoughts.

Competition

PSA housing book coverThis quarter we are giving away five sets of our popular tax and housing booklets. If you would like a copy of both books; Progressive thinking: ten perspectives on tax and Progressive thinking: ten perspectives on housing, simply email your name and phone number to:

competition@psa.org.nz


Network Updates

Women’s network

Instead of our usual network update, our chair Virginia Wilton has a few words about our network priorities ahead of the election.

If a week is a long time in politics, a decade of underfunding public services is an eternity.

It is an eternity for our families and communities struggling to access the services and supports we need such as health, education, housing and income support.  

Over the past decade we know our sector has experienced a death by a thousand cuts. We have been asked to do more with less. We have gone the extra mile for the public we serve. And we do this because we believe that all New Zealanders benefit from the quality public and community services we provide.

This election, we will be looking carefully at the policies of all parties for their vision of how we as a society:

  • will ensure that no child lives in poverty
  • that those needing health services can access them in a timely way
  • will make sure all New Zealanders have access to safe affordable housing
  • support those of us most in need
  • support lifelong learning

Overall, I want to see a commitment for a strong public sector with a promise to adequately fund public and community services that includes a fair industrial relations framework and genuine commitment to equal pay.

Out@PSA

The new Out@PSA committee recently convened for its first meeting. The committee made plans for the year including developing model collective agreement clauses, promoting the government standard for gender and sexual diversity in the workplace and advocating for gender neutral toilets at work. We also talked about providing delegate training for all members of the committee as well as offering training in the CTU’s Out@Work resource for gender and sexual diversity for delegates and organisers. 

The committee is currently working with the communications team to design the Out@PSA logo. The logo will represent the diversity of our membership within the union movement and make our committee members easily recognisable within the union. PSA campaign organiser, Jessica Williams, also talked to the committee about the PSA’s election campaign, Stand Together. 

The committee attended a productive lunch hosted by Parliament’s cross-party working group for rainbow MPs including Labour MP Louisa Wall and Green MP Jan Logie.  This lunch was followed by a couple of hours in the public gallery watching Parliament’s Question Time including discussion on the Government’s proposed Pay Equity Bill. Committee members enjoyed getting to know each other better over dinner and indicated they were powered up to make a difference for members of the network and for PSA in general.

You can access the CTU’s Out@work gender and sexual diversity resource at outatwork.org.nz.