PSA News - March 2016

Here's the latest monthly round-up from the PSA

Auckland DHB workers standing together for future colleagues

Allied health PSA members on strike in Auckland in late 2015

This week, 3000 PSA members at Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitemata District Health Boards voted to take industrial action in April in support of their demand for a better offer in collective bargaining.

The Allied, Scientific and Technical workers, covering more than 50 different occupations, are speaking out on workload issues that create problems for both workers and patients.

In late 2015, PSA members took a range of industrial action including several strikes, which resulted in a commitment from the three DHBs to come back with an offer for a new collective agreement.

Prior to Christmas, an offer was taken out for members’ meetings across Auckland. The offer protected current workers while stripping future workers of their conditions. Taking a strong stand for their future colleagues, PSA members overwhelmingly rejected the offer.

A snippet from the cover of the March 2016 issue of Working Life, the PSA magaziNew issue of Working Life coming soon

The next issue of Working Life, our quarterly magazine, will be arriving from next week. This issue, we're taking a look at the future of work and all it has to offer, along with the usual news, views and interviews. Check out articles from previous issues on the PSA website.

Big win for home support workers

The right for home support workers to be paid for time spent travelling between clients was finally won in February - with the Home And Community Support Settlement Bill passing its third reading in Parliament. The PSA was praised for our role in negotiating this agreement.

PSA float at Auckland's Pride Parade

Out@PSA represent at the Pride Parade

This time of year is always great fun. The PSA had a float in Auckland’s Pride Parade, with the theme of equal pay. The float was a huge success and received massive cheers and shouts of support from the 200,000 strong audience on the parade route.

Big thanks to all the PSA members and staff who made it come together so well. Find out more about Out@PSA and get involved on our website.

Bargaining update

Our community public services sector could soon see some first-ever collective agreements, with Healthcare Rehabilitation members voting on theirs, and NZ Care service managers beginning negotiations for what would be their first collective. Elsewhere in the sector, Access Homehealth members have ratified their agreement, NZ Care start bargaining next week, and HHL Community Health start pre-bargaining meetings at the end of March.

Workload pressures are still pervasive across the public service. This is particularly pronounced in Probation Services and will be a feature of their bargaining this year. The work the PSA did with Child, Youth and Family on managing workloads is ‘on hold’ while we wait for the outcome of the Rebstock review, due for release this month.

The constraints on departmental spending are also evidenced in low wage offers and the ongoing decline in wage rates compared to the private sector. Typical wage offers are between 1% and 2%, which do not address historically low rates of pay. In the current Service Delivery negotiations at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) we are seeking to address the acknowledged low comparable pay rates.

There are various productivity initiatives across the public service, looking at the way work is done and enhancing the use of technology, for example ‘Simplification’ in MSD; ‘Business Transformation’ in Inland Revenue and ‘High Performance Engagement’ in the Department of Conservation. The PSA supports a strong and efficient public service, and supports members active participation in improving the way work is done, as long as security of employment is protected and members share in the gains. The PSA has a programme to support member participation, while protecting and enhancing job security, career development and pay.

The trial of the alleged shooter at Ashburton Work and Income is underway in Christchurch, with most the Ashburton staff being called as witnesses. The PSA is supporting our members at the trial and working with MSD on the security review. Some initiatives have been put in place while other substantive measures, like office design and the deployment of security officers, are still being worked through.

Collective agreement negotiations: Negotiations are underway for Service Delivery in MSD; the protracted negotiations in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment reconvene on 2nd March; Parliamentary Service are ongoing. Preparations for negotiations are underway in Probation; Ministry for Primary Industries; NZ Defence Force; Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport.  

In the state sector, bargaining continues in Aviation Security (Avsec). PSA members rejected a second offer just before Christmas. The main issue is the desire of Avsec to remove a travel allowance which is important to union members. Members are instead seeking a reasonable and fair pay rise.

Members had earlier taken a ballot for industrial action, and received some media attention over the Christmas break. Members in Avsec will be meeting again in the next few weeks to consider the situation.

Delegates and members are asked to express their support to fellow Avsec members if able, when passing through security at the airports. Our AvSec members want to say fly safe today, but don't cut our pay!

Minimum and Living wage rates announced

Monday 29 February saw the new rates announced for both the minimum wage ($15.25 / hour from April 1) and the living wage ($19.80 / hour by July 1).

The Government's decision to increase to the minimum wage by 50c per hour, along with a 40c increase to youth rates ($12.20 / hour from April 1), was called inadequate by the PSA, with national secretary Glenn Barclay saying "$15.25 an hour still leaves many New Zealand families struggling to cover even the most basic costs".

Meanwhile, the 2016 Living Wage, defined as the minimum required to live a good life, pay your bills and participate in society, was announced as $19.80 / hour. The PSA plays an active role in Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand, and we ourselves are an accredited living wage employer.

Bill English misses the impact of his policies on the public service

Finance Minister Bill English gave a speech recently to the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand about what he sees as the future direction of public services in New Zealand. In it, English talks up the shifting of some services to private and NGO providers, claiming they will be more flexible than Government in meeting need.

Commentator Max Rashbrooke, however, notes that this claim is only true if Government policy denies that same flexibility to public servants, saying of Housing New Zealand that "There’s no reason why it can’t be a sensitive, responsive, flexible organisation that builds strong relationships with its tenants. You just have to empower – and fund – it to do that."

Support PSA mediator members

Please sign and share this petition in support of PSA members working as workplace mediators in Palmerston North, Napier, Tauranga and Dunedin.

The mediators, who work for the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, have been told that their jobs will be contracted out to private providers and MBIE will no longer have mediators outside of the 3 main centres.

Mediators do crucial work helping to resolve workplace issues, providing quick and impartial support for employers and workers to help reach agreement when there's problems at work.

Additionally, it is important that the public service helps to provide quality, secure jobs in the regions to show young people that they don't have to leave home just to get a good job.

PSA in the media

We've been in the media across a wide range of issues in recent weeks. Top of the list has been the crisis in the health sector, with articles on our upcoming industrial action in Auckland, on the impact of underfunding on the sector nationwide and more particularly in Christchurch mental health, and even the reasons why health staff are often unable to take their leave entitlements.

We spoke out against Tauranga City Council's rejection of the living wage, the closure of Hamilton's Veterans' Affairs office, and the TPPA.

On a lighter note, a poetic letter has resurfaced from 1966 from a lawyer to Inland Revenue, who responded (rather wonderfully) in verse.

Rules changing for state sector redundancies

In July this year a provision in the State Sector Act will come into effect that restricts some public servants access to redundancy compensation.

Here’s a summary of what it means:

As from July 2016, public service employees made redundant will not be entitled to a redundancy payment if:

They are offered and they accept another position in the State services that:

  • Begins on, or immediately after the date on which their current employment ends; and
  • Is on terms and conditions of employment (including redundancy and superannuation) that are no less favourable; and
  • Is on terms that treat service within the State services as if it were continuous service; and
  • They have accepted that position before their current employment has ended.

or they are offered an alternative position in the state services that:

  • Is a position with comparable duties and responsibilities to those of their current position; and
  • Is in substantially the same general locality or a locality within reasonable commuting distance; and
  • Is on terms that treat service within the State services as it if were continuous.

“Another position” would appear to be any other position – it’s not required to have comparable duties and responsibilities or be in the same general locality.

“An alternative position” would appear to be one that has comparable duties, responsibilities and locality.

When someone is offered “an alternative position”, the requirements in the State Sector Act to appoint the best person for the job (s60), notify other staff of vacancies (s61) and provide a review of appointments process (s65) do not apply.

For more details, talk to your organiser or phone the PSA Organising Centre 0508 367 772.

PSA submissions

The PSA has developed an extensive submission on the proposal to outsource mediation services around the country. Our submission, which can be read online, is written in two parts. The first part is based on the views of PSA members working in mediation services, in support of the retention of their jobs. The second part is written from the perspective of the PSA as a significant user of mediation services, and details the huge value which we place on their work.

Other major recent submissions include one on the draft New Zealand Health Strategy, and one on the draft Mental Health and Addictions Workforce Action Plan.

Change your details and join networks online at MyPSA

Do you know you can update your details, access your collective agreement, find out who your delegate is and get news about your sector or network online? All this and more are available on MyPSA, our personalised service for PSA members.

To log in for the first time, you'll need your member number, which you can find at the top of this email.