Your political asks, answered
In the lead up to this month’s general election we put members’ policy priorities in front of each major political party.
This Working Life election feature reports back with what they said.
The PSA has a proud history of leading and contributing to important public policy debates. One of our strengths as a union is our ability to lobby and campaign for policy and legislative change on behalf of our members.
This year alone we’ve facilitated discussion on the proposal for a written constitution; made submissions on the Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill, the reforms of Child, Youth and Family, the Local Government Amendment Bill and the Government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy.
We’ve led the analysis and opposition to the Government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill and lobbied MPs on topics ranging from research and development funding to the political and workplace needs of people with disabilities.
In the past month we’ve continued this advocacy, putting forward a specific set of policy asks, developed with members, that if enacted would deliver improved working conditions; build stronger community and public services; strengthen our democratic institutions; and make New Zealand a fairer place to live.
Our policy asks are underpinned by the four strategic goals of the PSA: equal pay; stronger public and community services; building our union; and transforming our workplaces.
Of course, we have long-standing policies that argue for fair and effective equal pay settlement processes, an increase in funding for public and community services, the restoration of health funding to DHBs, responsible commissioning and procurement practices, and strengthening of collective bargaining rules.
To this mix our election-specific asks add policies that members identified as priorities in a Stand Together survey at the end of last year.
Specifically, members told us their main concerns in the coming election related to wages, poverty and inequality, housing, health and children. As a result we’ve called for the living wage to be paid as a minimum to all public employees and contractors (including at local government level), an increase in basic benefit levels and Working for Families payments, and a comprehensive state house building programme.
Each of the political asks is informed by the collective expertise and insights our members have gained by working across our five sectors: local government, public services, the state sector, DHBs, and community public services.
Every major political party has considered our set of policies and clearly responded with their full support (“yes”), in-principle support (“in-principle”) or opposition (“no”) to each.
We’ve summarised the most important policies into a pull-out, quick-reference poster so members can be sure of each political party’s position on the issues of most importance to them before they head to the ballot box.
In some cases, political parties actually gave more information than we have the space to print. The full set of asks and answers is available on the PSA website.
The PSA policy programme 2017 – our vision/principles
- Cost of living: Employment laws that enable unions like the PSA to better represent their members and promote collective bargaining will be essential in reducing inequalities, boosting the productive capacity of New Zealanders and delivering economic and social justice. As well as reforming our employment laws our policy priorities are equal pay, fairer taxation and the introduction of a universal family support.
- Housing: We want to see the integrity, dignity and value of the social housing sector restored. Significant state investment in housing is required to boost supply. Social housing policy, provision and management should be combined in a dedicated public service social housing agency. Tenancy laws also need to be reformed to give greater security and protections to tenants.
- Equal Pay: We want the Equal Pay Act kept and updated to make it easier for workers and their unions to resolve equal pay claims and in a way that honours the outcomes of the Kristine Bartlett case and the principles agreed by the Joint Working Group on pay equity. Equal pay settlements for our members need to be fully funded. Employers should be required to provide information about pay and the capability of MBIE, mediators and the Employment Relations Authority should be strengthened to assist workers and unions to efficiently make and resolve pay equity claims.
- Health: New Zealanders are not getting the health care they need. The PSA is working with other unions to make increases in health funding a priority in election year and beyond. We are calling for a substantial increase in government health funding to account for the cuts that have occurred over last eight years and to meet the growing unmet need. We are also calling for an urgent review of mental health services.
- Public Sector (includes public services, the state sector DHB and Local Government sectors): A strong public sector is fundamental to a thriving democracy and strong communities. The PSA wants to see sustainable funding of public services; a new spirit of transparency and openness of government; and recognition of public servants as professionals with an essential constitutional role.
- Te Tiriti: Te Tiriti o Waitangi must be incorporated into the State Sector Act so that all state sector agencies operate in a way that is consistent with the treaty principles.
- Community public services: We want to see responsible government commissioning and procurement processes that ensure decent employment conditions for community sector workers.
- Local Government: Our priorities include: all councils to be living wage employers; reviewing the constitutional status of and funding model for local government; keeping services in-house; and restoring the four well-beings to the Local Government Act.
- Tax: The PSA opposes the current Government’s proposed tax cuts. The PSA supports the principle of progressive taxation, both as a means of ensuring the fairer distribution of wealth and because it sustains strong public services. We think current tax settings place an unfair burden on low to middle income earners and this needs to change.
- Social Security: The PSA supports a fair social security system that enables people to live with dignity and to enjoy full social and economic participation, regardless of their employment status.
Our health pledge: Which parties care?
We’ve got world class health care, if you can get it when you need it. More and more Kiwis are falling through the cracks as funding hasn’t kept up with our growing and ageing population and increased mental health need.
To help you decide how to vote for this election, we’ve crowd-sourced six key health pledges for political parties to commit to. Act, The National Party, New Zealand First and the Mana Party did not respond to our questions.
Politics is about people
This edition, we want to give a shout out to you, our members, by recognising some of the local heroes you have nominated in your communities.
Over the past few weeks every politician in the country has been making the case for why you should vote for them. Some are focusing on policy, others on principles and some are making populist appeals to win votes at any cost.
At the PSA we want to make sure people are front of mind this election. It is the people behind our valuable public and community services who make the real difference to how political policies and decisions are realised in our communities.
Over the last year we’ve received many stories of local heroes going the extra mile in their communities.
The people who’ve been nominated have cringed at the thought of being considered a “hero”, but in every case it’s clear that the work they do is cherished– and they deserve to be celebrated, recognised and protected from further funding cuts.
So as you prepare to head down to the ballot box, we’d ask that you keep these people front of mind. Building stronger public and community services starts with proper funding and support for the people delivering them.
Fran Forsey, Motueka Family Service Centre
Nelson-based Social Worker Cheryl Kingi nominated her colleague Fran Forsey from the Motueka Family Service Centre as her local hero. Here’s what Cheryl had to say:
Bevan Weir- Landcare Research
Local Heroes pop up everywhere. When Yvonne Bohn, our PSA trainer for Auckland, ran the local hero exercise with her training group, she found Bevan. Bevan is pretty modest about his work and skills. He’s a mycologist studying fungi and plant pathogens (the organism that causes a disease on a plant).
Customer Service Representatives from the Ministry of Social Development, Ellerslie, Auckland
The Ellerslie team at MSD help people in the community every day. This nomination recognises all of their outstanding work to support people looking for employment. To quote one team member: “I’m a public servant and I love it.”
Kristin Joy, Auckland Libraries
Kristin Joy, a library assistant in Auckland, was nominated by her colleague Sally Simpson.
Lauren Redshaw, from the Southern District Health Board’s Community Day Programs
Genevieve Gaskill from the Southern District Health Board has this to say about her local hero, Lauren Redshaw: “Lauren’s role is busy and stressful and requires energy and enthusiasm which can be difficult to maintain under the pressures of our health system.
Linda Kerr, Wairoa District Council
Jacki Te Rangi from the Wairoa District Council nominates her local hero and colleague, Linda Kerr.
“Linda is the Credit Control Administrator and I am the Office Assistant at Wairoa District Council. Linda and myself have both come through cancer; different types. Linda is one of our union reps and does an awesome job.
There are days she struggles with the side effects from the medication. But being a trooper, she carries on regardless. She has also organised a Cancer Support Group, which meets once a month to associate. She is a role model, and always cheerful.”
Whaea Katrina, kaiawhina teacher
Jennifer Lawless nominated Whaea Katrina as her local hero:
So not only does she have to be super patient, and have a great sense of humour to put up with our little monsters, she ALSO runs the after-school programme on top of her job.
If she didn’t do her job, I couldn’t do mine. Whaea Katrina is my local hero.”