Access Denied: Healthcare group again suspend low-paid workers in unprecedented action

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Access Community Health has suspended workers without pay for a second time this week, in response to low-level industrial action by union members. The move comes ahead of a full day of strike action planned for Friday.

In the extraordinary move Access has effectively split its workforce, suspending half the contact centre coordinators in its head office in Petone for three hours this morning. All on-site union delegates were also suspended.

"This is what union busting looks like, and it is completely unacceptable," says Melissa Woolley, PSA assistant national secretary.

"Access’ use of bullying and intimidation tactics in response to low-level action is harsh and aggressive towards their employees, as well as undermining the bargaining process."

The action taken by Access in response to the industrial action has included suspending union delegates on the coordination team, trying to deter members from striking by offering to revoke suspension in return for abandoning strike actions, and singling out members following strike action to explain their ‘poor work performance’.

"Access’ response to our industrial action was designed to pit workers against one another, with one group offered temporary assignments to cover the suspended workers responsibilities," says Ms Woolley.

"What makes the behaviour even worse is that it flies in the face of recent communication from Access management advising all staff that any bullying of co-workers would be seen as serious misconduct,"

"We agree whole-heartedly that bullying of co-workers should be seen as a serious misconduct - and bullying of staff by management needs to be acknowledged as both misconduct and abuse of power."

The news of suspension was conveyed to workers via letters as they arrived at the office, after people collectively agreed to a partial withdrawal of labour as protest to their pay and conditions. This consisted of continuing to answer calls as normal, but to not respond to texts and emails for a designated period of time.

"Access is a for profit company receiving Government funds paid by workers taxes to deliver home support to older and disabled people, and the PSA fears their attitude and treatment of their staff does not bode well for those people they are contracted to provide services for," says PSA national secretary Kerry Davies.

"These bullying tactics can only end up hurting both their staff and the people they provide services to."

Industrial actions will be occurring at Access Community Health sites across the country, including Auckland, Whangarei, Hamilton, Havelock north, Palmerston North, Petone, Porirua, Nelson, Milton, Oamaru, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, and Balclutha.

A full day strike is scheduled for Friday 17th May, with picketing expected at the head office in Petone from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Key company information

Access Community Health is a subsidiary business of Green Cross Health Limiting, a primary health care services company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. As of March 2019, the group had a market capitalisation of $143 million.

Green Cross operates across three segments:

  • Pharmacies: 362 pharmacies under its Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands
  • Medical: 41 medical centres under the doctors brand
  • Community: home support services to 21,400 clients through Access Community Health, with 3.8 million home visits in 2018, employing 3,500 support workers and 166 community nurses.

Net profit attributable to shareholders increased from $16.9 million in 2017 to $18.7 million in 2018, and the company issued more shares and paid more in dividends to its shareholders.