OUR WORK MATTERS: Access Community Health coordinators, contact centre workers and administrators to take industrial action

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Workers who co-ordinate the home support of over 20,000 aged, injured and disabled people across New Zealand have voted to take industrial action in total frustration at their employer’s refusal to raise their wages.

Despite playing a vital role in the care and support of around 3.8 million clients including scheduling visits and matching support workers to vulnerable clients, many of these workers are paid at the minimum wage.

"The employer’s latest offer was rejected unanimously at meetings around the country, with 100% of voters in support of industrial action and 100% rejection of the employer’s offer", said their unions, PSA and E tū - the Home Support unions for New Zealand.

"We are really being stretched thin. Under-staffing means we’re working longer and longer hours, in a job where more and more people need support out there in the community and in their homes. We are dedicated to our jobs and our clients, but we cannot continue under the current conditions - something has to change, and soon" says care coordinator, Kirsty Rowe.

"Industrial action is a last resort for these workers, but they believe it is also necessary to ensure that quality of care is maintained for their clients," says Melissa Woolley, PSA assistant national secretary.

"Access says they can’t raise wages because of a lack of funding. But this is a business owned by Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem and Life Pharmacy, which reported a net profit of $8million in the six months to September 2018," Ms Woolley says.

"Access is a major home support provider, delivering around 20% of all home and community support in New Zealand, but it hasn’t increased wages for coordinators in the same way that competitors have."

"Support workers received a significant pay boost from the 2017 care and support pay equity settlement. But coordinators, admin, and contact centre workers have been left behind - and now earn less than the support workers they are responsible for coordinating," says E tū Home Support coordinator Kirsty McCully.

"These workers are the glue that hold Home Support together in New Zealand. Their work matters, and they deserve to be respected and paid properly for the contribution they make," Ms McCully says.

The PSA and E tū have agreed to urgent mediation with Access, but members are preparing to take unprecedented strike action for the week of the 13th unless mediation sees a significantly improved offer from the employer.

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.