PSA members around the country are continuing to provide much needed services and many have taken on new tasks during the latest Covid outbreak.
The workers who shared their stories with Te Mahinga Ora were unanimous in their appreciation of all New Zealanders who have been doing their bit by staying home and staying safe, and sticking to the alert level rules.
PSA president Benedict Ferguson sums it up well when he says, “Once again, all of us here in Aotearoa are learning what union values feel like in practice. Kotahitanga, a spirit of collective action and a sense of hope is uniting us.”
He has nothing but praise for our essential workforce.
“Many PSA members are on the frontline of this effort, putting themselves and their families at risk by doing the mahi that must be done, from home care support to contact tracing and everything in between. I know your PSA colleagues will join me in thanking you.”
PROTECTING OUR HEALTH
Mary Jones is a Health Protection Officer based in Timaru.
It is the role of a health protection officer to follow up reports of communicable diseases, so Mary’s workload has gone through the roof.
The team in Timaru is helping out their colleagues in Auckland, who have been overwhelmed with the mammoth task of getting in touch with people who may have been exposed to the virus.
Although the ‘business as usual’ part of Mary’s role has dropped off during lockdown, that work still needs to be done.
The team has been working in shift bubbles, with people working seven days a week. Most have been working from home but Mary and two others have been working from their office.
Mary says there has been no end to the work. “The contacts just keep coming through. We are having to streamline our processes and work harder and faster.”
“We are really only scratching the surface in these contact tracing calls. When we are done, we refer to other public health units, including the welfare management group if people need help to get a test or have any other immediate needs.”
This time round Mary has noticed the difference. The processes that were put in place during the first lockdown were easily adopted again, this time with rostered time off and breaks.”
“It’s important that we don’t burn out.”
SUPPORT IN HOMES
Rachael Young is a home support worker in Katikati.
She can’t help but compare this lockdown with the last. “The first lockdown last year was terrifying for me. I was new to the job and didn’t have any local or union contacts. I was thrown in the deep end.”
“This time its different. I have a whole community of PSA workmates and know how and where to get support. Plus I now have guaranteed hours, which makes a huge difference, thanks PSA.”
Rachael’s work dropped off during this lockdown. Many of her clients decided to go it alone, and some have family in their bubbles.
There are better processes in place too. When Rachael orders more PPE, it arrives the next day.
“My bubble is my husband and every single one of my clients. So it’s big. And I feel like I am more of a risk to them than they are to me.”
“What I feel sad about is that I think some clients are still asking for their house work to be done because they are lonely. My job is more than just vacuuming and personal care, that’s for sure.”
MAINTAINING HEALTH SERVICES
Even though her team is fully vaccinated and has been working in ‘shift bubbles’, Lesley says this lockdown felt worse than last year, with people experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.”
The haematology team always wear PPE but are now wearing masks, which makes work harder because it is a very hot and noisy environment.
The Core Heamatology unit is separate from other parts of the hospital, with its own facilites, making social distancing and safety prodecudres easier for staff.
Lesley says, “The team I work in is great. We have been working together for many, many years and it feels like a work family.”
“It is our colleagues in virology that I feel for. They have been going hell for leather to support this effort.”
Andy is a Ministry of Defence security guard at Devonport Naval Base.
He says lockdown hasn’t been hard to get used to this time because all the processes were put in place last lockdown.
“Security staff are in work bubbles, so if you are on a shift pattern at the base, those are the people you will work with for the whole lockdown.”
“We are wearing masks and gloves and disinfecting common areas a lot, plus we have stashes of PPE all over the place.”
Andy knows how important the union is in his worklife.
“If there are problems at work, the managers know that if PSA is involved they need to get onto it straight away. They listen to PSA. As a delegate I can get things done and sometimes I just need to have a chat and the issue is resolved.”
Main picture caption: Andy, Ministry of Defence