Long road to fair pay and conditions for support workers


Long road to fair pay and conditions for support workers

Our home support workers have some of the worst employment conditions in New Zealand, and the PSA is determined to help change that with a Fair Pay Agreement (FPA).

Through years of tough campaigning we’ve achieved a pay equity settlement, guaranteed hours’ and paid travel time for this workforce across multiple home support employers.

Support workers used to get nothing or very little when driving between clients, then they won minimum wage rates for travel time. Finally, the 2021 Budget allocated funding to ensure their travel time and 10 minute paid breaks will be paid at the normal hourly rate.

This is great news, but it’s not over yet. Many of these workers still deal with wildly inconsistent hours week to week and insecure pay.

As PSA Assistant National Secretary Melissa Woolley puts it: “support workers have slightly prettier versions of zero hour contracts.”

HOPE AND EXCITEMENT

When the Government announced details of its new FPA system in May, Wellington PSA delegate Louise Lin spoke to 1 News, telling the nation she was “excited”.

“It’s obvious we need minimum standards in our sector because of the race to the bottom. You can’t really blame one terrible employer, working conditions aren’t great across the industry,” she says.

“We need to change this, so I think Fair Pay Agreements are just another tool to have in the toolbox. The more we have, the better.”

But Louise adds a lot depends on the legislation’s final details and the terms that get negotiated.

Auckland PSA delegate Tessa Clement has moved in and out of the home support sector for over thirty years, and recently attended the Government’s first FPA Roadshow event.

“It makes me really sad to see people work incredibly hard, but at the end of the day they don’t have a lot and can’t buy something nice. Everything goes into rent, power and clothes for the kids,” she says.

“I hope FPAs can make things better, because things have gone backwards for workers in recent decades.

I want to see things made consistent around training and conditions.”

CONSISTENT GUARANTEED HOURS

For Tauranga-based delegate Donna Wealleans, it’s all about getting consistent hours to plan her life around.

Donna attended a summit at Parliament in April, where she and other support workers discussed how to improve the sector with Health Minister Andrew Little.

“We had that win with equal pay, and that’s kind of like an FPA because it applies right across the sector,” she says.

“Years have passed and we’re supposed to have guaranteed hours, but it just hasn’t been implemented in a way that actually works for us. I think an FPA would be good for our sector because hopefully it could give us regular hours of work like most other workers.”

Image: Support workers at the summit at Parliament in April

 

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