The new CTU Secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges was drawn to the union movement when a job as industrial officer and organiser at Equity New Zealand caught her attention.
“I had completed a conjoint arts and law degree so the position tapped into my passion for drama and the arts as well as my knowledge of employment law and policy,” the 31 year-old recalls.
Melissa went on to become Equity NZ director and as part of the film industry working group argued for a collective bargaining system for screen industry contractors.
The Government agreed to the group’s recommendations last year and legislation has been introduced.
“The structure proposed will create industry standards, minimum pay and conditions, and enable bargaining. It will be a game changer.”
Melissa is also passionate about improving protections for all contractors and welcomes the Government’s current consultation process on the issue.
She says clarity about who should be an employee, and enabling collective bargaining for contractors are crucial.
Melissa praises the PSA for changing its rules to allow contractors to become members.
“It’s fantastic. As unions we have a responsibility for all working people,” she says.
“And if there is nothing protecting contractors it incentivises businesses to hire them. So it’s important for all workers that we protect their conditions too.”
Melissa is also committed to the CTU’s work to achieve pay equity and will be taking a leading role in its election planning.
She says there have been huge gains for workers under a progressive Labour-led Government and it’s important that work continues to ensure more improvements like contractor protections and fair pay agreements become a reality.
The CTU will be releasing election asks this year on issues including industrial reform, health and safety and equality.
Melissa is keen to activate grass roots support through Unions Local and to reach out to members on social media.
“It’s where our members are so it makes sense for us to be there too.”
Melissa says digital media is also key to reaching the next generation of workers
“We have to make sure the union movement is relevant to people of my age who’ve grown up in an era where unions were less visible as a result of the Employment Contracts Act.
“Young people have shown their appetite for activism. They’ve taken a lead in protesting against climate change. It’s important to make unions relevant for them because they’re a huge force for change”.
We’ll have more on the work of the CTU in future issues.
PSA members and local communities joined forces in February to protest restructuring that threatened hundreds of jobs and quality client care.
While the restructuring by HealthCare NZ is now set to go ahead the protests have thrown a spotlight on issues besetting the home care and support sector.
Union organisers from the Pacific have spoken about the challenges some face while trying to improve conditions for workers in their countries.