Unsung heroes reach well-deserved pay settlement

Unsung heroes reach well-deserved pay settlement

Our members at ESR are some of the unsung heroes of New Zealand’s Covid response.

From Covid-19 diagnostic testing, wastewater research, genomic sequencing and much more, Aotearoa has relied on the Crown Research Institute (CRI) to provide critical services to help us get through the pandemic safely.

PSA delegate and Laboratory Operations Technical Lead Paula Scholes says the entire organisation has been involved.

“The whole ESR team played a role in the frontline response – from the labs providing scientific testing, analysis and advice, to our IT people quickly developing IT systems to support the swift sharing of data between different government agencies.”


One example of ESR’s important work is the establishment and maintenance of New Zealand’s Covid-19 testing.

Delegate Wendy Gunn, who works in the Clinical Virology Laboratory says testing was critical at the beginning of the pandemic so the virus could be tracked.

“We needed to get a reliable Covid-19 test validated for New Zealand as soon as possible.

“Once we had the test in place, ESR labs received a large volume of samples which required results within a very fast turn-around time. Alongside the intensity of this testing, we worked hard to support other labs around the country so they could run their own testing.”

It was many long hours of hard, stressful work that was critical to New Zealand being able to successfully get through the lockdown period.


After so much blood, sweat and tears, it was a bit of a shock to the PSA negotiating team when ESR was not prepared to offer any increase in remuneration for the 2020/21 year.

Not only had the ESR team been pivotal to managing Covid-19, but ESR salaries were well behind those of other CRIs, putting it at risk of losing experienced talent.

The PSA bargaining team suggested ESR go back to the drawing board, and when a further very low offer was received sought feedback and ideas from members.

After further negotiations and a problem-solving approach, ESR and the PSA finally reached an acceptable settlement in April.

While it didn’t completely close the gap with other CRIs, it did deliver modest increases for almost all staff. These were based on a cash figure rather than a percentage, ensuring those on lower salary bands still received meaningful increases.

Members agreed it was a step in the right direction towards recognising the incredible work the whole ESR team had put in through the year.

The next step to improve members’ pay will come in August, when a joint working group will propose a new remuneration framework.

Meanwhile, as Te Mahinga Ora went to print, PSA members had just heard that ESR is proposing to disestablish some members’ jobs. We’ll continue to support members as we learn more of the proposal.

Nā Briar Edmonds

Image: ESR’s 2020 clinical virology team including Wendy Gunn (second from left)

Also in this issue:

"Thanks for making a difference"

We’ve been making sure your right to negotiate for pay increases is respected in the corridors of power and at the bargaining table.

Read More

President's message

Welcome to this edition of Te Mahinga Ora, I hope you enjoy reading about the mahi your union has undertaken over the past three months.

Read More

News in brief

A first for PSA Pasefika, a Budget 2021 update, news on our case against Inland Revenue, and more...

Read More

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).

Read More

Fair Pay Agreements – what are they all about?

All too often, employers compete for contracts by holding down pay and undermining conditions in an endless race to the bottom.

Read More

One Public Service

Common terms and conditions for all

Read More

A massive contribution

Our PSA Kaumātua is stepping down from his duties after a lifetime of mahi for our union and Māori workers.

Read More

Fighting for a better life

Janice Panoho has been fighting for a better life for Māori since she joined the 1975 Land March and is still pursuing that goal in her new leadership role with the PSA.

Read More

Protect yourself, protect your community

Many of our members in health and community services are among those to be receiving their Covid-19 vaccine as the rollout continues across Aotearoa.

Read More

“We always have tamariki at heart”

Supporting tamariki and whānau to thrive is something we all want to strive for - but some of Aotearoa’s most needed workers are undervalued for this important mahi.

Read More

Wearing purple for library workers

Library workers and their supporters wore purple on May 13, to mark the second anniversary of our library assistants pay equity claim.

Read More

Building back better?

Nobody anticipated the scale of extra spending in this year’s budget, but CTU economist Craig Renney asks where is the vision for building back better?

Read More

Social insurance - an idea worth discussing

A new scheme to cover a chunk of the wages of people who lose their jobs is an idea worth considering argues Sam Gribben of E tū.

Read More

Ināia tonu nei: The time for climate action is now

The PSA welcomes the Climate Change Commission’s advice that workers and unions help design a strategy that ensures the costs of transitioning to a low-emissions Aotearoa are shared fairly.

Read More

A giant whose shoulders we stand on

Elizabeth Orr was a leader in pay equity and equal pay in Aotearoa for more than 50 years.

Read More

Leading the way

When asked what attracted her to the study of marine macro-algae, NIWA delegate Wendy Nelson joked about getting paid to go to the beach.

Read More

Kia Kaha Te Reo Hangarau!

Technology is an essential tool in modern workplaces. Here are some kupu and phrases that could come in handy at work or at home

Read More

Signing for solidarity

As we marked NZ Sign Language Week, Janet Stokes, one of our first Deaf delegates, told Te Mahinga Ora about her mahi for the union and Deaf community.

Read More

Health and safety awards

Celebrating the exceptional work of our health and safety representatives across the public sector.

Read More

"A perfect storm"

As the effects of Covid and rising authoritarianism ravage much of our region, UnionAID’s Michael Naylor asks us to dig deep for their appeal.

Read More

Around & About

In this issue our photo page features the Nurses' Strike, Pink Shirt Day and much more

Read More