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24-hr strike action by Middlemore Security Guards

01 04 05

24-hour strike action by
Middlemore Hospital Security Guards

Middlemore security guards, night after night on the front-line restraining violent, drunk patients in South Auckland, are on strike for 24 hours tomorrow.

The security guards will be picketing from 7am [April 2] outside the hospital that features on the well known reality TV series, Emergency.

This is the third round of industrial action taken by the guards, who are members of the Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota (SFWU).

The workers are asking for a 5% pay increase in 2005, as part of a national campaign to get a fair share for workers.

Says SFWU delegate Kiko Penitani: “We are sick of getting 2% increases. Workers all round the country are saying it’s not enough. Petrol is going up. We have kids to feed. It is difficult to make ends meet on what we earn.”

The DHB initially offered 2% plus another 2% in November for a two-year term, but has since increased the offer to 2.5% plus 2.5%. The guards’ Collective Agreement expired last November.

“They keep saying they have significantly exceeded their financial parameters. Well, we say this is significantly below our bargaining parameters,” Mr Penitani says.

The fight by the workers for a 5% pay increase comes as the Ministry of Health outlined a better-than-predicted financial performance for DHBs in a March 24 press release.

DHBs have reduced their deficits and increased their surpluses across the board, leaving SFWU members to wonder what Counties/Manukau DHB means when they say they have reached their “financial parameters”.

SFWU Senior Organiser Jill Ovens says the DHBs recorded a surplus of $5.9 million for January 2005 because they had consistently underspent their budgets.

“This is a sign that their ‘financial parameters’ are flexible when they need them to be. The DHB should bargain in good faith and reprioritise the money to pay all their workers decent wages. The money seems to be there, so where’s the good faith to put it on the table?” Ms Ovens says.

Because of the loss of overtime rates in the 1990s and more recent cuts in overtime hours worked, security guards at Middlemore are paid less today, in real terms, than they were 10 years ago.

“It is not asking much to give 5%, given of the ground these workers have lost over the past few years. We think it is a very modest claim,” says Ms Ovens.


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