Hospitals support workers set to strike
The Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota, which represents nearly 3000 support workers in public hospitals throughout the country, today gave notice to district health boards of national strike action on December 13.
SFWU Nga Ringa Tota has been in negotiations with district health boards and contract companies who provide services in public hospitals since July.
The union has been seeking a single national multi-employer agreement (MECA), covering hospital cleaners, kitchen and food workers, orderlies and home aides.
"These workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in New Zealand," said union advocate Shane Vugler. "A single national agreement is the only way to address the low pay and exploitation in the sector."
Vugler said hospital service workers were worse off than in 1990 when they had a margin of 45 per cent above the minimum wage. Now that margin had vanished, with many service workers paid the minimum wage or close to the minimum wage of $10.25 an hour.
"A national MECA is the only way to achieve fair and consistent pay rates across the country and maintain fair pay in years to come," he said.
Vugler said the employers, who had negotiated MECAs with doctors, nurses and allied health staff, had given no genuine reason for refusing to negotiate a MECA with service workers.
"The action of the DHBs is a state sector equivalent of the recent actions of supermarket giant Progressive in the private sector. A fair pay increase and a MECA are both essential outcomes of the negotiation, because a single agreement is the only way to maintain any pay increase," he said.
"The history of fragmentation of bargaining and playing contractors off against each other to lower the wages bill only leads to rock bottom rates of pay and undervaluing of the important job our members do in our hospitals."
Vugler said the refusal by DHBs to negotiate a MECA put them in conflict with their legal obligations under the Employment Relations Act to negotiate MECAs in the health sector where practicable and reasonable to do so 1.