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Mediation Fails In Healthcare of NZ dispute

PSA MEDIA RELEASE August 26, 2008

Mediation Fails To Resolve Healthcare of NZ dispute

Negotiations yesterday, involving a mediator, have failed to resolve a pay dispute covering 1200 community support workers employed by Healthcare of NZ Ltd.

The community support workers belong to the Public Service Association and are among the lowest paid workers in the country earning just above the minimum wage of $12 an hour.

"They have begun a campaign of industrial action to support their claim for a fair pay rise," says PSA Assistant National Secretary, Warwick Jones.

The workers taking action work in community houses that are home to people with severe disabilities who require support 24 hours a day seven days a week. These community houses are run by NZCare, a subsidiary of Healthcare of NZ. Community support workers also visit homes and support people who are incapacitated by disability, illness or age. Home visit co-ordinators and team leaders, who run community houses, are also taking action.

The starting pay for the NZCare workers in community houses is just $12.50 an hour - 50 cents above the minimum wage. Those going into homes to support people with reduced mobility are paid as little as $12.96 an hour - 96 cents above the minimum wage.

"An independent job evaluation has shown that these community support workers are massively underpaid for the work they do," says Warwick Jones.

The job evaluation has shown that the work done by community support workers is similar in size and value to that of health assistants in hospitals, who earn 22% more.

"It's unfair to pay community support workers significantly less than health assistants when the work is of similar size and value," says Warwick Jones. "That's why we're asking Healthcare of NZ to start bridging that pay gap, beginning with the 22% gap with health assistants."

After three months of negotiations Healthcare of NZ has tabled a pay offer. The company is offering a pay rise of 1.5% for workers in its NZCare community house.

"That's an increase of 19 cents an hour for workers earning as little as $12.50 an hour," says Warwick Jones. "That falls well short of bridging the 22% pay gap between community support workers and health assistants."

The PSA says the company should increase the starting pay for staff in its community houses from $12.50 an hour to $15.

"We recognise that's a substantial increase which is why we've said that we're prepared to spread that increase over three years," says Warwick Jones.

"We think that $15 an hour is a fair and reasonable starting rate as it would start to bridge the pay gap between community support workers and health assistants whose jobs are of a similar size and value," says Warwick Jones.

The PSA recognise that there is inconsistency in funding to disability support providers from the Ministry of Health, district health boards and the Accident Compensation Corporation.

"But we note that Healthcare of NZ is one of the largest disability support providers and yet has some of the lowest pay rates in the sector," says Warwick Jones.

"The workers involved in this dispute are committed to continuing their campaign of industrial action until the company begins addressing their pay gap with health assistants," says Warwick Jones.

ENDS

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