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Lifewise Home Support Workers Put On Pressure With Continued Strike Action

Home support workers employed by Auckland-based provider Lifewise are continuing to strike for fair hours, more sick leave, and the terms of a much-needed collective agreement.

Workers have been on strike since Monday, in an effort to get the organisation to listen to their concerns and to action what was agreed to in bargaining sessions.

Before the COVID lockdown, Lifewise agreed to terms and conditions for a collective agreement, including more sick leave, which it then went back on, despite receiving full government funding for their homecare services during the heightened alert levels.

A home support worker and E tū member, who prefers not to be named, says being on the picket line on Monday has empowered workers and made them realise their issues are important.

“We want to keep going – we’re all on fire for what we need at Lifewise.

“I spoke to one of our homecare members on the picket line and she’s available for more than 30 hours of work but only gets around nine hours of work a week. For some of us, it’s a real struggle.

“We just can’t survive – we’re looking to leave the sector at a time when society needs home support workers the most.”

The key issues remain, including increasing the number and security of guaranteed hours and improving leave, such as sick leave.

Client representative Peter West says home support is a key service that has helped his elderly parents greatly.

“When my father had a stroke, he went into a private hospital for a while and he hated it – he just gave up the will to live,” Peter says.

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“We brought him home for Christmas a year ago and he never went back [to the hospital], because we saw he came alive again. It’s because of the support of [Lifewise] people coming in and looking after their needs.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the issues Lifewise workers are bringing to the table are significant.

“Having enough hours to live on from week to week and enough sick leave to keep clients safe – these should be no less than basic rights for our essential workers.”

“The things these workers are seeking, speak to the needs of support workers in this critical, but vastly undervalued, sector.

Kirsty says we all rely on our home support workforce to keep our growing numbers of elderly and vulnerable safe and well in their homes, rather than needing residential care or hospitalisation.

“It’s better for our elderly, and it’s better for society, but we need to ensure the workers can live on their incomes and are treated with respect.”

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff agrees: “It’s pretty simple – Lifewise need to show some respect to the excellent homecare workers they employ.”

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