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Lifewise Under Fire Over Treatment Of Homecare Support Workers And Café Fundraising Drive

Homecare support workers employed by Lifewise – a church charity – are resorting to picketing yet again, as the organisation continues to refuse to negotiate liveable pay and better conditions, while also facing criticism over a recent fundraising campaign.

Lifewise is a charitable trust which is a part of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. The organisation has come under fire this week, as reported by The Spinoff, about the lack of transparency in its latest fundraising drive for Merge Café – a service it runs for homeless people in Auckland.

Meanwhile, E tū Lifewise homecare support members have been striking and picketing since December for increased sick and bereavement leave and fair hours of work to be incorporated into a first-time collective agreement.

Lifewise also threatened members with three separate lockout periods in February and reneged on improved leave and conditions agreed on before the first COVID-19 lockdown.

An E tū Lifewise member, who prefers not to be named, says they feel like the organisation is ignoring them.

“It’s going on two years of negotiations now and no results. We’re voicing all the nitty gritty about what we want in our collective, but it doesn’t seem to register,” she says.

“It’s like they’re not listening, they’re not really taking our needs into consideration. It’s the necessities we’re asking for – it’s not going to break the bank.”

E tū Director Kirsty McCully says the moves by the charity are some of the most “aggressive” she’s ever seen against workers in the homecare sector.

“For the past four months, Lifewise workers have been driven to fight publicly for reasonable, simple improvements to their pay and conditions – all while their employer has tried to intimidate and disrespect with lockouts and broken promises.

“It seems like a crazy response when you consider the request: several additional days of sick and bereavement leave, and fair guaranteed hours, so that these already low-paid workers are not left struggling,” she says.

“It makes absolutely no sense to us that a church organisation, and a seemingly well-endowed one at that, is refusing to treat its own workers with integrity and to fund these modest, yet vital improvements.”

Desperation drove workers to the picket line in December, as they have now been in negotiations for their first collective agreement since mid-2019, Kirsty says.

“If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s the value of health and healthcare services.

“We can’t forget that Lifewise workers do jobs most of us wouldn’t or can’t – caring for the sick, elderly, and vulnerable in our communities.

“As an employer with such community standing and mission, Lifewise has a responsibility to ensure its own workers are looked after too.”

Lifewise community picket

When: Friday 19 March

Where: Outside Lifewise’s head office, 385 Queen Street, Auckland 1011

Time: 12.30pm–2.30pm

Available: Homecare delegates will be available for comment at the picket.

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