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Unions Deliver Early Xmas Present for Aged Care

20 December 2006

Unions Deliver Early Christmas Present for Aged Care Workers

Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) working for Guardian Healthcare Group (GHG) are celebrating Christmas a little early this year. After over two-and-a-half years’ negotiations, union members have received a 4% pay increase and a single collective employment agreement covering thirty-one New Zealand Aged Care facilities run by GHG.

In addition, from Feb 2007, no union members will earn less than $11.00 per hour. Currently, many workers earn only $10.66 per hour – a 4% increase on the minimum wage. Aged Care workers remain amongst the lowest paid in New Zealand. The recent Government announcement that the minimum wage will be increased to $11.25 underpins the fact that people working in the Aged Care industry continue to be amongst the most undervalued members of our community.

NZNO Industrial Advisor Rob Haultain says that despite drawn-out negotiations and industry turnover of as much as 40%, union membership amongst GHG employees has remained steady. “Our members and delegates are absolutely marvellous. They set their goals and stuck to them regardless of the setbacks and challenges the two unions have faced in negotiations,” Ms Haultain says.

NZNO and SFWU run a joint campaign for a “Fair Share for Aged Care.” The unions are spearheading public calls for fair pay, safe staffing and industry training in Aged Care. Collective agreements such as this one with GHG are part of the mechanism to deliver better pay and working conditions but must go hand-in-hand with adequate funding that is targeted to respond to the current Aged Care crisis. GHG has made a commitment to work with the unions to seek better funding from the Government and DHBs.

This agreement with GHG is a stepping stone towards a genuine solution to the challenges facing Aged Care workers. For many Aged Care professionals, the gap in pay and conditions compared with other health sectors remains substantial and must be addressed to ensure high quality care for our elderly is maintained now and in the future.

ENDS

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