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Unions Welcome A New Model For Employing Staff In The Water Sector

Members of AWUNZ, E tū, and the PSA have endorsed a multi-union, multi-employer collective agreement that will help improve water services, overcome critical staff shortages, and ensure decent workplaces for everyone working in the industry.

"This is a historic opportunity to work collaboratively with the incoming government to build a workforce that will improve public health," says Blake Monkley, AWUNZ lead organiser.

"This collective agreement provides career pathways that can attract people to an industry that desperately needs to attract and develop a skilled workforce."

"Events including widespread flooding, the recent cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Queenstown and sink holes in Auckland show an industry in crisis," says Ian Gordon, PSA National Sector Lead.

"To respond to this crisis, the country needs a skilled, sustainable water workforce. Without the provisions of this agreement, the industry will keep losing skilled workers it already has and won’t be able to recruit and develop new ones. This agreement is a huge victory for workers and Aotearoa."

The benefits for workers are clear. "A national employment framework will create clear career paths that will draw people to the industry and keep them there. It will allow the industry to focus on training and developing staff across the industry instead of in isolated pockets," says Amy Hansen from E tū.

"While negotiating this agreement, it has become increasingly apparent how damaging a fractured approach to employment relations has been to retaining and developing the workforce we need.

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"The incoming government needs to recognise how essential the provisions of this agreement are, and it needs to treat workers justly as well, no matter what happens with the water reforms."

The Amalgamated Workers Union NZ (AWUNZ), E tū, and the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA) represent workers across water management, including technicians, engineers, electricians, administrators, fitters, reticulation workers water, and wastewater treatment operators, local and central government officials, and more.

For two years, the unions worked with members and non-members in the workforce, and the Department of Internal Affairs, to find the best path forward. The membership of all three unions have now endorsed this approach by supporting the proposed agreement.

Some useful numbers

- There is currently a shortage of skilled staff with vacancy rates sitting at approximately 15% across the industry

- Economic analysis projects that the industry will need 6,000 to 9,000 jobs over the next 30 years.

- Unions in the sector represent approximately 1850 employees across a wide range of occupations.

- There are currently 87 collective agreements covering impacted workers with a wide range of different conditions.

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