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Posts Tagged ‘Dr Judy McGregor’

Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?

28 April 2017 3 comments

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Some Context

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The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion.

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When National claims it must cut spending for vital public services like health and education to control its borrowing, it carries much of the blame.” – former Green Party Co-leader, Dr Russel Norman, 14 May 2012

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The reliance of New Zealand, of all of us, on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery.” –  Judy McGregor, Equal opportunities commissioner, 28 May 2012

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It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

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We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.” – John Key, former Prime Minister, 28 May 2012

 

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Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.”- Bill English, current Prime Minister, 18 April 2017

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The Announcement

On 18 April, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Finance Minister, Bill English, announced that healthcare workers in the disability, residential care, and home/community support sector had successfully won their pay-equity claim;

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The response from the trade union movement was positive;

Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.

The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.

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E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”

PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says: “This settlement will make a real difference to our members.  Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”

Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted.

However, there remain unanswered questions to this “deal”.

Questions raised

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman;

On 18 April you announced that disability, residential care, and home and community support services will  have their pay increased in a pay-equity settlement costing $2 billion over five years.

In your 18 April press release you stated;

“A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.”

I have some questions regarding this issue, namely;

1. Why was the settlement not back-dated when MPs automatically have their pay-increases backdated? Especially when negotiations with relevant parties was announced nearly two years ago on 20 October 2015 (by yourself) and has been on-going since.

2. Will workers who are deemed to qualify for pay-equity wage increases  be determined solely by their employer?

3. What measures will be put in place to ensure that workers are paid appropriately and pay increases not arbitrarily with-held by employer(s)?

4. You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “spread over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

5. If the answer to Q4 is “yes”, will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?

6.Will the settlement amount be increased over time to compensate for annual rises to the Minimum Wage?

7. Will the equal-pay settlement and increase in wages have any impact on future Union-Employer wage negotiations? Or will future negotiations and demands for pay rises be considered a part of the pay-equity settlement?

8. Will NGOs who qualify for the pay equity settlement for their workers have their Budget-allocations cut in other areas?

9. How will pay rises for workers who quality for pay equity settlement impact on contract negotiations with relevant NGOs?

10. You state that “The $2.048 billion settlement over five years will be funded through an increase of $1.856 billion to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.  ACC levies are set for the coming years, but may possibly increase over the next decade to support this”. If ACC levies rise, will workers who qualify for the settlement be compensated for having to pay an increased ACC levy?

Call me a cynic, but I sense fish-hooks in the detail. When National cut taxes in 2010, they gave with one hand;

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– and took with the other;

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When it comes to fish-hooks, National has prior ‘form’. Even when National announces an ‘increase’ in social spending, it often takes that funding from other areas. Even special-needs children are not exempt from National’s shell-scam, as reported in The Daily Blog  in August last year;

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing.

I won’t be celebrating until I read the fine print and get some answers.

Watch out for…

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References

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dominion Post: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Beehive: $2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

NZCTU: Historic day as caregivers offered equal pay settlement

Beehive: Government to enter negotiations over pay for care and support workers

NZ Herald: Budget 2010 – Experts praise tax cuts for all

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Young workers out of pocket

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’

Additional

Radio NZ: Settlement could help rest homes attract workers

Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

NZ Herald: MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: A victory for women

The Daily Blog: Courts finally give the poorest workers what the Government wouldn’t and the Unions couldn’t

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers! (1 March 2012)

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash” (28 May 2012)

Roads, grandma, and John Key (18 July 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers (11 November 2012)

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion (16 November 2012)

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages (31 January 2014)

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation? (31 October 2015)

Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet (27 August 2016)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2017.

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Roads, grandma, and John Key

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“However, the Government could not afford to give DHBs the $140 million required to enable rest homes to pay their staff more,”

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“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.” – John Key, 28 May 2012

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In March of this year, rest home care workers went on strike throughout New Zealand, demanding an increase in their pay rate of $13.61 an hour.

That paltry sum is only 11 cents an hour above the minimum wage, which as Finance Minister said on TVNZ’s “Q+A“, on 6 November last year, was not liveable for any long period of time,

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

If $13 an hour is ‘ pretty damn tough’ and ‘people can live on that for [only]  a short time’  – then how much better is $13.61 an hour? Not by much, one would think.

But, as Dear Leader told the nation on 28 May,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.”

See: PM: No money for aged care workers

“On balance”, I think National is about as incompetant as it was in the 1990s, and as it was under Rob Muldoon.

To make sure that the peasantry (ie, us) got the message,  he shifted blame on to Labour by insisting, that the former Labour government “had a lot more cash floating around and didn’t meet the bill“.

I wonder how many times he’s going to blame Labour?

I thought National was BIG on people  taking responsibility?

But just when the public get used to the idea that paying hundreds of  heroic careworkers in resthomes – who look after our grandmas, grandpas, the sick, and the infirm – a measely $13.61 is the best we can afford, we discover that National does have access to pots of  cash (our cash, by the way).

And boy, do they  know how to spend it like it’s going out of fashion by 2014,

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Full Story

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A total of  $336 million spent on consultants, and various “fees” for selling our own state assets to “mums and dads”  (aka,  corporate investors).  Of that, $216 million has already been spent on “consultants” – and that’s without  one metre of tarseal being laid.

And yet, our smiling and waving Dear Leader has the cheek to say that we can’t pay resthome careworkers any more money? He insists that,  “it’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.”

When I found and collated these three media stories, my jaw dropped.

I have long since given up trying to understand John Key’s “moral compass” (if he actually has one).

But I wonder what those 1,058,636 New Zealanders who voted for this wretched Party must be feeling when they read this sort of thing? Does it even register with those 1,058,636, I wonder?!

But there is a delicious irony that will eventually fall upon most of those 1,058,636.  For they too, are growing older…

And eventually, they will end up in resthomes, being cared for by low-paid, exploited, careworkers.

I wonder if those careworkers, by then, will still be the conscientious, dedicated, saints that  Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor said of them,

The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people.

Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of life.”

See: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Will Resthome careworkers still be Saint-like in their care for us?

Or will they have had a gutsful by then, and not give a damn? If we continue to pay them $13.61 an hour (or a future-equivalent) – is that the value of service we’ll end up receiving?

If so, I hope those exploited, burnt-out, angry workers will vent their frustrations on a specific group of 1,058,636 New Zealanders. After all, they will have paid for their care. All $13.61 of it.

Karma.

As for the rest of us – those who understand the utter futility of electing John Key into power – I hope that National’s apalling waste of our valuable tax-dollars will motivate you all for the next election.

I know that most readers who visit this blog are fair minded, decent, people. I know you will be voting to get rid of this rotten, morally-corrupt,  government in 2014 (if not earlier).

But that’s not enough. Simply voting is insufficient.

If, after reading this (and similar examples of National’s wretched policies)  you are angry and want to get rid of John Key – then at the next election, find one other adult who did not vote last year and encourage that person to walk to the nearest polling booth with you to cast his/her vote.

About a million people did not vote last year. We need to find them and explain to them why their vote is crucial.  The future of this country lies in their hands.

Our most powerful Weapon of Mass Democracy – our vote.

It is our vote that makes us powerful.

Let’s do it.

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Related Blogposts

No Rest for the Wicked

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

Additional

Service & Food Workers Union

NZ Nurses Organisation

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“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full story

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Kudos to Human Rights Commissioner,  Dr Judy McGregor, for getting out of her office  to  work  ‘undercover’ in a residential aged care hospital. She discovered, first hand, the incredible hard work that rest home care-workers do – for the obscenely pitiful sum of $13.61 – caring for our elderly parents, grandparents, other family members, spouses, and friends.

The media report referred to,

” Although there were hoists to pull people from beds, there was still a lot of heavy lifting, and she was constantly worried she would hurt or drop someone.   ” – Ibid

This blogger is aware of the risks to resthome workers from heavy lifting. I am aware of one young woman who was a worker for Presbyterian Support Services, in the late 1990s. She damaged her back and went on  ACC for rehabilitation. Within a few months, she had lost her job at PSS;  ACC used one of their corporate medical specialists in Auckland to “re-assess” her; and she was ‘transferred’ to WINZ and put on to a sickness benefit. No further rehab – she was now a beneficiary and someone elses’ problem.

New Zealanders should be very worried about the poor pay and support given to resthome careworkers.

We are all aging.  A growing number of us will end up in rest homes – to be cared for by these low-paid workers. And we’ve been lucky so far in that resthome workers are deeply dedicated to their clients. As Dr McGregor said,

The complexity of the job was actually a surprise for me. It’s quite physical work, and it’s emotionally draining because you are obliged to give of yourself to other people.   Saint-like women do it every day so that older New Zealanders can have a quality of lifeAt the end of the day, carers are being paid less than the minimum wage for work that is grossly undervalued.

The question we should be asking ourselves is; how much longer can we rely on the good will of these workers?

All New Zealand workers are getting older – and this includes those rest home workers currently caring for the aged and infirm. The number of workers paying taxes to support retirees will be dropping from now onwards  (a fact which National continues to ignore),

At present, there are about 18 elderly people (i.e., 65 years and over) per 100 people of ‘working age’ (i.e., 15-64 years). By 2051, this ratio is predicted to increase to 43 per 100. ” – Source

Which means that as we move closer to the middle of this century, there will be fewer and fewer people in the workforce. This will put pressure on labour demand. That will result in pressure on wages. That  will result in  a labour shortage, as we saw in the early 2000s, during the previous Labour government.

As we Baby Boomers and Gen Yers reach retirement – who will be caring for us? Who will be wiping our chins and butts?

CTU spokeswoman Eileen Brown said that pay and work conditions had been a concern since the 1990s, and had continued to worsen. She’s right,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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When this issue was presented to Dear Leader, he leapt into instant, immediate, action,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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As Key said,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

“You could certainly change the proportion of where you spend money in health. We spend about $14.5 billion in the overall health sector.

“What’s going to go to pay the increase in this area? If you said all of the increase is going to go into this area, that would be roughly $600m over the forecast period which is four years… So that would have left us $1bn for other things.

“We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right. “

No, Mr Key, you did not “get this about right”.

How can you have “got it about right”, Mr Key,  when careworkers for our aged and infirm are paid rates that have been thoroughly condemned, by Dr McGregor, as  ” a form of modern-day slavery “?

It is interesting that John Key complains about a lack of funds,

It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.

Perhaps National would not have to wait until “ the country moves back to surplus ” – had they not cut taxes in 2009 nand 2010.

The 2009 tax cuts cost New Zealand $1 billion in lost revenue – there was no corresponding rise in GST,

New Zealand households will get a billion-dollar-a-year boost from tax cuts which take effect this week, Finance Minister Bill English and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said today.

See:  Government delivers April 1 tax cuts, SME changes

Despite a rise a GST, the 2010 tax cuts  resulted in a $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion drop in taxation revenue.

See: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

That’s roughly $3 billion in lost revenue. Which would have been ample cash to even double the wage rate for careworkers.

The  first round of tax cuts on 1 April 2009 defies any logic. Especially when one considers that Treasury was already predicting a massive Budget blow-out and deficit as the global financial crisis and recession impacted on our own economy. The looming deficit was already known, a month before,

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Even the Opposition Labour party was supportive of a more rational, prudent fiscal approach,

Labour has recently said it would support the government if it deferred the April tax cuts because of the rapid deterioration of the global economy. Prime Minister John Key has said the cuts will go ahead. ” – Ibid

Madmen were in control of the country’s treasury, and were hell-bent of spraying tax-dollars around,  as if we were still in the booming mid-2000s.

Unfortunately, three years later, the tax-cut revellry was over; Treasury was empty; and we are living the consequences of the ‘Mother of All Fiscal Hangovers‘, owing billions in debt. (As an aside – it’s crazy how so  many New Zealanders still harbour delusions of National’s “prudent fiscal management”.)

Little wonder that John Key is adamant that we don’t have the cash to raise the wages of our lowest paid healthcare/resthome workers. He’s telling the truth.

Because Dear Leader and National ‘partied like drunken sailors’ and frittered $3 billion away in an orgy of profligate tax cuts.

That is why rest home workers are struggling to survive on $13.61 an hour.

I wonder… who’s going to look after us when we retire?

Because as more workers retire, and the labour market shrinks, we are  faced with only two stark choices,

  1. Reverse the taxcuts and/or User Pays to pay for rest home workers in the coming decades,
  2. Or learn to wipe your own chins and butts.

It’s our call.

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Postscript

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Mainstream Media Reports

Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

PM: No money for aged care workers

MPs get pay rise package of $7000

Related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers!

No Rest for the Wicked

References

Facing an Ageing Workforce: Information for Public Service HR Managers

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