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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

11 November 2012 11 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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4. Rest Home Workers

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Amongst the lowest paid workers in this country, Rest Home caregivers earn around $13.61 an hour – just barely above the minimum wage of $13.50.

Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor, found out first-hand what the job entailed,

Spending hours on her feet, lifting, hoisting, feeding, bathing, dressing and toileting her charges took its toll – and for just $14 an hour, the Human Rights Commission’s equal opportunities commissioner compares it to a form of modern-day slavery.

“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,” she said.

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

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When this was point out to John Key, the following exchange took place on morning TV,

Key acknowledged there were problems with rural rest homes workers paying for their own travel, effectively reducing their wage below the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour.

“Travel is one of those areas where we are looking at what we can do,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

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

“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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But there seemed plenty of cash – taxpayer’s money – to give politicians some fairly generous salary increases,

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And a “lack of money” certainly didn’t stop the country from spending over $200 million of public money on a sporting tournament,

Budget blowouts have pushed public spending on the Rugby World Cup well above $200 million – without counting $555 million in stadium upgrades and $39 million in direct losses from hosting the tournament. “

See: Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m

If  Key was serious about raising wages, he should clearly have made the lowest paid his Number One Priority. The 2009 and 2010 tax cuts would have made an excellent opportunity to give the biggest tax cuts to the lowest paid workers.

Instead, those tax cuts went to the very top. On top of that, the rise in GST from 12.5% to 15% would have impacted the hardest on those on minimum wage.

Double whammy.

So precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises? (Or could it be that when Key promised to raise wages – he was referring to his own?)

Next chapter: 5. The Minimum Wage

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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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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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Full story

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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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No Rest for the Wicked…

23 March 2012 12 comments

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A reader emailed me a copy for a job vacancy at  of Oceania’s  rest homes,

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This advert appeared in a local community newspaper, this week, and offers the following inducement for people to apply; “competitive remuneration“.

I nearly spat my coffee over my monitor and keyboard when I saw that.

Aside from the fact that Oceania has been in a dispute with it’s employees, over demands for a wage increase, the wages paid to rest home workers is hardly flash,

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$13.61 an hour?!?!

That’s “competitive”?

Competitive with who – China? Bangla Desh??? Somalia? Someone should tell Oceania’s management that the cartoon below is supposed to be a joke – not an action plan to be implemented,

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No wonder the flow of New Zealanders escaping from this country is increasing.

$13.61 an hour.

Disgusting.

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Contact Organisation

Service & Food Workers Union

Acknowledgement

Tom V.

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