Friday, 27 November 2009

Sadly it's not summer for everyone

Today there will be rallies all around Aotearoa New Zealand to protest the pay freeze many workers, particularly those on low pay, are currently facing.

They're being organised by the CTU and a group of unions, including the one I'm a member of, the Service and Food Workers' Union, and I'll be at the rally in Auckland, at the Methodist Church on Queen St (opposite the Town Hall) at 12.30pm.

This collective action coincides with a strike by public hospital workers across the 21 DHBs today and similar action by IHC community workers. These two groups provide startling examples of the inequity of the Government's public sector pay freeze for those on low wages. The orderlies, food service workers, security staff and cleaners of the DHBs have been offered no wage increase, despite a 3.1% increase in funding from the Government, because, as John Ryall puts it "We have been told by the DHBs that the Government has instructed them that there will be no increase in any public hospital agreement wage rate this year without specific agreement of the Minister of Health."

The IHC workers are also facing a zero percent pay offer, and their organisation too is primarily funded by the Government to provide support to the thousands of New Zealanders with intellectual disabilities. Cabinet has dictated this wage freeze, and employers are using it as much as possible, particularly those who are reliant on public funds for their operations, even when they are not directly part of the public service.

And tomorrow the collective goodness continues, as school support staff ask Aucklanders to Think Pink and join their march against their inadequate pay offer (guess what it is, go on, it's not hard, a not so nice round number...). There are also local, school-based activities happening all over NZ today to support this cause - if you see someone in pink chances are they are keen to see a fair deal for school support staff, and an end to the wage freeze for low income workers.

Let's be frank here - one of the reasons that these groups of workers are so low paid, and getting 0% pay offers, is because these are largely areas of traditional "women's work", and most of these workers are women. Yet the mahi they do is actually invaluable to our society; they are the invisible army that keep the wheels from falling off our health and education systems. Without orderlies how would patients get to theatre, without school secretaries how would children be enrolled, without community service workers who would support those with intellectual disabilities to live with dignity (certainly not Paul Henry).

So if you're keen for a bit of rally or march action today, or tomorrow if you're in Tamaki Makaurau, then come along and join in!

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