The Public Service Association has begun legal action against Access Community Health, a major employer of home support workers, for multiple breaches of its collective employment agreement with staff.
Access has failed to provide support workers with regular and guaranteed hours, failed to provide staff ten minute breaks, and failed to pay staff wages they are owed after clients have cancelled scheduled services.
“Our members are employed under a legally binding collective agreement with Access Community Health, and this agreement means they have rights. We do not intend to allow anyone to deny our members their rights at work,” says Kerry Davies, National Secretary of the PSA.
“These are essential front line health workers, who provide a crucially important service to elderly, sick and disabled New Zealanders. Their employer must pay them properly, allocate them the right amount of hours, and ensure they get ten minute breaks in the course of their sometime gruelling work day. Our legal action is about making sure that happens.”
Union lawyers filed a Statement of Problem with the Employment Relations Authority in Wellington on September 2.
The PSA is seeking legal determinations regarding the issues, certainty of hours and wages in arrears with interest for underpaid members.
The union has co-launched a campaign supported by Grey Power and other health unions called “They Deserve the Best”, which seeks to highlight the injustices endured by support workers and calls on the government to fix New Zealand’s fragmented and failing home support system.
“Support workers are tired of being taken for granted. Some may assume they will keep quiet and put up with it because they know how much their clients need them, but those days are over,” says Ms Davies.
“These workers deserve the same respect and dignity that they provide to others. They deserve to make a decent, secure living with regular hours you can budget and plan a life around. We intend to campaign hard for that, and we are confident New Zealanders agree these are both fair and modest expectations.”