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New Zealand

Carers striking over 'zero-hour' contracts at Masonic Village

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 3/12/2019 Jonathan Mitchell
a close up of a person © 123RF

Frustrated carers took to the picket lines today to protest over what they say are zero-hour contracts.

The workers at Woburn Masonic Village, in Lower Hutt, want certainty over their shifts.

But the company is demanding they be available 24/7 in case of roster changes.

Union workers had their paint brushes out at St Mark's Church yesterday - painting signs for today's picket.

Among them is Jackie Crown, who says her loves her job and the elderly people she cares for.

But she hated the fact she never knew when she was going to work.

"My contract varies - my hours fluctuate - so I never know what I'm doing - when I'm doing it - or how many hours I'm going to be doing it," she said.

There's no option but to miss family gatherings and birthday milestones for her children because of the changing hours.

"I'm the only one that's missing when it comes to family gatherings - I'd like to be able to tell my family I'm going to be there - not 'oh can you wait until my roster comes out cause I don't know'," she said.

She said she had to put herself second - the job must come first - and there was no chance of picking up a second job - the uncertain hours prevent that.

All Jackie Crown wanted was to have a life without work worry - and also some respect.

"We go to work everyday - we respect our residents that's why we are there - I'd like to be shown respect and valued," she said.

Another worker and E tū delegate, Sela Mulitalo, was in a slightly better position.

She said half her shifts were guaranteed hours - but she didn't know about the rest.

That made her feel like she was on a zero-hour contract - even though they were illegal.

"Pretty much I only get half a weekend - so it's pretty hard to actually commit myself to church, youth (group) stuff like that - and then the rest of the week it's just pretty much whatever the roster gives us really," she said.

E tū organiser Robert Ibell said the company had offered guaranteed hours to some E tū members - but they'll have to be available 24/7 in case of roster changes.

He said it amounted to zero hours.

"It amounts to that - so while they do have some guaranteed number of hours per fortnight - the real thing is they have no certainty of the shifts - either the times or the days they work - so effectively they have to be available 24/7 - and they don't know from shift-to-shift exactly when they're going to be working," he said.

The village is run by Masonic Care - it denied the contracts were zero hours.

Its chief executive, Warick Dunn, said the company had agreed to about 90 percent of the clauses in the collective agreement - but it can't meet all the demands over shift certainty and sick leave.

"We can't agree to the level of certainty they want around individual set shifts and set days without compromising our ability to roster and meet the obligations we've got to around providing proper cover and proper mix-of-skills across all the shifts," he said.

He said non-union staff had agreed to step in today and help at the village - which had space for 57 beds.

The union staff have been on strike from 8.30am until 1pm this afternoon, and have further action planned on Friday and then again on Wednesday next week.

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