I followed the amazing CTU President, Helen Kelly, as a speaker at the Invercargill Fairness at Work Rally. Helen is a tireless advocate for New Zealand's exploited workers and her tragic stories about real people and the horrific treatment they are receiving from employers and this Government were compelling. Many workers struggle to get fair deals under the current law and this will get so much worse if the Government has its way with the proposed changes.
On behalf of NZEI Te Riu Roa, New Zealand’s largest education Union, I bring greetings and our commitment and solidarity behind this Fairness at Work campaign.
I wear the T shirt of our most vulnerable sector, our support staff who are charged with caring for our most vulnerable children but have little job security, irregular hours and the majority do not earn a living wage. Their employment conditions may not be the best but they do want to keep their collective agreement and the right to a tea break.
Under John Key we have Government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich and this is very evident in education.
New Zealand was once firmly placed in the top seven in the world for educational achievement but under this Government we have dropped as low as 23rd. This Government is blaming teachers and support staff, but as educators we know the real cause, it is poverty and inequality.
In this wonderful country of milk and honey, where the rich have never had it better, we have 270 thousand children living in poverty, 40% of our adult population have to live on $20 thousand dollars or less (according to the latest census) and the median income of $28,500 has not kept up with inflation.
50% of the children we teach have experienced poverty at some stage in their lives and this is due to many parents not earning a living wage or being able to afford a decent house. It is more important to this Government to support the rights of the already rich (according to Simon Bridges) than to ensure that 270 thousand children don’t have to live in third world conditions and suffer third world diseases. New Zealand has the second worst record (29th out of 30 in the OECD) for child health and safety and our 15-19 year olds have the highest suicide rate in the world.
This Government even refuses to measure poverty so that they do not have to recognise the extent of the problem and have their efforts to address it judged.
Under this Government private schools and Charter Schools get the most support and our special needs schools are being closed. Under this Government the levels of qualified teachers in Early Childhood centres are being cut to ensure greater profits for private providers.
This Government supports greater involvement of private business in education, and it is already dismantling our quality public system. When profit becomes more important than educational outcomes for children we will see more education workers and teachers experience the same conditions as those who work in our rest homes. We are becoming a country where those who support and care for the most vulnerable in our society get paid the least.
John Key and his National led Government constantly talk about the need for balance in employment law and most of us wage and salary earners know that we lost that balance some time ago and under this government things are being tipped even more in the employers favour.
It is not balanced when employers can walk away from collective bargaining, it is not balanced when employers alone can decide when bargaining should end, it is not balanced when tea and meal breaks are optional, it is not balanced when employers and CEOs are allowed increases well above the rate of inflation and most workers are lucky to receive a 1% increase, it is not balanced when the recession ended some years ago for our wealthiest but continues for us.
The fact of the matter is that we have an unbalanced government, passing unbalanced law.
It is the right of every worker to receive a fair pay and work in safe conditions, NZEI Te Riu Roa stands with you in this fight for fairness!
Images from the rally today:
PSA Past President Keith Gutsell
Invercargill Union Legend, Trevor Hobbs with Helen Kelly
Michael Gibson, employment law expert and advocate
Finding some shade
Listening to Helen Kelly
Listening to Kevin McFarlane of the SFWU