Hospital attendants to strike for Living Wage

42% of attendants currently get less than the current Living Wage ($20.55 per hour)

Hospital attendants to strike for Living Wage

Waikato Hospital attendant are striking for 24 hours on Thursday 6th June for a Living Wage.

The members of Unite Union (100 attendants) have been in negotiations with the Waikato District Health Board since November last year.

Moreover, almost all the other union claims were either dropped or reduced significantly during bargaining to try to get the Health Board to agree to pay their lowest paid workers a wage they can live on, according to lead negotiator and Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir.

Hehir added that the board, on the other hand, has tabled one wage offer and refused to even slightly amend it, even at mediation last week.

“That’s why the attendants feel they have no choice but to take strike action,” he said.

“Twenty dollars an hour is absolutely justified as a base rate for the work.”

“The Hamilton City Council has embraced the Living Wage for all employees, the “core” public service has the Living Wage, but the lowest paid hospital workers are still denied it – go figure.”

Moreover, HRD recently reported that Porirua City Council has announced it will introduce the living wage which will come into effect from February next year.

At Waikato Hospital , attendants regularly walk 15-25 kms a day servicing Australasia’s biggest hospital campus and undertake a huge range of tasks – from transporting rubbish and laundry to mail, specialised medical equipment and, of course, patients themselves.

Additionally, nearly half of the attendants work less than full-time. While that suits some only wanting part-time hours it means the level of pay is crucial for those supporting their families.

“The Health Board claims that because some get paid night or weekend rates they are already getting a living wage. This is simply untrue,” said Hehir.

“Firstly their own figures show 42% of attendants currently get less than the current Living Wage ($20.55 per hour), even when all allowances and overtime rates are added in.”

Hehir also argued that the vast majority of hours worked do not attract any night or weekend rates and they are not automatically available to anyone who wants them.

“These rates are compensation for working unsociable hours and demanding hours of work,” said Hehir.

“Thirdly workers shouldn’t be forced to work weekends and nights just to survive. Those with family responsibilities are simply not able to work those hours to earn the extra income.”

Hehir said “little wonder the wage gap between men and women persists” with attitudes like the Waikato District Health Board are displaying.

“The one and only pay offer from the Health Board was literally copied and pasted from another union collective that covers only a fraction of the attendants at Waikato Hospital.”

According to Hehir, Unite Union represents over 80% of the workforce but the board have “simply refused to engage meaningfully over pay”.

“We can only hope that a new chief executive will actually want to listen to the workers and make a Living Wage for them a priority,” said Hehir.

“For the lowest paid workers to be repeatedly told take it or leave it and there is no more money is galling, especially when the board has the most appalling record of waste at the senior management level over recent years – totalling literally tens of millions of dollars.”

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