National strike at nation’s largest rest home chain

Press Release – Service And Food Workers Union

1500 care staff employed by the country’s largest rest home operator, Oceania, have announced a series of strike actions beginning 1 March 2012 in support of a cost of living claim.Media Advisory – Background information attached

National strike at nation’s largest rest home chain

1500 care staff employed by the country’s largest rest home operator, Oceania, have announced a series of strike actions beginning 1 March 2012 in support of a cost of living claim.

The strike affects over 20 homes from Auckland to Dunedin. The staff, who are members of the NZ Nurses Organisation and the Service and Food Workers Union, are nurses, health care assistants and support staff who provide direct resident care, laundry, cleaning and food services.

Combined union advocates Alastair Duncan and David Wait say the strike is the last resort and comes after eight months of bargaining.

“As the largest rest home operator in the country Oceania could be the leader in its standard of care for residents and staff,” said Alastair Duncan.

“But it falls far short when it comes to caring for its workforce. By failing to offer care staff a reasonable cost of living increase, Oceania has attacked the carers who go out of their way every day to care for and support residents.”

Alastair Duncan said the early notice of the two-hour stoppage on 1 March was intended to give Oceania a chance to reconsider its position.

The workforce is seeking a 3.5% pay rise from the expiry of their collective in June 2011.

Oceania has offered 1% with no backdating and wants to slash overtime rates.

“Staff are frustrated by the approach of a company that has rigidly refused to address staff concerns while shipping money offshore to its foreign owners,” said Alastair Duncan.

“Management is more focussed making a return to overseas shareholders than it is in running what could be a great rest home chain caring for three thousand New Zealanders.

“Oceania needs to be fair to those who care”.

ENDS

Oceania Media Backgrounder

14 February 2012 – 2 pages

1. Who are the parties to the dispute? Oceania, The Service and Food Workers Union and the NZ Nurses Organisation.

2. Why are staff striking?

o The collective agreement covering union members expired 8 months ago in June 2011. Union members have asked for a cost of living increase of around 3% from June 2011.

o Oceania has offered 1% and no backdating.

o Oceania is also seeking to cut overtime to time-and-a-quarter and exclude casual workers from the protection of the collective. 3. How many workers are affected?

1500 workers are affected by the bargaining. 4. How long will the strike last? The first strike will commence at 8.30am on 1 March and will last two hours. This is timed to minimise resident disruption and will enable the delivery of essential cares before the actions starts.

5. Where will the strikes take place? Strike action will take place in 20 selected homes in Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington, Palmerston North, Dannevirke, Napier, Taupo, Paeroa, Tokoroa, and Auckland.

6. What about the other Oceania rest homes? Supporting action in those homes is being planned should further strikes be needed. 7. Who is Oceania? Where does Oceania’s operating budget come from?

o Oceania’s parent company, Retirement Care NZ, is controlled by Macquarie Global Infrastructure Fund II. (GIF II)

o GIF II is an Australian controlled equity firm with interests in NZ rest homes, Polish shipyards and French wind farms. 8. Where does Oceania operate? Oceania runs 59 private rest homes and hospitals from Invercargill to Auckland.

9. What sort of work do union members do? NZNO and SFWU represent 1500 nurses, heath care assistants and support staff who provide direct resident care, laundry, cleaning and food services.

10. What are the current rates of pay at Oceania?

o Like every other rest home operator Oceania depends on Government funding paid via district health boards to operate its day-to-day business.

o In 2010 and 2011 Oceania failed to pass on DHB funding to staff.

o To date Oceania has refused to publicly disclose its own investment in the business.

o Pay rates at Oceania are significantly lower than those paid to staff doing similar jobs in DHBs. 900 staff are on rates of $14.03 or lower. 600 are on $13.61 – a rate that is 11 cents above the new minimum wage of $13.50. 11. How long has this dispute been going on? Bargaining started eight months ago. Staff voted before Christmas for strike action. Unsuccessful mediation took place two weeks ago.

12. Will residents be safe during the strike? While the law does not require notice of strike action in rest homes the NZNO and SFWU have issued 14 days’ notice to Oceania homes so that the employer can ensure resident cover and resident safety.

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