Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Support the hospital service workers tomorrow

Public Hospital Service Workers are taking strike action tomorrow because District Health Boards (DHBs) and their contractors are refusing to negotiate a single national Collective Employment Agreement (MECA).

Cleaners, food service staff, orderlies, security guards, home support workers and healthcare assistants are all essential to the healthy running of a hospital. The employers claim the service workers are 'unskilled' and only want to pay the minimum wage of 10.25 an hour, with a few workers earning a few pennies more.

Prior to the 1991 Employment Contracts Act all public hospital service workers were under a single national collective agreement. District Health Boards now negotiate over forty separate agreements for their service workers. So after 15 years of so called efficiency drives we now have 40 rounds of separate negotiations when it all used to be done together - surely it does not take a brain surgeon to work out this is clearly inefficient.

The DHBs negotiate MECAs with nearly all other staff, but they will not negotiate a national collective for their lowest paid workers.

Tomorrow Christchurch hospital service workers are leaving the hospital to go on a short strike. If you would like to support these low paid workers please join them outside the hospital between 11:30am and 1pm.

During the current dispute the Canterbury District Health Board advocated that health workers should be banned from going on strike, no doubt in an attempt to improve their own bargaining position. If the CDHB had any real concern for preventing strikes they would stop being so stubborn and be more reasonable about the claims currently on the negotiating table. To make matters worse, the mover of the offending motion was Alistair James - who was elected under a Labour for 2021 ticket.

Come and remind the CDHB to stop being so childish and that the right to strike is a human right guaranteed under international law. Come and support the hospital service workers fight for a living wage!

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