24 Apr 2017

3000 disability support workers to strike over pay

7:14 pm on 24 April 2017

A nation-wide strike of 3000 disability support workers is set to take place on Thursday.

A doctor holds an elderly woman's hand

Photo: 123RF

Workers from the country's biggest provider of services to people with disabilities and their families, IDEA Services, will stop work for an hour on Thursday morning.

Their union, E Tū, said they objected to their hours being cut and wanted more job security.

IDEA Services chief operating officer Janine Stewart said the government's equal pay settlement for care workers had delayed a collective employment agreement.

"Now that an announcement has been made we hope to be able to agree a collective soon," she said.

"We continue to meet with the union in good faith and IDEA Services has plans in place to ensure no one we support is adversely affected by strike action."

But E Tū spokesman Alastair Duncan said seven months of "deeply frustrating bargaining" had led to the strike.

Through a process called 'service reviews', some staff had seen working hours slashed and were forced to work anti-social shifts, he said.

"Because of the funding structure that the government forces IDEA to work under, hours can be chopped or changed at very short notice.

"That's not fair on the work force and it's certainly not fair on the people they support," he said.

Earlier this month, IDEA Services announced it was cutting half of its family support programmes for people with autism, saying it was due to government under-funding.

While workers were looking forward to seeing the financial benefits of the government's pay equity settlement in July, the workers had been asking for a pay rise from IDEA Services since last year, Mr Duncan said.

"We asked for a small down payment back in October and have had a resounding 'no offer' ever since.

"The equal pay settlement will change lives but that is still months away and the needs are now."

The union was scheduled to talk with IDEA Services again on 5 May.

Thursday's strike would involve workers stopping work for one hour at 8.30am.

Mr Duncan said workers were "deeply concerned" about any disruption to clients, and had given extended notice so non-unionised cover could be arranged.

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