Home support changes 'a win' for workers
A deal to improve conditions for care workers who support elderly and disabled people in their homes is a victory, says a Takaka worker.
Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced that a settlement has been agreed, which will see home support workers paid for the time they spend travelling between clients.
The Government agreed to a $38 million-a-year settlement. The agreement will require legislation to implement, and is subject to ratification by the workers it affects, district health boards and home support providers.
The Public Service Association (PSA) and the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) will recommend the proposal to their members. If accepted, it will take effect from July next year.
The unions say the settlement will ensure workers are fairly and consistently paid for their travel costs.
The negotiations for the agreement, which began in April, were in response to a legal claim brought by the PSA against Healthcare of NZ for the payment of the minimum wage to PSA member Jenny Goodman when travelling between clients' homes.
More than 40,000 New Zealanders need home support. Currently, some workers are paid for travel time between clients, while others are not.
Under the proposed settlement, home support workers will be paid for the time taken to travel between clients, at the minimum wage rate from next July, and mileage of at least 50 cents per kilometre from March 1, 2016.
Takaka home support worker Patricia Martin has been in her job for six years. A member of the SFWU, she said the announcement was a victory for members of her union and the PSA.
Martin provides assistance with the physical needs of disabled and elderly clients, as well as doing housekeeping for them. She works 12 hours a week, and currently has to travel to her clients in her own time.
"Fuel is a huge, huge problem," she said.
She gets 30 cents for every kilometre she travels, but the first 10km each day is deducted.
Martin said she often did not take on clients who lived long distances from Takaka. "You end up getting less than minimum wage if you take the real travel cost off that. It makes it uneconomical to travel any further [from Takaka], because the mileage is negligible."
With the proposed increase in the mileage allowance, Martin said she would be able to take on more clients at a further distance from her in the future.
She felt that people with home support needs who lived in rural areas were missing out because of the limited mileage allowances and current conditions.
"People outside of the Takaka township are definitely disadvantaged. We have had to stop helping Collingwood clients - we don't have the support workers who will go that far."
She said the changes would help clients and support workers alike.
"A lot of support workers have to work as many hours as possible so they can afford to live. They are travelling huge kilometres per fortnight."
Martin said support workers still needed to work to get wage increases.
The Nelson Mail