Kia ora Unite members,
Union literally means together (as does "Unite") and that is the only way we are all going to get through this crisis. Just because we can't meet face to face doesn't mean we can't stick together and look after each other.
We have, as you might expect, been inundated with queries and requests for advice and assistance. Unite organisers and support staff are all working their normal hours at this stage but, obviously, will be working from home. Organisers have always been set up to work remotely and our support staff have made arrangements to make sure we can continue as normally as possible for as long as possible.
Our union and organisers contact details are here. If you leave us a message please make sure you include your name, where you work normally, a contact phone number (mobile phone preferred) and how urgently you need help. We can't promise to have answers to all your questions about work and pay but we will do our best to answer or help in whatever way we can.
The situation may change (as it has almost every day recently), but we will let you know if that happens.
What we know today:
The lockdown deals immediately with the many, many concerns members had about the risk of having to go to work. It needed to happen.
This Ministry of Health website is the best source of online information about how to deal with Covid-19 in New Zealand. Please be wary of other sources - especially if they do not come from official or recognised and trustworthy news sources. Most importantly follow the advice on social distancing and make sure your friends and family do as well. If they don't, the lockdown will have to go on longer and, literally, more people will die.
This is what will happen over the next two days:
- Non-essential businesses must close - pools, bars, cafes, restaurants, playgrounds
- At Level 4 all businesses which provide takeaway services must close their doors
- All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed
- Schools will be closed from tomorrow (Tuesday) except to the children of essential services such as doctors, police, ambo drivers. This will give them time to plan
- Schools will close entirely from midnight Wednesday
- People must work from home so contact with others is limited
- Public transport will begin to transition over the next 48 hours. It will remain for essential workers and transporting freight
- It seems the Level 4 will be in place at midnight on Wednesday (i.e start Thursday).
Health services, emergency services, utilities and goods transport, and other essential services are expected to remain up and running at all stages. People will still be able to go to the supermarket, fill their car at fuel stations and collect medicine from pharmacies.
What about pay?
What we are all concerned about is what will happen to wages and income during the shutdown.
The Government is significantly expanding its wage subsidy scheme, removing the $150,000 cap and widening the eligibility criteria. However this is for businesses that will continue to operate - essential businesses, those where staff can work from home and those that choose to keep staff employed at least 80% of their current hours.
The government says it is working urgently on new income support measures for all workers separate to the wage subsidy scheme and rent increases have also been frozen. The Government, Reserve Bank and retail banks had agreed in principle to provide "significant temporary support" for mortgage holders, as well as a finance guarantee scheme for businesses affected by Covid-19.
We will update members as soon as we have any more information, but we are not just waiting to be told.
Unite has released a public statement calling for
- Large employers to pay their share for income protection of their employees
- 100% protection of income for workers.
- No forced redundancies
- No evictions or cutting of essential services
- Price controls - no profiteering from the crisis
- Rent and mortgage payments suspended for at least three months
- Empty houses used for homeless New Zealanders
Tell us how this affects you
We also want to know what your concerns are and how the lockdown will affect you and your family. Click here to tell us so we can tell the government what they need to do.
We will be getting back to you very soon with more information as it becomes available.
Until then stay safe and keep looking after each other. Because that is exactly what unions are about.
P.S. Just a note about union fees. They are directly linked to your weekly pay. If you pay goes down, your fees will automatically go down (as low as $2 per week). If your pay from your employer stops then your fees will stop automatically as well.