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PSA

SEPTEMBER 2009

Everyone Loves Libraries

Women’s Network

Lifting Low Pay www.psa.org.nz

PSA Journal September 2009

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Contents

3 – 4

In brief

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Targets for tough times The PSA bargaining priorities

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Crisis on the front line South Island hospital clerical workers consider industrial action

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Super city: PSA role acknowledged

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Spectre of privatisation A planned review of the Local Government Act heightens fears of privatisation

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Working life A bailiff and a fine collector talk about the challenges of their work

11 – 14 Up where we belong Disability support worker awareness week 15

Proposed union merger: your questions answered

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Battle for equal pay Looking back on the key people and events in the PSA battle for equal pay

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A place for women Launch of the PSA women’s network

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Looking back A retiring worker talks about her first public service job

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How to get the job you want Helpful hints on job interviews from the PSA’s HR adviser

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Reap the rewards Mary Holm describes how to get the most from KiwiSaver and SSRSS

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Everyone loves libraries: competition winners

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Office politics

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Pastimes

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PSA Journal September 2009

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president

Weighing up risks and benefits

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11-14

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8 The PSA Journal is published quarterly. Views and opinions expressed in the Journal do not necessarily represent PSA policy. The PSA objective is to build union organisation able to influence the social, political, economic, and industrial environment to advance the individual and collective interests of PSA members. PSA Executive Board: Paula Scholes (president), Georgina Kerr (vice president), Benedict Ferguson, Gordon Mosely, Marlene Pitman, Bruce McKinlay, John Upfold, Kevin McGorry, Brenda Pilott and Richard Wagstaff. PSA Journal editor: Anne Goodman PSA, PO Box 3817, Wellington. Freephone 0508 FOR PSA (367 772). ax 04 9172051. Email enquiries@psa.org.nz Printing: APN Print, Tauranga

This editorial marks my first anniversary as your president. It’s been a year of challenges for all of us – a new government, a global recession, restructurings across the public sector, a virtual wage freeze – and many others. But one of the biggest challenges for me has been our decision to pursue discussions with the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) with a view to developing a detailed proposal to merge. Some of you will be wondering ‘why would we want to merge with another union?’ and I hope the questions and answers article in this Journal go some way to answering that for you. I’d also like to assure you that I and all the members of your executive board gave long and serious consideration to this decision. We have a duty of care to you our members, and a responsibility of stewardship for the history and also for the future of our union – Te Pükenga Here Tikanga Mahi, the PSA. We recognise that it is a significant step to consider merging our union with another and I want to assure you that this decision – to develop a detailed proposal of what a merged union would look like – does not mean it is a done deal, or that it will occur behind members’ backs, without their say so. You can expect to see extensive communication as the proposal is developed over the coming months. Plus, our rules are very clear – while the executive board and I can, and have, made the decision to develop a merger proposal, it is only the National Delegates Congress that can make the decision to go ahead and merge with another union. Yes, a merger has risks. That’s why we’re developing a detailed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the SFWU. The MOU will outline the need for thorough financial due diligence and cost modelling. It will also identify key decision points where either union may decide not to proceed further. But a merger also presents opportunities – for you our members, for our staff and for our union as an organisation. Opportunities that we should not walk away from lightly. Opportunities that deserve our serious consideration. I’m confident of our union’s abilities to evaluate and manage the risks while maximising our opportunities. You should be confident too – because together, we can make the right decision for our union

Yours in solidarity Paula Scholes PSA president

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PSA Journal September 2009

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in brief Redundancy rights

Aircraft control

Labour MP Darien Fenton has introduced a member’s bill to provide all workers with basic redundancy rights, including minimum compensation. At present there is no statutory right to redundancy compensation. An estimated 80% of working New Zealanders, mainly in non-unionised worksites, don’t have redundancy protections written into their employment agreement. Information is on the website www.hardtimes.org.nz

Red-letter days

Catherine Evison (left) and Richard Wagstaff

PSA delegate Catherine Evison recently gave national secretary Richard Wagstaff a tour of her workplace, Airways NZ in Christchurch. She says he was amazed to learn they provide aircraft radar control for the whole country from that one room. “It’s a different job to that of air traffic controllers,” Catherine explains. “They look after aircraft flying in controlled air space that have to fly at certain levels and certain speeds. We’re communicating with aircraft in uncontrolled air space. They can fly where they want but they talk to us and tell us where they are. We take position reports and pass on weather and traffic information.” There are very few people who are trained to do this job and career openings are few and far between. Catherine has worked in the industry for 20 years and says she loves the variety and the fact that you’re helping people. She says members at Airways NZ welcomed the chance to have a chat with Richard. “You pay your union fees and sometimes you just think of the union as solving your problems. Richard’s visit reminded us we’re part of a bigger union that deals with so many different workplaces and that we’re all working together for common goals.”

National Library cuts

National Library staff in Christchurch went public with their opposition to staffing cuts. Fourteen jobs have been cut from the section that provides library services to schools. Staff are concerned that the cuts will undermine the quality of services as well as add to growing unemployment in the region.

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PSA Journal September 2009

Become a Kiwi Solidarity member Support oppressed workers in the Asia Pacific by making a small monthly donation to UnionAid. Small but regular direct-credit donations will help make a real difference to people’s lives. UnionAid is a CTU initiative to support unions for vulnerable workers, such as Dalit (untouchable) workers in India and migrant workers on the Thailand-Burma border. Some UnionAid projects attract $4 from NZ Aid for every dollar you donate. If you can help, please email unionaid@nzctu.org.nz

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Hospital allied health and technical staff are due for a 4 per cent pay rise on October 1 and mental health nurses will get the same increase on November 1. They represent the final stage in the three-step increases negotiated by the PSA in 2007 as part of the multiemployer collective agreements for all district health boards outside the Auckland region.

Monitoring the gap The Human Rights Commission is to monitor progress on pay and employment equity in the state sector. It will measure annually the pay gap between men and women, the difference in starting rates, and progress on closing the gender gap. This move follows the government decision to shut down the Pay and Employment Equity Unit and pay investigations. In the state sector, the gender pay gap ranges from 3 per cent to 35 per cent.

Phone winner Congratulations to Rangi Ririnui who won the PSA’s “text us” competition and a Nokia phone. She was delighted with her prize as her old mobile was on its last legs. Rangi is a delegate who works at the Ministry of Social Development. The winning entry was drawn at random by computer.


in brief PSA centenary

Lunchtime waiata

The PSA will celebrate its centenary in 2013. This will mark 100 years since the PSA was registered as an incorporated society. The executive board has set up a steering group to explore ways of marking this important milestone in the union’s history. We are planning an exciting year of celebrations which look back on our past and look forward to our next 100 years. We are pleased to have the assistance of the Labour History Project with our centenary planning.

Pay trend emerges Police will get a 2 per cent pay increase on pay and allowances on top of their incremental pay progression. The increase is in line with the trend which recently saw a 2 per cent settlement for workers covered by the Metals agreement. This applies to 150 companies in the private sector.

Ukele players, back row, Maraea Rakuraku (Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu) and Justine Murray (Ngai te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui) joined with other staff at Radio New Zealand to serve up waiata in the cafeteria during Te Wiki o te Reo Maori, July 27 to August 2. Maraea, a PSA delegate, says the aim was to encourage the staff to korero Maori and to recognise that te reo Maori is an official language of

Front line under stress Staff and communities are starting to feel the effects of government cuts to public services. Excessive workloads, staff cuts, unfilled vacancies, the stress of restructurings and fear of job losses are all having an impact on the quality of front line services. This was a consistent refrain at a recent forum for PSA members in Christchurch, Gathering to Strengthen Front-Line Public Services. Nearly 100 members from a wide range of government agencies participated in the forum, along with local MPs and councillors and PSA president Paula Scholes (pictured). All pointed to examples of services being downgraded as a result of government costcutting. These include the loss of some services, longer waiting times, reductions in care, and angry clients. Underlying this was a consistent theme that public sector workers are undervalued by the government and often lacking the support they need from management. The forum was held as part of the PSA’s ongoing campaign for strong public services.

In the face of government pressure for a zero increase, the police took their case to arbitration, an option they have in return for not being able to take industrial action. In reaching her decision, the arbitrator noted that wage movements for 2008-09 are 2.9 per cent. Maintaining relativity with other agreements was the strongest argument for the increase, she said. And while the economic environment is a factor “it would be unfair and inequitable for police to be required to carry more than their fair share of the cost”.

Delegate workshops The PSA runs a series of workshops for delegates and paid leave is available to attend. Delegate workshops are held around the country to give you the skills and confidence you need to be a delegate

Register online Don’t wait to be invited. Go to the PSA website for information on the workshops. Register online for a workshop in your area. The PSA will send you a confirmation letter or email and an approval form for you to give to your manager. www.psa.org.nz/DelegateZone/DelegateWorkshops.aspx

Delegate handbook The PSA Delegate’s Handbook is posted to all new delegates. If you are a re-elected delegate and do not have the current handbook, contact the Organising Centre for a copy – email enquiries@psa.org.nz or phone 0508 367 772.

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PSA Journal September 2009

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BARGAINING

Targets for tough times T

hese are tough times for bargaining. Budget restraints, jobs cuts, economic downturn and what feels like a wage freeze will be major obstacles to getting good

settlements. But that does not mean we as a union should turn our back on fair pay. The executive board has signed off our bargaining priorities for the next two years. They set standards for bargaining and stress the importance of a fair deal at work and not going backwards. At the same time, they are responsive to the constraints of a tight economy. The bargaining priorities set the standards for improving working life across all workplaces. Every workplace will of course have its own specific issues to be fitted into this framework. And whether it’s science, the public service, local government, hospitals or community support services, each sector will have a particular focus. The PSA has shaped our priorities to respond to the circumstances of each of these sectors.

Our targets Decent Work Work provides a sense of purpose and a sense of structure in people’s lives. It’s what we do; who we are. But for it to be satisfying and not a source of discontent, workers need to feel they are valued and respected for their knowledge, skills and commitment, and they are paid fairly for the work they do. The PSA is committed to fighting for fair pay. That means not losing ground in difficult economic times. It also means a fair process for setting pay and bringing an end to performancepay systems which have led to pay injustice across the public sector. The PSA is pressing for transparent pay-setting that provides certainty and ensures rates of pay are negotiated by union members as part of their collective agreement. We know from the work of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit that women are being underpaid across the public sector. This is being driven in part by unequal starting rates and performance pay systems. Fair pay must include the removal of pay discrimination.

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PSA Journal September 2009

Decent work also means reasonable workloads and a healthy balance between work and other aspects of life. Many government agencies are experiencing increased demands for their services. We know from our workload surveys that work-related stress is a real concern in many parts of the public sector. The need to get work done must not be at the expense of the health and safety of staff. The PSA does not intend to go backwards in our campaign for decent work. We will not agree to trading-off hard-won terms and conditions.

Job Security We all work better if we have some certainty about the future. The PSA is seeking strong provisions around job security in all collective agreements. Where restructuring is deemed necessary, the union must be involved each step of the way. Fair and transparent change processes and good redundancy provisions are vital to retain skills and experience and mitigate job losses. Where redundancies are being signalled, the PSA will explore with members all the options to job losses. The PSA will also be seeking from employers a greater commitment to training and career development and crossagency secondments. This approach will build public sector capability and provide workers with more career options and ability to adapt to the speed of change.

Worker Voice Workers need to have a say in their workplaces and in what they do. It’s about being valued and respected. It’s also about adding value to the design and delivery of public services by tapping in to workers’ knowledge and experience. The PSA wants workers to have a greater say in big workplace issues such as expenditure reviews and service delivery. Workers should feel comfortable about being part of the union. Good employers support the important role of union delegates. This includes time and resources to do the job and a willingness to meet on equal terms to discuss work issues, share information and resolve problems.

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Health

Crisis on the front line South Island hospital clerical and administration workers are considering industrial action. They are fed up with poor pay and being told by the government their work is not valued.

P

SA delegate Mandy Gill works at Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch. She assists in

co-ordinating services for older people so they can continue living in their own homes for as long as possible. Keeping older people healthy and living in the community saves the government millions of dollars in hospital care. Mandy is a member of the PSA team that’s trying to negotiate a new collective agreement for clerical and administration members employed by South Island district health boards. They’ve been offered a zero pay rise despite being paid less than clerical and administration members doing the same work in the North Island. Mandy says it’s simply not fair to be paid less for doing the same work. South Island clerical and administration workers are the only major occupational group in New Zealand hospitals not to have had improvements to their pay and

Mandy Gill, centre front, with some of her colleagues them as backroom bureaucrats. “I don’t agree with this frontroom versus

without us.” Mandy

says

other

hospital

staff

backroom stuff. It’s a lot of a nonsense.”

appreciate the work that clerical and

She says any organisation would

administration workers do because

fall over if it didn’t have staff doing

it enables them do their job. “The

administrative and clerical work. “The

government needs to recognise that

hospital wouldn’t function without

health workers operate as a team and

nurses and doctors. It wouldn’t function

that every member of the team is

without cleaners. It wouldn’t function

important.”

conditions in recent times. The pay is very poor, with some workers on just over the minimum wage. Some employers have said they would like to pay more but the government will not provide the money. “We appreciate there’s a recession and the country is struggling a bit but on the other hand we’ve dipped out and it’s just unfair,” says Mandy. “They should at least be matching the increases in pay and conditions for North Island clerical workers. We’re not asking for more than that. We’re being extremely reasonable.” Last year, PSA hospital clerical and administration members in the North Island won significant improvements to their pay and conditions, including an 11per cent increase over three years and the bottom step raised to $30,500. Mandy says the government is trying to diminish the work of clerical and

Part of the health team Hospital clerical and administration workers are at the heart of an efficient and well-run hospital and the first point of contact for most patients. However, the government calls them “backroom bureaucrats” and has capped their numbers.

What nurses say “It is popular to call for fewer “bureaucrats” and for more nurses and doctors but the reality is that if our health services were run without good managers and administrators – nurses, doctors and our patients would be lost in chaos and wastefulness.” From a media release by the NZ Nurses Organisation

What consultants say We are consultant physicians and psychiatrists at Canterbury DHB. We are writing to support our clerical worker colleagues in their wage negotiations. Their skill and hard work contribute greatly to the smooth running of [our services], facilitating prompt communication with general practitioners and specialist colleagues – an important contribution to patient safety. They often act as the front person for clinical, managerial and academic units [and] as stable repositories of knowledge used by patients, families and staff. We are concerned that we will lose our valued staff if the DHBs are unable to offer appropriate financial recompense. Extracts from a letter signed by 10 consultant physicians and psychiatrists to the chief executive of Canterbury DHB

administration workers by dismissing

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PSA Journal September 2009

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Super-city: PSA role acknowledged

A

uckland local government workers worried about their jobs can take some comfort from the recently released report of the select committee on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill. The committee acknowledged that “it is an uncertain and stressful time for many employees” and urged the Auckland Transition Agency to take note. “We urge the Auckland Transition Agency to manage this process so as to affect as few employees as possible, and to retain as much institutional knowledge within the councils as practicable. We hope to see a fair and transparent restructuring process established, and mechanisms established to help people who lose their current roles to promptly find appropriate employment elsewhere.” The committee’s report echoed the concerns in the PSA’s submission to the committee in July. The PSA submission was based on four guiding principles developed by members. They were that reorganisation must: • maintain the ability for workers to deliver high quality services • maintain / improve the terms and conditions for union members • safeguard the democratic process and strengthen community engagement • retain public and democratic ownership and control of public assets and services.

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PSA Journal September 2009

Members in Auckland local government, above and below, wear Keep Auckland Working badges to underline the importance of retaining jobs and services

Last month, delegates from all seven local councils and PSA officials met Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) officials Mark Ford (executive chair) and Laila Harré (adviser responsible for staff matters). The PSA and ATA agreed on “engagement expectations”. The expectations document provides for a free flow of information and the opportunity for PSA input during the transition process. Laila Harré acknowledges there needs to be union involvement in the process. “The union has an important role in communicating collective opinion from its members at all stages of the process and it will obviously also have an important role in ensuring individuals are treated fairly and properly.” “It’s fantastic to see the ATA openly

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engaging with us. The sharing of expectations and information is a great starting point to build a close working relationship,” says Yvonne Bohn, one of the Auckland PSA delegates who met with the ATA. Yvonne says workers across the region are worried. “Without legislation to protect jobs there are no guarantees. This is very unsettling for many people.” She is also concerned about potential privatisation and contracting out of local government services. “It’s not just about our jobs, but also the impact that privatisation may have on the services that ratepayers receive. Why pay extra to the private sector when we have the skills and knowledge to do the work ourselves?” Further legislation on Auckland restructuring is planned to address transition issues, including staffing and employment issues. “It’s a very fluid situation,” says PSA acting assistant secretary Kerry Davies. “We would expect the ATA will heed the strong signal from the select committee on the need to retain the current workforce. So far, they show every sign of doing that. There’s a long way to go with this process but we’ll be keeping PSA members fully informed every step of the way.”


LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Review raises privatisation fears The review of the Local Government Act 2002 that’s getting underway seems to be driven by an agenda of privatisation rather than better services for residents. The 2002 Act was ground-breaking in requiring an engagement between councils and their communities and provided a model for other spheres of government/citizen interaction. It was reviewed in 2007 so why does it need to be reviewed again? The review, driven by local government minister Rodney Hide, is guided by three principles: • local government should operate within a defined fiscal envelope

population and economic growth. On the issue of core services, there is an assumption that one size fits all. The proposal ignores that local authorities are diverse – a small-population rural district council, a district surrounding a metropolitan area and a major city authority are very different and will have different priorities. Rural ratepayers may not expect cultural services or household recycling collection to be provided, but these may well be high priorities for a metropolitan council, alongside an economic and tourism development role. By narrowing the definition, the ability of ratepayers to choose their service and service levels is constrained.

• council decision-making should be clear, transparent and accountable.

In fact, New Zealand local government already has a relatively narrow focus, compared with overseas authorities where education, health, social housing, social services, policing may be delivered locally rather than by central government.

While there are always better and more effective ways of managing local authority finances, the report of the Local Government Rates Inquiry has shown that local government has grown at a lower rate than central government and the wider economy. Nor has there been any significant rise in staff numbers despite an increased and more complex workload in response to

The real motive behind the review of local government seems to be a drive for privatisation of public services. Local government minister Rodney Hide and his party ACT are strong advocates of privatisation. PSA members are clear that public services and public assets – widely defined – should remain in public ownership and control.

• councils should focus on core activities

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PSA Journal September 2009

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working life

A fine business Collections officers and bailiffs may not rank amongst the most popular occupations but these public servants are essential if the rule of law is to be protected Ariane O’Brien tends not to see the has been unpaid for three public at its jolliest. In fact most people or four months. A warrant on the other side of the counter are is issued which authorises decidedly unhappy. the bailiff to take property “One way or another, the chances are to the value of the unpaid they’re going to lose money,” she says. fine if the defaulter is Ariane works for the Ministry of Justice unable to pay it. as a registry collections officer, dealing “That could be anything mainly with people who come to pay from a car to a stereo or or, in some cases, challenge the fines TV,” says Lyell. He stresses they’ve incurred. that bailiffs never take Tempers can rise with the knowledge anything that people that the original $10 parking fine, can’t live without such as an oven or ignored for 28 days, has had a $30 fridge. court fee added to it He says it’s a matter “The appearance of the and another deadline. of recovering the fine If that’s ignored, the bailiff can even be a relief in a way the defaulter because it means the fine is ramped up by a can accommodate, further $100. whether it’s paying problem is going to be “We do get flak at cash, instalments from sorted” times,” says Ariane. wages, or handing She admits the verbal abuse can be a bit over property. “Another option is to get stressful at times. “But you get used to it. them into court and into community And if people think they have grounds work in lieu of the fines.” to dispute a fine we help them with the Bailiffs also serve documents issued process.” by the Family Court such as protection Enforcement is the final step for orders in response to domestic violence, dealing with unpaid fines. “We try every and collect unpaid debts as a result of other possible means of getting the warrants issued by a Disputes Tribunal. payment first.” But when all else fails, Given the nature of their work, it’s the bailiff is called in. And in Rotorua, little wonder bailiffs have to be on that might be Lyell Morrison. their guard against an over-aggressive Lyell is one of four bailiffs based in response. Lyell says the Rotorua bailiffs Rotorua. He was in the police for 20 generally work in pairs and are equipped years before becoming a bailiff nearly with radio telephones and personal alert five years ago. That experience has buttons so they can quickly contact equipped him to cope with the threat their base. of violence that’s always present in the “If we’re going to outlying areas, life of a bailiff. we put in a route plan so the office “You could be going to the simplest of generally knows where we are.” He also jobs and find it escalates into abuse and does his homework on each case before threats of violence. Your best weapon is he heads out to execute a warrant or your mouth; generally I can talk people serve a protection order. He calls it his down.” health and safety check and so far it’s Bailiffs knock on the door when a fine been successful.

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PSA Journal September 2009

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He knows of other bailiffs who have been threatened with knives but so far it hasn’t happened to him. “I’ve had the odd verbal attack but I simply walk away. We have a close working relationship with the local police so at any sign of trouble we back off and call the boys in blue.” But Lyell doesn’t want to leave the impression that his job is all about dealing with difficult, aggressive people. His focus is on finding a successful outcome for each case he handles and he likes the challenge. “It’s enjoyable. You have your moments but 90 per cent of the time we’re dealing with people who are prepared to co-operate.” And for some fine defaulters, the ones who have buried their heads in the sand and felt unable to open the demands for payment, the appearance of the bailiff can even be a relief because it means the problem is going to be sorted.

Justice for us Ministry of Justice members are trying to negotiate a new collective agreement with fair rates of pay. Justice pay rates have fallen well behind the public service median.


Up Where We Belong: Raising the Status of Disability Support Work Shine a light August 10 to 16 was declared Disability Support Worker Awareness Week by PSA and Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) members, a time to shine a spotlight on the largely invisible disability support sector. It was part of the ongoing union campaign for adequate government funding to lift pay and conditions and improve the quality of disability support services. Disability support work requires judgment, skill and patience. Yet it is one of the poorest paid occupations, making it hard to attract and retain good staff and provide quality services. During the week, union members took to the streets with stalls and barbecues and invited the public to send postcards to Tariana Turia, the minister with responsibility for disability issues, calling for decent funding for the services. The public response was overwhelmingly positive. At the same time, many politicians accepted an invitation to spend a day with a disability support worker to see what’s involved in the job. The union campaign will continue throughout the year, with further activities planned.

Postcard signing at Hawera

Send a postcard Invite family, friends and colleagues to send a postcard to the government; no postage required. Phone 0508 367 772 or email enquiries@psa.org.nz for postcards.

Showing support The union rally in Christchurch to raise awareness of disability support work was a chance for Peter Brouard to demonstrate his support for the cause – and show off his 2000cc trike at the same time. “I have often thought these workers are underpaid and should get the same as others doing similar work. Better pay and better training would be a win-win,” he says. Peter was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis

when he was a young man and only recently married. He and his family rely on support worker Jenny Goodman to provide the help they need to get on with their lives. He says that without that support, his wife Nicki would struggle. “The option would be for me to go in a home. That would gut me and be hard on my family. And in the long run it would be more expensive for the government.”

Key issues A 2008 workforce action plan by the Ministry of Health Disability Services Group said there aren’t enough skilled staff to ensure people with disabilities get the support they need. It found that: • The pay is too low for such demanding work. • There is little training and career development. • The job lacks the status it deserves.

Peter Brouard

Most of the problems stem from a funding regime which doesn’t cover decent pay and training, lacks certainty, and involves too many government agencies, each doing their own thing. The report said the workforce priorities are: • Career paths with recognised training and qualifications. • Improved pay and conditions. Ministry of Health Disability Services Group. Disability Services Workforce: Action Plan

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PSA Journal September 2009

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Up Where We Belong: Raising the Status of Disability Support Work Campaign for a better future It’s been a good working day for Melanie Bourgeois when she can go home knowing that all residents are calm, settled and happy. “Then you feel you’ve done pretty well,” she says. Melanie has been a disability support worker for 12 years, working in Spectrum Care community residential homes for adults with multiple disabilities. She describes the work as physically and emotionally demanding. Dealing with unpredictable behaviours can be one of the biggest challenges, she says. “People’s mood and outlook on life can change rapidly: up and happy one minute, then the next minute the whole world’s against them. And it’s not one person you’re dealing with, but five or six people with a range of disabilities. “To be good at this job I think you have to have an understanding of people and to be able to read their moods, particularly as a lot of the people we work with don’t have verbal skills. It’s one of the things you learn as you go.” Melanie welcomes the fact that the union campaign on disability support work is raising awareness of people with disabilities and their needs as members of the community. “A lot of people are quite anxious about

A multi-skilled job

Stall in Auckland to promote Disability Support Worker Awareness Week people with intellectual disabilities and treat them as threatening. Yet the people we work with are more likely to be well-behaved at a rugby match than a lot of my friends,” she laughs. Melanie believes if decision-makers knew more about the sector and the challenges of the work, the pay and conditions would be a lot better. “Somewhere along the line someone decided it was basic care so only needed It’s a challenging job but what frustrates Pirihira most is the general perception that she’s ‘just a caregiver’. “We’re much more than that,” she says. The skills she uses in her job include advocacy, non-verbal communication, occupational therapy, menu planning, budget management . . . “I want to see better pay for disability support workers. They deserve it. As it is, there’s a very high turnover; a lot of people come and then move on for better wages.

Pirihira Ewe on video Pirihira Ewe is the disability support worker for a group of men with intellectual disabilities. They’re the reason she stays in the job. “I’ve known these men for 13 or 14 years and spend five or six days with them every week. They are like family.”

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PSA Journal September 2009

“But it’s not just about the hourly rate of pay, it’s also about getting recognition – a recognised qualification so you have something to show for what you do and the skills you learn.” Pirihira describes her work on a PSA online video. www.psa.org.nz/Campaigns/ DisabilitySupportWorkers.aspx

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basic pay. But as time goes on they add more and more to the job. The role is changing a lot but the money and recognition aren’t.” Melanie hopes the union campaign to raise the status of disability support workers will benefit young workers in the future. “I would like to see young people who come into the sector get well rewarded for the job they do. That they go into a job that pays them properly for their skills.”

The cost of community care Up to 20 years ago, many people who now live in residential homes lived in special hospitals. These were closed in the nineties to move people into the community. Community support costs more than hospital care but the extra money wasn’t provided. Government funding was frozen during the nineties and support workers’ pay went backwards. We have never made up the lost funding. It is still inadequate and rates of pay are still determined by how much funding is available, not the value of the work. Added to that is the fact that threequarters of disability support workers are women. Work done largely by women, particularly care and support work, is traditionally under-valued.


Up Where We Belong: Raising the Status of Disability Support Work In my brother’s interests Gary Bennett is right behind the union campaign to improve pay and conditions for disability support workers. “You can’t pay them too much as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “I have a twofold interest in supporting them as it’s also supporting my brother. It goes without question that a well-paid, well-trained workforce is in my brother’s interest.”

Gary Bennett, centre, with brother Ken and daughter Britley

Gary’s older brother, Ken, has multiple disabilities and has been in a residential home since his parents were no longer well enough to care for him at home. “My parents kept Ken at home as long as they could. The most difficult thing for them was letting him go when they could no longer cope.“ Gary sees a lot of his brother and they have regular trips out. But providing the full-time care and support Ken needs, as well as holding down a full-time job, would not be possible. “We would be lost without the support services.” But it’s a concern when staff leave and Ken has to get used to someone new. So far, they’ve been lucky. “We have a stable staff at the moment but I hate to see people leave because it has a definite impact on my brother and his wellbeing,” says Gary. “He can’t talk for himself but he does get attached to the staff, there’s no question about that, and he talks to them in his own way. It’s why I support the campaign: good pay and conditions will retain staff for longer.”

Gary says the general public doesn’t appreciate the job that disability support workers do – not until a family member goes into care. “It’s only at that point that they appreciate the work these people do.” “It gets me so wild when I hear about people on huge salaries getting huge bonuses that would keep the residents and staff at my brother’s place happy for years.”

Politicians shadow workers About a dozen MPs and some local government politicians accepted an invitation from the PSA and SFWU to “shadow” a disability support worker and gain some insights about this demanding job. This is what two of them said.

The Labour MP “There are not enough workers because we are not paid enough”. This is a quote from a very bright but underpaid woman [that] just about sums up my morning which I spent with people who work with disabled people, both with intellectual and physical disabilities. They work very hard and over long hours often because, despite the unemployment situation, lots of people can’t or won’t do their work. They administer medicines, toilet people, bathe them, care for their money, act as counsellors, and are regularly assaulted.” Trevor Mallard

The National MP “One of the situations that remained very clear in my mind is the worker earning close to minimum wage who drives an hour each way to work one-to-one with a disabled person. There is no doubt that many people find this work rewarding, but it is not without its risks. Instances occur where carers are attacked physically and without warning. I could never work in this field. I believe the overwhelming majority of us wouldn’t do it, especially for the lower levels of remuneration. The people working in this area are saints and often feel undervalued. There was no secret that the reason I was asked along was to enable me to witness first-hand the world of the carers and their current claim for better conditions and rates of pay. I have to say the point was well made.” Chester Borrows

Low status, low pay This is a low-status job, with low pay rates that do not reflect the difficulty or responsibility of the work. . . Many support workers work long hours to the detriment of their wellbeing. Support workers are not often trained and few opportunities for . . . training are available. We recommend to the government that it establish a strategy for improving training, pay rates, and working conditions for the caring and support workforce in the disability sector.

Chester Borrows MP gains an insight into disability support work

Inquiry into the quality of care and service provisions for people with disabilities. Parliament, September 2008

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PSA Journal September 2009

13


pandemic

Up Where We Belong: Raising the Status of Disability Support Work

A high skill, low pay job The government does not provide disability support services but it pays for them, one way or another. The services have been contracted out, mainly to trusts and charitable organisations but also to the private sector. Kerry Davies is the PSA national organiser for the union campaign to raise the status of disability support work. We asked her why there is a problem and what needs to be done.

Why is pay so low? There are two issues. One is to do with how the work is valued and how skills are recognised. The other is to do with the funding that pays for those skills. At present, people are paid on the basis of the amount of funding that’s available rather than on the level of skill.

And the funding isn’t enough to cover decent pay? No. Throughout the nineties there was no change in the level of funding. Costs increased but pay never kept up. So we ended up with this high skill, low pay job. There have been funding increases in the last few years but they weren’t enough so we still have that lag from the nineties.

Why do you think the work is under-valued? It’s become clear to us that one of the reasons why disability support workers are not valued is that the people they are supporting aren’t valued. Both family members [of people with disabilities] and workers see those two issues as inextricably linked. Our campaign is as much about valuing people with disabilities as it is about valuing the people who support them.

Do service users and families support the campaign? Yes they do. Family members see the complexity of the work, and particularly the importance of having a stable, well-trained, skilled workforce. You can only have that if you have adequate funding to enable people to attend training and have a proper career path. Families are distressed at the high turnover of staff. It’s very unsettling for people with disabilities when the staff they rely on keep changing or are learning the job rather than are competent at the job.

But can you expect the government to fork out more money during a recession? Yes. We’re going through difficult times but the government still has to make decisions about where it’s spending money. Even during a recession they are making decisions about priorities for spending, whether it’s new roads or more money for private schools. We’re saying they need to make disability services a priority.

So why isn’t this a government priority?

Responsible contracting The report of the Pay and Employment Equity Taskforce in 2004 noted that contracting out public services in the health sector has led to “lower pay and conditions and less employment security”. Responsible contracting is gradually being adopted in a number of countries. It requires government agencies that outsource public services to stipulate employment standards as part of the contract. These might include: • fair and equitable pay • training and career progression

I think everyone agrees it’s a genuine need but some other more headline-grabbing issue gets prioritised. There isn’t the political pressure on the government to deliver.

What should the government do? Firstly, the government needs to inject significant funding that flows directly into wages and pays for the skill level of the job. Secondly, there needs to be financial certainty for service providers so they can plan ahead for pay increases and training needs. Normally funding contracts are only for a year but we think they should be for at least three years and stipulate proper pay rates. The third issue is the number of different government agencies involved in funding support services, all using different criteria. There needs to be much better coordination across all the agencies.

• job security • decent leave and hours of work • positive relationships with unions • safe and healthy work practices.

Should the government set standards for services it contracts out?

The previous government planned to introduce responsible contracting as part of the pay and employment equity programme.

We think that when you contract out public service delivery, there should be certain standards to be met such as service quality and fair pay. The method of delivery shouldn’t compromise standards. Last year the Ministry of Health set a minimum pay rate for intellectual disability support workers of $14.20 as part of the funding contract. That’s still very low pay but at least a minimum rate is stipulated.

The present government has abandoned the equity programme but responsible contracting should still be on their radar because fair pay, decent conditions and proper training will lift the quality of services paid for by public money.

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merger talks

Proposal to merge unions You will be aware that the PSA and the Service and Food Workers Union (SWFU) have been holding exploratory talks on whether a merger would be in the long-term interests of the two unions and their members. A working group with representatives from the boards of both unions was set up in February to investigate its feasibility.

proposal on the structure of the new organisation and how it would operate.

The working group has reported to the PSA executive board that it is satisfied a merger would be feasible and could benefit members of both the PSA and the SFWU. As a result, the executive board decided at its meeting on 25 and 26 August to take the next step in the process and enter into a memorandum of understanding with the SFWU.

This proposal will go to the PSA’s highest policy-making body, the National Congress of Delegates, in 2010 for a final decision on whether to merge with the SFWU.

The memorandum will set out the shared understanding of the merger objectives and require the unions to develop a detailed

Paula Scholes PSA president

What benefits would there be for PSA members if we merged with the SFWU?

Is a merger with the SFWU a done deal? No. The decision on whether the PSA should merge with the SFWU will be made by delegates at a PSA congress in 2010. The SFWU will have a similar process in place.

If the merger goes ahead, how big will the union be? The PSA currently has about 57,000 members and the SFWU has about 22,000. These numbers combined would make us far and away the largest union in New Zealand.

The PSA seems to be in good heart. Why change things? The PSA is doing well and membership has been growing steadily. But we live in challenging times. Making changes does have its risks but there can be bigger risks in doing nothing. The strength of numbers from a merged union would make us a more powerful force.

What do the PSA and the SFWU have in common? The bulk of members of both unions work in publicly-funded services. Over one-third of PSA members work in the health sector, mainly in hospitals but also in community care and support. The SFWU has a similar profile with half of its membership working in hospitals or in the community care and support sector. The SFWU also covers office cleaners most of whom clean schools and government buildings. Until this work was contracted out in the nineties, many were employed by the Department of Internal Affairs and belonged to the PSA.

The SFWU covers people working in restaurants and food processing. How does that fit with us?

Strength of numbers would be the most obvious benefit for all members. In the health sector, where PSA and SFWU members have shared interests, a merger would strengthen relationships that already exist. The disability support campaign is a clear example of the benefits of the two unions combining forces to advance the interests of both unions’ members.

Would it mean losing the PSA name and PSA culture? The PSA and the PSA name have been around a long time. We are nearly 100 years old with a proud history and a strong culture. The SFWU also has a strong culture. We would have to work on preserving the best features of both. The name of a merged union would have to be decided in due course.

Would it mean belonging to a political party? No. The SFWU has traditionally affiliated to the Labour Party but this would not be tenable for the PSA. Many PSA members would feel compromised if their union was part of a political party. This has been accepted by the SFWU.

Mergers can be financially risky. Has the executive board considered this? The importance of thorough financial due diligence is uppermost in the minds of the executive board. There will be further cost modelling and this information will be presented to delegates at the congress which will decide on whether to merge.

Will members have a say? Congress is the decision-making body but we will be seeking members’ views through meetings and online forums.

Do you have a question?

There is no obvious fit in terms of occupational groupings. How we deal with that is one of the important matters that has yet to be decided.

If we haven’t answered your question, please send it to us at PSA Secretariat, PO Box 3817, Wellington, or email secretariat@psa.org.nz

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PSA Journal September 2009

15


equal pay

The battle for equal pay Mark Derby describes some of the people and events in the battle for equal pay for public service women. Mark is chair of the Labour History Project and a former PSA delegate.

Why pay ten bob for an article you

newspaper, the Evening Post. Two

can get for five?” demanded George

months later Jean was ordered to

Bolt, chairman of the Public Service

transfer to the duties of the cadet

Commission in 1955, and implacable

she had appealed against, with her

opponent of equal pay.

salary reduced to his much lower

The PSA adopted the principle of

starting rate. “She won’t mind,”

equal pay as early as 1914 but progress

trilled one National MP. “She is

towards that goal was painfully slow. By

young, attractive and she has a

the 1950s, women civil servants were

husband.”

regularly passed over for promotion

For Sid Holland’s National

and salary increases by younger male

government, the timing was

staff with little or no experience. The

unfortunate.

Public Service Commission defended

of Women was holding its biennial

25 1960, after the live radio broadcast

this practice by arguing that men were

conference on the day the Parker

of Parliament had gone off air, the PSA’s

paid a ‘social wage’ that recognised their

decision was released and all of its 42

equal pay activists in Wellington learned

role as the family breadwinner. This

branches sent fiery telegrams to Holland,

that the Bill was being debated. “We

quaint attitude ignored the reality that

Opposition leader Walter Nash and other

sprang into taxis and converged on

growing numbers of women supported

MPs. Holland responded by inviting

Parliament in time for the final vote,”

themselves financially, and often their

representatives of the Council and other

remembers Cath Eichelbaum (later

families as well.

The

National

Council

Late in the evening of October

women’s organisations to afternoon tea.

Kelly). “National supported the Bill,

The first women’s sub-committee of

“Women will not be fobbed off with tea

having opposed it all the way, and the

the PSA was formed in Wellington in

and cakes”, one of them responded, and

vote was unanimous. “

1943. From 1952 it gained a valuable

indeed the prime minister’s tea party

Jean Parker, who had been directly

new member, a young Department

turned out to be yet another government

instrumental in forcing the equal pay

of Statistics clerical worker named

stalling tactic.

issue, found the furore over her action

Margaret Brand. She became known to

However, the well-dressed gathering

somewhat daunting but she told Margaret

her rueful opponents as ‘Firebrand’, for

did result in the formation of a new

Brand, “I am very gratified to have had a

her relentless determination to see equal

Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity,

hand in it. How is my dear friend Mr Bolt

pay introduced.

with the influential Challis Hooper as

feeling these days? Does he go to work

In 1956 a test case catapulted the issue

its first president and Margaret Brand

to national prominence. Jean Parker was

with his coat collar turned up and his

its secretary. Labour won the 1957

then a 25-year-old clerk in Dunedin’s

head down?”

election with a policy of introducing

Margaret also looks back on this era

equal pay to the public service, but Nash

with fondness. Through her work with

dithered for several more years. The

the PSA women’s sub-committee she met

Government Service Equal Pay Bill was

fellow activist (and later PSA president)

finally introduced just days before the

Dan Long. They married in 1960, the year

following election.

the Equal Pay Act came into force.

Inland Revenue Department, with more than five years’ experience and in charge of eight other staff. Her maximum salary was 695 pounds, and it also supported her medical student husband. When a male cadet was appointed to her section on a maximum of 750 pounds, the PSA took Jean’s case to the Appeal Board, and won. The response was tumultuous and nationwide. “Equal Pay for Women is Injustice for Men” blared the Wellington

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PSA Journal September 2009

Labour History Project The Labour History Project – www. lhp.org.nz – is a voluntary organisation of historians and others interested in saving and recording the history of unions and other progressive movements. Since its formation in 1987, the LHP has been responsible for the production of many books, films and articles. The PSA is working with the LHP to plan our centenary in 2013.

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women’s network

A place for women

A

PSA Women’s Network is to be launched to provide a place for women members to share experiences about work and to organise around the things that need to change. The PSA has had women’s structures in the past that have been influential in raising awareness of issues affecting the working lives and home lives of women. PSA policy adviser Kirsten Windelov believes it is timely to revive the women’s network. “We’ve seen the pay gap get larger over the last 15 years and the closure of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit has made it even more important as a union issue. When we look at the history of activity in PSA women’s structures from the 1900s onwards, it tracks exactly with fights around equal pay. With each wave of activity, women in the PSA have stepped up to address this through their women’s network.” But she also points to other issues that impact on women’s work and careers, such as hours of work and workload intensity and the effect on family life, performance pay as a contributor to the gender pay gap, and workplace culture. In an exciting initiative to coincide with the launch of the network, the PSA is collaborating on a survey with the Industrial Relations Centre at Victoria University to find out what women members see as the main issues that need to be addressed. With 40,000 women in the PSA, all of whom will be invited to participate, the survey will provide a rich source of data on what matters most to women at work. The Women’s Network is defined in the rules as existing to “promote the interests of women within the PSA [and] facilitate the sharing of information and experiences”. It will have the same status as the other PSA networks. “Any woman member can belong,” says Kirsten. “The network will have its own space on the website with

Join the Women’s Network The PSA Women’s Network is open to all women members of the PSA. You can join now and be in at the start. Email kirsten.windelov@psa.org.nz to register your interest.

opportunities to take part in forums, email newsletters and an organising committee with representatives from all the sectors.” The Women’s Network will have staff support and a budget to allow for some face-to-face as well as virtual networking.

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PSA Journal September 2009

17


WOMEN’S WORK

Looking back Anne Thewles worked in the public service and later for the PSA. With just days to go until she retires, she looks back on her first job in the public service. It was in the early 1960s and I was 18. I never went for an interview. My father went down to Wellington from Hastings and then came back and said to me, you’ve got a job, you start in Wellington. I’ve no idea how it happened. I had to stay at the public service hostel in Wellington. The food wasn’t brilliant but you got three meals a day and you could make your lunch. During the week you had to be in at 10pm when the door was locked. There was a social worker who was part of the SSC assigned to the hostel. If you did anything wrong, she talked to you and told your boss who might tell your parents. My job was at the Department of Education district office and I loved it. I was a clerk in what was called the child welfare division. We received notification of any child born to an unwed mother and they had to be visited by a child welfare officer. We had card systems to enter the names and record visits. The adoption lady was also in our office. It was a very strict work environment and there were no ergonomic desks and chairs. The desk was too big for me and I had two cushions so I could see what I was doing. Everything was brown – brown linoleum, brown desks – except for the walls which were green. There was one office typewriter because you did most things with a pencil. To get a new pencil and a rubber you had to take the old piece of pencil to the storeroom on a particular day to have it replaced.

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PSA Journal September 2009

When I started work not everyone had a phone at home. I went on a training session – I think it was a half-day course – on how to use the phone. You always knew the boys were going to get on. There were no boys in the district office, they were in the head office. They had cadetships and were starting on a career. We were just office workers and there was no expectation we would do anything else other than get married and leave. Sexual harassment we had never heard of but we had a senior clerk who was always in the office when you were on your own and he would feel you up when you went to the filing cabinet. We hated him but it never occurred to us to report him. It was just what happened to women. One of the nice things I remember, and it used to be written in the public service manual, was that young workers should be encouraged to go home for Christmas and should be allowed to leave early to catch the public transport. We worked 7 hours 35 minutes a day and I think we had 9 or 10 days’ sick leave. There was also marriage leave. Only women got it because they had to go before the wedding and do things. If you got pregnant you left work. There was no parental leave and they didn’t like pregnant women in the office because they thought it didn’t look good. We got less pay than the private sector but the conditions were better and there was the super fund we could join. The view was that if you got into the public service you were set. You were in a safe place with a secure job. It was good work and you were working for your country.

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Employment

How to get the job you want

In a recession competition for jobs is fierce. What are the things that make a job applicant stand out and earn a place on the short list? PSA HR adviser Ben Burger, who has been conducting interviews for more than 20 years, offers some tips. There’s an opportunity to make an impression on your prospective employer at every stage of the job application process. Even before you fill out an application form, it’s a good idea to contact HR and ask for a job description or some information. A friendly phone inquiry, rather than an email, adds a human touch to the process and gets you remembered as someone who’s interested in the job. Surprisingly, very few people do this so it’s good way to make yourself stand out. Don’t be afraid to ask about the salary range. Any prospective employer knows this is important to you. A good covering letter with your CV can make a difference. I’m constantly amazed at how little effort goes into these. Employers can easily tell your letter is the standard you use for all your job applications. A good covering letter will show you are motivated and that you’ve done some research on your prospective employer. It’s also worthwhile to adapt your CV to match the skills and aptitudes specified for the position you’re applying for. Keep it fairly short, three or four pages, and well laid-out and organised. It’s not uncommon to get 50 applications for a job these days. A sloppy CV could be a deciding factor in whether or not you’re selected for an interview. First impressions count. When you enter the interview room, shake hands firmly with everyone on the panel. Make eye contact with everyone on the panel when you answer, not just with the person asking the question. Each of them will have a say on whether you get the job. I’m surprised by the number of people who turn up for interviews empty-handed. Bring along your CV and the job description if provided – you may have to refer to them. Having a notebook with points you want to raise or clarify shows your business-like approach.

An interview shouldn’t be a one-way process. Try to engage the panel by asking questions that demonstrate you have done some research on the organisation. A good interview is a dialogue in which everyone feels comfortable. With a bit of thought it’s possible to ask questions that can change the flow of the interview to focus on your strengths. Don’t be one of those people who, when asked at the end if they have any questions, say: “I think you’ve covered everything, thanks.” Do you know how many times employers hear that? Remember, this is your last chance to impress. Ask about the culture of the organisation, the challenges in the job or the prospects for advancement – the aim is to demonstrate a keen interest in the job. Don’t worry that a prospective employer will mark you down because you’ve been made redundant and unemployed for a while. There’s no stigma attached to that these days. If you can show that you used that time constructively by, say, taking up further study or using your skills for volunteer work in the community, it might even be a plus. One final tip. Try not to be the first interview of the day. Interview panels are often composed of people who are not used to working together or haven’t done so for a while. It takes them about two interviews to settle in. If you get allocated an early interview, ring HR and try to arrange a swap. Unlike motor racing, starting in pole position on the job circuit could reduce your chances of ending up on the winner’s podium.

More information Career Services website offers lots of ideas to help with job hunting and interviews, including how to prepare for an interview, the sorts of questions employers ask and tips for answering them. www.careers.govt.nz

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PSA Journal September 2009

19


RETIREMENT SAVINGS

KiwiSaver and SSRSS: reaping the rewards Financial columnist Mary Holm looks at whether it makes sense to join KiwiSaver if you already belong to the state sector retirement savings scheme (SSRSS) Question: My husband is a public servant and is in the government’s SSRSS super scheme. His contribution is 3 per cent, as is his employer’s – the government. Can he also join KiwiSaver to take advantage of the tax credits? And the big question: would he also get the 2 per cent employer contribution?

worth eating into other savings, or adding to your mortgage, to make it work. This is probably also true of later years.

Answer: Yes he can join KiwiSaver – as can any other New Zealand resident under 65 who is in another super scheme. If he does, he’ll get the $1000 kick-start and the member tax credits, but he won’t get the 2 per cent employer contribution if his employer is already putting 3 per cent into the SSRSS (state sector retirement savings scheme). This is to prevent “double dipping”, and it seems fair to me.

In the first year, KiwiSaver is clearly better. He receives the $1000 kick-start as well as the tax credit, which matches his contributions up to $1043 a year. This more than makes up for the fact that his employer will contribute only 2 per cent of pay to KiwiSaver, compared with 3 per cent to the SSRSS.

The more interesting question is whether your husband should join KiwiSaver. The answer is “yes” – in one way or another. And, by the way, the same might be said for people in other super schemes, who may want to analyse their situation in a similar way to what follows. First, let’s note some key points: • In some circumstances, SSRSS members can get their money out between 50 and NZ Super age, whereas in KiwiSaver it’s NZ Super age – or older if you join when you are over 60. If this is important to you, it may sway your decisions. • SSRSS members can stop and start their regular payments into the scheme whenever they want to. • In the first year in KiwiSaver, employees must contribute at least 2 per cent of their pay. But after that they can take a contributions holiday and contribute nothing, or any amount they choose, paying it directly to their provider. • When not on a contributions holiday, employees must put in 2, 4 or 8 per cent of their pay via their employer. But they can also make extra contributions of any amount – regularly or occasionally - directly to their provider. • The last two points assume the provider will accept the amounts contributed. Most are pretty flexible. If your provider won’t accept the level of contributions you want to make, move to one who will. If your husband is willing to save more than his current 3 per cent to his retirement savings, the best strategy is to continue contributing 3 per cent to the SSRSS and to also join KiwiSaver, paying the minimum 2 per cent of pay for a year. If 2 per cent is less than $1043 – which will be the case if he earns less than $52,150 a year – he should top up his KiwiSaver contribution to $1043 if he can afford it, to get the maximum tax credit. After a year he should take a contributions holiday from KiwiSaver but keep contributing $1043 a year directly to his provider and 3 per cent to SSRSS. That maximises the contributions he can receive from the government, which will powerfully boost his savings. It also gives good flexibility on when he can withdraw money. The financial rewards for using this strategy – especially in the first year when your husband will get the kick-start – are such that it’s

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PSA Journal Journal September September 2009 2009 PSA

Nevertheless, your husband might prefer to stick to contributing just 3 per cent of his pay. The question then is: should he suspend SSRSS payments and put the money into KiwiSaver?

The SSRSS would be better only if he earns more than $204,300 a year – and I don’t think we’re paying public servants quite that much. In later years, he won’t get the kick-start. So he needs to weigh up getting the KiwiSaver tax credit versus getting the extra 1 per cent from his employer. Unless he earns more than $104,300 a year, the KiwiSaver tax credit will be higher, so he should stick with KiwiSaver. If he does earn more than $104,300, he should take a contributions holiday from KiwiSaver and resume his regular contributions to the SSRSS. For more on the rules regarding KiwiSaver for SSRSS members, and a comparison of the features of the two schemes, see www. superscheme.govt.nz/SSRSSAndKiwiSaver/ A few final points: • SSRSS members who earn more than $204,300 a year might want to note that even though the SSRSS works better for you than KiwiSaver in the first year, in the long run it’s still worth also joining KiwiSaver to get the tax credits over the years. • Any other readers who think the SSRSS/KiwiSaver combination looks attractive – and it certainly is – should note that the SSRSS is no longer open to new members.

Giveaways The Complete KiwiSaver: Everything You Need To Know Random House is giving away five copies of Mary Holms’ book The Complete KiwiSaver to PSA Journal readers. To enter, send us your name and postal address on the back of an envelope addressed to Giveaway, PSA, PO Box 3817, Wellington. Or email to competition@psa.org.nz, subject line Giveaway. The closing date is 30 October 2009.

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Everyone loves libraries Competition

Judge’s comment

In a recent PSA Noticeboard we invited readers to tell us why they love libraries. This was in support of the campaign by LIANZA (library association) to protect libraries from privatisation. Local government minister Rodney Hide wants to confine local authorities to core activities such as flood control and roads which could threaten the future of our library services – and many other valued services that local authorities provide. The competition attracted 130 excellent entries. Acclaimed author Tina Shaw had the difficult job of selecting the two winners. Tina’s latest book is About Griffen’s Heart. Written for young adults, it has been described as “superb adolescent fiction”. $40 book tokens go to the winners. All entries will soon be on the PSA website, with a link from the next PSA Noticeboard.

It was wonderful to read so many heartfelt responses to this theme. Our local libraries are obviously very important, in so many different ways, to an enormously wide range of people in the community. It was actually very difficult for me to choose only two entries. It bodes well for the future of public libraries to read the strong groundswell of positive feeling about such a valuable resource. For myself, as a writer and an avid reader, I consider libraries play an intrinsic and vital role in our society. Tina Shaw Public Library PSA members at Invercargill

Winning entries A special place

A great library makes a great city

We have a wonderful new library here in Whangarei. I visit there with my son approximately three times a week sometimes, and if we are able we sit down in the coffee lounge part - me with my cappuccino and Joshua with his fluffy, which for $1 comes in a special little cup with two marshmallows and a chocolate fish, and who could ask for more?

I love my library. I regularly borrow books on all sorts of how-to topics, including gardening, sewing, cooking and diy. I borrow magazines on these subjects too, especially overseas magazines that aren’t readily available in New Zealand. I read poetry and fiction from my library, and go on to buy the books if I like them enough. I borrow CDs, videos and DVDs. I use the NZ reference collection too. Lots of the books I borrow are out of print or otherwise unavailable or very difficult to get in New Zealand. I wouldn’t be able to buy most of these books.

Joshua is 12 years 8 months old, and is autistic with an intellectual disability. He is a really special little guy. His strength is reading, and he especially loves the Walt Disney comics, Tintin, Asterix and Geronimo Stilton. The library is a place of solitude for him and he can sit there forever among the books and just read. He has his own special place that he goes to each time. He reads the same books over and over again and is developing a wicked sense of humour. He is safe in the library and I can enjoy some time for myself. So yes, I love the library: the way our one has been catered for children to love, and how in the busy-ness of my life balancing work and a family, it is one place that Joshua and I can just stop for a while and let the world go by as we read.

When I was getting together with my partner there were very few resources or support groups for stepfamilies, but the library saved the day and the books we read helped us get through those difficult first years. I use the online catalogue to find books and to see if what I want is in. Having a good library is a huge drawcard to a city for me. When I was making choices about where to live, the poor library services (due to fragmented councils) was something that put me off staying in London or going to live in Sydney. Any world-class city should have a great library. I grew up in a small town without a good bookshop and the library was a godsend. Please save our libraries!

Lucia Walker

Lynley Povey

www.psa.org.nz

PSA Journal September 2009

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THE OFFICE

Office politics You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your consequences. With these characters there is no time for co-workers. Spare a thought for those unlucky enough to “please” or “thank you” and the attitude they project to all, have to spend every day with people they have nothing in including their children, is simply “I don’t have time for common with. But even in the best workplaces, it can be hard you”. And every office has a “Let’s have a meeting before the to avoid characters who get up your nose or worse, people meeting” person. These people love boardrooms, brainstorms who set out to make you look bad. As Michael Stanford says in and whiteboards that print out stuff no one can read and are a new book Inhuman Resources, to survive in a world where always very close to making interim decisions. “back-pedalling, backstabbing and mercenary ambition are Co- workers can drive you nuts, and, as Stanford says, can condoned and often rewarded”, you need to indentify the land you in trouble with the flick of an email (probably one threats, understand the behavioural threats of those around blind copied to senior management) but it’s bosses you need you and take evasive action. to take the most notice of. In his book subtitled: “The hierarchical structure in most companies In his book How to Work “A guide to the psychos, and government agencies guarantees sadism just for an Idiot, former boss misfits and the criminally John Hoover divides bosses as surely as leaving your teenager alone at home incompetent in every office”, into eight sub-categories : Stanford identifies dozens of guarantees a party.” good bosses, god bosses, co-worker types who range Machiavellian bosses, from the merely irritating to the positively threatening. masochistic bosses, sadistic bosses, paranoid bosses, buddy Recognise these types lurking in a cubicle near you? The bosses and idiot bosses. “My problem is bigger than yours” person whose emails Hoover advocates telling many bosses what they want to always have the “high priority” icon and who starts every hear and a bit of subtle flattery does not go amiss. You need conversation “What you need to do...”. The “I’ve changed my to adapt your technique to suit the boss’s temperament. For mind” person who gets the team to spend the whole weekend example, with a Machiavellian boss, it’s a good idea to keep working on a project only to be told “This is all wrong!” The them in the loop even over trivial matters, otherwise they “Have you seen what’s-a-name?” person whose jacket is on his may conclude you are withholding information and plotting chair but is never to be found especially when there’s work against them. God bosses, on the other hand, may react badly to be done. if they feel you are not sufficiently respectful of their exalted Then there’s the “I’m just so sick but I’m too important position. to go home” person who coughs enthusiastically in the Sadistic bosses, Hoover says, are among the most common lift and blames their poor work performance on and the most difficult to deal with. Nothing gives them greater the side effects of their medication. pleasure than to see workers under pressure and obviously There’s the “I hurry therefore I unhappy. Sadistic bosses thrive in hierarchies, says Hoover. am” person whose mantra “The Napoleonic, militaristic, mechanistic, bureaucratic, is “just do something” hierarchical structure in most companies and government regardless of the agencies guarantees sadism just as surely as leaving your teenager alone at home guarantees a party.” Being good at your job is no longer enough; research shows social skills count for more than competence. It pays to keep an eye on office politics – and join a union.

www.officepolitics.com offers advice on a wide variety of office problems, including bullying, sycophants, boss’s pets, stealing credit, betrayals, jealously and co-workers who drive you crazy.

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www.psa.org.nz


pastimes VIJIT CROSSWORD 226 1

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Across 1 Scene made over bill for the foreign water. (7) 5 In this arctic area I braise a new stew. (7) 9 The person on a train, that carries the current. (9) 10 People found in casualties of Spanish imperialism. (5) 11 One haven, I can not give a value for this. (11) 13 Catch an oriental. (3) 14 Question the cook? (5) 16 It’s about a country without a name, they are seen on beaches. (9) 18 Flowered around a mad slobs demo. (9) 19 Want sound for beat. (5) 21 Two articles on the green. (3) 22 Concerned about the number of balls bowled? Excessively so. (11) 25 Acquittal likely, if by initially. (5) 26 In it, I ate delicacies from the beginning. (9) 28 Towards the dark, but before tomorrow. (7) 29 Annoyed while performing 1? (7)

Down 1 Turning around to sew? (7) 2 Jag in the box of germanium. (5) 3 Measure gives you the sound of a bird. (3) 4 In this cult, I’m a tumultuous demand. (9) 5 Hush now, it is a problem for Bush. (5) 6 Trade for cooker and builder. (11) 7 In a royal sport, it is followed by many. (9) 8 Donkey has bent around leaves. (7) 12 Shortening or showing farsightedness perhaps. (11) 15 Toil so, in a state of solitude. (9) 17 Working out and taking off. (9) 18 Dance as time weighs things down. (7) 20 Fooled by the judge in the act. (7) 23 Previous partner is the first to be there. (5) 24 Corpulent Albert meets his end. (5) 27 The first part of a land, what a gem! (3)

Crossword 225 We apologise to Vijit crossword lovers for losing four down clues in the process of going to print. But it did not deter Todd Foster who works at the Tertiary Education Commission. He not only guessed the correct answers, he also came up with clues! Here are the missing clues with Todd’s suggestion in brackets. Todd is the clear winner; a $40 book token is on its way. 20. Helps the fool and is one over the holy ones. (7) does not stand awkwardly.

(Helps donkey that

21. We do not dispute that it is a vice. (6) (A sin with one accord.) 23 Province of birth. (5) (African province of birth.) 25 She is delightful, losing direction. (5) (Relative who is pleasant about modern mail.)

Crossword 226 prize A $40 book token to the first correct entry to be drawn. Send your entries to PSA Journal, PO Box 3817, Wellington. Only PSA members are eligible for a prize.

Caption the moment

Caption winner We had lots of entries but this one brought on the biggest smile. Right, the cameras are off – spit it back into the bottle. Congratulations to Graeme Thompson who works at the Parliamentary Counsel Office, Te Tari Tohutohu Paremata. A $40 book voucher is on its way.

www.psa.org.nz

Send in your caption and be in to win a $40 book voucher. You can send more than one entry. Post to PSA Journal, PO Box 3817. Email psajournal@psa. org.nz Only PSA members are eligible.

PSA Journal September 2009

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