One thousand, five hundred staff working the country’s largest rest home operator, Oceania, will take part in a series of strikes beginning on March 1st in support of a cost of living claim.
The strike affects over 20 selected rest homes from Auckland to Dunedin. The staff — members of the Nurses Organisation and the Service and Food Workers Union — include nurses, health care assistants and support staff (Oceania runs 59 private rest homes and hospitals from Invercargill to Auckland).
The workers going on strike provide direct care for residents, laundry, cleaning and food services in 20 homes in Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington, Palmerston North, Dannevirke, Napier, Taupo, Paeroa, Tokoroa, and Auckland. .
Combined union advocates Alastair Duncan and David Wait say the strike is the last resort and comes after eight months of bargaining.
“As the largest rest home operator in the country Oceania could be the leader in its standard of care for residents and staff,” said Alastair Duncan.
“But it falls far short when it comes to caring for its workforce. By failing to offer care staff a reasonable cost of living increase, Oceania has attacked the carers who go out of their way every day to care for and support residents.”
Alastair Duncan said the early notice of the two-hour stoppage on 1 March was intended to give Oceania a chance to reconsider its position.
The workforce is seeking a 3.5% pay rise from the expiry of their collective in June 2011. Oceania has offered 1% and no backdating.
Oceania has offered 1% with no backdating and wants to slash overtime rates.
“Staff are frustrated by the approach of a company that has rigidly refused to address staff concerns while shipping money offshore to its foreign owners,” says Alastair Duncan.
“Management is more focused making a return to overseas shareholders than it is in running what could be a great rest home chain caring for three thousand New Zealanders.
“Oceania needs to be fair to those who care.”
Note: The Union says pay rates at Oceania are significantly lower than those paid to staff doing similar jobs in DHBs. 900 staff are on rates of $14.03 or lower. 600 are on $13.61 – a rate that is 11 cents above the new minimum wage of $13.50.