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Update: SCL has Purchased Aotea Pathology

 Many of you will no doubt have been reading about the contracting out of medical laboratory services throughout the wider Wellington region, both DHB and private, to SCL a private company.

On April 23rd it was announced to the share market that an agreement had been reached between Healthscope (SCL) and Aotea for SCL to purchase Aotea – SCL has also been confirmed as the private provider of lab services in the Wellington region.

So… where to from here?

Now that the decision has been made, the process of transferring to the new provider and the new lab is proceeding. The sale did not change the situation for Aotea staff, many of whom will still face redundancy on 1 November 2015, but now from the new employer, SCL instead of Aotea.

Hutt DHB and Capital and Coast DHB members have received letters of offer from SCL and have until June to accept these offers. Restructuring will not take place until 2016 – there is plenty on at this time with getting people transferred in their employment, building a new lab and shortly also entering bargaining.

For those of you not directly involved with the SCL and Aotea arrangements please be supportive of your fellow colleagues whilst these changes are occurring. If you are directly involved and have any concerns or questions please contact the NZMLWU union office.

Influenza Immunisation Survey Results

 In Issue 32 of UNDER THE MICROSCOPE we included a piece called ‘2014 Workforce Influenza Immunisation Coverage Rates by DHBs’ which discussed the seriousness of influenza and the importance of immunisation amongst healthcare workers.

Winter is almost upon us and the DHBs are currently seeking to get staff immunised. It is therefore timely to remind ourselves of such facts as 10-20% of New Zealanders are infected with influenza every year. In 2013, there were 6 deaths as a direct result of influenza – all of whom were pregnant women (a particularly vulnerable group).

Vaccinators are roaming our hospitals enticing you all to get the jab. Our overall vaccination rates for hospital employees have been improving over the years; from 45% in 2010 to 61% in 2014. However, we are still short of the 80% target coverage rate.

A survey was undertaken by NZMLWU to ascertain whether our members in DHB employment received the influenza immunisation in 2014 and asked ‘why not?’ of those who chose not to receive it. The same survey was also available to other unions including NZRDA and APEX members.

The purpose of this survey was to identify why healthcare workers choose not to get immunised for influenza. An understanding of the ‘why’ or rather the ‘why not’ is essential in order to successfully improve overall influenza immunisation coverage rates. We wanted to use the survey findings to work in a more targeted manner with DHBs to improve these rates.

Members were provided standard options as to why they chose not to get immunised. Members could also provide any other alternative reason such as “I was out of New Zealand at the time.”

The survey was open for just over two weeks and produced some interesting results. Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey and provided feedback on what is a very important issue!

Out of the NZMLWU members who responded to the survey a total of 76% received the influenza immunisation last year. This result is greater than the 57% Ministry of Health figure for Allied staff in 2014. This difference in immunisation coverage rates could reflect the correlation between union leadership and high membership engagement or could simply be a statistical result of more people who were vaccinated responding to the survey.

The most common response NZMLWU members gave regarding why you did not get immunised (at 58%) was that you ‘did not believe the influenza immunisation is necessary’.

The most common response APEX members gave regarding why they did not get immunised (at 48%) was also because they did not believe it was necessary. ‘I did not know how to access the influenza immunisation’ received the least amount of responses for both NZMLWU and APEX members.

Image 1By contrast, the most common reason amongst RMO’s for choosing not to get vaccinated was lack of easy access to the vaccination amongst their busy schedules. The findings indicate that further education around the benefits of the vaccine may be helpful for allied scientific and technical staff.

The overall survey results make clear that if the DHBs adopted distinct approaches, each responding in a targeted way to the particular needs of different healthcare worker groups (as opposed to a one-fits-all approach) then this would likely yield an increase in coverage rates across all hospitals.

A number of NZMLWU members stated they did not see any advantage in immunisation. Comments included: “I do not get immunity from any vaccinations so it is not worth the risks involved.” “I believe that getting the flu vaccination is not necessary for me as I am not part of an at risk population.”

 Getting vaccinated is not so much about “me” and whether “I” would survive a dose of the flu, but about protecting those more vulnerable; colleagues, patients, family and community. Others might not be as healthy as you are!

In the 10-14 day period when we are shedding virus but don’t yet know we have it, how many vulnerable people could we infect? It has therefore been recommended that every fit and healthy person should get the flu jab: yes, in order to protect ourselves but also to protect others in our community.

There are a number of mistaken beliefs about the influenza vaccination such as that the immunisation can give you the flu. This is a misconception – the immunisation does not contain a live virus and therefore it cannot give you the flu.

Having said all that, immunisation is not a perfect remedy. It has variable efficacy – each year there are new strains and therefore new vaccines are required which means the efficacy changes. However, it is the best defence against influenza that we have available.

 The DHB by DHB breakdown results received gave an indication of where targeting (in terms of using a more tailored approach and specified resources) is most necessary to achieve increased coverage rates for the healthcare worker groups. The Influenza Immunisation Survey findings have been passed onto the DHBs.

Note: NZMLWU does not condone Waikato DHB’s vaccination policy (currently under consultation and yet to be implemented) which requires staff who opt not to have the flu jab to wear a surgical mask in clinical areas. NZMLWU have expressed concerns in regards to such a draconian approach and have made submissions on the policy.

If you have any questions or feedback about this survey or the influenza vaccinations in the workplace then please do not hesitate to contact the union office at support@nzmlwu.org.nz

Get in Touch with us Sooner rather than Later

ImageOne of the roles of the NZMLWU advocates is to provide support and advisory services to our members when you need it. NZMLWU staff are highly experienced in advocacy services and are particularly skilled in dealing with employment issues both generally and those pertaining to you as lab workers, your employers and your contract.

Here at the NZMLWU office, we help a number of individuals with a variety of situations such as: disciplinary matters, personal grievances and breaches of the terms and conditions of your contract. In a nutshell, we are here to assist you when (as does happen) things “go wrong”.

However, we stress that it is important that when things do “go wrong” you get in touch with us sooner rather than later! This might sound relatively straight forward and common sense but you would be surprised at how many members contact us well after the fact – for example, after they have been to an initial (or a number of) meeting(s) with their employer without any support person or worse still, with their “mother” as a support person.

In this situation, there is a risk that important points will not be conveyed to the employer. You may end up jeopardising your position by acknowledging or agreeing to something without knowing what all the implications are.

It is important to be aware that any talk with an employer is rarely ‘just a chat’. You always have the right to representation – we can advise you on how to best communicate.

So… we suggest that when an issue arises, you contact us in the first instance. We can then advise you as to how to go about dealing with your situation whatever that may involve: attending a meeting, writing a letter or just generally how to handle things!

Often issues are a lot easier to rectify when members are prompt in involving us in matters rather than delaying bringing them to our attention further down the track. When you do get in touch, do not forget to provide us with all the necessary information – in the majority of cases all information comes to light eventually so it is best to be transparent with us and share all the details right from the outset so we can in turn give you the best advice.

Remember – we are always here to help our members, that is our job! so please do not hesitate to contact us. And in case you are worried or feel embarrassed – trust us, there isn’t much we haven’t heard. We are here to help you with what might be a difficult  or troubling subject.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Flexible working arrangements when properly implemented and with the appropriate protection in place, can have benefits both for you and your employer – they are becoming an important part of workplaces across New Zealand.

All employees have a right to request flexible work – flexible work can relate to a change in your hours or days (and sometimes place) of work.

Key Points:

  1. All employees (not just caregivers) have the right to request a variation to their working arrangements.
  1. The employer must deal with the request as soon as possible but no later than 1 month. If an employer is non-communicative and unresponsive then this is a breach of good faith.
  1. Employees may make the request at any time – starting from their first day of employment.
  1. There is no limit on how many requests an employee can make per year. However, there must be a genuine reason for the request. Genuine reasons are not defined but could include for example; taking care of children or other family members and accommodating travel time and transport needs with respect to getting to and from your workplace.
  1. The employer may refuse a request but only if it cannot be accommodated on certain and limited grounds. If an employer refuses a request then they must tell you why – it is not enough for the employer to simply cite the legislative ground pertaining to the refusal.
  1. The request must be consistent with your employment contract otherwise the employer must refuse it.

Note that there are particular requirements that your request must adhere to in order to be valid – it must be in writing and must state:

  • that it is being made pursuant to Part 6AA of the ERA;
  • the variation of the working arrangements requested – including if the variation is permanent or for a period of time and what the intended start and finish dates are;
  • what changes the employer may need to make to accommodate such a request if it is granted.

Get in touch with us if you need help drafting a request or if you believe that your employer has not dealt with your request properly or in good faith.

To download a copy of Issue 35 click here.

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