Three decades of service - still unable to make a living

By Taroi Black

Striking Waikato Hospital worker Joe Bryan is only receiving above the minimum wage after serving 27 years in his job.  He says the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) is failing their lowest paid workers.

“I don't feel that we've been recognised and it's not so much about me- it's that our new workers that are coming on are getting paid the minimum wage for the first two years, so we're here for them.  If I didn't enjoy my job so much I most probably wouldn't be here."

Bryan’s long standing commitment to the public sector as an attendant only earns him $19.30 an hour. He says the DHB refuses to lift his wage.

The role of an attendant includes transporting patients from one part of the hospital to another, managing mail, transferring patient records and other items around the hospital and to outlying facilities in addition to turning patients in bed. 

“I got $15.50 when I first started here 27 years ago so $19.30, 27 years later- work that one out.”

The total number of attendants employed at Waikato Hospital is 123; 80% of the workforce are represented by the union and have been in negotiations with the board since last year.

Unite Union national secretary Gerard Hehir says, “The problem I think is this board at a senior level.  The management is dysfunctional, let's face it.  The board's been sacked, they've got no CEO.”

The Waikato DHB says attendants have the opportunity to earn above their base salary, by working weekends and outside of normal business hours.

However, the members of the Union don't agree.

“They've copied and pasted an offer literally from another agreement and they said 'take it or leave it'.  We've made three different pay offers, we want a living wage for the lowest paid workers.”

The DHB says that they welcome further talks with the union as the appropriate way to resolve the issue.

Bryan told Te Ao Māori News he will continue working at Waikato Hospital.

“We know the cost of living has gone up, rents, you name it.  I'm just lucky that my wife works and I work and so we're managing that way.”