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A Case of IHG?

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 pm, October 6th, 2010 - 31 comments
Categories: economy, national/act government, workers' rights - Tags: , , , ,

Remember how our government decided to promise investors an 8% return on any speculative monies placed with the failing Southern Canterbury Finance? And remember how after taking any remnant of speculation out of any speculative  investment, they then took  $1 700 000 000 of our money and gave it to the aforementioned speculators as way of compensation?

Well, now it has come to light that thousands of care givers have been denied compensation for turning up to work. It seems that if you are a caregiver then there was a culture among employers to the effect  that ‘a fair days pay for a fair day’s work’ applied to daylight hours only.  Outside of daylight hours, hourly rates transmogrified into $34 allowances.  In any other field of employment, night shift would attract an allowance on top of an hourly rate of pay. Not an allowance instead of an hourly rate.

Anyway,it appears that the Employment Court agrees that being at work should mean getting paid for being at work. Which has led two IHC companies to scramble to the government seeking (and getting) mandatory management. See, they are claiming that they cannot afford to pay workers. No big deal. The companies are government funded. And so all the government need do is increase funding levels so that employees get paid for being at work. Simple. It is reckoned that back wages to our care givers, people who look after society’s most vulnerable and who may one day look after you or me will cost us $400 000 000.

That’s less than a quarter of the amount of our money that was given away to SCF investors. Call me heartless, but I didn’t have a cents worth of sympathy for people who dabbled in a financial culture that demanded they think only of themselves.  But regardless,  I got to give them $380, along with every other man, woman and child in New Zealand.

Now, in the case of workers who are generally highly regarded, I’d expect our money to be used to right any wrongs done to them. And I’d imagine that most people would have absolutely no qualms about the Government using our money to give back to these workers what was ripped off from them.

What’s more, the six year limitation on back pay would equate to about $100 000 for a person on or near minimum wage who had worked an average of three night shifts per week over that period.  And on one shift a week we are looking at roughly $30 000.  Which means we are looking at between 4000 and 12 000 low paid employees receiving, in some cases quite substantial sums of money. Which surely constitutes something of a stimulus for NZ’s beleaguered economy?

We don’t always get a bonus for doing the proper and legal thing, but here we have a situation where an incidental stimulus of $400 000 000 would be perfectly targeted at low income earners.  And it would be spread more or less evenly over the entirety of New Zealand as a ratio of population density. Which is surely why Health Minister Tony Ryall, presumably quite happily, remarked that there were  “very significant implications” for the economy as a whole.

But no, ‘fraid not.

The Government is appealing the Employment Court ruling and “Tony Ryall has ruled out a Government bailout of disability services(…) and “…said the Government was not liable for the backpay and would not pay it.”

So I guess this Government reckons it’s just plain wrong for workers to get paid an hourly rate while at work.

Meanwhile, in response to my question as to whether we are facing a case of IHG (Intellectually Handicapped Governance)?

The answer is, no. We’re not.

A Government doesn’t get to hide behind human frailties such as mental retardation as reasons or excuses for its actions.

A Government is quite simply a mirror of the ideologies it pursues. And this Government, in tune with the preferred ideologies of it’s ministers, exhibits all the hallmarks of  intellectual and moral bankruptcy. Any doubts anyone might have been harbouring on that front are surely vanquished as a result of the simple exercise of comparing and contrasting the approach taken to SCF investors on the one hand, and the approach taken  to our society’s caregivers on the other.

31 comments on “A Case of IHG? ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Serious question: why was this not addressed when Labour was in power, instead of leaving the issue to the tender mercies of Bill and John?

    Also – giving these workers windfall lump sums may cause serious familial upheaval. Counselling/budgeting services will be required: similar to those provided to Lotto winners.

    $400M? That’s a years’ pay for 9,000 nurses, teachers or policemen. OK its very likely due to those workers, but that is a metric tonne of money. OK, around a quarter of a metric tonne of money. No doubt it would be excellent economic stimulus.

    But as I said above, advice on saving it and paying off debt would be handy for people.

    captcha: LOVE

    • hateatea 1.1

      ‘Serious question: why was this not addressed when Labour was in power, instead of leaving the issue to the tender mercies of Bill and John?’

      Because the case wasn’t taken / reported on until after National took office, perhaps?

      I am unsure when the policy of not paying began but I suspect it was when contracting out of services began so in the era of Ruthenasia and Jennycide maybe. Of course, it is also possible that a Labour government may have been complicit as we have been in the era of bean counters being more important than actual social workers / health care professionals in contracting for a lot of years now

  2. BLiP 2

    Why is it that under a National Ltd™ government its always the weakest and most marginalised that are stomped on first? Sure, the workers are getting it in the neck in this instance, but what about the people that are supposed to cared for, how do they fit into the equation, where’s their voice? Isn’t IHC supposed to be working on behalf of the clients and not working hand in glove with National Ltd™ to prevent staff receiving the minimum wage? Is this model of contracting out of welfare services to be duplicated across the unemployment area? Have we learned nothing?

    Questions, questions, questions . . . no answers at the moment, not until John Key has had a chance to get his Crosby/Textor mates to run it past a focus group first.

  3. Okay so maybe it’s late and I’m tired and thus I’ve missed something. But Ryall is quoted as saying:

    Mr Ryall said the finding that “averaging” of earnings over a fortnight was not acceptable would impact on the wider economy and other employers.

    It would mean salaried workers whose complete package usually took overtime into account would have to be paid overtime. Workers who were paid on volume – such as fruitpickers – would also be affected

    Okay, I get that. But if that’s the problem, and not the fact that carers are due an hourly rate (and to be back paid) then why not indicate that he accepts that part of the ruling?

    And what’s with the averaging part of it anyway? The article just leaps into that without explaining how, if at all, it relates to the “hourly rate” part of the decision, and why the court needed to include it to rectify the problem with carers’ payments. And makes no attempt to explain what Ryall means, and whether he’s right.

    Who was that written by, someone moonlighting from TVNZ?!

  4. tsmithfield 4

    From the article cited:

    Two companies that care for disabled people have been put under statutory management because they don’t think they can meet a court-ordered requirement to pay workers for the time they are asleep at their care houses.

    Normally people get the sack for sleeping on the job. 🙂

    Seriously, though, I don’t see why they should get paid for being asleep. That is a function that would occur whether they were on the job or not. The compensation appears to be for the inconvenience of sleeping away from home, rather than for working. Personally, I would make the compensation higher than $34 as that seems a bit light.

    Fair enough to get paid if they have to get up during the night to take care of someone under their care. But sleeping doesn’t qualify as work IMO.

    • Luxated 4.1

      ts those workers are ‘on call’ all night just imagine what you would have to pay a plumber to do the same thing. Not only that I doubt they would necessarily get much sleep.

      • Zorr 4.1.1

        My mum used to do overnight shifts for IHC. They earn every cent and more. It is not a job I would do and it applies to most people. They usually get to have a little bit of sleep but they have to be awake and aware during the night if anything goes wrong – which it usually does at least once.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          My wife worked this job for many years. It was an odd night indeed when she was able to sleep through the night. This could best be measured by the need when she got home to catch some sleep when she put the kids to bed.

          During the night she got to do exciting things like clean up soiled clients, including some who liked to smear their waste all over the doorknobs in the house, clients who would regularly hear prowlers outside and often ring the police to report it, clients fighting with each other, having nightmares, getting into the kitchen to try and find food, wandering into the house next door and causing disruption there, and so on.

          It’s a tough job and people like my wife who have a passion for working with people with Intellectual disabilities are not motivated by the pay and so they just get on and do it. Those who work during the day also often do many extra unpaid hours – something both the IHC and the government are also well aware of.

          This extra unpaid hours often applies to elderly caregivers with the contracting out of those services as well. Ironically the most supportive person (supportive of the workers) I’ve heard speak about this was the financial person at the local DHB. He was quite disgusted by the open knowledge and discussion about the cutting of hours for some people would make little difference to their care because they (the DHB management) knew in many cases the caregivers would still do the extra work that was needed anyway.

          If my wife ever got paid for all those unpaid hours she was required to do she would be quite wealthy.

          This overnight income was pretty much my wife’s only income for many years – we had out own disabled kids to look after but were broke so needs must. Waving to each other in the morning as we passed in the driveway and again at night was our lot for quite a while.

          She doesn’t benefit from this ruling due to the time limitation either so I have no direct self interest in this matter.

          • Descendant Of Smith

            It’s also worth pointing out that not all IHC clients get staff sleeping over. Clients are clustered with several high needs clients together in one house and several higher functioning clients together in another house with no overnight support.

            Your average Downs Syndrome adult wouldn’t have overnight support and would be managing quite independently with his or her fellow housemates.

  5. Swampy 5

    “Call me heartless, but I didn’t have a cents worth of sympathy for people who dabbled in a financial culture that demanded they think only of themselves. ”

    Actually that is a very large whitewash. People invest for all sorts of reasons, including superannuation schemes. Let me see, there is this big government run scheme popularly known as the “Cullen Fund” that also invests its funds to generate a return. Also, if you know anything about finance companies and how they work, you’ll know that money doesn’t grow on trees. The funds invested are what gets lent out to their customers who are borrowing money off them. There’s nothing about investing money in a finance company for a return that demands any more negative inference than gettting paid interest for sticking your money in an ordinary bank account. What about all those workers and union members who have got their money in Kiwisaver and government super schemes, are they all in the same boat?

  6. tsmithfield 6

    “ts those workers are ‘on call’ all night just imagine what you would have to pay a plumber to do the same thing. Not only that I doubt they would necessarily get much sleep.”

    Actually, our service-people are rostered on-call a week at a time. The effect of this is that a given employee might be on call once a month. This means they can be called at home if a customer who operates 24/7 has a break-down.

    It is actually relatively rare for a customer to initiate a call out because we have a phone message that advises the high fee for doing so. So call outs generally only happen if the customer is absolutely desperate. However, we are able to offer this support to our customers if they really need it.

    We pay our employees a minimum of four hours pay at time and a half on the rare event that they are actually called out. Are you saying that we should now be paying our on-call employees for their sleeping time in their own beds even though they seldom have their sleep interrupted?

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      Sounds like a completely different situation.

      Perhaps we should only pay firefighters or other emergency response staff for the hours they are out on a call?

      Also, read the comments upthread about what this work is.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 6.2

      They are not ‘at work’ if you are a plumber at home
      AS for sleeping on the job, trainee doctors, firemen and even airline pilots ( and cabin crew) on long flights do it.
      Using beds in their workplace.
      Whats the difference?

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.1

        Yes, common place with military and emergency personnel.

        • tsmithfield

          Granted, the IHC workers are more likely to get their sleep interrupted while on call than our workers. But in principle the only difference between our workers and the IHC workers is that our workers are on call at home while the IHC workers are on call away from home.

          Given that the key difference in principle is being away from home, rather than being “on call”, does that mean that we should be paying our workers for sleeping when they are away overnight on jobs? At the moment they are paid an overnight allowance to compensate for the inconvenience of being away from home which they are perfectly happy with. But are we ripping them off by not paying them for their sleeping time at their hourly rate?

          • Pascal's bookie

            By ‘away from home’ you mean, ‘at work’.

            • tsmithfield

              Away from home. But not on call.

              The thing is they get a lot of overtime while away and earn big $. If we had to charge our client for their sleeping time as well, then the client would get someone local to do the work and they would miss out on the extra income through overtime.

              • Pascal's bookie

                Completely different situation ts.
                Not at all alike.
                Kettles of fish: dissimilar.

                Away from home. But not on call. At work.

          • bbfloyd

            ts… you really should give this up.. my mother does this work, and you really don’t have the slightest clue what it is like doing this job, or the stresses involved. trying to argue that being payed to sleep at the homes of mentally disturbed people is like money for jam is simply displaying your ignorance of the work. stick to bean counting.

      • Fisiani 6.2.2

        I know for a fact that doctors used to be paid 25% ( yes 25% not 125%) of their hourly base rate for each hour of being first on call (physically present in the hospital) and 10% of their base rate for being second on call ( available to work close by and always sober).
        This meant that they were working 104 hours per week.
        40 hours at ordinary time and 64 hours of compulsory overtime which earned them the equivalent of 11.2 hours before tax.

        • bbfloyd

          Fisiani… can you show how this is relevant to caregivers? forgive me if i’m wrong, but that was what the original post was about. wasn’t it?

  7. Hilary 7

    The Government has known about this court case and its implications for a long time but still chose to go ahead with tax cuts for the well off rather than pay these workers properly (and they are only asking for the minimum wage) for providing overnight care for disabled people. It’s a heartless and immoral response. These are the times you wish politicians actually had some lived experience of the situation; instead they see disabled people as just a group of ‘other’, less than human, and not entitled to proper support.

  8. KJT 8

    I am on call 24/7 while at work. We are compensated and rested with leave periods. Like airline pilots and the military. I know how wearing being “on call” can be when there is nearly always several “calls”. So does anyone who has had a baby in the house.

    Rest home workers deserve to be paid properly for these times. The minimum wage is bugger all for the work they do anyway. Government will get a large proportion of any payment to rest home workers back as taxes and economic stimulus anyway. Low paid workers spend most of their pay and spend it in the local economy. Unlike big investors.

  9. jen 9

    Its not a matter of being \”on call\” during the night. These workers are actually at work providing a service. Yes, even as they sleep. If they were not there even for a tiny portion of the night, both the employer and the residents would be at risk. The Court took into account the fact that the requirements of sleep over in the case were quite restrictive for Mr Dickson ( the employee involved) During the day the employee was paid above minimum wage and IHC want to use the pay related to those daylight hours to cover the hours during the night, so that it would be sufficient if, averaged accross the total hours worked, the employee was paid not less than mininim wage for each hour worked. Contractually its a complete nonsense of course, if I have agreed to be paid 17 per hour for hours worked during the day, that bargain is completely undermined if my employer can \”use\” a portion of those wages to meet its obligation to pay me minimum wage for other hours I work. Either I am not gettting mininim wage for the sleeping hours or I am not really getting the hourly rate bargained for in respect of daylight hours.

    • Bill 9.1

      Thanks for clearing those muddied waters. Gives an interesting new twist to the concept of penal rates, that does.

      The central point I can’t reconciliate vis a vis the Governments actions or stated intent is that when people wilfully gambled with their money and lost it, the Government gave then their money back. With interest.

      But when people have been wilfully thieved from, the Government seeks to continue as high a level of thieving as possible and has no intention of giving these people the money that was stolen from them and that is rightfully theirs.

      I noticed that in a current job vacancy for IHC states that “flexibility and the ability to work weekends/sleepovers are essential.”

      Which tells me they are seeking to advertise a job and include obligations to accept non-job hooks (ie sleepovers) Cake. Eating.

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        the Government seeks to continue as high a level of thieving

        There’s no real difference. This psychopathic government stole from the workers and gave to their rich mates (SCF bailout) and this lawsuit is trying to continue stealing from the IHC workers and give to their rich mates (The tax switch). If they had to pay out the $400m they’d probably have to reverse the tax cuts to the rich.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          Though the IHC shouldn’t get off lightly either.

          It was theoretically possible to get paid for hours worked if it was after the first hour and you worked for more than an hour. However it was almost impossible to get this paid. Example client had diarrhea and every couple of hours soiled the bed. Nil sleep that night as in between bouts was washing sheets and clothes etc. Approval for wages for the night was declined as the bouts of diarrhea were more than an hour apart.

          I checked with my wife who advised that she never once in over 5 years had a night of unbroken sleep.

          I’ve got a mate who is paid a decent hourly wage to babysit machinery overnight. The machinery runs 24/7 but someone is needed there as it occasionally jams or has minor issues. He’s allowed to sleep til something happens, read books, tidy up, take his Xbox along and play, and so on.

          No question at all about paying him though. One assumes machinery is more important than people perhaps.

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