Library and council workers rally for better wages and working conditions

Library and council workers will hold a day of action across the Top of the South Te Tauihu on Monday 26 June to raise concerns about low wages, poor working conditions and high turnover.

“Respect” is the theme for Monday’s day of action, which will see workers rally in front of Civic House in Nelson from 12pm to 1pm, and smaller worksite actions at Marlborough and Tasman councils.

The union, the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA), represents more than 330 members at Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman councils. The PSA is currently in bargaining with the three councils. Last year, members from the three councils came together to form a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) to build worker strength and solidarity.

“There’s a serious disconnect. The Council’s public statements, as recently as last Saturday, recognise the immense stress workers are experiencing and the struggle to recruit workers“, said Jenny Simms, a PSA Delegate at Nelson City Council. “Yet they refuse to recognise the cost-of-living crisis our members face. It’s short sighted. Pay your staff a fair wage and they’ll stay for a career. Stay on the current path and you’ll continue to have the high turnover, disrupting our ability to serve the community.”

PSA members at Nelson City Council are concerned that Mayor Nick Smith is going back on his support for fair pay. At a PSA Union Candidate forum in September 2022, the Nelson Mail reported that “Former Nelson MP Nick Smith highlighted the need for wages to keep up with inflation. ‘If staff aren’t being presented with a 7 per cent increase, they’re actually going backwards, in real terms.'”

“I’ve never seen workers this demoralised”, noted Vicky Hawkey, another PSA Delegate at Nelson City Council. “Here in the library, we continue to work in subpar conditions, in a cold, cramped building that won’t be fully re-opening until next February. We’re asking Council to recognise the value of our union and recognise the commitments library workers make, particularly on weekends”.

Gearing up for Monday, Helen McCubbin, PSA Delegate at Tasman District Council, added “Our members are excited to make their voices heard. I think the message is really a positive one: council workers are at the heart of our communities. From infrastructure to business to libraries, we’re everywhere. The smart investment is to look after your workers”.

PSA Organiser Ian Hoffmann said “Last year, when the workers from different councils joined forces to form a MECA, we adopted the theme ‘Ducks Fly Together’ to signify strength in numbers. So, expect to hear lots of quacking on Monday.”

/Public Release. View in full here.