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1500 rest home workers strike

Thursday 1 Mar 2012 4:53 p.m.

By Tony Reid

About 1500 workers at Oceania Group rest homes stopped work for a couple of hours today to protest over their failed pay negotiations.

Oceania has nearly 60 retirement homes up and down the country, and staff at about 20 of them turned out to protest.

There is nothing easy about getting old, especially when you have a picket line at your front door.

But these rest home workers would not be moved. They want more pay, says worker Fetu Esekielu.

“I think we do need a fair pay rise to do all the hard work that we do for our lovely residents.”

Staff at Oceania rest homes want a 3.5 per cent pay rise, effective immediately.

Union organiser David Wait says the workers are among the lowest paid workforce in the country.

“Our members are struggling to feed their families. It's a real struggle day by day. And we're fighting to get a living wage.”

Oceania Group chief executive Guy Eady says he has already offered protestors a deal.

“Workers have been offered a 3 per cent increase, spread out over 15 months.”

He says funding increases from successive Governments over past years have been less than the rate of inflation each year which means "this is all we can realistically provide".

But Mr Wait says the increases are needed.

“Most of our members are on either 13.61 or 14.03. Their offer would increase that by 14 cents straight away and 14 cents later. That's per hour.”

Some rest home residents also think the pay is bad and joined the protestors on the picket line.

Aubrey Annett says the workers should definitely get paid more.

“Well for all the work they do. They do a lot of work. They look after the people.”

Only one staff member left the protest because she had to help one of the residents cross the road.

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