Progress on care workers' travel time claims

The Government has agreed to try to reach a settlement with care workers over the lack of payment for the time they spend travelling between clients. The Public Service Association this week welcomed the decision.

A sector-wide agreement was preferable to the potentially lengthy test case the union filed on behalf of a member with the Employment Relations Authority, PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said.

''Some of our members in the home care sector have to drive 600km per week between jobs, but at the moment they are not paid for this time.

''Workers being paid close to the minimum wage have been effectively subsidising their employers in this issue, which has dogged the sector for decades,'' Mr Wagstaff said.

The PSA and other unions would negotiate with the Ministry of Health, district health boards and providers, he said.

Health Minister Tony Ryall, in an emailed statement yesterday, said the talks would begin ''shortly''.

Some carers were already paid for travel time, and ''these negotiations will try to provide greater consistency across the country''.

''The Government will contribute to the cost of the settlement. However, as these are negotiations, we cannot speculate on the cost.''

Wellington-based Access Homehealth is one of the providers contracted for home support in the South.

Access chief executive Graeme Titcombe, when contacted yesterday, said providers wanted a ''meaningful and appropriate'' solution to the problem.

Resolving the issue would likely involve a funding increase, but he did not want to pre-empt discussions.

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