National | Bullying

Covid and bullying have hit workers hard - CTU survey

Kaimahi preparing care packages during the Covid-19 pandemic.   Photo / File

The adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people's work and income has been highlighted as a significant issue for workers surveyed in the CTU’s annual work life survey, released today.  Workplace bullying has also been identified as a serious problem.

The CTU says the survey shows 'massive' support from working people for the government's planned increase in minimum sick leave from five days to ten days.


49% of respondents said their work and/or income had been adversely affected by the pandemic, the CTU said in a statement.

"It was stressful not knowing when things would recover or change," one survey respondent said.  The only income their family had to live on was the wage subsidy, which they said amounted to 80% of their regular income.

Another person said it was distressing, "The ripple effect of extended whānau and community who are struggling, particularly with housing. Working with those most vulnerable is distressing and increasingly a burden."

For others, it was a source of strength, "I was the only one in my family working. That meant four other family members had to stay at home. It meant that they were asked to use their sick/holiday [leave] when they were neither. It showed the strength of our family unit."

CTU Secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges says there is a sense of vulnerability when you dig into people’s responses on the negative effect Covid-19 has had on them.

“It’s not simply a matter of people losing their jobs, it's that they’re left with no say in really important issues at work.

“Far too many people have been expected to pick up the cost of Covid through unpaid hours, haven’t been consulted about how to deal with health and safety processes and have had decisions about their leave and pay and conditions decided unilaterally by their employers.

“That’s not good enough, nationally we have been successful as a team of five million by working together - that needs to carry over into our workplaces too.”


Concerningly, 42% of respondents cite workplace bullying as an issue in their workplace - a number only marginally down on last year, the CTU said.

“When you look at the comments people are making it becomes pretty clear that people don’t feel like they have much control over their work lives. That’s pretty bleak given people spend so much of their life at work," says Ansell-Bridges.

“It’s inexcusable that so many people are facing bullying, but given the imbalance of power between employers and workers in most Kiwi workplaces it’s not surprising.

“Workplace bullying is so widespread that it needs to be seen and addressed as a structural issue rather than just passed off as a ‘few bad eggs’," she says.

Sick leave

94.3% of survey respondents backed the government’s proposed increase in sick leave, which Ansell-Bridges says is one piece of good news on the horizon.

“More than ninety-four percent of working people back the increase in minimum sick leave from five days to ten days.

“That massive support shows just how needed this is and that the government needs to move on it quickly.

“Too many Kiwis just don’t have enough sick leave and are left with the choice of either losing pay or turning up to work and spreading whatever illness they have. That’s no good for them, their employers or their communities.”

The CTU says 1277 people responded to its survey, from a sample of 50,000 people on its 'together' email list. This sample includes unionised and non-unionised working people, as well as self-employed workers and contractors.  The survey ran from 3 to 6 January.