Tarsh Dixon – fighting for PPE in home support

Tarsh Dixon is a home support worker, advocating for the best response for our frontline health workers. While she’s been staying home as a vulnerable worker during the lockdown, she’s been campaigning throughout the crisis and making sure people still get the care they need, as safely as possible.

Very early on, Tarsh and her workmates were disappointed by the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks and gloves.

“Not only were they slow in providing PPE, they also kept us in the dark about what was happening. We had inadequate guidance from the Ministry of Health and the DHBs and providers weren’t much better.

“Home support workers should not have to buy our own PPE. This is a totally unfair expectation on our low paid workers, especially during COVID-19.”

So Tarsh and fellow home support workers started organising.

They told their stories in the media, participated in an international day of action, and home support workers filled out an E tū survey to identify the problems.

“The initial results from our survey show that about half of all home support workers in our union are facing the same problems as we’ve been reporting.

“That’s very distressing, especially when we think about our immunocompromised clients who are some of the most vulnerable.”

With the Government calling on industries to bring up issues like PPE provision with them directly, home support workers collectively sharing their experiences has been very important.

While home support workers can celebrate some small PPE victories, Tarsh says that there’s still more to do.

“We’ve managed to get more PPE for our frontline workers, that’s for sure. But there are still too many people reporting problems, and we’ll keep fighting until everyone feels safe at work.

“Although we’ve come out of Level 4 lockdown for now, we can’t get complacent. Proper provision of PPE for home support workers will be crucial for weeks and months to come as New Zealand gets the virus under control.”

Tarsh knows that her voice is a crucial part of making sure the country gets our response to COVID-19 right.

“All decision making must be focused on fighting COVID-19. That’s for the health and wellbeing of all of our workers, as well as the wider community.”