The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, September 22, 2006

The post I was too excited to come up with a title for!

Yesterday afternoon I was frantically doing something I only do when desperate for news - listening to Danny Watson on ZB "interviewing" someone about insurance. It was a sacrifice I made only to find out what the Hades had happened with the NDU (and EPMU) members' vote on the new Progressive Enterprises deal. See my previous rants about this issue here and here.

Maia and Idiot/Savant have more of the detail, which unfortunately I don't have time this morning to write about (and they and the Shelf Respect site have covered it well already anyway).

But I just wanted to add a smidgen of brief analysis. Rumour has it that Progressives knew there was a high possibility they would lose the court case that started this week between them and NDU. NDU was taking PEL to court on the basis that they could not lock workers out because they were claiming a national collective agreement. There is precedent for this in the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) that the Association of University Staff sought with the universities last year (or was it the year before?). In that case the court decided that the universities had to at least begin bargaining for a national collective agreement, they could not simply oppose it on principle with no reasons.

Anyway it's possible that PEL looked at their odds for court and made the call - let's not lose this case because if we do it has big implications for our other agreements and also for other businesses.

There are some who will say the union has lost this battle. I don't see how they can come to this conclusion - as Maia has pointed out the workforce has come out stronger than they went in despite not getting a national collective agreement. Pay parity is a massive step, one that many workers would love. Imagine being paid what your work is worth, not the smallest amount your manager can get away with paying you! This settlement is an important move towards achieving that goal for these workers (although most days I am dubious it is an aim that can be achieved under capitalism, but that's a grip for another post).

What this dispute has also shown is how unions, and the community, can work together. I am hopeful that the links made over the last six weeks can be nurtured and grown to strengthen workers for the next fight that comes.


Gerrit said...

"although most days I am dubious it is an aim that can be achieved under capitalism, but that's a grip for another post"

Looking forward to that post with anticipation.

Heine said...

And you accuse me of having an agenda! That above quote tells it all doesn't it? It also puts to bed your faux innocence on Laila not being a radical, when you yourself subscribe to Lailas radicalism.

I know it might be difficult to look outside the box that you live in, but by looking at the facts (which I have blogged about), PEL won this.

They were willing to offer a payrise and stood steadfast against the NDU demands for a collectivised contract. Business NZ were putting out press releases stating that PEL will offer a payrise if it meant an end to the ridiculous demands for a collective contract. NDU made this a bottom line and yet when we see the result, gasp shock horror! NO COLLECTIVE CONTRACT and an almost identical pay raise offer.

PEL have even offered returning workers 0% interest loans to help them recoup losses incurred with this strike, and the NDU are still firing off insults and waving victory flags... who do you think looks better at the end of this?

PEL are admirable winners, shouldn't you and your anti capitalist mates stop attacking those who create wealth, or do you want us all to live in a poor socialist NZ?

Psycho Milt said...

Attacking those who create wealth? It's PEL that's just spent weeks doing that. Wealth is created by the workforce - shareholders just front up the cash. It might be essential that they do so, but the wealth is created by the people who actually do the work. Perhaps you should stop attacking those who do the work, or do you want to live in a poor low-wage NZ?

Gerrit said...


Partly right I would say. Where you work (or the workers workplaces) requires capital to set up (unless it is the State using your money anyway)

The people who put up the money (shareholders) expect a return on investment normally set about at a minimum of 4% above the current bank rate.

Afterall would you put money into creating workers workplaces at less then the bank rate? It has to be better of then leaving your money in the bank.

While the workers quite rightly contribute (are a stakeholder) in the business) to creating wealth for the business they are not the only ones. Management (who are workers just like the shop floor people) are stakeholders, suppliers, sales staff, R&D people, etc. also create the wealth.

Another very important stakeholder is the customer (some would say the god of stakeholders)as they provide the currency to enable the business to be viable.

Shareholders do not just provide the wealth to create your workplace. They also provide the expertise to enable the efficient functioning of the workplace.

Plus put in extra capital (derived from retained profits not paid as dividends to the shareholders) to keep up with any customer expectations that requires new equipment, staff training, expanded facilites, etc.

I'm still suprised that unions dont go for more of the profit sharing option.

Psycho Milt said...

I don't think Heine is referring to "stakeholders" when he talks about PEL creating wealth, above. He's indulging in the popular right-wing delusion that the people in whose hands the wealth ends up somehow magically created it.

Gerrit said...

The wealth is created by the three players in the wealth creation circle.

The shareholders who provide the capital to create the workplace, the workers who manufacture the goods and service at the workplace, and the customers (the shareholders and workers combined spending their earnings) who buy the goods and services.

That is the circle and you can see that each is mutually dependent on the other.

You are right that PEL as a shareholder does not create wealth. However the workers cannot create wealth unless the shareholders create the workplace.

Neither will gain any wealth if the customer is not satisfied.

And so the circle goes around and around.

In the recent PEL dispute there are no "winners" in the fight as potentially both the shareholders and the workers can lose out when the customer (having normally shopped at a PEL supermarket) changed to a competitor supermarket because they couldnt get their normal goods. There may be every likelyhood they will never again shops at a PEL supermarket.

A lose lose situation.

Next time both the shareholders and the workers need to think about the effect their intransigence has on the customer. I have a feeling both parties think the customer will automatically came back. The reverse may well be true.

One question that always fascinates me is why workers (through their unions?) dont club together and become shareholders in their own workplaces.

I guess if the State provides the workplaces they automatically do so through their taxes?

Heine said...

Tut tut, don't try and put words into my mouth now.

I am against Unions like the NDU who specifically attack businesess that they decide need to be taken down a notch. Sure wealth comes about through the workers but the wealthy themselves and the companies they run are the ones that contribute towards a wealthy society.
What financial good does a union bring to society, apart from misery and plenty of it? :)

Gerrit said...


Seems like you dont understand mutual dependence. Think about it as mutual destruction if you dont cooperate which each other. Which in a competitive capitlistic society is very easily done.

As a "right winger" my objection to unions is not their democratic existence (and more power to them in a cooperative sense) but to the socialist agenda of the paid union organisers. Which is a different issue.

Unions have an important function in life as they have the ability to empower their members (does everything have to be financial?) for the greater good.

Something in a capitalist society which is to be encouraged. It enables all members of society to participate in a capitalist system.

Heine said...

Gerrit. I agree with your points and better analysis. I don't claim to be a great orator :)

I disagree with the socialist agenda of these unions, as you do. Unions can be useful as well, but are captured by left wing troublemakers which causes all these problems.

I however have found that unions are not always the best tools to get what one wants on the workplace or from the employer. I have personally led action with colleagues recently over workplace issues without the help of a union (as we were taking on the union who were our employers) and succeeded. Employment laws are there to protect us from dismissal in most instances.

I feel that unions in low paid employment are mainly captured by the left to take advantage of the fact that these workers are less well off and in many cases not of degree level to understand they have a choice, and that I think is exploitation by the unions.

Gerrit said...

That is why I dispair at the socialists. They keep the poor and the workers downtrodden on purpose because without them they wouldn't exist.

All their rheteric is about a class struggle which is totally false and self serving. Any hint of a suggestion that capitalism may actually provide an avenue out of poverty and into self reliance is met with selfrightious indignation and scorn.

Note that this socialist revolution has been a hundred years in the making and any time soon will happen? Dont think so.

And even after a socialist revolution will the poor and workers be better off? No, because the only control the socialist will have is to make everyone dependent on the State and subjective to the power of the ruling elite.

They wont be able to even vote for the ruling elite. Like Castro and Mugabe they will linger and stop any self determination people have.

I'm firmly in the camp the only one thing can overcome poverty.

Education , Education , Education.

From knowledge comes self determination and reliance. From deternmination comes action and from there on out it is only upwards.

Psycho Milt said...

Excellent analysis of Stalinist-era socialism, Gerrit. Just a pity you're writing it in 2006.

I'm not sure where you get this image of socialists shamelessly blocking PEL's ceaseless efforts to better its workforce. It's certainly unlikely any union organiser will recognise themselves in your description.

Gerrit said...


They may not see it themselves but I certainly can. Maybe others too.

It is not PEL's job to better its workforce but a combined effeort between the company and the workers.

My gripe is with the union organisers not even looking at opportunities outside their socialist agenda.

And I know it is a matter of opinion if they have one or not. I subscribe that they do.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I think PEL were on the verge of running into problems which forced them to settle:

A week after the strike ended the stores have worse stock shortages than during the strike.

A lot of items don't have prices in the system (price integrity has always been a problem at PEL according to my sources)

The IT systems were having to be changed around to cope with not delivering stock through the usual channel.


Span said...

Gerrit, just a quick note to say that I know many union organisers who frequently look for solutions other than socialist revolution. After all, no point having a revolution until you've converted a majority to your view now is there?

(That last sentence was a joke, for the humour-impaired.)

Gerrit said...

Cool, Have to revise my opinion slightly.

When is the revolution?

Mind you the way the extreme moral right christians/muslims are going I will be joining you. Not to overthrown capitalism just to maintain some sort of freedom.