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

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

National hearts unions?

So National's new industrial relations spokesperson Kate Wilkinson has discovered that unions are not The Enemy. Hat tip to Aucklander at Large who has written about his scepticism, a sentiment I share.

One thing that bugs me about National and their approach to unions is watching John Key simultaneously sidle up to his idol John Howard. Howard has brought in some of the heaviest anti-union legislation seen in a long long time, far worse than our own Employment Contracts Act was. National has got to be looking across the Tasman with longing, especially given they all seem to believe that the unions provide the bulk of Labour's campaign funding (not true).

Kate Wilkinson is a loooong way down the caucus rankings, so her hold on the industrial relations portfolio suggests to me that National doesn't intend to do much campaigning in that area in the next year or so. This worries me. It means that that part of their policy isn't going to get much media scrutiny, and probably that journalists will be gentler in interviewing Wilkinson, as a newbie, than they would have been with the previous holder, Wayne Mapp.

Because surely we must all know that National will want to at the very least gut the Employment Relations Act? There is no consensus between the Big Two on industrial relations, far from it. And employment law affects every worker in New Zealand.

An unscrutinised industrial relations policy (or simply, an unstated one, as seems to be the case with most National policy these days) could mean some big surprises after the 2008 election for voters, if National take the Treasury benches...

Update, 15th March 2007 6.47pm: Bryce Edwards gives his take on National's new paramour too.


Heine said...

You could apply that logic that more importantly Labour has left its foreign affairs portfolio outside cabinet.

You are basing your opinion on your predjudice against National. While the unions hated the ECA, it made NZ far more competitive against the Aussies who were screwed by the heavy handed unions at airports and ports. The reason why the unions love the laws now is so they can get as many members as they can, and YES it does bolster more funds for Labour the stronger they get.

I think there are good and bad unions, but I also feel they are more relics of a time when they were the vehicles for extremist behaviour. Evidence in NZ still shows how far some people are willing to take their unions and its members.

I am not a Nat supporter, but you might be surprised how much softer National have got about this issue.

Span said...

Heine said:
While the unions hated the ECA, it made NZ far more competitive against the Aussies

Competitive for who? (or whom, I always forget).

Certainly not competitive wage wise, NZ fell below Oz in that area, and has still not closed the gap, creating one of the main reasons that Kiwis move to Australia.

Forgive me if I hold the opinion that I possibly know more about unions, as a unionist living and working in NZ, than you do Clint.

Unions do a lot of work, everyday, that the public never sees. first and foremost they uphold workers' rights (mostly really basic ones that even you might agree with, like the right to be paid the agreed rate for your job).

I suspect you are letting your prejudice against unions cloud your judgement Clint.

And union fundraising for Labour does happen, I've never denied that (except that the state sector unions definitely don't do it), but it is far outstripped by Labour's other donation sources, particularly corporates.

Maia said...

Not to sound like cynical labour-hating girl (actually totally to sound like that - my brief affection for Helen Clark last week was bound to wear off), but what exactly could they gut out of the ERA?

There is not there in the ERA, none of the provisions (except the rights of access provisions) have any teeth. I agree that they could make things worse (a la work choices), but it's not like they could take away the huge protections the ERA gives us. Now if they'd let us close the shop that'd be something that could be gutted.

Heine said...

You're right. I am prejudiced against unions, just like myself and most of NZers choose not to join one.

I oppose any laws that give these organisations more power that is due to them. It has come to a situation where unions are telling us we all NEED to join them and creating all sorts of hysteria why we need to.

When I was working in NZ and FINSEC tried to trick us into joining them they ended up looking bad and lost members as a result.

What was more competitive for NZ was that we got our produce and goods on our ports loaded and offloaded quicker than the Aussies. That meant we could go on with our day to day business better than them, which is better for the consumers and businesses employing people. Do you have much knowledge in the Australian union movement?

Heine said...

Even if you disagree about my union knowledge and opinion I still got ya pretty good on my first point :)

Oliver said...

I think we should have big grunty powerful unions like France and Germany, then we too can have employment laws that cause companies to do their utmost not to hire anyone whatsoever and then we can have 25% unemployment like the French.

And hey, I was even a union delegate once. I just couldn't handle the committee meetings that took three times as long as they should have because most of the other delegates were too fucking dim and or pig-ignorant to grasp the concepts, understand the legislation or the contracts.

Even so I still believe that there is a place for unions but that currently they're taking too much of that place. The dishonesty of NZ unions over the 90 day bill was what really put me off them.

Insolent Prick said...

What we need is National going on the front foot and attacking specific union intrangencies, particularly in the education sector and the public service, where public policy is dictated to serve the interests of the unions, rather than taxpayers.

Bulk funding all schools would be a bloody good start to advance the interests of education, and in the process, smash the dominance of the unions. Removing public sector incentives for employees to join the PSA. That is just a whopping great bribe to the unions, which is in turn channelled back to the Labour Party. Remove the power of unions to make direct or indirect donations to political parties at election year. And finally, get rid of the huge bribe that is the employment relations education fund, which is nothing more than pro-union propaganda in drag.

Span said...

So my rightwing readers think that we should smash the unions and my leftwing commenters think that the current law isn't union-friendly enough; colour me surprised.

Sorry Clint, please indicate which point you consider to be your first, seeing as you have argued in different order in your two comments.

I don't think most Australians would say that they measure their superiority (or otherwise) over NZ by how speedily goods are moved through their ports and airports. It seems rather an arbitrary (and largely irrelevant) measure of competitiveness to me. You cannot deny that wages in Oz are considerably higher than in NZ, despite a payroll tax on the other side of the ditch. The gap grew throughout the 1990s.

H, you've made your nasty allegations against Finsec before on my site, and let's just say that their side of the story is somewhat different from yours.

As someone who was ripped off by employers several times before I ever got involved in unions (and before I was a member of a union) I don't think it's incorrect to point out the good advocacy and representation that unions can provide to their members.

But then Clint, you hate unions and I heart them and never the twain shall meet!

Craig Ranapia said...

So my rightwing readers think that we should smash the unions...

Oh, bloody leave me out of that production of Les Miz, Span. I've been shat on for belonging to a union, and shat on by a whole other set of people for choosing not to. And you know something, Span, just because I'm critical of the conduct of some unions and aspects of industrial relations law doesn't mean I HATE unions, anymore than being critical of females in public life must mean I'm a mysogynist.

And people wonder why political discourse in this country has problems lifting it's head out of the gutter...

Span said...

Craig, you hadn't previously commented on this post and I was referring to Clint, Oliver and IP who had (and do appear to hold rather rabidly anti-union views).

I hope you are less grumpy this morning!

Oliver said...


I don't consider myself to be rabidly anti-unions. I don't want to join one but I do recognise that unions have a valid place. I just happen to believe that the balance between individuals, companies and unions is currently weighted to far in favour of unions. Under ERA I think it was weighted to far in favour of companies.

I also believe that NZ's unions were woefully dishonest during the 90-day bill debate and that should be held against them. I also note that when countries get their balance too far pro-union they wind up with systemic unemployment like France and Germany

Span said...

oliver, some examples would be nice:
- how do you think the ERA is too favourable to unions? (I happen to agree with Maia myself)
- how were NZ unions dishonest over the 90 day debate?

Unions don't have an interest in high levels of unemployment imho. It's senseless to shut down businesses or to bar them from taking on new employees, as it means less employed people who could be union members!

Heine said...

Span, so you have knowledge of how FINSEC tried to get members from ANZ to join them in 2002?

Are you sure we are talking about the same thing here? You are aware that they email bombed us all continually until we had to get a mediator to ask them to stop emailing us. FINSEC promised that we would all get gievn free computers from ANZ HQ if we joined the union (lies) then then when we were given free bank accounts, cheap banking products etc from ANZ they announced that they were FINSEC initiatives as a sweetener for them negotiating them for us (more lies). We were, through our agency, corporate customers of ANZ and that was why we got the good deals - it had nothing to do with FINSEC and yet they tried to pass it off as a union victory.

This actually happened Span, I don't even need to spin this one to make them look bad. They managed to piss off even my leftie colleagues and once the charm offensive ended, FINSEC lost 3 of their 5 only members in our building.

You can't call my "allegations" nasty, although it is safe to say what FINSEC did was outrageous.

Still sure you and I are talking about the same situation?

Span said...

Clint, whatever. Given your attitude towards unions I take any stories you regale me with about unionism with a grain of salt the size of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. Please don't continue to post allegations of that kind here, they do you no credit.

Heine said...

If the truth hurts just say it.

If all you can say is 'whatever' then it only vindicates what I said. I would of thought you would of said something a lot more clever than that.

My facts are 100% true, with hundreds of witnesses and a few red faced FINSEC organisers. If you can't handle this why open your mouth in the first place if you can't handle debate??

Span said...

Clint, I think you'll find on this matter that you opened your mouth first, and now we are locked in a battle to be Last Word Nazi on a thread which no one else gives a flying fig about.

This is not the first thread where you and I have ended up in a fight where you are certain I am wrong and I am certain you are wrong, and we won't believe each other on points of fact. I can see the futility in continuing when this is the case. Maybe I did learn one thing from student politics after all.

Heine said...

Fair point. I wasn't accusing you of being wrong or fibbing though, this really did happen and it wasn't at the time a politicial debate when I was at the bank.

In fact I had to sign a clause in my contract to not discuss or organise staff members into any political organisation. Only me mind you, as I did just come out of a job in ACT, and there were some tentative problems with FINSEC before I joined the bank that didn't need a brash stirrer like myself getting involved! :)