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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Here we go again

Ok, so I wrote about this already but it seems that a repeat attempt at explanation is necessary:

1. Only a very small number of unions are affiliated to the Labour Party. I can only think of four; EPMU (aka The Engineers), SFWU (Service & Food), Meatworkers and DWU (Dairy Workers). While EPMU and SFWU are amongst the bigger private sector unions these four are still couldn't reasonably be counted as "many unions" given that the whole NZ union movement encompasses over 33 unions (there are some not affiliated to the Council of Trade Unions and thus not on their list). If anyone has the skinny on any other unions, other than the four I listed, being affiliated to Labour, please comment now or forever hold your peace!

2. Many unions, and many union members, are public sector. Public sector unions do not affiliate to political parties and have policies of not giving donations to political parties either. Last I checked Labour was a political party, therefore they won't be getting any donations from those unions any time soon. That cuts out a lot of unions as possible donors under the current system.

3. Unions have to publish their accounts for their members, and as they are on the register of unions and often also incorporated societies there is auditing and so on that has to happen, just like (in fact probably more publicly) than companies. Any big dollops of union money being spent on stuff has to go through a democratic process, usually the union's Executive (or similar body) which is elected by the membership on a regular basis. They can't just secretly decide to give sizeable cheques to political parties without any membership scrutiny. It seems to be something that those without experience in unions struggle to understand - union members have a say in the running of their union, and hold its management accountable in ways that rarely happen in the corporate world. Those democratic structures aren't perfect, and many could be better, but they are there!

Okay, now that I've blurted all that out, yet again...

I'd also note that what everyone seems to be getting worked up about, when it comes to the proposals about changing the election funding laws*, has been put forward as something that is a million miles away from what has been reported.

The assumption in the broader blogosphere seems to be that unions will have an exemption from all the rules and can do whatever they please. The reality of the suggested change is that a funding cap would apply to third party campaigning (including unions and other organisations) and that the campaigning materials must be approved by the political party concerned. There would then be an exemption from this for organisations, including unions and companies (and no doubt others), for communications that they made directly to their membership. I imagine that there are several organisations that have memberships bigger than the biggest union, for example the AA, or one of the major banks, or Fonterra, or the University of Auckland. So it's hardly some kind of union specific gold-plated carte blanche to behave however they wish, as some have painted it.

So kindly cease and desist, all ye who reckon it's now going to be open slather for union election spending. Unions don't have that much spare dosh anyway.

* I haven't written on this yet cos I haven't read enough. I don't know if I'll have a chance anytime soon realistically.


Gerrit said...

Another marketing blunder by Labour, Span.

What they should have said right from the outset is that ALL organisation are free to electioneer directly to their members.

Instead they said Unions are. Only after there was a reaction did they quantify this to all organisations.

One has to wonder were their head space is at in the Labour party and what H2 is doing in running the party while H1 is away sailing.

Shane Jones hasn't helped the cause either with his remarks.

The blame squarely lies with Labour managment in not getting these policy statements out correctly.

That is also irrespective of whether they should have broached this subject at all when they are vulnerable from the last elections overspend of $800,000 and which still hasnt been paid back.

Good management and marketing practise. Nah dont think so.

It has given their opponents ammunition and has made themselves look like bumbling idiots.

Span said...

While I agree that Labour hasn't managed this well, I don't think that you can entirely blame them for the focus on union exemption that seems to be so prevalent.

In the Herald article I linked to above (9th April) which I am pretty sure is when the proposals were first "leaked", it clearly states, in regard to this point:

"Exempt from the new third-party rules groups such as unions or companies when they are communicating directly with their members."

So right from the start unions have not been the only ones on the cards. Of course it is to the vast advantage of those in Opposition that it is portrayed otherwise.

Asher said...

I think I remember hearing the RMTU were in the process of affiliating with Labour too. But maybe I'm imagining things, can't remember for sure.

Span said...

I heard that too Asher, but I'm not sure if it has actually happened or not. If it has that makes five, still not the majority that Farrar and others continually claim. Thanks for the intel though :-)