“Better late than never, Jim!” – Bolger on the State of the Unions

By   /   April 22, 2017  /   49 Comments

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JIM BOLGER’S IMPLIED CRITICISM of his own government’s assault on organised labour is astonishing. The Employment Contracts Act 1991 ranks as one of the most extreme examples of anti-union legislation in post-war history. Certainly, the equivalent statutes enacted in the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia pale in comparison. From the legislation introduced by Jim Bolger’s close friend and ally, Bill Birch, even the word “union” was excluded.

JIM BOLGER’S IMPLIED CRITICISM of his own government’s assault on organised labour is astonishing. The Employment Contracts Act 1991 ranks as one of the most extreme examples of anti-union legislation in post-war history. Certainly, the equivalent statutes enacted in the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia pale in comparison. From the legislation introduced by Jim Bolger’s close friend and ally, Bill Birch, even the word “union” was excluded.

Nor should it be forgotten that Jim Bolger had “form” in the union-busting business. As Minister of Labour in Rob Muldoon’s government he had, in 1983, been responsible for legislating compulsory unionism out of existence.

It was the catastrophic impact of Bolger’s legislation on union membership numbers that made the Federation of Labour so biddable in the first flush of Rogernomics. New Zealand’s trade union leaders were willing to swallow just about anything from the Fourth Labour Government – in return for the restoration of compulsory union membership.

Labour obliged, but Stan Rodger, David Lange’s Minister of Labour, let it be known that this would be the last time that the political wing of the labour movement rode to the rescue of the industrial wing. The union movement, Rodger sternly insisted, must learn to stand on its own feet without the assistance of the unqualified preference clause.

To assist the unions, Rodger introduced the Labour Relations Act. The new legislation, in an attempt to make the typical New Zealand trade union bigger and better, mandated a membership base of 1,000, offered assistance for union amalgamations and encouraged the evolution of enterprise bargaining. Rodger also made it clear that the Labour Government expected the public and private sector unions to come together in a single peak organisation – the NZ Council of Trade Unions.

Rodger’s reforms sent a clear signal to Bolger and Birch that a future National government’s industrial relations legislation would not automatically be repealed by the next Labour government. They took this as a green light for a root-and-branch reform of the New Zealand labour market. With the assistance of the Business Roundtable, Birch and his advisers began drafting the legislation that would become the Employment Relations Act 1991.

In his interview with RNZ’s Guyon Espiner, Bolger volunteers the observation that the unions have become too weak. On the face of it, this is an extremely odd observation. After all, Bolger was well-aware of what would happen to union density in New Zealand the moment the prop of compulsory membership was removed. The experience of 1983-84 was there for all to see. The abolition of standard, occupation-wide contracts (known then as “awards”) applicable to everyone employed to do the same work, was similarly guaranteed to knock the stuffing out of the union movement. How could Bolger possibly entertain the notion that the Employment Contracts Act would not, in very short order, transform the union lions into lambs?

Possibly because the leadership of the NZCTU had reassured him that the reformed union movement: bigger and better resourced than ever before; was more than capable of weathering his storm.

I have been told by a former trade union leader that the President of the CTU in 1991, Ken Douglas, was convinced that the changes enshrined in the Employment Contracts Act would not cause a precipitate collapse in union density, and that employers would be amenable to the continuation of industry-wide bargaining and agreements. On the basis of Bolger’s recent remarks, it seems likely that Douglas conveyed this confidence to the newly-elected National Government. Certainly, it would explain why the Bolger Government felt able to introduce legislative measures which, in other jurisdictions (like France!) would have been met with massive resistance – up to and including a General Strike.

It is, of course, a matter of history that Ken Douglas and his allies in the public sector unions refused point-blank to support the private sector unions’ call for massive resistance. Not even the outpouring of tens-of-thousands of workers onto the streets in the early months of 1991 and the passing of multiple rank-and-file resolutions in favour of a General Strike, were enough to shake the opposition of Douglas and the public sector union bosses. At a special executive meeting of the CTU on 18 April 1991, a motion calling for a one day General Strike was defeated 190,910 to 250,122.

As things turned out, the grim misgivings of the rank-and-file and the private sector union leaders proved to be correct, and Douglas’s belief that the new, improved union movement could handle anything the Nats threw at it was shown to be entirely unjustified. In just a few years union density (the percentage of the workforce belonging to a trade union) fell by more than half.

The fate of private sector workers over the past quarter-century has been especially hard. Union density in the private sector has fallen from just under 50 percent in 1990 to less than 10 percent in 2017. The cost, in terms of worsening working conditions and stagnant real wages, is plain for all to see.

If they were, in fact, given, any reassurances from Douglas concerning the unions’ long-term resilience have proved to be spectacularly misconceived. Their expression would, however, provide some sort of explanation as to why, twenty-six years on, the former National prime minister expresses surprise that New Zealand’s trade unions have become so weak. At the time, Bolger (who has always struck me as a fundamentally decent person) may have consoled himself that the Employment Contracts Act’s bark would be worse than its bite. It speaks well of the man that he now recognises that the signature legislation of his premiership has contributed hugely to the growth of inequality in New Zealand.

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49 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    One of the residual affects of those years ago events is the on-going hatred of the teacher unions. Because they survived, still exist, and are perceived to have some power, there is resentment.

    Any malady in education can be blamed on them. In reality many of the worst features of changes to schooling have been because the teacher unions were party to them and indulged in trade offs instead of going on full frontal attack against the cretinous approaches.

    The ground for their capitulation was laid in the early ’90s and the public environment over the next 20 years would not be one where they could easily fight battles which should have been fought.

    The losses however are dramatic and longterm.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Then that is why we need to reestablish strong Trade Unionism again.

      The same principle apply’s , – that Unions must support other Unions.

      It is no small coincidence that we have the the Manufacturers Union (Employers and Manufacturers Association) and others such as the New Zealand Institute ( formerly the Business Roundtable ) .

      Call it what you will , give a new label or a fancy definition , – but a union of people is a union of people with a shared common interest. And the above band together to advance their interests, – therefore so should the Trade Unions.

      Fairs fair.

      And if groups such as the NZ Institute can and do donate and lobby politicians to gain leverage and influence , – then so should the Trade Unions shamelessly exert political pressure as well.

      It is common knowledge that the Business Roundtable were responsible for far more than just sharing in the role of the drafting up of the Employment Contracts Act, – they had an active hand in encouraging Govt fire sales and privatisation of most of our SOE’s.

      THAT ,… is how destructive many of these ‘ unions’ of self interest groups have been in the subversion and theft of the Commons wealth. However , not all employers are greedy avarice-minded shrews , either. Particularly in reference to the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

      However , .. right wing think tanks such as the New Zealand Institute DO possess an overriding contempt and advocation of the weakening of Trade Union power. And they are content with Trade Unions that march to the beat of their drum only and by and large are de toothed and compliant.

      It is groups such as these that need to be firmly put back in their place and ensure they do not try to rise above their stations as fellow citizens of New Zealand.

      Here’s an interesting link to a now historic example regarding the Ports of Auckland to remind us how these people operate …
      ………………………………………………………………………………………

      National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law …
      thedailyblog.co.nz/…/national-mp-admits-collusion-with-bosses-to-set-up-strike-break..
      ……………………………………………………………………………………….

  2. Castro says:

    Bolger is simply hoping that this last minute confession will save him from the gallows; it will not.

    • Jack Ramaka says:

      One of the old Neoliberals realizing his zombie economic policies were an absolute failure?

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        No.

        He , – like Richardson , Shipley ,Douglas, Moore , Palmer and a host of others knew EXACTLY the outcome and effects on their fellow citizenry.

        And , – just like the now discredited Tony Blair of the UK , who led Britain into the Iraq war with Bush citing the established lie of ‘ weapons of mass destruction ‘ , a confirmed neo liberal ( which is where we now coin the term ‘ Blairite’ ) and complicit along with Bush in genocide , – these treacherous neo liberal NZ politicians performed and endorsed the same sort of political and economic policy’s in conducting war on the middle and working class in this country and the destruction of their advocates – the Trade Unions.

        In fact … the word ‘ class’ was generally far less important in descriptive terms prior to 1984 as it is now in defining NZs demographics.

        That is how far these liars have led us.

        It is time we depose these psychopaths and take back what was once the possessions of the Commons . And Im talking specifically of our SOE’s for a start.

        And following that , – the reversals of all the destructive economic and societal implementations that these treasonous individuals have managed to fleece and worm their way into being for the last 33 years .

        And then the court trials on charges of treason to begin…

        • Fern says:

          Nothing in political behaviour surprises me any more, but I came close to being gobsmacked on the day I turned on my TV and saw that Ken Douglas had had a makeover. It felt like the ultimate slap in the face to working people.

  3. bert says:

    And for those who have been involved in the Andrew Little union era, the one thing you will get from him is that he will fight for was is right and fair rather than what the media portray of him…

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11842907

    Ironically Fran still does not recognise the fact that Auckland’s infrastructure is broken, rather she only sees immigration as an economic boom. Maybe a few people sleeping on her doorstep is what is needed.

    So when Little claims that he will cut off immigration, it is not “dog whistle politics”, it is a promise. In he I trust, in the mainstream media I do not. Even now Fran cannot recognise that it took the union and a court case to gain an increase in the hourly wage for care workers from the Government. Yet the Government fronted the media to claim victory. You can bet your last dollar the Government will milk it for all it’s worth in election year.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      I like Little.

      I like his style and I like his bluntness. Other RWNJ’s would call it ‘ angry’.

      I would say the working people in this country have a lot to be angry about.

      I like it when Andrew Little displays anger.

      Hes doing his job , – representing the feelings of thousands of people affected by these destructive neo liberal self interest groups. I also like his penchant for not wanting to dress up like a mannequin and strut around like a self absorbed peacock, – unlike so many National party suit wearers.

      My only criticism of Andrew Little is so far ,… and I say this with a measure of sadness ,.. he has chosen to cast off his trademark heavy rimmed glasses.

      They suited him and made him look real.

      He should stick them back on.

      And never try to emulate those preening , perpetually image conscious grasping avarice filled narcissists lining the ranks of the opposite benches.

      But,.. each to his own .

      He’ll never ever be of the odious type of so many as those described above.

      Hes a good bloke and everyone knows that.

      Except Fran.

  4. keepcalmcarryon says:

    Once again Chis very interesting to relive that bit of history.
    I think again you are overly generous to the right wing of politics here, Mr Bolger, Mr Birch, Ms Richardson took the axe to the unions, that fault lies with them not the previous union leadership whatever their own flaws.
    Why has Bolger changed his mind now? Maybe he genuinely feels bad.
    Bit of a different attitude to Mr Globalisation supposed left wing Mike Moore isnt it!

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Mr , … World ‘ Trade’ Organization Mike Moore, …

      What a treacherous sell out Moore was and still is.

      Hes another one that should be lined up for questioning on treason charges in the courts.

      Just another neo liberal right winger using the banner and the guise of the Left to advance his own sick right wing ideology.

      Bill English sits at his feet to listen to every pearl of wisdom that dribbles from Moores mouth.

      Sickening.

  5. Quicksilver says:

    Ken Douglas is a classic example of how anyone can be seduced by “the dark side” given enough incentive. Very sad.

  6. Kevin says:

    Mr Bolger’s recent comments regarding the weakness of the trade union movement I find disingenuous as Mr Bolger is responsible for the dismemberment of the union movement.
    I recall the union I was a member of returned a majority vote that Union membership should remain compulsory, this was ignored by the National government.The Nats promptly introduced the Contracts Act, which effectively delivered the employee to the employer.
    Mr Bolger as minister of Labour and Prime Minister revamp of the Labour market is responsible for the pretty much non existence Labour movement and the inequality of living standards.
    If Mr Bolger is looking for some form understanding or forgiveness, forget it,the policies were bad for New Zealand

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      I agree with Kevin,

      Bolger has had an attack of the guilt’s and came clean, so good on him.

      Must be because he is seeing the pain and anguish this rotten Government is forcing poor middle class and lower socio folks to live in motels, Marae’s, cars and even sleep in shop doorways.

      Shame on this damned evil government!!!!! GGGGGRRRRRR.

    • mikesh says:

      Many workers, I think, resented being forced into membership of unions towards which they felt little empathy, and were glad to see the end of compulsory unionism. Had it been otherwise I think the Union movement would be stronger today than it is, so I don’t think National’s policies in the early nineties were entirely to blame (otherwise why did Labour not reverse those changes when they had the chance).

      John A Lee also was opposed to compulsory unionism, believing it would lead to the establishment of ‘union beauracracy’, which in fact is what seems to have happened.

      • Most people don’t like paying taxes or car rego fees, Mikesh, but they’re still a necessity if we want the services we all expect in a modern nation.

      • Kevin says:

        Yes the union movement was not perfect, fortunately the union I was a member of was fairly reasonable and better than no representation at all as my grown children have.The work place conditions they are having to deal with are heavily favourable to the employer .
        Yes ,Labour should have reversed the Contracts act and I have not and will vote for Labour for their inaction. Really I don’t see a great deal of difference between Labour and National,John A Lee was expelled from the Labour party when it did represent the working people of NZ ,I think he would be horrified with Labour’s behavior over the last thirty years.
        My son’s best friend believes the Labour party are communists ,shouldn’t really be able to vote at all,love talking politics with him though what a laugh.

        • WILD KATIPO says:

          The only way we are going to see the arse end of neo liberalism in this country is to vote in a Labour led govt.

          And the only way we are going to achieve the dismantling of neo liberalism is to have that Labour govt in power and be able to exert pressure on them to purge out any remaining neo liberal vestiges.

          A Labour led govt is the ONLY way this will be achieved.

          The ONLY way.

  7. Grant says:

    This is yet another example of how The Right do not have the ability or intellectual firepower to see future consequences of their actions.
    The simply do not have that ability. They are visionless.
    It’s as if they don’t have fully developed brains.
    We are seeing it time and time again.
    Irresponsible over the top immigration -no infrastructure in place to cope
    – Result -Auckland housing crisis, over crowded schools , hospitals- damage done
    Ignore all scientific advice and facts on water usage.
    -Result- 80% of lakes and rivers unswimmable in a country of only 4.5 million people -damage done.
    The list is endless.
    Yes it was very magnanimous of Jim Bolger to admit that maybe he got it wrong ,but at the end of the day it’s too late .
    These decisions have long lasting or permanent damaging affects on people’s lives.
    The horse has bolted – damage done

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Yes,… funny how in thier senior retired years when they still draw a govt pension and have rorted thier riches from the Commons and set them and their familys up for life they get all sentimental, meditative and pensive.

      Sickening hypocrites.

      I have no such empathy or naivety to be sucked in by their utterances or assumed penitent crocodile tears in their pathetic pleas for vindication.

      Court charges and long prison sentences for malice against the citizens of this country would be a far more fitting fate for them.

      And I wouldn’t shed even one genuine tear for them at all.

  8. countryboy says:

    Another deviant catholic trying to bleach his soul before God cuts him down.

    Even if bolger slithers, or perhaps buys his way past the Pearly Gates my mother’s going to be waiting on him.
    ( Thanks TDB for this link to Johnny Cash. God’s gonna cut you down.

    https://youtu.be/eJlN9jdQFSc )

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Awesome song. And was reminded again by TDB of Cash’s great song a few weeks back. And it smacks you where it hurts. We dont get to live forever.

      And whether you believe or dont believe , its good to keep that in mind.

      Its a great leveler .

      And we were all born EQUAL.

  9. Once ..whatever says:

    There are a few Douglas-like acolytes still around.
    Maybe KKaCO is one of them.
    Toby would be rolling in his grave

    As for Bolger, I seem to recall he admitted to a few fuckups in another RNZ interview a few years ago. Bloody shame he doesn’t see fit to lobby some of his ilk in the current mob of troughers

    • Kevin says:

      Quite right ,a respected statesman and past prime minister must have some influence with that mindless lot we call a government, but no,this is about cleansing one’s sole for personal reasons only.

  10. Bill Birch was interviewed on the same morning as Bolger. Initially, Birch refuted Bolger’s comments – and then had to admit that, yes, inequality had grown in New Zealand since the late 80s and 1990s.

    ref: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201841060/birch-defends-his-decision-to-end-compulsory-unionism

    They’re coming out of the woodwork now and the authors of thirty-plus years of neo-liberal failure are lining up to recant.

    Now this country’s citizens have to figure out how to sort out thirty years of dogma-driven failure.

    • Kevin says:

      It’s sickening, I would prefer them to fade away into history with their conscience. The deeds have been done,which we are still suffering from,please don’t expect understanding and forgiveness for they knew exactly what they where doing.I hope they take their guilt with them.

      • Sally's Husband says:

        “Fade away”? I doubt it Kevin. They will be a footnote in our history books as the perpetrators of the Great Failed Experiment. It may take decades to return to our once great egalitarian society, but we simply have no alternatives.

        It’s either that, or become accustomed to families perpertuallu living in cars.

        • Kevin says:

          I feel the majority of New Zealanders can live quite happily with families living in overcrowded conditions and even cars .It seems to some folk that to maintain a certain comfortable standard of living someone has to miss out.
          Very survival of the fittest or connected.

    • Quicksilver says:

      Well, there shall be absolution for their sins.
      How could they not be even a wee bit suspicious of a doctrine that directs society to forfeit control of public assets to a parasitic class of greedy self-interested elites? Of course they knew what they were doing.

      And the cure, Frank, for 30 years of this failed doctrine?
      Physics tells us “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
      So how about an equal and opposite reaction to the neoliberal blitzkrieg of reform? Why not a similarly swift and unapologetic renationalisation of former state owned assets, WITHOUT compensation.
      Cause all hell to break loose, but nothing worse than what was inflicted on those powerless to deflect the blows of neoliberalism.
      And wouldn’t it be fun?!!!

    • John W says:

      Bolger got rid of the top flight modern Broadcasting building and its world class facilities close to parliament, as a matter of ideology railed against the public ownership of media.

      A crime committed where no gain was made for NZ nor its people but just another massive blow of the heart public broadcasting, a demolition which has continued with this NACT Govt.

    • J S Bark J S Bark says:

      “Now this country’s citizens have to figure out how to sort out thirty years of dogma-driven failure.”

      How about the bullet riddled wall?

      It worked before…

      • I shouldn’t laugh at that image, but… yes, well, it brought a snigger to my lips.

        I have seen bullet-riddled walls on the sides of buildings in downtown Budapest, JS. It’s kind of sobering, looking at the pock-marks and realising what caused them. The image is still imprinted in my mind.

        I pray to whatever gods exist (Jehovah, Allah, Thor, the Almighty Dollar…) that New Zealand never (again, after the Land Wars) experiences such urban violence.

        • WILD KATIPO says:

          Doesn’t have to be violent , Frank.

          All it needs after renationalisation is a formal constitution drawn up rather than scattered all over various legislation as it is now . And the drawing up of that constitution would consist of a select panel . Drawn from multiple party’s and selected legal / constitutional experts working within a framework.

          Along with this , former ‘ free trade’ deals would be renegotiated , – ensuring they are not injurious to this country’s national best interests ,- that definition of ‘ national interest’ being that describing the general citizenry of this country and their well being , – not just a small minority of benefactors.

          That select panel would provide broad descriptions of just what neo liberalism is and then provide legislation making it illegal for any future party to try to attempt to reintroduce it.

          The same way many European country’s have made Nazism illegal.

          An example of what I mean is the removal of trade tariffs. Tariffs were there to provide income for the govt, to protect indigenous businesses – particularly small businesses , and to protect the employees who worked for those businesses.

          I cite the destruction of our small manufacturing industry’s as a classic example of being the victims of neo liberal ‘ free market’ , ‘ free trade deal ‘ ideology . With either having to close down due to overwhelming competition from cheap overseas products / labour rates or large NZ company’s treacherously moving operations offshore to take advantage of cheap labour or taxation.

          And so , – after this constitution was drawn up and ratified , warrants sent out for the arrest of those who perpetrated neo liberalism and the deliberate theft of the Commons wealth.

          The reason why the warrants were sent out after the constitution was drawn up would be to give ample time for those guilty of perpetrating neo liberalism to leave the country permanently in a form of self exile.

          At least that would be showing some measure of mercy , – mercy that they never showed to us.

          And in many individuals cases, … charges would include economic sabotage and treason. The latter garnering a very long prison sentence indeed befitting its seriousness and deliberate malintent towards their fellow citizenry.

  11. countryboy says:

    I decided to come back for another go…

    Many years ago I met birch. I was with my Dad at a Privy Council meeting to present a case re the swindling ways of the Timaru branch of the BNZ, the lack of interest shown him by our local MP and the outrageous cost of pointless litigation levelled at the BNZ, a bank, at that time, well infested by the likes of Fay/Richwhite/Meyers/Gibb etc.
    Birch came up to me in the foyer of parliament buildings and offered to shake my hand. I refused, saying I didn’t want to catch whatever the fuck he had. His hooked beak twitched as he refrigerated my with a stare.
    A few years later I was talking at a meeting at the Ch Ch Town hall. It was packed to capacity with more than three thousand farmers marching against the tyranny of the banking industry and the deviant nature of the producer boards at the time. Bulger came sprinting out onto the stage and faux-conducted the boos and hoots from the audience like someone conducting an orchestra. I told him to sit down and shut up. I went on to say that we all knew he thought farmers were fools, so get on with it.
    He certainly got on with it.
    From the early 1980’s NZ changed completely. It was a fabulous country budding in its spring time. It showed huge promise and was wealthy and upwardly mobile, buoyed by brilliant minds coming out of superb universities and was wealthy and in rude good health.
    We grew and exported food. Lots and lots of world class food. So what could go wrong? A beautiful and fertile country with a respected reputation of reliable supply of the best essential products.
    Yep. Good old bulger. And his cadre of wicked,buckled rats. Scuttling about in the deviant banking and finance industry, doing sharp deals, making billions and doing nothing good or worthwhile.
    I heard Kim Hill talking to that fucker alan gibb this morning. I heard the gloating, pompous prick bubble and huff about flying over Laos, Cambodia, Thailand etc. I heard him talk about his ‘beautiful’ super boat, the one he got bored with because it was too slow for the wonderful and dynamic gibb, instead preferring the helicopter….
    What I didn’t hear was Hill pining him down. She could have, but didn’t. Et tu Kim Hill?
    Those bastards are why we’re fucked. They stole our belongings, our wealth and our youth as sure as if they broke into our homes and stole directly from us. In so doing, they’ve created several lost generations, the least of which are those in massive debt to live in average houses in an average town while trying to survive on average money.
    Anything and everything they say and do is a lie if it best suits their needs, particularly if there’s ‘ good coin’ in it.
    And there’s bolger. All misty eyed about the Unions. Dirty, filthy, fucking old liar. Burn in Hell you M……. F……. S…..of………a ………….B…………..f…………c………….. !

    I can’t wait for shipley/Espiner show.

    Whew ! Being so angry sure takes it out of a fellow. I need a hug and a Gin. Build up some urine for the headstones to come.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Absolutely awesome , COUNTRYBOY .

      As usual.

      This one really got me riled, however,… along with all the other built up long , long list of these lying hypocrites and their past crimes ,…

      ‘ They stole our belongings, our wealth and our youth as sure as if they broke into our homes and stole directly from us. In so doing, they’ve created several lost generations, the least of which are those in massive debt to live in average houses in an average town while trying to survive on average money. ‘

      THAT ,… should be raised as the Anthem and rallying call around the banner for a political revolution in this country , – and as I said before ,.. criminal charges to be pressed and long prison sentences to be served.

      Bolgers repentance. Yeah Right.

      Fuck the bastard.

      He can do his hail Marys and confessions to the Father while in the confines of a prison cell.

      And serve out his last days in there and meditate on all the long list of unknown fellow New Zealanders who died because of lack of medical resources and long hospital waiting lists and kids who died in cold damp overcrowded homes with respiratory diseases of the third world and marriage break ups due to financial stress and teenagers going off the rails because of family breakdowns.

      Enough guile from that hypocritical piece of garbage.

      And all others just like him.

      Enough of their wrecking and self justifications.

  12. Mike in Auckland says:

    There you go, in a small country like NZ unions must work together and stand together, or the division will serve the employer organisations and their members.

    As the union bosses stuffed up, the shit came upon us. No wonder many left the private sector unions, they felt betrayed and lost faith and hope, and workers became the lone strugglers and fighters, every one for themselves, as they are in their vast majority now.

    Question is, how can you reverse this tide, decades later?

  13. So moving forward, how do we undo the damage – what damage can we actually realistically undo now, and where do we start?

    Simple questions, but the answers are going to require some thinking.

  14. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    I listened to the one episode of this clearly propaganda RNZ series featuring the only one for whom I had any respect.

    Geoff Palmer.

    The rest have been flushed down the lavatory of history.

    Thieves and liars all…

  15. millsy says:

    “I have been told by a former trade union leader that the President of the CTU in 1991, Ken Douglas, was convinced that the changes enshrined in the Employment Contracts Act would not cause a precipitate collapse in union density, and that employers would be amenable to the continuation of industry-wide bargaining and agreements. “

    I read somewhere that there was a provision in the bill that allowed wages and conditions negotatied in the latest award round to be ‘grandparented’ into new multi employer contracts.

    • Kevin says:

      My employer of 8 years tabled a contract and advised there was to be no negotiations, take it or leave it.I left it and took his customers with me,just for the he’ll of it.

  16. WILD KATIPO says:

    Good article , Mr Trotter. A wonderful historian you are. And I remember you explaining this a few years back to which I was appalled … about the public unions not supporting the private unions in a general strike against the Employment Contracts Act.

    That viscous Act. That destructive , evil Act.

    I had always wondered just how that came about. I was in my twenties at that stage, and often wondered just how that occurred despite all the street protests ,..

    How did we let that happen…

    It was a big pill to have to swallow when you explained it. However,… you say this :

    ” It speaks well of the man that he now recognises that the signature legislation of his premiership has contributed hugely to the growth of inequality in New Zealand.”

    I do not agree. I think he and others – including the Business Roundtable knew EXACTLY what they were doing. And they desigened it that way for a specific purpose. And it had absolutely NOTHING to do with any humanitarian, altruistic motives.

    The driving force behind that was simply to create a class of divided, servile and easily manipulated workers afraid for their jobs and willing to forgo all manner of rights to retain that job. Even to the point of accepting a pathetic wage that does not and has not been adjusted adequately to take in the cos to living.

    We now have whole family’s living in vans and cars while working jobs , – some even two jobs… because they cannot afford to live in a bloody rental accommodation.

    Bolger was no naive fool . He knew exactly what the end result would be. To say he was otherwise would have rendered him unfit to lead a country. He had the backing and input from a bunch of globalistically minded, profit driven vicious individuals in the form of the Business Roundtable. And they hated the restrictions Unions put on them.

    I am far more less charitable than you are.

    I call Jim Bolger nothing more than a bit player who willingly played along with a bunch of ruthless fuckers who were determined to break Union strength so that they could institute the legalised theft of New Zealand workers wages.

    And that makes Jim Bolger equally as much of a fucker as they are.

    • Geoff Lye says:

      Dead Right Wild Katipo.

      When the first contract negotiations first came out you were basically told sign it or you would get 9 to 5 and no overtime or weekend work.

      Most staff in the baking industry in 1992 lost between 25% up to 50% of their wages in the one hit ( that 25 to 50% represented the weekend and penal rates involved in the baking industry at that time).

      The fact the public sector unions refused to protest and back the private sector ones is the one reason we have this situation now.

      The only way to fix things now is a Labour Greens NZ First Govt bringing back Rob Muldoons compulsory wage increase orders until bosses start paying at least the living wage as a minimum wage and start giving year end bonus’s or cost of living increases.

      This bullshit mindset we have now of a job is worth “X” amount for ever and a day needs to be eradicated.

    • Geoff Lye says:

      Dead Right Wild Katipo.

      When the first contract negotiations first came out in 1992 you were basically told sign it or you would get 9 to 5 and no overtime or weekend work.

      Most staff in the baking industry in 1992 lost between 25% up to 50% of their wages in the one hit ( that 25 to 50% represented the weekend and penal rates involved in the baking industry at that time).

      The fact the public sector unions refused to protest and back the private sector ones is the one reason we have this situation now.

      The only way to fix things now is a Labour Greens NZ First Govt bringing back Rob Muldoons compulsory wage increase orders until bosses start paying at least the living wage as a minimum wage and start giving year end bonus’s or cost of living increases.

      This bullshit mindset we have now of a job is worth “X” amount for ever and a day needs to be eradicated.

      • Kevin says:

        Extremely difficult to turn the clock back,Labour has no appetite to empower the the trade unions to complel employers to pay a liveable wage and the employers are not about to pay any more than they have to ,especially when there are plenty of new New Zealanders prepared to work for the minimum wage,which really is third world substance living just the way the governing sector likes it.

  17. […] Just like any good Catholic, Jim Bolger has managed to recant his free market neoliberalism on his political death bed and tell the nation that his Government’s hard right extermination of the union movement in NZ was ultimately deeply da… […]

  18. Jack Ramaka says:

    NEOLIBERALISM = NEW ZEALAND’S GREATEST FAILED EXPERIMENTS

  19. Farmer Guy Farmer Guy says:

    “They stole our belongings, our wealth and our youth as sure as if they broke into our homes and stole directly from us.”

    Yes I agree with that.

  20. graeme pedersen says:

    I read the comments with some surprise, as most of my FB time is spent on world affairs, I am very pleased to see the rhetoric shown in the comments is similar to what prevails in the western global workforce.
    I am retired now, but my last 17 yrs. were worked at a unionised establishment. We had all the worthwhile attributes of a strong union.
    We had “smoko” breaks after so many hours worked, we had penal rates for overtime, guaranteed 40 hours (at least) regular hours, clothing and footwear supplied, shift allowance, service payments etc. and there is still a redundancy clause. We had annual (paid) meetings with the bosses to ‘thrash’ out wage increases and company policy etc.Both sides went for more than they wanted so there was room to negotiate. In this way the company got a reliable and happy workforce. The company has been taken over several times by worldwide corporations, but the union is still strong, but is being eroded by the introduction of short term immigrant labour, hired by outside entitys and of course International corporative clout. The union was EPMU, now known as ETU. (This is the union who got the wage rise for state sector domestics, after a long battle, and Little was the president before becoming a politician.)

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