Now is the time for a 21st Century Unionism with a worker levy and open union membership

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I believe that no matter your role in society, be it doctor, dentist, nurse, rubbish collector, stay at home parent, beneficiary, prisoner, accountant, farmer, pensioner, bus driver, tow truck driver, taxi driver, politician, labourer, what ever it is, you are important. The fabric of society and community is woven together by everyone and everyone deserves a fair share of the harvest. If the rubbish collector stops the cities shut down in a month, if Doctors refuse to work people die, if lawyers weren’t around we wouldn’t know how much we hated lawyers, everyone has a role to play. We counter a status driven self absorbed culture by demanding workers get that dignity with progressive conditions.  If we are serious about a Living Wage, tackling poverty in a genuine manner and ending welfare and beneficiary ‘dependancy’ we should fight for a worker levy and open Union membership.

I think every worker entering a new job should automatically be enrolled with the Union representing their sector. This open membership would cost a levy equivalent to two weeks union membership and workers could either chose to remain as members or if they don’t want to be a member for whatever reason, they can contact the Union and remove their membership.

They would still pay the levy. That is the cost of the standards and work safety conditions the Union has already negotiated prior to that worker entering the job, and as such is the price for having safe work environments with beneficial conditions.

Too many NZers are not coming home from work because they have been killed on the job. 51 workers were killed at work last year, Pike River was a horror story and the Forestry sector continues to kill. The Labour Party in NZ birthed from the appalling work conditions in the Blackball Mine strike of 1908 because it’s always been work conditions that have driven unionism.

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It is every working persons right to collectively bargain. The power structures of the boss enable them to constantly grind down labour costs leaving dead hard jobs with no conditions beyond the minimum. I say screw that. Life can be hard and barren enough without adding wage slavery to it. Open Unionism and a worker levy as I describe it here would generate a large increase of resource to the Unions and the automatic enrolment would immediately strengthen Union bargaining power. This real muscle will force poverty down by demanding better pay and strengthen worker rights. For too long bosses have had the power, if we have a real chance of a Labour, Green and Internet MANA majority, it’s time to get serious about it.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Bring Farmers in to under the Union Umbrella and you’ll change NZ/ Aotearoa for ever and for far , far better .
    All you farmers out there , rolling your eyes ? Get a fucking grip and see that you’re being exploited by those dodgy cunts in Blue . Don’t you remember those days when Banks were fore closing and forcing you and your wife and kids into rental properties and on the dole ?
    You might have a few cows and a fancy Holden v8 today but the spectre of mass forced farm sales and terrible rural social dis-ease is lurking , licking it’s fiendish lips just over there in the shadows . Take some responsibility for your whanau and country and come in from out in the Cold Blue Yonder .

    • Farm workers need unions more than just about anyone one. So called “farmers” whatever they are these days, are but a small percentage of the farming community. Farm workers are the vulnerable underbelly of the Right Wing farming community. The question for the Left is how to connect with them.

  2. So 14 years into the 21st century you are advocating for 21st century unions. Get a grip. Unions are now irrelevant. Workers have voted with their feet, and if it wasn’t for the gullible they would have disappeared years ago.

  3. There is a schizophrenic attitude amongst many workers in NZ whereby they will declare their disdain for unions , yet then proceed to bemoan the low wage economy.

    When I was younger during the 1980’s and 1990’s…I recall sitting in a few union general meetings being bored out of my mind..we took for granted our award rates, double time and triple time..having equipment supplied , and other benefits pertaining to the job.

    We had a depot with around 16 chaps , but after privatization..that same depot now is a ghost town. We worked in the bush on the dams…it was hard and very often dangerous construction jobs maintaining parks and dams .

    If I travel now to those places..I notice how run down the place looks in general…

    Social democracies ..and a general Keynesian economic style economy thrives on having people employed…the reason is simply this..the domestic economy is then able to circulate money in the local community ..and maintain healthy small businesses and services we all need and desire.

    It used to be a standing joke about the council worker leaning on his shovel (never mind it was hard physical work and the observation was generally made by pen pushers ) … but that same council worker bought milk, bread, beer , petrol, and all manner of goods and services which helped maintain the local economy and community.

    Neo liberalism , on the other hand , thrives on a large pool of the unemployed to shore up support for the divide and conquer motives of such legislation as the Employment Relations Act…whereby unscrupulous employers (particularly of larger concerns that can actually afford to pay far more in wages ) can dictate wage rates, -usually a flat rate , no overtime rates.

    Obviously…high unemployment , fewer jobs and low rates of pay means that there is not the same level of finance injected into the local community. This has a knock on effect on all other small businesses ,local councils …they all suffer.

    It was the dismantling of such mechanisms as import tariffs that protected our small manufacturing industries that exported or sold their produce locally- and provided jobs and a cash circle in the domestic as well as the export market….opening up cheap imports that we could not compete with.

    This has had over time the affect of stultifying initiatives based on innovation/science..with less funding available for development as less and less cash is available…channeling resources instead to the already large corporates. And gutting regional developments and communities.

    Now we have an unregulated ‘free market’ that while it is great to get cheap tee shirts and socks…5 years down the track when the community is gutted financially by these policies means that even that cheap pair of socks and tee shirt becomes something that has to be budgeted for in lower income families – and often is lower on the priority list than food on the table.

    Human nature being what it is..there still needs to be a moderating influence in industrial relations – and currently – it is all stacked in favor of the business sector. Individual bargaining embedded through legislation is the tool used …that and high unemployment.

    And while radical unionism is not always desirable…neither is the appalling low wages on offer and the social malaise it causes. We are not Mexicans with cell phones ..we are New Zealanders. And we have no need to emulate any other country in order to serve Business Roundtable interests. Perhaps they should apply their own philosophy and outsource themselves offshore and become citizens elsewhere.

    It is ironic that unions developed out of the appalling conditions in 19th century coal mines….

    Therefore perhaps also we should apply that epitaph usually reserved for our fallen servicemen and women to our fellow Pike River countrymen – good blokes all …………

    Lest We Forget.

  4. Union is just a synonym for community. Communities work best when people work together to help each other. It really is that simple. A nation with strong unions is not necessarily Communist or Socialist or (insert preferred boogeyman here) – It’s a nation with strong social and ethical values. For the right to campaign on slogans like community, values, etc, but simultaneously fight unions is simply contradictory.

  5. In this scenario, would the unions you would force people to pay money to enjoy a legal monopoly? Or would people be able to choose between competing unions representing the same types of workers?

  6. Would you ban unions from donating to Political parties? Because it would be reprehensible to force people to pay for a union that then gives that money to a political party they may not agree with

    • Certainly – along with state funding of political parties and a ban on any donations above around $1000.

      • Sate funding is the last refuge of parties without ideas worth supporting. And unions committing workers levies to politics is a disgrace.

        • You mean ideas which aren’t worth multi-millionaires and multinationals supporting, but have real merit for those who cannot afford to donate thousands of dollars to parties?

  7. If you moved into a new job but in the same sector covered by the same Union would you have to pay the levy again? Also what if there are overlapping unions?

  8. State funding of political parties is an idea the Nats with all their pretend anonymous donations and corporate backers are afraid of.

    With the Nats the rich pay the money and get the laws they like ( and a lot of corporate welfare ).

    National being the rich mans party hates the idea of the less well off having a level playing field in democracy.

    Corruption would not pay off for them anymore …………….

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