What I want from a Labour/NZ First/Green Government

By   /   October 20, 2017  /   13 Comments

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It was one of the mad failures of the nine-years of the last Labour-led government that union membership density as a percentage of the working class was lower at the end than the beginning. The changes to industrial and other laws were too inconsequential to allow unions to grow easily – especially in the private sector which covers fewer than 10% of the private sector workforce. The goal should be to double or treble that percentage.

First I want to congratulate myself that my prediction two weeks ago that Winston Peters and NZ First would choose to do with Labour has proved correct.
Of course, when there are only two choices the chances are quite high of being correct.
However, it was a judgement, not a guess. I tried to put myself into the shoes of Winston Peters, the politician and party leader, and think like I thought he actually would – not as I wanted him to think.
I am glad I have been proved right.
In the short term at least there is more chance of squeezing some small concessions in some areas that will advance the position of the low paid workers that I represent.
In particular, we want to push the minimum wage up from just over half the average wage to two-thirds of the average wage which is about $20 an hour in today’s dollars. Winston has said he wants that number to be reached by the end of the first three-year term. Labour and the Green’s both also officially support the goal of two-thirds of the average wage although Labour had the escape clause of “if economic conditions permit”. There is a good chance we will be close to that number within three years.
The current level of the minimum wage is $15.75 an hour. To go up to $20 an hour in three years is an increase of $4.25 or $1.42 an hour each year. That is almost double the 75 cents an hour increase being promised by Labour in the first year. Let us hope a more ambitious goal becomes part of the deal that has been done with NZ First and the Greens.
The other changes I think the union movement should concentrate on are those that strengthen our ability to organise working people.
It was one of the mad failures of the nine-years of the last Labour-led government that union membership density as a percentage of the working class was lower at the end than the beginning. The changes to industrial and other laws were too inconsequential to allow unions to grow easily – especially in the private sector which covers fewer than 10% of the private sector workforce. The goal should be to double or treble that percentage.
To do that we need tools t allow us to do the job more effectively. Much of the current policy Labour has put forward in the industrial relations sphere is simply rolling back the negative changes made by National. This is welcome but insufficient. As I said no real progress was made under the old regime before those changes so more needs to be done.
I am not sure that the policy of Labour for new “Industry Standards” will do that. This may establish better minimum employment standards in certain industries but I want changes that help strengthen unions to do that job.
I have sixteen simple and practical actions based on Unite Union’s organising experience that could be done easily and quickly that would make our work a hell of a lot easier. They are “reasonable” in the sense that right-wingers would find it hard to argue against them. I know that with these changes unions could organise hundreds of thousands more workers into unions and they could use their collective power to significantly improve their lives.
Some small changes that we could use to rebuild working class power in Aotearoa/NZ
1) All employees should have a clear choice to join a collective agreement and the union when being employed by a company where a collective agreement exists. This needs to be a single form that all employees must complete that is an “either/or” option. If the employee elects to become a union member the employer must process the form as a membership application and deduct fees. The employer must also forward the employee’s contact details to the relevant union. Where there is no collective agreement employees should have the choice of applying to join a union that is responsible for that industry. Application forms should be forwarded to the appropriate union.
2) Promote Multi-Employer Collective Agreements (MECA). Where a union initiates for a MECA the employers must meet within two weeks and appoint a bargaining team and an advocate. The advocate and team must make themselves available to meet and bargain in good faith within 30 days. When there has been a failure to conclude a collective agreement where bargaining has become protracted or a breach of good faith has occurred the union party can ask to attend facilitation through the Authority. If an agreement still cannot be reached by the parties the union can request that the Authority member to make a determination on the issues in dispute to conclude the collective agreement.
3) Master Franchise holder shall be deemed to be the employer party for all employers that operate as sub-franchisees.
4) An employee has the right to take a personal grievance against a  party who is not the direct employer which has caused unjustified disadvantage, discrimination, harassment, bullying and unjustified dismissal. For example, when a security guard loses their job because the company they have been assigned to objects to their continued presence on a site.
5) An IEA has a maximum term of 2 years and the employer must propose changes in advance and meet with each employee in good faith to discuss and give the employee the opportunity make proposals. If the matters are unresolved the employee can access mediation services to assist any unresolved issues. Alternatively, the employer may choose to put the employee on the same terms and conditions as the collective agreement without individual bargaining for the payment of an agreed fee to the union.
6) Unions have the right to communicate with their members including access to a union-controlled noticeboard in a workplace that has members of the relevant union.
7) At the union’s request, the employer must provide a list of all employees, their work locations and positions and facilitate the unmonitored access of those employees by union representatives, including adequate meeting facilities. If an employee does not wish to meet the union representative, the employee needs to communicate directly with the union representative. The initial meeting with employees who are not members of the union shall have a reasonable time, not less 15 minutes, to discuss membership of the union.
8) Union access to union members can be conducted individually or collectively. Collective discussions need be facilitated to allow members of the union to fully engage in the meeting. Wherever practical the union meeting can be in the workplace concerned.
9) All employers must allow deduction of union fees from pay. (At present there is an exemption where it is stipulated in an employment agreement that there is no deduction allowed. This is used by labour-hire companies.)
10) Regular patterns of work shall be deemed to be agreed hours of work unless there are genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for the regular pattern of work to not to be recognised.
12) Part 6A (transfer of undertakings) rights provided under this section to be extended to all employees.
13) The pay and conditions of workers supplied by Labour-Hire companies shall not be less than that paid by the employer to which labour is being supplied.
14) All Labour Inspector powers and penalties should be available to workers/unions/at the ERA.
15) Stop migrant workers visas being tied to their jobs, or an amnesty to find another when exploited. Migrant worker employment agreements to be lodged with MBIE and all wages paid directly to a bank account.
16) There are also there issues of broader working class rights that could be done to bring this country into the 21st Century that would also be hard for right-wingers to argue against.
– Overtime rates of time and a half shall apply to all hours worked in excess of 8 hours a day or 40 in a week.
– Sick Leave increased to 10 days
– Redundancy pay of at least “4&2” to be a legal right
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About the author

Mike Treen

National Director of Unite Union

13 Comments

  1. Tiger Mountain says:

    well put Mike

    union members need to keep the heat on the new government for all possible measures to build workers and union power, it is a hard road for unionists in a hostile, union busting environment like the last 9 years, but social democratic governments will only go so far without pressure

    the other battle is to build support to roll back the structural elements of neo liberalism–the Reserve Bank Act, penetration of state infrastructure and services by private capital, free in and out flow of capital etc. that have seen a consensus between governments of the last 30 years

    the NZ Labour Party needs to be radicalised Corbyn style, by the time of the 2020 election

  2. CLEANGREEN says:

    Our letter of what we want sent to all parties in the new Labour lead government, – sent this morning.

    Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre. (CEAC) Est’ 2001.
    PO Box 474. Napier.
    Protecting our environment & health.
    In association with other Community Groups, NHTCF and all Government Agencies since 2001.
    20th October 2017.
    Public COMMUNITY letter
    TO all Executive MP’s/Ministers of the new labour Lead Government.
    Firstly we congratulate all your wise choices that has given us a ‘new dawn’ of change to a warm, caring, inclusive, considerate Government for our future.

    Our message blog (below) has been sent to you for real change for today to consider.

    Please seriously consider those points for our regional communities environmental & social wellbeing for our future please.

    A very warm regards to you all,

    today 20th October 2017.

    We must have this new Labour lead Gov’t to swiftly purge all former National cling-on’s from all government positions and agencies and SOE’s such as Kiwi rail as these National cling-ons were placed inside kiwi rail and it’s own board to kill our rail system off and isolate the management from public contact, this we know as we have emails from kiwi rail management saying the public have been excluded from contacting all Kiwi rail management last year. Top Board of Kiwi rail appointees by National were Paula Rebstock must be fired now as she was so toxic to Kiwi rail’s survival.

    NZTA/Kiwi rail/Ministry of Transport all must loose their top National Party placed management and be replaced by labour Lead appointed administrative positions.

    A new Minister of rail must be announced by Labour lead government to protect our own Rail company again and setup to restore our regional freight and passenger rail services again.
    The Ministry of the Environment Management must loose all national party appointees also.

    The Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment must re-instate a labour chosen appointee as national have just chosen a former national MP as the new commissioner for the Environment so that is such a bad move and must be stopped.

    “Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment” (PCE) is one of the most important agencies Labour must return full funding to provide complete public services to and conduct regional studies on all environmental issues of concerns to all communities again as labour had set up this agency when last in Government.

    Also included must be similar changes in all Regional Government Management positions as those National appointed managers were becoming un-cooperative with the communities they are supposed to serve.

    We must re-instate the Ministry of Transport as “principal advisory” to Government again, as it was during the last labour Government.
    National had deliberately reduced Ministry of Transport to a door stop for government policies under National and have deliberately advanced NZTA as ‘king of transport’ which is wrong as NZTA is only simply an ‘RCA’ or a (road controlling agency)

    Next we need to return all Government documents to the Former labour government policy platforms & positions regarding the insertion of the “policies for agencies to have regard for “Environmental and Social policy planning” inside all documents supplied to public, Local, and central governments.

    This will ensure we move to save our society’s environment, health and regional wealth of our NZ Nation again after a painful nine year loss to us all.

    • Steve says:

      I ummm….hope you hit F7 before you sent that….

    • Im right says:

      No matter how many letters you send….no matter what Winston said in election meetings…your railway wet dream will not happen! Will you still love Jacinta when nothing is done about your railway line, or blame it on Winston?

      • bert says:

        Your National/ACT wet dream is over I’m Right! The railway line is a given, you see unlike Key, Jacinda has integrity, yes, yes I know it’s a swear word to you, but it will happen.

        • WILD KATIPO says:

          … ” Your National/ACT wet dream is over I’m Right! ” …

          L0L!

          Yes ,… I’m and fair sick of him wet dreaming all over the place here !!!

          Begone , dreamer!!!

          Begone !!!

      • “your railway wet dream will not happen”

        And you know this – how? Always fascinating how you right-wingers decry sensible policies, yet think nothing of ministers like Murray McCully throwing millions at a farm in the middle of the Saudi desert… (And then the sheep die in the first sand storm. How inconsiderate!)

  3. CLEANGREEN says:

    We must have this new Labour lead Gov’t to swiftly purge all former National cling-on’s from all government positions and agencies and SOE’s such as Kiwi rail as these National cling-ons were placed inside kiwi rail and it’s own board to kill our rail system off and isolate the management from public contact, this we know as we have emails from kiwi rail management saying the public have been excluded from contacting all Kiwi rail management last year. Top Board of Kiwi rail appointees by National were Paula Rebstock must be fired now as she was so toxic to Kiwi rail’s survival.

    NZTA/Kiwi rail/Ministry of Transport all must loose their top National Party placed management and be replaced by labour Lead appointed administrative positions.

    A new Minister of rail must be announced by Labour lead government to protect our own Rail company again and setup to restore our regional freight and passenger rail services again.
    The Ministry of the Environment Management must loose all national party appointees also.

    The Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment must re-instate a labour chosen appointee as national have just chosen a former national MP as the new commissioner for the Environment so that is such a bad move and must be stopped.

    “Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment” (PCE) is one of the most important agencies Labour must return full funding to provide complete public services to and conduct regional studies on all environmental issues of concerns to all communities again as labour had set up this agency when last in Government.

    Also included must be similar changes in all Regional Government Management positions as those National appointed managers were becoming un-cooperative with the communities they are supposed to serve.

    We must re-instate the Ministry of Transport as “principal advisory” to Government again, as it was during the last labour Government.
    National had deliberately reduced Ministry of Transport to a door stop for government policies under National and have deliberately advanced NZTA as ‘king of transport’ which is wrong as NZTA is only simply an ‘RCA’ or a (road controlling agency)

    Next we need to return all Government documents to the Former labour government policy platforms & positions regarding the insertion of the “policies for agencies to have regard for “Environmental and Social policy planning” inside all documents supplied to public, Local, and central governments.

    This will ensure we move to save our society’s environment, health and regional wealth of our NZ Nation again after a painful nine year loss to us all.

  4. Michal says:

    I’ll bet that Upton was agreed to by Labour, they would have been consulted.

  5. Marc says:

    This is where Labour faces the greatest challenge to deliver, do reform the Employment Relations Act to allow workers to unite, unionise and to be represented fairly and effectively.

    I am waiting with baited breath, to see what Labour under Jacinda Dear will actually deliver. I fear we may be disappointed, as big and medium size business will push all the levers to put pressure on the government, to stay clear of any such law changes.

  6. Quicksilver says:

    Mike is spot on here.
    Dragging workers out of their current increasingly oppressive employment conditions and showing them what a fair and respectful employer-employee relationship ACTUALLY looks like can only be good for everyone.

    There is no point in the new govt being timid and fearful. It would seem no matter what they do they will come under attack. It’s started already and they haven’t even been sworn in. It’s as if the parasites know the anthelmintic is on the way!!

  7. countryboy says:

    Further to my previous comment.
    I hope I’m wrong about peters. I really do. I don’t want to, even in the smallest way, deprive anyone of hope. My reservations about peters is purely of a personal nature and I like to think I come here to enjoy open minds who’re confident in being able to express themselves. I’m just one grain of sand on the beach after all.
    Beware these bastards however.

    Gaslighters
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting-in-relationships

  8. Andrea says:

    Apologies for the wet blanket: so many NZ workers have severe Stockholm Syndrome and stories from righteous parents about those awful ferry people who ruined school holidays or Evil Wharfies who held the country to ransom.

    (Said parents never minded coat-tailing for the flow on pay hikes, though. I think that’s why the fairy tale of ‘trickle down’ was able to take hold and survive reality.)

    Unless something special happens – this is NOT going to be a ‘flip the switch’ change. ‘A long hard road and a long steep climb’ over several years – even if there’s a showcase example of union success.

    Rust never sleeps and the white ants are ever busy – ask the care workers: pay rise, and the business closes down. The old Andrew Carnegie ploy. Hope we’ve learned counter moves in the subsequent 100years. They’re cunning creatures on the other side of the table.