Waatea News Column: Labour kick Unions – what would Helen Kelly do?


News that Labour have dumped any real progress on the Fair Pay Agreements before the 2020 election is a kick in the teeth to the Council of Trade Unions and every kiwi worker.

The policy would have seen Unions be able to negotiate for entire industries but a lack of selling the idea by both the CTU and the Government has pushed it into the too hard basket.

The CTU shouldn’t allow this.

If anything has taught us the importance of Unions, it has been this pandemic. As workers (who were always essential) were finally acknowledged as such, we saw their safety, their rights and their pay as essential to all of us.

In example after example, it was the Unions who were pointing out the massive holes in safety and it was the Unions forcing those holes to be closed.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

There has never been a time in New Zealand’s modern political history that being a member of a Union was shown to be so important to the well being of the economy and society. For too long these essential workers have been given the worst jobs with the lowest pay and the weakest worker protections.

This pandemic demands that exploitation ends and those workers are given real muscle when it comes to setting their work conditions.

That Labour has backed away from this policy should surprise no one, but the CTU must not allow the momentum from this pandemic to pass it by.

What would legendary CTU President Helen Kelly do? I believe she would have seen this as the opportunity that it is and forced the Government to make Fair Pay Agreements a first 100 days policy of a second term and organise a massive online conference before the election live-streamed to the nation to push the Government into this.

I also suspect Helen wouldn’t just want the current version of the Fair Pay Agreements to pass, but a vastly beefed-up law that saw universal union membership as a realistic goal in a post-pandemic economy.

New Zealand is facing an economic depression and our workers will suffer if there isn’t strong worker rights coupled with a strong Union movement. For too long we have been frightened to counter the prevailing free-market dogma with universal union membership, but this pandemic and the oasis a virus-free New Zealand provides international employers gives workers a chance to rebuild New Zealand’s labour market from exploitative to mahi with dignity.

The CTU should seize such a moment.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. Some of NZ unions seem more to be a new arm of the migrant workers lobby group, than an organisation to improve NZ wages and conditions.

    Especially when it’s found in the UK that for every 10% migrant workers in a low skill industry the pay rate drops nearly 2%. So in the industries where migrants are 30% – 50% that’s dropping wages 6 – 10%. In the case of Chorus it looks wages may have dropped over 100% so NZ might be leading the charge for mega migration led pay drops here. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12138990

    When wages drop in NZ, taxes drop and benefit top ups rise. It is not a good thing! The ponzi is undiscovered until the scam gets uncovered aka post Covid then it will be revealed that many jobs were not real jobs and dump the employees on NZ. In this case the government should be prosecuting the employers that bought over the migrants or employed them outside NZ law. Aka ‘back paying’ their own wages or paying for the job.

    Instead of wages growing with inflation over the last decade in NZ, in many migrant led areas they are instead now dropping in many industries in NZ, to create a double whammy of working and middle class poverty.

    As for the middle class with a degree, the government are even mocking them in commercials by saying they are still living at home at 30 and their arts degree is useless in low wage NZ, Don’t up skill, no wonder domestic students are now down at tertiary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9YdpqYhRe8!

    Youth with degrees are unemployed because their are less and less high paid jobs in NZ and now ‘free’ workers via interns for example (journalism, hospitality) where people work for nothing are becoming more common. Or to pay to come to NZ to intern for a low paid job.

    The commercial failed to mention that after doing your apprenticeship in the trades you are competing with cash workers seeking compensation after dangerous cash working conditions with apparently no employer prosecution needed https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/118004926/family-of-migrant-worker-who-died-on-the-job-seeks-compensation, migrant workers on $20p/h https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/109815756/chinese-construction-workers-caught-in-bonded-labour-by-recruitment-company-says-union and illegal workers https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12005146

    It’s not clear that relying on multinational, migrant led unskilled labour and subcontractors is working in NZ when…

    Government to build world’s most expensive road

    Concrete safety investigator ‘surprised nobody had been killed’

    Multi-storey building flaws ‘almost the norm’

    Another PPP like Transmission Gully project, delivers nothing – 190 million dollars – 1 billion dollars over budget. Another Natz led PPP fuck up and like Rio Tinto the multinational thing to do, is to take the money, not deliver and threaten to leave every election year to make the taxpayers prop up the dysfunction and dumped workers. No wonder our kids are dying on the streets, multinationals and their often bought in labour need NZ’s taxes for their own private gains!

    Construction companies were going under long before Covid,

    Mainzeal loan generated hundreds of millions in wealth, court hears

    Engineering business closure comes as shock

    Construction firm in liquidation

    Maven Interiors liquidation leaves workers, creditors in limbo

    But the unions and migrant lobby groups, kept the pressure on government to give out NZ visas and residency here like lollies as well letting people bring their entire families over to burden NZ health care, maternity, housing, wastewater, water and congestion!

    We have water shortages in Auckland going into winter! Sewerage worst even in Wellington https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/118890119/sewage-in-wellington-marine-reserve-43times-worse-than-acceptable-levels.

    Only the rich can work for nothing or next to nothing, so increasingly NZ’s middle and working class are locked out of the work force here.

    Even if they have a job after Covid people are now taking pay drops 30% but still (some) unions are advocating that NZ should support the migrant workers by giving them welfare and permanent residency in NZ they are not entitled to under their work permits and add to NZ’s growing unemployment, congestion, health care waiting lists and homelessness.

    We don’t even have social housing for our own Kiwis and fewer and fewer hospital beds and maternity places, now the unions are advocating that migrants should not add to all the waiting lists too as any permanent resident can, even if they have only been in NZ for a short period of time and knew they were on a temp permit here, many of which are scams and ponzi’s in the first place!

  2. Unions don’t even seem to care about the local workers losing their jobs and their wages dropping significantly and of course WHERE is that minimum wage pay rise…. well no focus on that, as the unions focus on getting more unemployed migrants on NZ permanent residency status to compete with NZ’s own workers.

    Unions wonder why they have become irrelevant with employers not returning their phone calls at Skycity and offering a 0% pay rise to the supermarket workers when they are in record profits.

    Low wage industries with technology require literally zero skills. You don’t need numeracy, literacy or even English past Hello, with the modern retail or supermarket where the computers do all the work, calculating and sending it to the supply chain. As for stacking shelves, plenty of Kiwis also want those jobs and are capable of reading the expiry dates on goods, something that seems to be an issue in modern supermarkets like countdown which regularly have expired or near goods in their chilled goods area.

    Unions need to work out what their priority is, because at present they seem to be helping neoliberalism destroy worker rights in NZ and collaborating with bad employers by introducing huge competition and demand on our employment using scab labour from other nationals, while throwing current Kiwis under the bus.

    Its a bit like the Green Party, you get a bunch of new people who start to advocate in a very niche direction, before you know it, they have taken over and all you bang on about it that niche area. Meanwhile the majority of your previous voters and workers and good will, have gone.

    Unions and the Green Party have the same issues, with both losing support and independence from lobbyists.

    Time they took a good look at what the party is supposed to be doing.

    Aka raising wages and conditions in NZ for for New Zealand workers from the unions.

    Protecting and enhancing the NZ natural environment and human rights in NZ for the Green Party.

    Remember the old mantra, start local!

  3. A few more headlines to put things into perspective for unions.

    “More than 1000 New Zealanders a day went onto a benefit last month as the impact of Covid-19 hit.
    And demand for food grants rose dramatically, by more than 200 per cent, according to just-released data.
    The latest Ministry of Social Development (MSD) figures indicate a huge acceleration in jobless numbers in April, when the number of positive Covid-19 cases peaked and the alert level 4 lockdown was in place.”


    Redundant flight attendants finding work as strippers – report
    Air New Zealand alone is making up to 1500 cabin crew members redundant.
    Some of those former flight attendants are apparently finding work in the adult entertainment industry.
    (The billion dollar tax payer loan obviously didn’t help the actual employees of Air NZ, just the shareholders).

    “In March, Countdown and Foodstuffs – the parent company of Pak’nSave, New World and Four Square – contacted Flight Centre NZ to offer short-term employment to its workers who had just been made redundant.”

  4. “News that Labour have dumped any real progress on the Fair Pay Agreements before the 2020 election is a kick in the teeth to the Council of Trade Unions and every kiwi worker.”

    I’ve added this to the long list of reasons why I won’t be voting Labour again. Certainly not at the next election. Maybe ever.

  5. If the UBI is introduced then wages reassessment may be on the table as well as employers taxation if the UBI is taken as a part of a wage for the employed.

    While there is talk of a UBI, serious discussion and proposals are to be brought into the open

    TOP has given a scant outline of their version which will hit property owners hard in its present form with the property tax payable being extra to and many times the rates. Property speculation should be a separate issue to the family home or pensioners dwelling.

  6. My God Martyn you have met these union reps – to say they are weak as piss, is insulting to piss.

    I hate to say it – but (Saint) Helen Kelly was the exception, not the rule.

    The CTU once had a spine and knew how to pick up a shovel – these days they craven to bosses on to many occasions.

    • Apart from Saint Helen’s tenure, the ctu has been a rotting carcass for a very very long time.

  7. ““News that Labour have dumped any real progress on the Fair Pay Agreements before the 2020 election is a kick in the teeth to the Council of Trade Unions and every kiwi worker ”

    Yes behind all the smiles , adulation and good will the NZLP is still the same corporate neoliberal Blairite thirdway party it always was and if you want too keep the Nasty Natz out they are the only alternative too keeping them out.

    Which means if you care about the many injustices that existed before the diversion of COVID19 took effect relax they are still here and are being ignored like they always were a few short weeks ago.

    That is our choice in the upcoming general election.

    So many parties are standing but not one will be in any position too break the stranglehold of the free market and the strength of the wealthy elite.

    Or has a strong position on a number of serious issues that go too the heart of our democracy.

    Jacinda has been the best thing since sliced bread and been a wonderful spokesperson on behalf of the government and its handling of the current emergency but the injustices of pre March 25th have not gone away and will still be urgent problems when the smoke clears after level one has faded.

    We need too weigh up some of the following when voting for all parties in parliament.

    Labour drags its feet on electoral finance reform

    Why we need more transparency over party donations

    Work and Income has been acting “unlawfully” and ignoring its own legislation by telling people paid redundancies that they are not eligible for a benefit till that money runs out

  8. What is and was really going on in NZ, aka multinationals undercutting contracts with poor worker conditions for the so called shovel ready projects that don’t provide local jobs just drives up shortages of everything else, migrant workers getting better conditions than locals aka guaranteed more hours, the so called jobs shortages are fake as they were only guaranteeing part time work while they bought more and more cheap workers into NZ, they locked unions out trying to get better conditions.

    Did this project deliver to NZ? – HELL NO!

    Did this project deliver to private shareholders and those in on the ponzi – HELL YES!

    Re-posted – AWUNZ Amalgamated Workers Union NZ

    “This was the National Government’s flagship Private, Public, Partnership (PPP) model…they fought to keep unions out and had Kiwi workers guaranteed only 20 hours and migrant workers 30 hours. After AWUNZ notified MBIE of the commercial advantage they had given the Australian company over local companies, a Collective Agreement which guaranteed 40 hours; 8 hours a day was negotiated.
    It’s a bit rich that the ‘shadow minister’ for National Chris Bishop is now criticising the delays considering it took them 18 months to get it up and running. So the project was already 18 months behind. Simon Bridges was the last government’s transport minister at the time. The 3Ps is the model that privatises profit and socialises the debt. THE TAXPAYER ALWAYS LOSES.”
    Read the full article: https://www.rnz.co.nz/…/transmission-gully-hits-new-delays-…

  9. The CTU is a ‘Cartel’ for the public sector unions only.
    There’s a few unions affiliated that are purely in the private sector.
    And there in lies the problem.
    Union membership in the private sector in total 5% to 9% of the total number of the membership, pre C19 315,000 to 330,000.

    The CTU isnt interested in union membership growth across the board, its only interests are to protect the public sector and for the Labour party to control the CTU.

    Theyre not interested in unionising the private sector, because, its too hard!

    Thats why the CTU are useless.

Comments are closed.