Labour Day & modern unions are a hollow joke we must resuscitate for a post growth NZ capitalism

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Labour Day became a national holiday in New Zealand in 1899. It was to commemorate and celebrate the rise of worker powers and how the earliest Pakeha settlers coming to New Zealand fought to create a fair balance of power between the boss and the worker.

Samuel Duncan Parnell came to New Zealand on the ship Duke of Roxburgh in 1839. He was a carpenter who was deeply impacted by the arguments of the day that people should be allowed 8 hours sleep, 8 hours to live their lives and 8 hours to the boss to work. He refused to join his Union in England because they refused to make an 8 hour working day a priority.

Once in New Zealand, Parnell refused to work for anyone who wouldn’t accept his 8 hour working rule and actively went and met new workers coming off the ships arriving in NZ to tell them of the 8 hour working culture he was trying to create.

The bosses tried to resist and tried to force workers to work later, but it became standard working hours in NZ after workers began simply walking off the job if a boss tried to force longer hours.

Fast forward to the NZ working environment of today and we see that Parnell would weep at how workers have been beaten into neo-feudalism. Many workers are over worked and many others are under worked. Many have a precarious working arrangement and have zero job security while health and safety in this country remains one of the worst in the developed would.

Worker deaths are made the workers fault.

Th pandemic has made this all worse.

The Right wings war on Unions in NZ have successfully crushed most into irrelevance and this has happened while worker rights and safety has gone backwards.

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When we ‘celebrated’ Labour Day weekend today, there really wasn’t a hell of a lot to praise, and the same can be said of the modern Union movement.

It’s been 5 years since Helen Kelly died & the CTU still looks rudderless.

Helen would aways say to me, “tell their stories”.

Helen was convinced that if the rest of NZ could see the stories of workers and the terrible work conditions they were forced to endure, then NZers innate goodness would generate empathy and demand change.

Helen fought her entire life for the workers of this country, it was immensely angering that she couldn’t get the cannabis medicine she needed in her final months.

5 years since Helen Kelly died and her passing still hangs like a giant black hole over the entire Union movement.

The Wellington Union Conclave today are more focused on woke policing of language and Identity Politics dogma than class struggle. With PSA domination, middle class virtue signalling trumps Revolution every day of the week.

Chris Trotter highlights the CTUs impotence….

WHERE HAVE THE UNIONS BEEN during the Covid-19 Pandemic? That the question can even be posed suggests that something is very wrong with the New Zealand labour movement. After all, the answer should be all around us.

At its high-point, under the late, and sorely missed, Helen Kelly, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) liked to present itself as the largest democratic organisation in New Zealand. With upwards of 300,000 affiliated members, that claim was no idle boast. As Kelly proved, the CTU has always possessed the potential to do an enormous amount of good.

So, where has it been? Why hasn’t its current president, Richard Wagstaff, become a household name during the pandemic? Up there with Ashley Bloomfield, Michael Baker, Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles? Where was the tireless advocacy for essential workers: the people who stood at the check-out counters, drove the trucks and operated the warehouses? When supermarket workers came under attack from the stupid and the selfish, why were they defended with more passion by their bosses, than by the CTU?

…Helen Kelly wouldn’t have put up with the glib asthetics of wokedom, there was too much work to be done at the coal front than arguing over pronoun use.

Luckily for the insipid Union movement, the ghost of Helen returns with the Fair Pay Agreement which she wrote and went far further in building worker power via universal Union membership than anything the CTU was offering.

Helen Kelly is still saving the Union movement!

A post growth capitalism in a climate crisis world requires new thinking that the Unions should be leading instead of their tedious promotion of pro noun use.

Universal Basic Income, 4 day working weeks, not for profit community wrap around service employment, Financial Transaction tax to shift tax burden from workers to Corporations and universal Union membership are necessities to cope with the magnitude of change coming.

Come on Union movement, Helen’s Ghost can’t do all the heavy lifting.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. There is no point in working any longer, the neoliberal property right obliteration has taken hope away. Work now gets us nowhere. To ‘get ahead’ we either have to be born rich, emigrate or sell meth.

    • Hooray the meth trade, multi-level marketing & business school for the poor. Amway for the dispossessed. Sad that for many around the world, the drug trade has become a form of “welfare” for those abandoned by their Governments.

    • remmber when they told us we needed to get educations if we wanted to earn more, so we did and now we all have student debt around our necks and just watched National lower the skill level of immigrants, screwed our housing market and now we all have to compete for minimum wage jobs with this influx of people because employers know these immigrants dont have a welfare system so pay them as little as they can get away with.
      We need to get rid of every bloody politician and every bloody beurecrat in the background, they dont work for everybodt anymore, only the rich it seems.

      • It seems you didn’t get the right education because mine has stood me in good stead. It was in fact the best investment I could make in myself.

            • So you haven’t a clue as to what close to 90% of students have to deal with after leaving university with a degree that may, or may not be as useful as a tin of goat shit when you run out of petrol… Your smug assumption that your particular situation was a widespread choice, that had nothing to do with “knowing the right people” is nothing more than rubbing peoples noses in the pile of “privilege” you were the beneficiary of… Thank you for your comment.. You have successfully demonstrated exactly what the rest of us are having to forego for the sake of a lifelong debt, that will hamper our natural progress throughout our lives… Pratt..

      • Hell I remember when John Key in his early days as PM was chortling about how National would turn NZ into a “knowledge economy”.
        Well that policy was quickly and quietly dropped in favour of the low wage economy.

        • He also stated unequivocally that he “didn’t want NZers to become tenants in their own country” (2008).. So how’s that going for us?

  2. Honestly? You guys need to become more familiar with the studies of Professor Stanley Milgram.
    If we never become familiar with just how we’ve become so manipulated and entrapped then how the hell are we ever going to defend ourselves against the tyranny of the common, or garden, exploitative arsehole?
    I mean, to some arseholes exploitation is a blood sport. We relatively normal people fail to comprehend that there are, just out there, freaks looking for a show and if they can make ‘good coin’ from the show, then why not? That’s their thinking. Let this sink in? ‘They’ don’t care how people suffer. They don’t care that kids go hungry or that people are forced into the streets. The fact that ‘they’ don’t care should scare the shit out of everyone who isn’t one of them.
    I’ve worked in the film industry for about 20 years where I discovered there’s no greater freak show, there’s no greater zoo, nor more dangerous a human animal, than those who seek power over others, likely to merely titillate their tired old sexy parts if the work of Sigmund Freud’s anything to go by.
    From the guts of capitalism there rises a certain kind of digestive bile. It devours and dissolves all the good things about humanity until there’s only one gruesome soup of money, and despair, left.
    Wikipedia:
    Professor Stanley Milgram.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Milgram
    For the creative anyone left standing within AO/NZ’s film industry? This is a must-see.
    Wikipedia:
    ‘Brand New Cherry Flavour.’
    Premise:
    “Lisa N. Nova (Rosa Salazar) comes to LA dead set on directing her first movie. But when she trusts the wrong person and gets stabbed in the back, everything goes sideways and a dream project turns into a nightmare. This particular nightmare has zombies, hit men, supernatural kittens, and a mysterious tattoo artist who likes to put curses on people. And Lisa’s going to have to figure out some secrets from her own past in order to get out alive.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand_New_Cherry_Flavor

    • What is written on ones brow, can only be washed by the sweat of ones brow.

      The elephant in the room regarding labour in NZ is low productivity, the worlds l-o-w-e-s-t. But because we are so fucking good at punching above our weight,, lets have a day off to celebrate, before we return to sift about and look busy.

      If the culture in the petri dish is lazy, ripening and turn over will be sluggish, resulting on slow fermentations and off flavours.

      Most Kiwis are too fat to work well.
      Bad habits, shit food supply and MSM dulls their intellect and makes them easy prey for manipulation by the droogies.

      But hey Dawg, aint no other show in town, apart from self employment.

      Distancing myself since ages ago.

  3. I remember reading the Hollow Men by Nicky H, and being annoyed to learn a union I am a member of, donating $360,000 to the Labour Party without consulting the membership…the two things that really got to me were…the union shut down their hardship fund for members, citing lack of funds, and the President of the Union ended up as a Labour MP within 2 years of the donation!

  4. “The Right wings war on Unions in NZ have successfully crushed most into irrelevance”

    Yes. And what is this supposedly “left-wing” government doing to change that? They’re too busy drafting legislation to police “hate speech” and non-compliant views about gender identity, too busy sneaking radical racial and gender politics into the nation’s classrooms.

    “the glib asthetics of wokedom” indeed.

  5. In addition overwork has morphed into ‘presenteeism’ when the workforce pretends to work long hours but achieves nothing.

    That is one of the many reasons NZ productivity is static while other countries everywhere are overtaking us.

    Neoliberalism supplied NZ with a way to control labour through immigration ponzi’s but it seems that the joke is on NZ who has tolerated with stupid experiment, as we get more people, but less work done and a whole heap of other social problems to try and overcome to boot.

    Possibly because the woke are so keen to prioritise a criminal element or those with poor behaviour and morals, as some sort of virtue signalling? Meanwhile some poor migrant doctor already proven and toiling in rural NZ, is ignored.

    Keep going Liquor McMansions, drug & ciggie smugglers, expensive but poorly made infrastructure & Diabetes! We have this!

    • Ironically the rightard neo liberal poster boy that is NZ has come to the same point for the workers that the USSR did a ground down, cynical, unideological unproductive workforce who’s mantra is……

      ‘they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work’

      different ideologies same conclusion.

  6. The eight hour working day was also designed to take note of human bio-rhythms – being most attuned to the needs of the body – and so that working people could also spend quality time with their families.
    Humans are not naturally nocturnal creatures and people who work night shifts often have associated health problems and of course it is a big strain on their social and family lives.
    But what about the weekends?
    What weekends?
    Weekends were supposed to be two days a week where families could be together, play sport, visit the park or their friends and be real people, not just Borg drones regenerating for the next shift.
    The weekends have all but evaporated. They are little more than a couple of days when the government departments and schools are closed. Every other commercial and industrial enterprise carries on as it was just another day of the week, and hardly anyone gets paid anymore for it.
    Ironically I must go to work now, for my time and a half and a day in lieu which I wouldn’t get unless the Labour government had legislated it more than a decade ago.

    • Yes, rather ironic the way that Business quickly saw ” the weekend” as a glorious opportunity to make more money and accelerate consumerism. Those weekends when everything was closed had their advantages.

    • Sounds good Mike the Lefty
      I think that was the hegemonic approach but many of the working men spent more time at the pub supping than with their families, and the wives would be blamed if a man chose not to go home – it’s her fault. Then no doubt, the times being hard and the contraceptive opportunities infrequent, he kept his family size down by staying with the blokes and going home full. Alcohol has always sapped the working man’s intellect and financial advancement. Still does, the crash of bottles on recycling days sounds a death knell to upward mobility.

      The Irish film Waking Ned Devine had the lovely line in it praising the opportunity of birth control pills. ‘ So your wife is taking them?’ enquires a friend to a keen male proponent. ‘No way he says, I’m taking care of that. There will be no more additions to the family with me in charge.’ (It’s been a hard life to achieve social mobility, needing all the hints and determination atound.)

  7. Lets be honest the unions have greatly assisted in their own demise. Outside of Unite and one or two others they have very much acted in away to advance their own executives political goals rather than that of the actual workers.

    Look how quickly Andrew Little turned on the Nurses.

    • And look at the teachers’ unions!
      They used to be considered among the most leftist, and hostile to National governments, unions in the country.
      It was a common political joke that in a National government the most hated job was being Minister of Education because the minister and the teachers invariably despised each other.
      But look how they have moved to the right.
      A whole decade of National government under John Key and the teachers just mutter about how cruel life has been but do nothing to change it.
      As soon as Labour comes to power they suddenly discover they have been underpaid and overworked all that time and demand instant action.
      And now quite a few of them are refusing to get vaccinated and their union is letting it happen?
      How times have changed.

  8. and now watch labour do a bunch of reviews and do nothing, they’re just as bad as National now, they dont give a fuck about the people down the bottom and its showing.

  9. With less than 300,000 affiliated members to the ctu and the labour party. Kinda tells you why membership is tanking!

    The working ‘class’ have been continuously sold out by many unions, traded conditions for pennies! That’s called negotiating!

    There are a couple of decent unions but the larger ones are sycophantic to the labour party and will sacrifice their members for the sake of the party!

    Covid is killing membership so it’ll be interesting to see the tally in March/April 2022 when subs are due.

    It’s time for the real working class to stand up and be counted. The rules of the game hasn’t changed but the people at the trough have.

    The new generation of union organisers and leadership are again mainly white middle-class wankers with a few working-class wankers thrown in for good measure.
    All with hopes of becoming a politician to change things?? Yeah right! When has that ever worked!!

    The definition of a worker has changed with the arrival of the ‘Gig-Worker’ who is self-employed on shitty conditions and income but it appeals to the woke generation of kids because it sounds cool and gives them freedumb! They miss out on union membership and are on their own. Good luck suckers!

    Remember this, it’s a class war that is happening!

  10. Yes the CTU are missing action alright. During the current COVID pandemic one would expect them to be to the fore with press releases about the do & don’t.
    Most of my listening is on RNZ, the union prospective is completely missing, whether it is intentional or not (is) they are never consulted when there are big (or small) announcements are made, all we ever get is business lobbyists about how hard done they are, put their and out for more subsidies & squeal to open up, give us a plan, we need a bubble, we need more cheap immigrant labour.
    Checkpoint, The Panel & Morning Report are standouts, the presenters must be lining up jobs with the ZB troll farm when the husband & wife duo’s eventually move on!
    Mind you, unions are all about their members, if there is no leadership from the top then most lose interest as a lot of the current workforce would have no idea about the battles that were fought in the past or any of the pragmatic leaders of the FOL.
    The late Helen Kelly (RIP) was one of a kind, we don’t see many leaders like her that have the courage of their convictions and are prepared to stand up for them, it has been glaringly obvious that the CTU has abdicated it’s responsibilities to the neoliberal onslaught.

  11. Oh! And the biggest union membership splitter is the gender issue where a man can self identify as a woman! That’s fucked them too!

      • I don’t really give a fuck. But here …

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  12. I would add that the destruction of unions has led to workplace bullying of epidemic proportions. This is also hugely damaging.
    It was the Employment Contracts Act that destroyed unions and once Humpty Dumpty was broken…
    The Employment Relations Act under Helen Clarke and the Fair Pay Agreement system do nothing to restore solidarity. If anything they are a nod to the notion that it can’t be restored so we need workarounds.
    The younger generation don’t understand what it was like when we had high unions membership. I have found it is no use talking to many of them about the need for solidarity, probably due to the “Divide and Rule” nature of the current system. It’s 30 years since the ECA was passed under Jim Bolger.
    On another note, I was under one union or another for the 18 years before the ECA. I was astounded at some of the reasons for strikes by some of the more militant unions. I daresay this helped to shift public support away from unions. However I would like to see a return to solidarity as the system is still hugely stacked in favour of employers.

  13. I would venture the Union Leaders struggle to get to 40 hours work.
    Andrew Little was a professional union leader never having worked on “ the shop floor “
    His ambition to be a Labour Party MP and at one stage Prime Minister.
    Thanks for the 40 hour week go back to Henry Ford.

    • Very narrow point of view without knowing Andrew Little. Andrew little did his job to protect other people. That is the most admiral trait of anyone whether paid or not. I have first hand experience of Andrew Little with the closure of the Toyota car assembly plant in 1999. I can assure you he is the complete polar opposite to your representation of him.
      He never had an ambition to be Labour leader, at the time they were desperate for a “leader” given the fiasco of Labour’s shambles( a lot like how Collins has come about the leadership).

      Not sure your N.Z. history is that great either…
      https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/labour-day

      • Gosh Bert that’s just silly he obviously was and still is an ambitious politician with self interest trumping people.
        A good unionist never just a pathway to a political career.

        • Oh John , you are a ridiculous bore, a moron commenting from the sidelines. If you weren’t so lazy you’d know Little is so much more than what you portray him to be. And Henry’ Ford , well that’s just silly, you silly little man. Rewriting N.Z”s history now.

            • Ahh there you are, like clockwork. I’ve already given you a link John, I suggest you read it for N.Z. history on the creation of Labour day in N.Z. There’s also the cartoon caption at the top of page for reference. don’t bother, makes no difference to the truth.
              I suggest you don’t make disparaging remarks John if you don’t want to be insulted, your choice.

  14. The workers are doing just fine thanks.
    Parnell would be amazed and proud at how well the carpenters of today are doing. They can name their price and most become business owners in their own right.

  15. Withdraw your labour.

    Why is it so hard for kiwis to just bloody stop.

    STOP! Don’t go back to work.

    If the yanks can do it, why not you?

      • You are a wage slave.

        So what are you going to do fight? Or wring your hands whilst your dependents become brought and sold slaves?

        Let me put this to you, the only fight we have left is to stop and withdraw our labour, because everything else will be met with violence.

    • Workers did leave bad workplaces, and then the governments allowed hundreds of thousands of temporary work visas per year first under Natz and then under Labeen. All those people also had to live somewhere, drive somewhere and have health care! https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2016/08/07/must-read-migration-chefs-and-essential-skills/ Now many migrants never left and for whatever reason the unions who used to be against the practise now seem to be more akin to pro immigration lobbyists (easy audience?) with constant propaganda, protests about relaxed work visas and more migrants unemployment benefits, than traditional work unions, who now seem dead and buried. RIP work unions!

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