Gower and Trotter on Little’s victory

November 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

It is the great union robbery – the unions have stolen Labour’s leadership.

The unions have installed their man Andrew Little as Labour’s boss through a backdoor takeover, in what you’d call a perverse outcome. …

You see, only Labour’s six affiliated unions have control over the 20 percent vote for the leadership – Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing (EPMU), Dairy Workers, Meat Workers and Related Trades, Rail and Maritime Transport, Maritime, and Service and Food Workers (SFW).

So it is not actually “the unions” which stole Labour’s leader – it is actually just six private sector unions.

Just six unions out of the 144 in New Zealand is hardly representative.

And the EPMU which Little was of course the boss of, has the most votes for the Labour leadership.

It gets even worse. Only the SFW give their members a vote; the other five let delegates decide for its members.

The union vote is not one person, one vote. It is not democracy – it is a union muscle job.

A few score union delegates got to decide the leadership.

And there’s an example of a Labour leader installed by the unions – his name is Ed Miliband.

Just like Little, Miliband didn’t win the British Labour party membership, and he didn’t win the MPs, but he did win the union vote. And right now, Miliband has terrible poll ratings.

The truth is this: Little won the Labour leadership thanks to a handful of his union mates. That doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t do a good job.

Little could not win the New Plymouth electorate. Little could not win the Labour Party membership. Little could not win the Labour MPs.

All Little could win was his union mates.

Chris Trotter also writes:

If Grant Robertson’s young followers genuinely want to roll back the influence of neoliberalism, both within the Labour Party, and in New Zealand generally, then radically democratising the affiliated unions’ processes of representation would be one of the best ways to do it. 

if the union vote had been open to every union member, rather than just the bosses, it is highly unlikely Little would have won.

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The other five affiliate unions should follow the SFWU lead

October 15th, 2014 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Shearer said the people who walked away from Labour were middle New Zealand – “white blokes” – and Labour needed to win them back.

He also believed every worker in the unions should vote for the leadership rather than delegates casting affiliated unions’ votes, which count for 20 per cent of the vote deciding the leader.

“If we are going to have affiliates contributing to the leadership it should be one person one vote,” he said.

“That’s democracy … not two dozen people voting on behalf of 4000.”

The most powerful delegates are the EPMU ones. Only 35 of them voted on behalf of probably 30,000 or so affiliate members.

In the last leadership election only 149 delegates over five unions decided the votes for the union. Only the SFWU gave all members a vote.

If the Labour Party itself decided that all members should vote, rather than just the caucus bosses, then why not apply the same to the unions?

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Labour’s policy to block small businesses from Government tenders

August 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

Labour’s small business policy promises to significantly increase the proportion of government undertaken by small business.  This is good, but….

Labours Work and Wages policy will “ensure that government bodies only contract with businesses that are good employers including a history of adhering to employment legislation, and respecting the right of their employees to join a union and bargain collectively.”

Labour will also “seek to use the purchasing power of the state to create incentives for private sector employers who can become certified Living Wage employers.”

Small businesses will not be exempt from the good employer requirements, unless Labour proposes to backtrack on its Work and Wages Policy.  Most small businesses are not unionised.  Does this mean they will need to unionise to get a look in?  Will they have to pay $18.40 or more to their employees before they get a look in?

Labour’s policy does seem to be that the Government should discriminate against employers who do not unionised workplaces, which will mean almost all small businesses.

This is a very self serving policy. Almost all business policies of Labour’s are about forcing or incentivising more people to join unions. Unions in turn then use their extra money to help Labour get elected, in four ways:

  1. Some unions join Labour and get to vote on their leader, candidates and policies
  2. Some unions donate directly to Labour
  3. Almost all unions allow their staff to spend as much time as they want campaigning for Labour on work time
  4. Many unions run third party campaigns on issues, designed to help Labour get elected

So while one of Labour’s policies say they want more small businesses winning tenders, the small print is only if they have unionised workforces, to help fund the Labour Party.

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The good old days

July 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The slow rise of Wellington’s BNZ Centre came to represent the power of militant unions in the 1970s – and Con Devitt’s name would forever be associated with the protracted construction of the black monolith.

Myriad delays meant that, although the 103-metre-high building was designed in the late 1960s, it wasn’t occupied until 1984.

The Devitt-led Boilermakers’ Union claimed the exclusive right of its members to weld the structural steel, as industrial action added six years to the project.

Among the more memorable boilermakers’ stoppages was one prompted by union delegate “Black Jock” McKenzie’s dissatisfaction with his company-issue boots.

The industrial strife was so bad that New Zealand architects were deterred from designing future buildings in steel.

The BNZ Centre, now called the State Insurance Building, finally opened at a cost of $93 million – more than four times over budget.

The glory days for some on the left.


Hide on unions and Labour

July 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

The true donations scandal in New Zealand politics was reported this week without comment. It’s the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s $60,000 donation to Labour.

The EPMU is one of the six unions affiliated to Labour. The affiliated unions pay fees and fund the Party through donations. The donations and fees total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More significantly, union staff campaign for Labour and the unions run parallel campaigns. For example, Labour is campaigning for the “living wage”. In a parallel campaign the Services and Food Workers Union spent more than half a million dollars last year promoting that exact policy.

It would be interesting to add up the total amount spent by unions on political campaigns. It would be well into the millions.

The union funding of Labour totals in the millions. And what does Labour provide in return? In effect the entire party. The unions get to determine the party’s leader. Their say counts for 20 per cent of the vote. That’s the difference between winning and losing by a wide margin.

Affiliation also buys a seat at the table. The affiliated unions have a guaranteed vice-president position on Labour’s all-powerful New Zealand Council.

They also get their people as MPs. The Labour Party enables the unions to parachute members into Parliament. Labour list MP Andrew Little headed the EPMU for 11 years before entering Parliament.

Imagine the outcry if business lobby groups got to vote on the leadership of the national party, could bus people in to their selection meetings, got a vice-president of the party and get a vote on the list ranking.

And the unions get policy, lots of policy. In 1999 the EPMU gave $100,000 to Labour. The following year the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act. This act gives the unions incredible power over Kiwi workplaces as well as easy access to workers’ pay packets.

The Employment Relations Act nicely closes the loop. The act was provided by the Labour Party. It gave the unions access to workers’ pockets, and that’s the money the unions now tip into Labour’s coffers.

Indeed, in the state sector it’s policy for Government to give union members a bonus to cover their union fees. You and I pay their union fees.

This is sadly true. Taxpayers bribe people to join the union.

Unions and Labour are guilty of “cash for policy”, “cash to sit at the table”, “cash to decide the leader” and “cash to parachute members into Parliament”.

The rort serves to bolster Labour and entrench the power of union bosses.

Unions are highly politicised organisations that only exist now because of the legal privileges bestowed by Labour governments.

The rorting of our democracy by the unions and Labour would make a great expose.

But don’t expect anything soon: it’s the EPMU that represents journalists in this country.

That’s right, our journalists – through their union – help fund the Labour Party.

To be fair the journalist fees don’t get paid directly to Labour. But they help fund the EPMU overall, which allows them to campaign more for Labour.

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A royal commission into union corruption in Australia

February 12th, 2014 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

THE GOVERNMENT today announced a well-funded royal commission which will spend at least 12 months probing trade union secrets and corruption in the building industry going back a quarter of a century.

The inquiry into building industry and union criminal practices will be a sword cutting both ways, the Government said today in a warning to both trade unions and employers.

The powerful royal commission by former High Court judge John Dyson Heydon will highlight dodgy deals which Attorney-General George Brandis today said were “widespread, systemic and ingrained across a range of institutions”.

Findings would be passed on to police for possible prosecutions.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said: “This is a sword that will cut both ways and we are determined to ensure that the rule of law exists in our construction sector.”

This is well overdue. Almost every week there has been a story detailing more corrupt activity in certain Australian unions, with prosecutions occurring in some high profile cases. The problem seems systemic, not just about a few isolated individuals.

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Union update for Labour vote

September 6th, 2013 at 7:31 pm by David Farrar

I understand that three of the six unions have now endorsed David Cunliffe for the Labour leadership, and in fact have asked delegates to rank Jones 2nd and Robertson 3rd.

The DWU were previously known to have endorsed Cunliffe. I understand RMTU have also. I do not know if the 3rd union is MUNZ or MWU – I have assumed MUNZ as they are stronger in Auckland.

The updated table based on vote assumptions (and they are assumptions) are:

Round 1 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 25% 10% 65% 41.0% 10.3% 4.1% 26.7%
SFWU 55% 15% 30% 24.8% 13.6% 3.7% 7.4%
MWU 40% 20% 40% 17.0% 6.8% 3.4% 6.8%
DWU 70% 15% 15% 7.8% 5.5% 1.2% 1.2%
RMTU 70% 15% 15% 6.4% 4.5% 1.0% 1.0%
MUNZ 60% 20% 20% 3.0% 1.8% 0.6% 0.6%
Union Total 42.4% 14.0% 43.6%
Election Total 8.5% 2.8% 8.7%
Round 2 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 28% 72% 41.0% 11.4% 29.6%
SFWU 65% 35% 24.8% 16.0% 8.8%
MWU 50% 50% 17.0% 8.5% 8.5%
DWU 82% 18% 7.8% 6.4% 1.4%
RMTU 82% 18% 6.4% 5.3% 1.1%
MUNZ 75% 25% 3.0% 2.3% 0.8%
Union Total 49.9% 50.1%
Election Total 10.0% 10.0%

The EPMU has such greater voting strength that their (presumed) support for Robertson balances out the smaller unions support for Cunliffe. If Robertson does not in fact get most EPMU votes, then Cunliffe will win the union vote.

I’ve not heard reports of shifts in the caucus vote, apart from uncertainty over Huo. If so, then the members vote will be all important. I hope to have a stab at how that may go early next week.

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An apt summary

September 6th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Cunliffe has had a dramatic, but possibly short-lived, transformation into a middle-class Che Guevara. He has decried the dirty freemarket, the crony capitalists, and the neo-liberal agenda and promised world domination to the unions and jobs and lucre for all. 

This leadership contest is like Christmas and Easter rolled into one for the unions. Anything they ask for, they receive. National’s changes abolished – done. A living wage for all – done. Part 6A extended to all industries – done. National Awards back from the 1970s – done.

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How the unions may vote for Labour leadership

September 5th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on how the caucus looks to be voting on the Labour leadership. That was realatively easy to do, as that involves just 34 people, many of whom have publicly declared their intentions.

Based on feedback and some tweaks at the end of the day I had it Robertson 47%, Cunliffe 35% and Jones 18%, Of the total electoral college vote that would be 19%, 14% and 7% respectively. If you reallocate Jones then 21% Robertson to 19% Cunliffe. However that may change. The senior MPs are still strongly backing Robertson and may get some of the swinging MPs to fall behind them.

Now we have the union vote. First is how much does each union get. I estimated last week that the voting strengths were:

  1. EPMU (Engineering etc) 36,987 members, 41.5% of union vote, 8.3% of total vote
  2. SFWU (Service Food etc) 22,351 members, 25.1% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote
  3. MWU (Meat) 15,313 members, 17.2% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote
  4. DWU (Dairy) 7,000 members, 7.9% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote
  5. RMTU (Rail) 4,747 members 5.3% of union vote, 1.1% of total vote
  6. MUNZ (Maritime) 2,635 members, 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote

I asked the unions for details of what share of the vote they are, and how many delegates they have. The only union which has replied was the RMTU which kindly confirmed they have 26 voting delegates and affiliate on 3,000 members which makes them 6.44% of the union vote and 1.3% of the total vote. This suggests the total affiliate membership is 46,584.

As we don’t have precise numbers for the others , I’ll apportion out and so this gives us

EMPU – 41% of union vote, 8.2% of total vote, approx 60 delegates

The EPMU National Executive has not endorsed anyone but some EPMU figures such as Paul Tolich are very pro Robertson. Tolich failed to get an EPMU endorsement formally, but that does not mean there is not massive lobbying going on of the 60 or so delegates.

I’d guess that Robertson could get 65%, Cunliffe 25% and Jones 10%.

SWFU – 24.8% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote, any member can vote

Because they are allowing all members to vote, the influence of hierarchy is less. Cunliffe and Robertson are both playing to their members with their living wage promises. Those who are not involved in Labour but attend a meeting will probably find both equally good.

Cunliffe has some SWFU people on his team and a strong Auckland base so I’d go Cunliffe 55%, Robertson 30%, Jones 15%

MWU – 17.0% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote, approx 54 delegates

 This one is very hard to pick. Their members are more provincial than urban, so Jones would do better with them. I’m sticking them down as Jones 34%, Cunliffe 33%, Robertson 33%.

DWU – 7.8% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote, approx 70 delegates

 Like MWU hard to pick, and also provincial and rural based which Jones may appeal more to. The General Secretary is Chris Flatt, a former Labour Party General Secrtary. On the basis he will have some influence and the Labour Head Office is more pro Robertson, I’d go Robertson 40%, Jones 35%, Cunliffe 25%.

UPDATE: Their Exec has endorsed Cunliffe, so now assuming 70% vote Cunliffe.

RMTU – 6.4% of union vote, 1.3% of total vote, 30 delegates

 Head office is in Wellington that may help Robertson a bit. Lots of provincial members. Say Robertson 40%, Cunliffe 35%, Jones 25%

MUNZ – 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote, approx 30 delegates

Their strongest branch is in Auckland and that should favour Cunliffe. Say Cunliffe 60%, Robertson 20%, Jones 20%

So how would this all come together.

Round 1 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 25% 10% 65% 41.0% 10.3% 4.1% 26.7%
SFWU 55% 15% 30% 24.8% 13.6% 3.7% 7.4%
MWU 33% 34% 33% 17.0% 5.6% 5.8% 5.6%
DWU 70% 15% 15% 7.8% 5.5% 1.2% 1.2%
RMTU 35% 25% 40% 6.4% 2.2% 1.6% 2.6%
MUNZ 60% 20% 20% 3.0% 1.8% 0.6% 0.6%
Union Total 39.0% 17.0% 44.0%
Election Total 7.8% 3.4% 8.8%
Round 2 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 28% 72% 41.0% 11.4% 29.6%
SFWU 65% 35% 24.8% 16.0% 8.8%
MWU 50% 50% 17.0% 8.5% 8.5%
DWU 82% 18% 7.8% 6.4% 1.4%
RMTU 47% 53% 6.4% 3.0% 3.4%
MUNZ 75% 25% 3.0% 2.3% 0.8%
Union Total 47.6% 52.4%
Election Total 9.5% 10.5%

Now again this is quite speculative, and I welcome feedback from people closer to the action into how they think the union delegates (or members) will vote.

What does this show us if we add it to the caucus vote.

Round 1 – Robertson 27.6%, Cunliffe 21.9%, Jones 10.5%

Round 2 – Robertson 31.7%, Cunliffe 28.3%

You need 50% to win. So it means Cunliffe has to pick up  22% of the 40% of the members vote and Robertson needs 18% of the 40%. More simply if the above estimates are in the right ballpark, then Cunliffe needs just over 54% of the members vote to win and Robertson needs almost 46%.

On Friday I’ll have a stab at how the members may vote. Their local MPs will have a fairly big influence on many members, along with their geography.

UPDATE: Herald has said the DWU Executive have recommended to their delegates they vote for Cunliffe. I’ve updated the table on assumption 70% vote Cunliffe.

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How the Labour leadership vote will work

August 26th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Labour electoral college for the leadership has three components to it. Two of them are simple and one is complex. Also a complicating factor is that with three candidates, it is a preferential ballot.

Let’s take the three sections one by one.

Caucus Vote

The caucus gets 40% of the vote. They used to get 100%. They are the ones who actually get led by the Leader, and have to work with the leader on a day by day basis.

There are 34 MPs, so effectively each MPs vote is worth 1.18% of the total vote. If the vote is after Lianne Dalziel resigns then there are 33 votes worth 1.21% each.

Members Vote

They get 40% of the vote. Labour have not revealed how many members they have, but let’s say it is 10,000. If they all vote they get 0.004% each. So an individual vote counts for little, but the overall vote of the members does count for the same as the caucus.

Union vote

The affiliated unions gets 20% of the vote. This is proportional to the number of affiliated members each union has. Again this is not publicly known but we can estimate it. Basically the number of affiliated members is their total number of members multiplied by what percentage voted to affiliate with Labour when they voted to do so. This by definition is a proportion between 50% and 100%.

If we assume all the unions had a similar proportion in favour, then we can estimate their relative voting strength based on their latest returns of members to the Registrar of Unions. The six unions in order of size are:

  1. EPMU (Engineering etc) 36,987 members, 41.5% of union vote, 8.3% of total vote
  2. SWFU (Service Food etc) 22,351 members, 25.1% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote
  3. MWU (Meat) 15,313 members, 17.2% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote
  4. DWU (Dairy) 7,000 members, 7.9% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote
  5. RMTU (Rail) 4,747 members 5.3% of union vote, 1.1% of total vote
  6. MUNZ (Maritime) 2,635 members, 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote

As one can see the power of unions such as the EPMU and SWFU is considerable and they could well decide who the winner is. This is what happened in the UK Labour Party 2010 election. Ed Miliband won only 46% of the members vote and 47% of the caucus vote but got 60% of the union vote and beat his brother David Miliband. So the elected leader had minority support from both members and caucus, but got there thanks to the unions. The unions actually broke Labour’s rules by including promotion material for their preferred candidate in the same envelope as the voting paper!

But the situation is even worse in NZ Labour, than UK Labour. In UK Labour the unions allow all their members to have a vote. Ballot papers went out to around 2.7 million union members. This diluted the power of the union hierarchy to affect the ballot. They certainly endorsed candidates, and their endorsement won the day for Ed Miliband, but it was still a 60:40 split.

NZ Labour has decided that it is up to each union as to whether all their members will vote, or just their national conference delegates. Only one union, the SWFU, is allowing all members to vote. Good on them for doing so.

The other five unions are having their conference delegates vote only. So how many people is this? Well I’ve gone through the rules for each union to try and estimate this.

  1. EPMU – 1 delegate per 1000 members, 45 delegates
  2. SWFU – full membership vote
  3. MWU  – 1 delegate per 350 members, 54 delegates
  4. DWU – 1 delegate per site with more than 30 members, estimate 70 delegates
  5. RMTU – determined by previous conference so unknown
  6. MUNZ – 1 – 4 delegate per branch (13 branches), estimate 30 delegates

The power of those 45 EMPU delegates is considerable. That is a small enough number for them to meet collectively and decide who to support. Of course it is a secret ballot and they can vote however they like, but as loyal delegates they will vote for what is best for the EPMU. Those 45 EPMU delegates will be worth 8.3% of the total vote. I doubt they will be splitting 50/50 or even 60/40. I predict 80/20 or 90/10 or more.

Each EMPU delegate will get approximately 46 times as much of a say as a normal Labour Party member (if they are a member, they get an additional vote in that section also). A MWU delegate will get 16 times the say of a normal Labour Party member.

The 170 or so delegates from the EPMU, MWU and DWU are worth 13.3% of the total vote.  It is hard to see any leadership candidate winning without them. Those lucky 170 delegates will be getting lots of phone calls as they play a major part in picking the person who could be the next Prime Minister.

UPDATE: Very happy for any union to provide the exact number of voting delegates they have, so I can update the post.

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Will the unions select the leader?

August 24th, 2013 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

That puts the leadership in limbo for the next three weeks while up to 50,000 voting papers are sent out and candidates make their pitch at a series of meetings across New Zealand.

I suspect it will be far fewer than that. It is widely known Labour has less than 10,000 members despite my best efforts on their behalf.

The six affiliated unions may have another 30,000 to 40,000 members between them but as I understand it most unions are not letting their rank and file members vote – just their union delegates, which are far fewer in number. By restricting it to delegates it will allow that union to promise its support more easily to the candidate who offers that union the most legislative favours.

Each delegate votes individually, and in secret, but make no mistake they will have been told the view of the union leadership about who to vote for and I predict that no union will be a close vote – the candidate the hierarchy supports will get at least 80% of the vote from that union. What is possible is different unions could vote different ways depending on what each has been offered, but Helen Kelly has already said they are talking to each other.


The new rules were an attempt by the party’s grassroots to rein in caucus after a widening rift over policy and direction. But they could drive an even deeper wedge if the party and caucus back opposing candidates and cancel each other out, because the caucus vote counts for only 40 per cent of the total.

That makes Labour’s union affiliates, whose votes count for 20 per cent, the potential king makers and could deliver the caucus a leader that a majority of MPs don’t support.

This will be the first time that corporate bodies will get to directly elect the leader of a political party. Imagine the fuss if for example you had business organisations getting a vote for a political party leader.

If Robertson and Cunliffe do stand, it is highly likely it will come down to who gets the unions on side – and that is easy. Unions will vote for what is in their best interest, so the candidate who promises them (publicly or privately) the most favourable law changes to increase their wealth and power, will get their support.

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UK Labour reducing union influence

July 10th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

UK Labour is joining Australian Labor in reducing the influence the unions have on their parties. This should be contrasted with NZ Labour which is moving in the other direction and has given the unions a direct vote in the future Labour Party leadership.

The Independent reports:

Trade unions will no longer be allowed to enrol three million members a year to Labour ranks, Ed Miliband will announce on Tuesday in a dramatic effort to draw a line under the crisis gripping the party, following allegations of corrupt practice in candidate selection.

His move threatens a backlash from union chiefs – notably Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, the country’s largest union – as it could pave the way to a reduction of their influence over Labour conference decisions.

Under his plans, which he will herald as the biggest party reforms in a generation, individual unionists will have to take a conscious decision to opt in to Labour membership rather than finding themselves signed up en masse.

This is how it should be. Union members should make an individual decision to join a political party, not be mass subscribed by their union.

Under the Miliband plans, which Labour says it wants in place as soon as possible, each trade unionist would be asked each year whether they wanted to opt in to party membership.

Party sources acknowledged the move would initially deprive Labour of members and income, but insisted it would ultimately help strengthen its relationship with unionists.

Mr Miliband will say: “I do not want any individual to be paying money to the Labour party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so.

Superb. Will David Shearer say the same? That would be a far better reform than a man ban.

Sky News quotes Miliband as saying:

“I do not want any individual to be paying money to the Labour Party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so,” he said.

Hear hear. Let’s hear the same from a NZ Labour leader.

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The Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

June 13th, 2013 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Jami-Lee Ross has had pulled from the ballot his Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is:

to repeal section 97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Section 97 prevents the use of volunteers, contractors, or other casual employees by an employer during a strike or lockout

His rationale:

Any employment legislation needs to provide a balance between employers and employees to be fair. Section 97 creates an imbalance by providing unions with a significant legislative advantage during negotiations. The restrictions placed on employers preventing them from engaging temporary replacement labour to maintain business continuity duringa strike or lockout even extends to family members, volunteers, and willing workers from associated companies that may wish to work within an organisation to maintain business continuity. Restricting the ability of employers to engage temporary replacement labour can have a considerable impact on the productivity and financial viability of an organisation. These restrictions particularly affect the primary production processing industries where production cannot cease without considerable loss to a business.

As far as I’m aware, employees on strike can engage in other work, so it seems only fair employers can do much the same, and use temporary labour to keep revenue flowing. Otherwise a union action can cripple them.

Prior to the enactment of the Employment Relations Act 2000, no equivalent provision existed in any New Zealand employment legislation.

I’ll be interested to see what the situation is in other countries.

I think it is fair to say the the Labour Party will fight this bill with all their might.

UPDATE: It will be interesting to see how parties vote at first reading. We can assume National and ACT will vote in favour, and Labour, Greens and Mana against.

NZ First had this to say when the ERA was passed in 2000:

Part 8 – Clauses 97-111 – Strikes and Lockouts
Under these clauses employees are allowed to strike for a collective agreement, to obtain a multi-employer collective contract, and on the grounds of safety and health.

It prohibits an employer from using replacement labour during a strike but does not prohibit striking workers taking up other employment. This has the potential for a few employees to, in some circumstances, hold the employer, the industry, and sometimes the country, to ransom until their demands are met.

On the basis of their 2000 statement, one would expect they would at least vote for the bill at first reading so it can be considered by a select committee.

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The union view on jobs

March 16th, 2013 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

Kerri Jackson at Stuff reports:

Small businesses that cannot afford to pay their staff a living wage should probably not be in business at all, a union leader says.

First Union general secretary Robert Reid said while the movement supporting a living wage of at least $18.40 an hour was generally targeted at large corporations and city councils, some undercapitalised small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) needed to think about their business practices as well.

“Why should a worker suffer for being employed by a business that maybe shouldn’t exist?

What an appalling statement. It shows the hatred for business that some union leaders have. Small business owners often spend months or years struggling to set up a business when they can’t even pay themselves a salary. And they create jobs for others, but Robert Reid thinks they are making their workers suffer if they pay them less than $18.40 an hour.

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The taxpayer purchased referendum

March 13th, 2013 at 1:11 pm by David Farrar

A mole has leaked to me a couple of strategy documents from Labour and Greens on the referendum they have just purchased with our money. The documents are embedded below, and they show the extent of taxpayer resources used to purchase this referendum.

CIRs are meant to be about the public being able to send a message to MPs, not MPs using taxpayer funds to relitigate an election result. Some key revelations:

  • They aimed for 400,000 signatures as they knew a fair proportion would be found to be invalid.
  • At the 300,000 mark the Greens collected 150,000, Labour 105,000 and Unions 40,000. The Greens are the ones who used taxpayer funding to hire petition collectors.
  • Labour pledged 30 hours per week staff time from their taxpayer funded budget
  • Greens were using their permament taxpayer funded staff to co-ordinate
  • The unions had a paid national co-ordinator
  • They refer to unions gathering “car loads” of organisers and activists to travel to areas
  • For their day of action, Greens said they will committ five full-time staff – presumably all taxpayer funded, if Labour does the same. That’s 10 taxpayer funded organisers.
  • A list of unions to pressure to do more, including PPTA, NZEI, Nurses Organisation – minority shares in power companies of course being key education and health issues!

It is very clear that there has been very few ordinary citizens involved in this petition – mainly a legion of taxpayer funded staff and union staff.

Asset Sales Petition Strategy Docs

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US union salaries

January 7th, 2013 at 9:10 am by David Farrar

Jason Hart at Red State writes:

Dennis Van Roekel was paid $389,620 in fiscal year 2012 as president of the National Education Association (NEA), America’s largest labor union. Van Roekel was one of 14 NEA bosses paid more than $250,000 with dues taken from teachers in Ohio and other forced-unionism states as a condition of employment.

Incredible. Compulsory unionism in the US. We are somewhat better here, but not entirely. You can’t get a collective contract unless you join a union, and in the public sector, public servants are often effectively paid by taxpayers to join a union.

As current union contracts expire, Michigan’s new workplace freedom law will make Michigan the 24th state to protect the right of educators to choose whether they contribute to the following NEA paychecks.

24 states done, 26 to go!


Unions accounts

November 4th, 2012 at 11:23 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in NBR:

The Maritime Union of New Zealand is in the same pickle as the New Zealand Meatworkers’ Union. It, too, has hidden millions of dollars of spending from the legally required public scrutiny.

Following my complaint, the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Neville Harris, has ordered the Meatworkers’ Union to re-file six years’ of accounts (Hidesight, Aug 24).

His clear expectation is that the full accounts be presented for approval at the annual meeting on November 7 and be filed promptly thereafter.

It will be fascinating to see if the union complies. It has fought long and hard to keep its accounts hidden. But I’m backing the Registrar to prevail. He has the necessary statutory power to ensure the union complies with the law.

This is good. Unions get numerous rights and privileges under the law. One of the few obligations to to be an incorporated society, which means their annual accounts must be public documents. Hiding the majority of funds away from public scrutiny is not acceptable.

Rodney writes how the Maritime Union has also been hiding money in branch accounts, which have not formed part of their public accounts they file with the Registrar. He notes in the comments on his post:

The Registrar of Incorporated Societies replied to my complaint as follows:

“In light of the issues raised by the NZ Meat Workers and Related Trades Union matter, my office is currently reviewing financial statement compliance by those incorporated societies who are registered unions.

This suggests that the Registrar will be investigating all unions to ascertain how many are following the law and disclosing their full accounts, and forcing those which are hiding accounts to publish in full. It will be fascinating to see how many other unions have been doing this.

Hat Tip: Whale Oil

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Labour trying jobs for the boys again

November 1st, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The main job of Labour seems to be to try and enhance union power and funding, and the main job of many unions is to get Labour elected. If it involved businesses, it would be called corrupt.  The latest example is on the obscure Advanced Technology Institute Bill. Look at the select committee report and the minority report from Labour:

In particular, it points to the recognition in that Act of the interest of unions as representatives of employees, both in industries directly engaged in the economic development that NZTE assists, and in the wider economy. The submitter asked that these provisions be mirrored in the ATI bill. We agree with this recommendation, and believe that union representation should be added to clause 10(4)(b)(i).

Firstly unions are not representative of employees. Off memory less than 17% of employees belong to a union and in the private sector it is under 9%.

But on Labour, they have done it again after backtracking on their plans to legislate to exclude unions from the lobbying bill they are now trying to legislate seats for unions on the stakeholder advisory board of the Advanced Technology Institute. Imagine if the Nats put up an amendment for a seat for Business NZ.

It would be interesting to find out whether this was signed by their research and innovation spokesperson David Shearer – is all this union sycophancy from Labour because they are about to gain 20% of the vote on future Labour leaders?

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Read between the lines

September 28th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

Trade unions do not want to be exempted from a potential lobbying register, despite Labour’s attempts to have them excluded.

Green MP Holly Walker has a member’s bill that would create a register of lobbyists and require them to follow a code of ethics.

The bill passed its first reading with unanimous support, but Labour has since suggested an amendment that would exempt trade unions.

Fairfax Media can now reveal that the unions have not asked for that and say it would not be practical.

In a draft submission, the Council of Trade Unions expressed concern about the proposed regime.

“Lobbying is a core activity of trade unions, but the consequences on trade unions and NGOs from this bill if it were to proceed have not been sufficiently considered.”

There were practical difficulties in establishing which staff within a union would have to be registered and the reporting requirements and penalties were “particularly burdensome”.

But it did not ask to be exempted from the scheme “on the basis of being unions”.

Rather, the CTU sought different reporting requirements for unions and non-governmental organisations.

Effectively they are still asking for an exemption, or at least reduced requirements. They’re just saying all non-businesses should be exempt or have reduced transparency requirements.

“The CTU has concerns about the increasing influence of corporate lobbying and the influential impact of professional and secret lobbying.”

Translation: Lobbying by businesses is bad and evil, and lobbying by unions and NGOs is good and lovely.

“The bill in its current form treats all lobbyists as if they are equal when lobbyists’ power and influence is very unequal.”

Unions are very powerful lobbyists. If Labour MPs get offside with unions, they risk losing selection battles or being demoted down the list. The next Leader will be 20% elevated by unions, and unions are a primary source of funds and campaign activists for Labour.

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Protecting their overlords

September 27th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

Labour wants trade unions excluded from a potential lobbying register and blames the MP who drafted the plan for including them in the first place.

Green MP Holly Walker’s member’s bill would require those who lobby politicians to be registered and adhere to a code of ethics.

It passed its first reading with unanimous support from all parties, but Labour has since put forward an amendment that would exclude trade unions.

The unions are major backers of the Labour Party.

More than just backers. They

  • get to write industrial relations and other policies
  • have an influential role in list ranking
  • are major funders
  • can tip electorate selections to a preferred candidate
  • will soon have 20% of the vote for future leaders
  • provide a major source of campaign workers

So it is no surprise Labour are desperate to exclude them.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard said the bill was a “bad piece of work” and should have been tidied up before going to select committee.

It would currently capture a union official who rang him to help with a constituent’s housing problem, or a foodbank that wanted assistance getting a client welfare entitlements, he said.

It would also capture an employer that rang him on the same issues. Is Trevor proposing an exemption for businesses? Of course not.

The exemptions should be on what types of activities count as lobbying, not on protecting your union overlords.

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Shearer on the union exemption

August 7th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

You have to listen to this interview on bFM to believe it. David Shearer tries and justifies Labour’s proposal to exempt unions from the lobbying transparency bill. An extract:

“It is more of what I was just saying before umm ethan is that, you know I get you know trade unions or say salvation army or whatever they are standing up for rights of you know workers or rights of the poor or whatever, or whatever it is likely to be. Umm I don’t look to gain have had any sort of, I don’t look to have any material gain from that as a, as a as an MP–but there is what the the idea was is to try and capture the you know the various sort of business and corporate interests that might you know in a sense be trying to do sort of what you know they do offshore (not sure happens here?) is to buy buy politicans off”

Is the leader of the Labour Party really saying he has nothing to gain from unions, when they are both major funders of Labour, but also now get 20% of the vote on who is the Labour Leader? Unions get a major say in Labour candidate selections also. Yet Shearer says they should be specifically exempt from lobbying transparency requirements!

Again, I recommend people listen to the whole interview – it is far from clear and concise!


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Bob Jones on teacher unions

July 18th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sir Bob writes:

The role of Minister of Education has always been a nightmare posting. If you’re Minister of Agriculture then you’re subject to intelligent dialogue with Federated Farmers. If Justice Minister, you can wallow in the ego-inflating pleasure of issuing pompous utterances, interspersed with all-night drunken sessions with the Law Society, and so it goes.

But Minister of Education; God help the poor buggers, confronted as they always have been with embittered, self-important nobodies, as teacher union representatives invariably are.

Sir Bob continues:

Readers may consider I’m being too charitable with that description. Well, I can’t help it, temperance having been my life-long practice. But I’d be a great deal more if instead of endless moaning, the teachers’ union focused on promoting English, science and history and abandoned film studies, Maori wonderfulness, gender studies, et al bogus subjects, now so prevalent.

I’ve speculated why teacher unions are so ghastly when compared with other lobbying bodies. My conclusion is that they have never left the school-room or grown up and that if we resurrected corporal punishment and delivered a daily flogging to these unionists, it might produce a general amelioration.

Bob may need t be careful. If the PPTA affiliates to Labour, they’ll get a vote in the next Labour Leader, and in exchange for their votes may insist the next Leader brings in a hate crime law, so Sir Bob is jailed for hate speech against them :-)

In 1991, I popped over to Georgia to have a look at proceedings when the civil war broke out. One night in Tbilisi, my wife and I were guests of some university academics in an outdoor restaurant near the river. Abruptly the night erupted with explosions and for half an hour, mortars rocketed over our heads from across the river. Our Georgian friends took a nonchalant approach to this. “Relax,” they said, “it’s just the school teachers’ union bombing Parliament,” this over some trivia they were whining about.

Heh. Probably a protest against league tables.

Anyway, after two weeks here and there, we arrived at our Blantyre hotel. At 6pm I turned on the television news. The lead item was the president of the Malawian Women’s Institute carrying on about school teachers having it off with schoolgirls.

She was followed by the Malawian school teachers’ association president.

Never have I witnessed such explosive anger. He was livid and I would describe him as being white with rage, but in the circumstances that would be pushing it.

“Do you realise how little my members are paid?” he shouted at the Women’s Institute president, who began to look remorseful.

“Are you demanding my members risk their lives with you Aids-ridden lot? This is the sole perk of the job,” he exploded

Well that is a novel rationale for a pay rise.

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Unions gain vote on Labour leader

July 18th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Union bosses are now going to be more powerful than MPs, in selecting future Labour leaders. Labour are proposing that their union affiliates will get 20% of the say in future leadership contests. They have five affiliated unions and this means all future leadership contenders will be beholden to them.

Union leaders will endorse a candidate and the vast bulk of votes from that union will go towards that candidate – if the five unions collectively endorse one candidate, then their 20% is likely to be decisive – especially if the members and caucus are split in their support.

Could you imagine the outrage if the NZ National Party said that it was going to give (for example) Business NZ, Telecom, Contact Energy, Carter Holt Harvey etc the right to vote in National Party leadership elections.

Organisations should not be eligible to join political parties (let alone vote in them). Political parties should be comprised of individuals who have individually decided to join and support a party and pay a membership fee to that party.

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Will unions get to select the leader?

July 10th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Meanwhile, Labour MPs will today consider a proposal that would give members – and possibly unions and supporters – a say in who leads the party; something now determined only by MPs.

Shearer yesterday confirmed that, if approved, it would be “a mix of caucus and the membership in terms of electing the leadership”.

The percentage votes allocated to each group were “up in the air”, and he would not yet disclose what part unions and affiliates would have.

But the party’s discussion paper, released earlier this year, points to Britain where in leadership ballots MPs’ votes count for one third, the membership vote for one third and affiliated unions and supporters for one third.

I think giving members a vote in the leadership would be a good thing. But it should be one person one vote. Giving union bosses a huge bloc vote would be a huge mistake. It would make Labour even more captive to them.

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Who voted against secret strike ballots?

May 10th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Parliament has passed a law requiring unions to hold a secret ballot to vote on strike action. This is highly desirable, as no employee should be heavied or threatened with consequences based on how they vote – which can happen, if it is a show of hands.

Now most unions do operate secret ballots. But, not all. And making it a requirement rather than an option, seems basic common sense. Unions get a number of special powers under our law, so a basic requirement around secret ballots of members is hardly onerous.

Yet Labour, Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and Mana all voted against requiring unions to hold secret ballots. I can understand them saying the bill is not a priority. But to actually vote against it can only be interpreted as saying they support unions not having to hold secret ballots when voting on strike action.

And yes I would have no problems requiring any company that votes for a lock out to have their board (if they have one) vote by secret ballot on it.