Union exposed lying about strike

May 28th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Doctors’ leaders aimed to drag out a bitter dispute over a new contract for 18 months and admitted pay is “the only real red line,” leaked messages reveal.

The secret strategy is revealed in more than 1000 pages of leaked Whatsapp messages – just weeks before 40,000 junior doctors vote on a deal which has just been agreed between the British Medical Association (BMA) and Government.

The correspondence, between members of the union’s Junior Doctors Committee, over the past six months discloses secret tactics which are at odds with the public messages being conveyed.

Despite repeated public protestations that safety, not pay, was the chief concern about proposed changes, a member the committee described pay as ““the only real red line” for junior doctors.

The messages show that while the union was claiming it wanted enter talks with Government, its committee chairman was privately suggesting that delaying tactics, and a string of strikes, could be the “best solution” to the dispute.

This is no surprise. The aim of the union was to hurt the Government, not get a settlement, and their claims of concern about safety were a smokescreen for simply wanting more money.

Compulsory union funding under threat to US and UK

January 22nd, 2016 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

In the UK, the Conservative Government is changing the law so that workers are no longer forced to fund the Labour Party through unions.

And USA Today reports on a related US Supreme Court case:

The Supreme Court left little doubt Monday where it stands on forcing teachers and government workers to contribute to public employee unions against their will: It’s ready to strike the requirement down.

The court’s more conservative justices sharply criticized the current system in which public employees in 23 states and the District of Columbia must pay for the cost of collective bargaining, even if they disagree with their unions’ demands. The problem, those justices said, is that virtually everything the unions do affects public policy and tax dollars.

Unions are major political players. The unions are so strong in the US that almost every Democratic candidate has to oppose trade agreements, or risk union funds being spent against them.

Hence they should not get compulsory funding from workers. They should only get funding from people who wish to join them, as is the case in NZ.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Californian who led much of the criticism of the mandatory union fees, said teachers challenging the requirement disagree with union positions on issues such as tenure, merit pay and class sizes. “The union basically is making these teachers ‘compelled riders,'” he said.

Awful to be forced to fund an organisation so it can advocate for policies you strongly disagree with. Imagine for example being a gay man forced to fund a church that preaches homosexuality is wrong – well that’s how conservatives feel when forced to fund unions.

The 325,000-member teachers union, which spends more on politics than any special interest group in the state

The biggest money in politics is often from unions – certainly in NZ. Look at registered third party campaigners – almost all unions.

Hide on Labour and unions

November 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in NBR:

The stunning revelation of Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater’s e-book Dodgy Unions is how little they give the Labour Party.

I had always thought it was millions.  

That’s because of the power union bosses exercise over the party. Union bosses get to vote for party leader, they block vote candidate selection, get a say on the party list, have a seat at the all-powerful national council and carry a block vote at regional and national conferences. …

I had always assumed that the Labour Party put up with the unions for the money.

But what’s truly shocking from Dodgy Unions is that Labour sells itself so cheap.

The union movement takes in $120 million a year. It has equity of over $120 million.

But over the past 18 years the unions have given Labour only $700,000. That’s less than $40,000 a year. For every thousand dollars the unions rake in only 33c goes to Labour.

Labour sell themselves cheaply!!

Imagine if the national board of Federated Farmers had a vote for the leader of the National Party, National’s list, electorate candidates and had a guaranteed seat on the board of directors. There would be outrage. And rightly so.

But somehow the unions’ unhealthy sway over Labour is overlooked.

If National had such an arrangement there would be numerous books by Nicky Hager on it. It would condemned by every editorial writer in the land. But Labour gets a free pass for it.

The unions are fat and rich, they have enormous power within Labour but are tightwad funders; so much so that Labour is running deficits unable to afford its pretence of a democratic election for leader.

Labour MPs have long complained union domination is disheartening and disempowering them and their members. The question I have now, is why do they put up with it?

Because they get deselected if they complain publicly.

Labour’s constitution reads like something from the UN. The all-powerful National Council must have a Maori senior vice-president, an affiliate vice-president, a Pacific Islands vice-president, a women’s vice-president, a youth vice-president, a rainbow representative and two representatives elected by Te Kaunihera Maori, one of whom shall be a woman.

The party exhausts itself on identity politics overlaid with raw union power. It’s no wonder it’s broke and out-of-puff.

National’s board is much simpler. Apart from the leader and caucus rep, it has seven members – all elected by the National Conference. No quotas, no representatives – just the people deemed best suited to serve on the board.

The party needs deep constitutional and organisational reform to be fit for purpose. What’s needed is a leadership not pandering to special interests but smashing them.

As their current leader only got elected by the union block vote, that is unlikely.

Smart move by Dominos

August 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A pizza company’s drivers will be able to be tracked from the moment they leave the store to when they drop the pizza off at your door.

Domino’s New Zealand general manager Scott Bush said the company’s GPS Driver Tracker was developed with Navman Wireless as an extension to the company’s smartphone app and is launching in New Zealand following a successful trial in Australia.

“Our customers will be able to watch their driver on route to their door in real time [and] know exactly who their driver is,” Bush said.

The software was inspired by Uber and also works on desktop computers and also keeps delivery drivers safe, Bush said.

This is a very smart move. It is frustrating not knowing when your pizzas will arrive, and the ability to see where the drive is in real time, will be a significant selling point.

It won’t be the only point of difference. Taste is still king, and for me Hell reigns supreme over Pizza Hut and Dominos. Wholly Pizza is very good also.

However another story by Stuff has the unions protesting this really smart move:

Service and Food Workers Union organiser Russell Taylor said unions were nervous about monitoring technology in the workplace, which was becoming more common.

“It’s an invasion of privacy. Employers say it’s being done for the benefit of the employees but more often than not it is used against them.”

Unions did not want workplaces relying on technology for health and safety.

“In our view all workers should be within sight and sound of another person at all times,” he said.

Is it any wonder why so many unions are regarded as dinosaurs?

Union fees should be direct debit!

August 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Under the proposals, it is claimed that administrative costs will be saved in the public sector as 3.8 million trade union members – 54% of the public sector workforce – are told to make their own arrangements to pay their union subscription, mainly by direct debit. Unions say this will lead to a loss in funds by making subscription payments more complicated.

But Hancock said: “In the 21st-century era of direct debits and digital payments, public resources should not be used to support the collection of trade union subscriptions. It’s time to get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members. By ending check-off we are bringing greater transparency to employees – making it easier for them to choose whether or not to pay subscriptions and which union to join.”

Totally support this, and would love to see this in NZ.

Not just for the public sector. Employers should be left out of this. If an employee wants to join a union, they should pay the fees directly. Very easy with Internet Banking to set up an AP or DD.

Health and safety changes minor

July 31st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Richard Rudman is the editor of the NZ Employment Law Guide, and hence an expert in the area of employment law.

He writes at Politik:

The Health and Safety Reform Bill returned to Parliament from the Select Committee last Friday, more than 15 months after the Bill was introduced to the House.

However Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse says he still has some more changes he wants to make. 

He was forced into having the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee revise the Bill after widespread concern within both the Cabinet and National caucus that the Bill would make life difficult for small business and farmers.

There was some speculation that that concern went as far as a threatened rebellion by some backbench MPs. 

If so, the rebellion was put down cheaply. None of the changes made by the Select Committee is that significant in the overall scheme of new workplace health and safety legislation. 


But the changes appear to have cost National the support of Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens for the reforms. 

They were looking for any reason to oppose the changes. The reality is this law change will deliver 99% of what the Royal Commission recommended. Yet the opposition parties would have you think that somehow it is a backward step. They’re playing politics, so their union mates can wave some crosses about.

The only significant change is:

Small businesses (those with fewer than 20 workers and not in a prescribed high-risk sector or industry) need not agree to a request from workers to establish a health and safety committee or arrange the election of a health and safety representative. 

That’s it. That is what they are crying is the end of the world. That a small clerical office of say three staff doesn’t have to agree to an elected health and safety rep.

If the industry is at all high-risk, or there are more than 20 employees, there will be a statutory right to an elected health and safety rep. And you know what, a small employer can still decide to have one – just that it is not mandatory. But regardless of this, they still have the same requirements to have a safe workplace, and face prosecution if they don’t.

So as this employment law expert has said, the change made by the select committee is very minor. The outrage by the unions and their parliamentary wings is entirely contrived.

In any case, all businesses — large or small — are required to “engage” with their workers on health and safety matters that might affect them. 

Engagement includes sharing relevant information; giving workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views and raise health or safety issues, and to contribute to decision-making; taking the workers’ views into account, and advising workers of the outcomes. 

In addition, all businesses must have practices that provide reasonable opportunities for their workers to participate effectively in improving health and safety on an ongoing basis. 

Given these duties, exemption from the requirement for a committee or representative seems little relief for small businesses. 

I suspect the union anger is that they see elected health and safety reps as a back door to workplaces, so they can try and unionise them.

The requirement to consult all workers on health and safety matters is far more important than whether there is an elected rep in a small clerical office of four people.

UK union reforms

July 19th, 2015 at 1:59 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Britain’s biggest trade unions are considering legal action against reforms to strike ballots and political funding due to be published by the government within days.

Lawyers at GMB and Unite are looking into whether Conservative plans to ban all strikes not backed by 40 per cent of members break European Union laws.

It comes amid fury that the Tories are using their newfound majority to launch a “perfect storm on the Left” to undermine the union movement and lock Labour out of power for a decade.

Labour’s most important source of funding will be challenged within days as the Conservatives unveil plans to reform how trade unions give money to parties.

The Tories are expected to demand that trade union members “opt in” to agreeing money from their membership is directed into political funds.

In NZ I’d have a simple rule – only natural persons may join and vote in political parties.

Labour becoming more reliant on union donations

July 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader has sent in an analysis of what proportion of disclosed major donations, have come from unions for Labour. There is a real trend here.

  • 1999 – 7.2%
  • 2002 – 10.4%
  • 2005 – 15.0%
  • 2008 – 27.8%
  • 2011 – 46.7%
  • 2014 – 64.5%

So Labour has lost any broad appeal it once has, and in election years is dependent on unions. The unions are not a subsidiary of Labour, Labour is becoming a subsidiary of the unions!

Unions can’t get past ideology

May 17th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Unions are pushing for the Christchurch City Council to renegotiate its Cost Share Agreement with the Crown in a last ditch bid to stop assets being sold off.

They’re saying they want hard working taxpayers in Oamaru and Hamilton to hand over money to the Christchurch Council. Taxpayers have been very generous with Christchurch, and have poured billions in. But an agreement is an agreement. The Christchurch Council has to live within its means.

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union told the council it was vehemently opposed to the proposed asset sales and viewed it as matter of life and death.

“In our experience the privatisation of publicly owned assets that are operated as businesses leads to a deterioration of health and safety standards and increased risk of serious harm and death. This was our experience during the privatisation of the rail industry in New Zealand,” spokesman John Kerr said.

Lyttelton Port had an unhappy recent history of deaths and serious harm injuries on the waterfront and its inland port. The union did not wish the situation to be made worse by a sell-off of the port and would fight to stop any sale.

Their ideology blinds them. Council owned ports such as Lyttelton have far far worse safety records than privately owned ports such as Tauranga.

Relative injury rate statistics at all the Ports throughout New Zealand. Supplied by Worksafe New Zealand BTG 31Oct14 -

Relative injury rate statistics at all the Ports throughout New Zealand.
Supplied by Worksafe New Zealand
BTG 31Oct14 –

This graph is from the Bay of Plenty Times. The most unsafe ports are Timaru, Wellington, Dunedin and Lyttelton. Wellington’s port is 100% Council owned. Port Otago is 100% Council owned.

The Port with the largest private shareholding (45%) is Tauranga. Bluff has 34% private.  Timaru has 28% private.

There is no evidence at all that having some private share-holding makes you unsafe.

Aust Unionists bully small businesses for not losing money

April 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

UNIONISTS have orchestrated a bullying campaign against small business owners who are shutting up shop over the Easter long weekend ­because they cannot afford to pay their staff exorbitant public holiday penalty rates.

A Facebook page created to “name and shame” businesses that decided it was cheaper to close than pay teenage staff $350 a day just to clear away plates is posting photographs of operators who have publicly called for a change to the penalty rates regime.

If the cost of paying staff to work is greater than the income a business will make that day, then of course they will close. Why wouldn’t they?

Union supporters are urging people to swamp the social media sites of businesses that spoke about the impact of penalty rates to The Saturday Telegraph and other media this week and condemn them.

How dare they point out that paying $350 a day to waiting staff impacts business profitability.

Ms Carnell said all operators were open to paying the penalty rates, but believed the double-time-and-a-half rate was no longer in line with community expectations. Many staff were comfortable to work for a lower rate rather than have the day off, but could not as it was illegal to do so.

Double time and a half!

Union membership by US state

March 3rd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A good interactive graphic at NPR showing the change in union membership for each state from 1964 to 2014.

The overall rate has fallen from around a third to under 10%.

The three most unionised states today are New York on 25%, Alaska 23% and Hawaii 22%.

24 states have a union density of 10% to 20%.

16 states have a density of 5% to 10%.

Eight states have a union membership rate of under 5%, with the lowest being North Carolina at 2%.

The biggest declines over 50 years have been Michigan and Indiana which have both had 30% drops.

The only state to increase is Hawaii from 21.7% to 21.9%.

Would be interesting to explore why some states have declined so much, and others have not.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.