EPMU criticised by miner’s wife

The Herald reports:

A West Coast miner’s wife has blasted union organisers, saying they failed to hold a secret ballot on striking, failed to keep members informed, and continued to collect their own pay while workers’ families struggle.

The woman, who declined to be named, was critical of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).

She said the union should have held a secret ballot on the Stockton strike, but instead asked miners for a show of hands.

Those who wanted to keep working had been afraid of being victimised if they didn’t put their hands up, she said.

The union had also failed to keep members well informed.

“My husband is only hearing things second-hand. They want you to go up to the picket line all the time to get information, but you’ve got to use petrol to get there.”

She also criticised the timing of the strike so close to Christmas. Her family would be unable to meet mortgage and rate commitments, let alone buy Christmas presents.

The union had also never told them they could claim a hardship allowance.

The woman said EPMU organisers should be refusing their own pay while coal miners were on strike, as they did in the old days.

Now that is a good idea. Solidarity with the comrades.

UPDATE: EPMU have e-mailed me a response:

The EPMU’s position on this is simple. The core allegation, that no secret ballot was held, is factually, verifiably false. There was a secret ballot at all sites as is union policy, and there are hundreds of miners who can vouch for that. Given the allegation is from an anonymous person who is not a member and would not have been entitled to vote in the meeting, people will have to judge the accuracy of her claims for themselves.
The other allegations are more easily dealt with:
  • Poor communication is a subjective issue, but I can tell you that I have personally sent out regular email updates to miners and there has been information at the picket line at all times. We don’t include miners’ wives on our email distribution lists.
  • Union officials are paid during industrial disputes because that is their job. Paid officials don’t vote on industrial action and they do not share in any gains that result from it. Union officials do not stop their other duties when one site goes on strike. They are professionals hired by the membership to represent and advocate for them including during industrial disputes. They do, however, regularly donate to industrial hardship funds.
  • The union hardship allowance is provided at the discretion of the national executive. This was opened to members last week.
Industrial action can be a highly emotional time, particularly for the families of striking workers. It’s understandable that a person might get the wrong end of the stick and lash out at the union. It’s just disappointing that during the journey of this story from the Westport News through NZPA, into the Herald and then onto your blog, no one decided to actually verify any of the claims before publishing them.
I’m always happy to provide a right of response. Well except for he who shall not be named 🙂

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