Having just watched the q + a interview with Council of Trade Unions President Helen Kelly and Alasdair Thompson from the EPMA (a must-watch, Kelly did a great job) I think there are a few things that need to be said:
- It won’t be union members that bear the brunt of these law-changes as they generally have the power to negotiate above the legal minimum standard. Which is why they get better pay rises, better leave provisions and better sick pay than non-union workers.
- The unions will probably grow stronger on the sites they already organise as non-union workers join up for protection.
- It is therefore wrong to suggest this as a “good old-fashioned stoush” between unions and the National party. Rather it is an attack on workers that will disproportionately affect non-unionised workers.
- Darien Fenton is wrong to agree with John Armstrong by citing 1991 – in 1991 unions were compulsory organisations that had a terrible public image (these two things were very much related). Today unions are seen as the good guys by all but the crazy right; the anger and force of the protest last weekend sent a signal that something is very wrong with these laws.
- IMHO the union movement needs to be a bit less paranoid about how it is seen by the public. Over the last decade they have had the moral high-ground and the public’s sympathy in dispute after dispute after dispute. This has built them a lot of political capital. Now they need to spend some.
But back to the interview itself, I think the fact the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, refused to front is that the Nats know they can’t win the argument on facts. As an example every “problem” Thompson put up could easily be answered under the current law. He simply couldn’t give an answer that remotely justifies removing rights from every Kiwi worker.
I almost felt sorry for him having to front with such an embarrassingly weak argument but then I remembered the businesses who pay his salary are in line to take hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars out of the pockets of their workers under these laws.
I guess that kind of a pay-off is worth making a dick of yourself on national television.