Audrey Young on resurgent unions

Written By: - Date published: 8:39 am, November 26th, 2016 - 12 comments
Categories: activism, Unions, wages - Tags: , ,

In an interesting piece on equal pay (discussed here) Audrey Young makes a number of positive comments about unions:

…The pay equity outcome is one of the reasons unions are experiencing a revival. It follows other major successes by the former Service Worker’s Union through the courts.

They include the “sleepover” case in which disability support workers who were required to give 24-hour care in residential centres were paid less than the minimum wage for sleeping over.

It also includes a victory for low-paid women working as home and community support workers who had to drive between many clients in a day but were not paid for that time.

In each of the three cases, the workers were mostly employed by private agencies but their wages were sourced from Government funding.

The combination of those three stunning victories by that union have cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions but the money has gone to low-paid workers.

That tangible success and the highly effective campaign for greater health and safety standards in the workplace, not to mention the public affection in which the late Helen Kelly was held, have combined to lift the standing of unions.

It is not surprising, then, that E Tu, the PSA and Nurses between them have had a 20 per cent increase in membership in two years.

The unions played an important role in the tripartite Working Group (union, employers and Government officials) that came up with the pay-equity principles after the Bartlett win. It has been an exemplary process. …

Excellent news on growing union numbers, strengths, and wins for their members. Remember too that union members get better wage increases, and
unions good for society and economy. Spread the word!

12 comments on “Audrey Young on resurgent unions”

  1. James 1

    Of course it takes a good government to work with them. National should be given credit for this getting across the line also.

    • mosa 1.1

      I would give them credit if they were genuine believers in pay equity but their history tells a different story.

      One of their first acts as government was to abolish the Dept of Labours pay and equity unit.

      And its only been the court decision that has focused their mind on the ramifications for the government going ahead, in other words a fight they could not win or the perception that comes with that.

      That is the last thing this PM wants in the run up to the fourth term he desperately wants for his supporters and himself.

  2. ianmac 2

    Baffles me that workers are reluctant to join Unions. United we stand. My daughter tells me that the wages of her workmates are secret and they are forbidden to compare. So she did and found wide variations between those doing the same job. She confronted her boss and was promoted. Huh?

    • KJT 2.1

      It doesn’t surprise me. After years of relentless right wing propaganda against Unions, employers who instantly reduce the hours or sack anyone who even mentions a Union, Government attempts to make them as powerless as possible, except for those for Lawyers, directors etc, it is surprising they still exist.
      That they do is a testament to their usefulness.

    • infused 2.2

      The Union that was at my second work place was probably what ended up making me a right wing voter. My first time voting was Labour.

      My guess is not all Unions are equal, and the one I had was utter bullshit and a real eye opener.

  3. mosa 3

    With a view to the next election and beyond it was a pragmatic and sensible decision on this law.

    This has been about defusing what was going to become a serious perception problem for this administration going into next year and beyond and if it wanted to control this issue and put it to bed it had to act.

    I doubt it had anything to do with real equity for woman going by the way they have been so lax in other important areas for woman in general and National is a business and employers party and those groups come first.

    Great win regardless for the strength of the union movement and the late Helen Kelly who sadly did not live to see what should have been law a long time ago and for the tireless rest home staff and other woman in low paid positions who do jobs that are vital and deserve so much better.

    One less bump in the road for Mr Keys fourth term.

    • Robertina 3.1

      More a legal problem than a perception problem.
      But yes the case had reasonable media and is a talking point.
      And next year when the aged care and support workers are likely to settle there will be lots of positive media that National has done more for this group of workers than any other Govt . . . in election year.
      No-one knows how many workers will end up benefiting and it depends how the arbitration system is set up.
      Caregivers and support workers get to bypass that because of the direct negotiations.
      An industry mag recently had the wage being negotiated at $23.50 per hour, a 55% increase. The union is seeking $26 and the potential for improved terms and conditions is also very important.

  4. Sanctuary 4

    With the unmasking and discrediting of modern social-liberalism as an elitist scam that can’t even defeat the likes of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump in an election the real left can now stop being distracted and get on with doing what it has always – doing the real work in the fight against capitalism.

    I think people are waking up and realising that the social liberals who’ve they’ve relied on to do the heavy lifting on their behalf don’t have the guts to fight neoliberalism; they only want to appease it and seek to be accommodated – comfortably – within it. Only the class based left recognises the enemy and has the tools to take the fight to neoliberalism capitalism.

  5. JustMe 5

    In the company I work for the Unions are not interested in us. And so the employer can dictate the hours, the pay and the work conditions.
    Alot of small businesses deliberately keep their staff numbers low so as to avoid having to deal with a Union.

    • Robertina 5.1

      I’ve had that experience on a small site and it is annoying.

      The case taken by the former Service and Food Workers Union on behalf of Kristine Bartlett will help every caregiver and support worker including non-members and those not in a collective.
      I’m not sure if non-members get a say in ratifying the deal or exactly how that will work but the end result will be a negotiated rise for all workers.

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    the NZ Dairy Workers Union Te Runanga Wai U–DWU–is not often in the news but is a quiet achiever having maintained high density throughout the 90s/2000s and its membership has risen from 7000 to 8000 in the last several years, only because they have put much work into the small independents and startups outside of Fonterra

    a well organised union site has certain benefits for employers as well as union members

    • jcuknz 6.1

      Good point Tiger Mountain … the Unions are their own worst enemies in their endless push for MORE when a good union works to make the business a success which then brings rewards to all if it is strong and responsible… granting just reward to the employer who has so much invested as well as the workers who invest other things, perhaps intangible but very real.
      As a union delegate in my time this is what I took from the German situation and it makes more sense to me than judging unions by what they grasp for the workers and stick the employers.

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