Exploited workers need union protection

Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, December 1st, 2014 - 30 comments
Categories: business, class war, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Docking the pay of petrol station attendants when a customer doesn’t pay. Docking the pay of checkout workers in the same situation. And now this:

Parcel-eating dogs threat to courier’s pay

A courier driver was threatened with having her wages docked after a parcel she delivered was eaten by the recipient’s dogs.

But back at base, she was told by Fastway Couriers Wairarapa owner-operator Therese Boniface the dogs had eaten the parcel, and she would be docked $50 a week towards the parcel’s yet-to-be-established value.

Fortunately for the courier, she was a union member:

It was only after driver Tara Lindsay’s union, First, intervened that her employers, Fastway Couriers Wairarapa, backed down.

First Union general secretary Robert Reid had heard of a few cases, including some involving courier drivers, especially at smaller, non-unionised firms. “If it’s non-unionised, almost anything goes,” he said.

This is what unions do, protect vulnerable workers. Union membership results in higher pay (etc etc etc etc etc), and has many other benefits. Join a union!

(Update: Since this post was scheduled this morning, Mike Treen has written a much better one on TDB.)

30 comments on “Exploited workers need union protection”

  1. Rodel 1

    News report- Non union charter school teacher’s pay deducted because a child in the class didn’t learn to read up to national standards?

    ….Just kidding but don’t dismiss the thought.
    Damn! I may have given John Bank’s successor, wotsisname, an idea.

    Join your union.

    • NZJester 1.1

      Oh come off it there is no way they would do that.
      They have so few actual teachers teaching in charter schools that they can not afford to loose them back to the public sector that is short of them.
      They will be docking the wages of the teachers assistants who are doing most of the education anyway and not the teaching staff.

  2. Skinny 2

    Proud to say I’ve brokered 2 workers to join separate Unions (different industries) today. One gets a back dated pay rise of 2.5% and the other could heading for a scrap with her bosses. I’ll do the mediation meeting as part of the deal should bullying conduct not stop. Many of her workmates will follow as they are sick of being mistreated by their Miss Bossy Boots manager and it only takes one to join and we are onsite and into it.

    Good to hear Sam Huggard is the new CTU Secretary, congrats chap and please get amongst it!

  3. Varity 3

    i am a low wage earner who does believe in a need for unions but can’t afford to pay toothless union fees on top of my student loan, kiwi saver and regular taxes.

    unite was suppose to come to my work the other week on a recruitment drive. our managers schooled us up – “you don’t have to talk to them, etc, blah, blah, blah”. but i wanted to talk to them and guess what? they didn’t show up.

    apparently they turned up the next morning when no-one was expecting them and we missed them.

    what am i or anyone suppose to make of that?

    • Te Reo Putake 3.1

      Who said what time they were supposed to be there, Varity? If it was the boss, then you have your answer; a set up. If it was Unite, then email them and tell them how that made you feel. Unite are effectively an amateur union, with minimal paid staff. There may be a genuine reason for the mistimed visit and I’m sure they’ll do their best to put it right.

      • Varity 3.1.1

        like i said – one of my managers told me they were coming and when to expect them.

        when they didn’t show i did email them. they apologised and said they got tied up with another workplace that night and if i wanted to talk they’d get in touch next time they are down my way.

        pfff. that’s little use to me, no?

    • Skinny 3.2

      Unite in my opinion is the strongest low paid worker Union going, they are certainly not toothless (though many are at times) members have to understand on any given day things happen at short notice. Sackings, disputes, stopwork meetings, don’t hold it against the organiser, just pick up the phone give them a call and arrange another meeting time, within the work place or outside.

      Too many members are their own worst enemy. Paid or unpaid meetings shouldn’t matter. The fee’s are cheap compared to the terms and conditions and coverage a Union will get you, and keep a scumbag boss off your back is worth the fee’s by it’s self. Having to use the services of a employment lawyer will cost anything from $200 an hour plus. If you have no joy let me sort it out as I know quite a few of their team 🙂

      • Varity 3.2.1

        1. my boss is not a scumbag
        2. the delegate should have shown up when he said he was going to or at the very least let us know he wasn’t coming.

        Like you said … pick up the phone.

        • Skinny

          Ok don’t get your knickers in a twist numbering things like your a management student. No one said your ($18 an hour) manager was a scumbag. Sounds like you hold a grudge ‘toothless.’

          • Varity

            oh but you did say “scumbag boss” hence my reply. my boss and managers are separate entities. as to the state of my underwear – surely you have somewhere better to go than there. gross dude.

        • Tracey

          You wrote

          “believe in a need for unions but can’t afford to pay toothless union fees on top of my student loan, kiwi saver and regular taxes. …”

          Can you expand in why you believe i them. It might help persuade others.

          Is your only reason for calling Unite toothless cos they didnt turn up when they said, or have you had other negative experiences?

          • Varity

            i didn’t actually call unite toothless. i called unions toothless.

            i’m an older person. i remember when unions had a lot of pull and did a lot of good. i’ve had good experiences with unions. but you can’t deny their power has been eroded by national governments over the years.

            your comment about kiwisaver was interesting to me. i haven’t figured yet whether or not it’s a good investment. what i have figured though is for me, at this point, unions are not. and just when i thought i might be persuaded otherwise … they didn’t bother to show up or even give us the courtesy of a phone call to let us know. tell me why i should buy into that?

            • Tracey

              i am not telling you what to buy into or not. i was just trying to find out more about your union experiences given you stated you believe in tyem.

            • Skinny

              I think your fake and jus playing silly buggers!

    • Tracey 3.3

      If you earn low wage, imo, you are better paying union dues than into kiwisaver.

    • NZJester 3.4

      So your seemingly anti union boss schooled you beforehand that you did not have to meet and talk to them as well as informed you of when they would be coming. Yet they then turned up on a different day than the one the boss had stated and no-one was around to meet them. Strange that, I mean the boss would not have failed to pass on important information and given you a bum steer to prevent you from actually meeting with with them would they?

  4. adam 4

    That is a great article by Mike Treen. Don’t sell yourself short either Anthony, this is something we should be discussing often and with force here on the standard. So thanks for the wee article.

    If you’re not a member of a union and reading this, think about joining – it maybe the only way to protect yourself, and your family, from a whole lot of pain and suffering from a bad employer.

    Because, bad employers are now the norm in NZ, when once, they were the odd loose cannon.

  5. coaster 5

    I stopped being a member of a union when the employment contracts act came in, but have alwaysed beleived in them. I joined the nzei a few years ago after I heard a different perspective on it. I was getting the benefits of the collective without paying my bit, they are very good and are quickly able to answer questions.

    here are my thoughts on the downsides of unions.
    1. Cost, if yoou are living week to week its hard to justify the cost, even though the long term benefits outway this.
    2. Who is my union?, why are there so many, how do I find out who my union is.
    3. How do I join, what are the costs and benefits and can I join without my boss knowing.

    maybe there could be a website with all this, or maybe the nzei or epmu could have sub unions to take retail, labourers, farmworkers etc.

    I dont think its as simple as picking up the phone, you ned to know who you are contactin. Do most unions use modern media to contact prospective employees.

    • Tracey 5.1

      It used to be easier to get that info coaster. The lack of immediate ease finding those answers is the result of the erosion of unions over the last thirty years

        • Tracey

          are you saying that unions have the same workplace access they used to? cos that was my real point.

          my low income aquaintances dont usually have easy access to the internet. not saying they couldn’t fi nd out just that you used to have leaflets and forms u ckd complete on the bhs going home.

          • Te Reo Putake

            Fair point, Tracey. Generally, unions don’t have the resources to get into small workplaces, so unless the firm has, say, 10 workers at a branch, or perhaps 50 nationwide, there is not likely to be a presence. Access has tightened under the Tories, but where there is a collective agreement, access is usually a clause in the agreement.

            Websites, social media, freephones etc are the primary point of contact for many union members these days.

            • adam

              When I worked in Aussie, to get around reactionary laws – we would get people to join our sports club or social club. Our sports club/social club could and did cover many more workplaces that way – we also had a membership who directed us to go into the small workplaces. IE: the workplaces with large membership effectively subsidised the small workplaces – because they understood, the small workplaces are were all the really nasty stuff, happens.

  6. whateva next? 6

    This is unbelievable, if ministers, and Rennie etc. were held to the same account (and the same proportion of their wages docked) even they would join a union!!! thanks to the union, justice has been done.

    I am even more concerned about workers who are in effect stopped from joining a union, being asked at interview (of a job they undoubtedly need to pay rent etc, so power imbalance), are you thinking of joining a union??……….I cannot believe we have come to this, how do those people sleep at night?
    How would we be if the care workers, bin men, factory workers, health workers, shop workers, couriers, petrol pump attendants etc all walked out of their jobs tomorrow???

    How would it be if Key and his cohorts stayed at home for a day?????????????
    It is them that should be told,
    “If you don’t like it, there’s someone outside who will do the job…”

  7. fambo 7

    Tsk tsk – that’s two similar high profile cases in Masterton. The Wairarapa electorate (which goes all the way from southern Hawkes Bay to the south coast) gave National candidate Alastair Scott a real easy ride into Parliament, despite all the hard work of Labour candidate Kieran McAnulty. Previous National MP for Wairarapa John Hayes enjoyed similar support with no great effort on his part.

    • tc 7.1

      You could whack a blue ribbon on a donkey and it’d take out the wairarapa seat it’s sock puppet central.

  8. Atiawa 8

    Before deciding that you need to join a union, find out if your workmates would also want to join. The key to unionism is collectivism and unless 60+% of your fellow workers are interested and of the same mind about wanting to be treated better by their employer you will likely end up disappointed by the outcome you hoped to achieve.
    Strength is in numbers. When one of you is knocking on the bosses door demanding a better deal while the others are sitting back waiting for the outcome, nothing will be achieved. When ten out of the 15 workers knock on his/her door together, you get the bosses attention real fast.

  9. Once was Tim 9

    @adam – it is (a great article). What impresses me is Mike Treen’s awareness of what is actually going on around Nu Zull – in partic with low paid workers, AND the fact that he hasn’t bought into all that ‘bloody immigrants coming here taking all our jobs’ routine.
    That said, it seems to me that there are a number of employers who’re buying into it from an employers perspective – i.e. looking at ways of ripping employees. They need to be named and shamed.
    As we know …. certain practices have been adopted by employers in places like service stations; restaurants, the building industry, and some horticultural enterprises – guess what – major employers of the immigrant/student-on-a-study-visa/refugee.
    I’m thankful that MoBIE is now starting to take a tiny bit of an interest because until recently they’ve been AWOL – and my suspicions are that this was by design (just as long as the Joyce disciples who love the buggers’ muddle that constitutes MoBIE kept it all under the radar. Unfortunately, their greed got the better of them).
    Old story – not much happens until it becomes an embarrassment. Let the gubbamint of the Key master of the Universe be under no illusion that the Chinese, and the Indians are aware (having had Indian students beat up in Melbourne, others royally ripped – promised the world and had very little delivered)
    I haven’t forgotten the (now three) complaints to the old Labour Department (now under the Bugger’s Muddle). I am disappointed that there are various legal firms (who purport to represent minorities) that have been complicit. AND I MEAN BIG fucking diapoointement – but never mind ….. they haven’t gone unnoticed by Modi-ites or his opposition both – not sure about the Chinese).

    JUST as bad as the deduction of loss from wages by the unscrupulous is the practice of ‘trialing employees’ whereby someone (such as a waiter) is tried out (such as by the TxJ Courtenay Place) restaurant to ‘just see if they are suitable. (Incidentally, a complaint with the old Labour Dept which mysteriously got lost – but not by me in all its detail.) At the end of the week, they even have the cheek to say “Oh…. we’re not really sure but we’ll give you the opportunity of another week). The sensible gave up without pay (thinking this to be normal) and resorted to prostitution.

    Like I said…..thankfully parts of MoBIE are beginning to get real

    • Once was Tim 9.1

      oh btw ….. we treat out immigrants/international students/refugees like shit even if trying to emulate things they’re often used to, and with the disadvantage of our language and culture being foreign to them – then we are primed (under the neo-lib agenda) to treat OUR OWN by the same measure.
      There’s now an attitude that’s become prevalent amongst employers that people should be grateful for employment. How fucking SICK is that! Especially considering their employees generate the good-will (they’ll try to take advantage of when and if they they sell their bizznuss); they’re the face of (buzzword alert) their ‘Enterprise) ….. etc., etc…… etc.

      It’s not that hard to understand really. IF you’re a bizznuss that can ONLY survive by paying you employees slave-labour rates and treating them as such – then you’re ekshully NOT fucking viable. 9 times out of ten, my bet is that you simply want to ensure you’ve got the latest Beamer (that you can’t ekshully drive that well), and that you can kick the can down the road a bit further by exploiting a fellow human-being.

      /endrave ….. but unfortunately there are some (WITH MINORITY CREDS) and who I imagine have trad Labour values – or rather purport to have – who SHOULD FUCKING KNOW BETTER. Oh for the change of gubbamint – if I’m still around, the record stands – given the TOTAL shit they’ve caused for some, hardship I’ll fucking bet they’ve NEVER considered (despite their little jaunts to India for a few days enabling them to become ‘experts’ and the hectoring and lecturing they now dish out from time to time) – I’ve not forgotten – and my dick is bigger than their strap-on

  10. Philip Ferguson 10

    With more and more work becoming precarious – welcome to the ‘superiority of market forces’, eh? – these stories are likely to multiply.

    One disagreement with the author, however. Often even lefties use the term ‘exploitation’ to refer to the very worst employment situations. In fact, exploitation is better understood as people being paid less than the value their labour-power produces. Workers as a class are exploited by the employers as a class.

    Workers who have very good conditions are still exploited. In fact, they may be creating more value and being paid relatively less of it than those working in really shitty conditions.

    I try to deal with these issues in plain English here:
    What is exploitation?: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/what-is-exploitation/
    How capitalism works – and why it doesn’t (written ten yard ago for a union training day): https://rdln.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/how-capitalism-works-–-and-doesn’t-work/


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