I don’t know what it is about the word “Labour” that the right finds so hard to understand.
David Farrar has a piece up today attacking the Labour Party for backing the Telecom lines engineers, who are members of the EPMU. The crux of his argument is that Labour should keep politics out of industrial relations, like National does. The dishonesty of that argument should be apparent immediately, but let’s go through it step by step:
First, Farrar argues:
it is very very rare in the case of a private sector industrial dispute that National will actually take sides. National rightly tends to think that is a matter for the employer and union to resolve.
Really, David? We don’t need to go back as far as the National Government’s fascistic regulations in the 1951 waterfront dispute to find examples of the Nats backing the bosses.
The last time major a industrial dispute of this size broke out would probably be the Progressive Enterprises lockout of 2006. Here’s what National said at the time, in a press release entitled “Unions drag everyone down“:
“A policy that allows a small minority of a company’s workforce to threaten the livelihood of the majority is absolute madness, but that’s exactly what’s happening under Labour…
He is commenting on the National Distribution Union strike of 500 supermarket shelf stockers employed by Progressive Enterprises, which has said the employment of its 17,500 non-striking workers is at risk as a result of this industrial action.
Dr Mapp says this is just the latest example of the unions flexing their muscles to enforce Labour’s legislation, which gives them preferential treatment.
Farrar goes on to complain about Labour MPs asking questions in the house relating to the dispute.
Labour have also asked two oral questions on this. They have the right to do so, but could you imagine the outrage if National MPs were getting up in the House urging action on behalf of (say) Carter Holt Harvey in an industrial dispute.
Actually, yes, in opposition National asked questions on behalf of employers quite frequently. In fact last term Anne Tolley asked a series of questions on behalf of Affco, which is owned by the Talley family, to try and get them out of a $1 million contractual obligation to ACC relating to a shooting that occured on work premises. She even issued press releases and did media appearances on the Talleys’ behalf.
I prefer political parties to focus on laws and policies, not to be taking sides in industrial disputes unless it reaches critical levels such as a nationwide strike.
There are three reasons this argument is stupid. Firstly, the hypocrisy. Secondly, the fact this is a nationwide strike and it’s affecting a vital piece of infrastructure. But most importantly, industrial relations isn’t something that happens separately from politics. It is political.
That’s why the Labour Party was formed in the first place. Faced with increasing state repression in the early years of last century, workers realised they couldn’t win all their battles industrially, so they formed a political party to represent the interests of labour in Parliament. In response, the urban business elite, the farmers and the fascist New Zealand Legion formed the National Party to oppose them.
Labour may have lost its way at times, sometimes terribly, but as the political wing of the labour movement one of its most basic roles is to stand up for workers who are being abused and exploited. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see MPs like Clare Curran, Trevor Mallard and Darien Fenton putting the hard questions on Telecom.
Why Farrar has decided to write about this now is beyond me, though I suspect the growing calls for the Government to get involved might just have something to do with it.