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Fisking Farrar

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, August 24th, 2009 - 24 comments
Categories: labour, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

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.

Farrar concludes:

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.

24 comments on “Fisking Farrar”

  1. Daveo 1

    Lowly bank auditor Tim Ellis has been running this line hard over at Red Alert, so no surprise to see Farrar jumping in with it this morning. They’ll be getting their lines from the same source.

    My favourite bit of the Farrar piece was where he says:

    One of the reasons I am not a Labour fan, is the parliamentary wing’s role as lobbyists for their union supporters.

    Yeah David, that’s why you don’t like Labour. FFS. Even his throwaway remarks are dishonest.

  2. principessa 2

    I laughed hard when he said that Businesses/Employers/Groups (like the EMA?) don’t join the National Party as a collective. No doubt they donate collectively though aye?- through the notorious Waitemata Trust!

    • Craig Glen Eden 2.1

      A mate of mine is a CEO of a company, he went to a briefing by the EMA a while ago he said they did everything but hand round National Party membership forms.

      He told me that apparently Darian Fenton is was apparently the evil one that they should all watch out for. By the time it had finished he couldn’t wait to get out.

      So lets not pretend that the bosses don’t have unions and that the National party is not their political wing. I do however accept that just because some one is a boss that this does not make them a National voter as is the case with my friend.

      Farrar is just stupid I am sorry, if he wants to debate policy fine but some of us have been a round a bit longer than the blogging kid to believe his shiiiit!

  3. Derek 3

    If I was Farrar I wouldn’t use National’s relationship with Carter Holt Harvey as an example.

    Muldoon and Bolger’s connivance in passing regulations to cut a wage rise at Kinleith led to a bitter 80-day strike and lockout, with National backing CHH all the way. Eventually the workers won, but not without a massive, crippling strike.

    National is the party of the bosses. Always has been, always will be. Farrar knows this too, he just wraps it up in the mythology of Hayek and Friedman so he can sleep easier at night.

  4. Great post Eddie, DPF forgot to engage the brain before posting.

  5. randal 5

    this is just [Deleted] doing post modern politics.
    red queen stuff.
    it is what we say it is.
    now that the pm is going to give INSTRUCTIONS to the police over smacking do you think he is going to stop there?

  6. ghostwhowalks 6

    I wonder if they require a law change as it seems that they wont be independent contractors when all their work comes via Telecoms middlemans call centre and they give thedetails of when and how the work is done

    I seem to remember a debacle when Telecom had another middleman let contracts to do horizontal drilling for fibre optic cabling in suburban streets, they pulled the plug and the contractors were left high and dry with expensive equipment.

    • Mach1 6.1

      I seem to remember a debacle when Telecom had another middleman let contracts to do horizontal drilling for fibre optic cabling in suburban streets, they pulled the plug and the contractors were left high and dry with expensive equipment.

      East coast bays and then there were the ex AEPB workers who were sold a pup.

  7. It would have been appropriate to at least acknowledge there is a clear conflict of interest here. Eddie’s had plenty of time to highlight National’s inconsistencies but fails to acknowledge the most obvious of the issues – that Labour’s President (??) is the person leading the EPMU charge.

    Put it this way, I can only imagine the howl of outrage were the roles reversed.

    Having said that, Telecom deserve everything they get for this. In an environment where businesses rightly need to consider the triple and even quadruple bottom line, stunts like this really give business a bad name.

    • Eddie 7.1

      That’s because it’s not relevant. Andrew Little doesn’t run Labour’s policy, his job as president is to act as chairman of the board for the party organisation. He does that in a private capacity, not as an advocate for the EPMU.

      Farrar should know that, he lost a court case on this very issue.

      [I should also point out that in a democratic union it’s not a case of “a person leading the charge” on an issue. It’s the workers who lead the charge, and they decide that democratically. The role of paid union officials is to represent them and advocate for them.]

  8. Leon Klarkski 8

    so they formed a political party to represent the interests of labour in Parliament.

    The Labour Party doesn’t represent the interests of the workers. The workers are us tax payers, over-taxed to support the lifestyle choices of Labour’s actual constituency; the beneficiaries and the criminals.

    The role of paid union officials is to represent them and advocate for them.

    How far the theoretical diverges from the actual. In actuality, Union officials represent a hard-Left Marxist agenda, despite the fact that such is not in their membership’s interests.

    • Bright Red 8.1

      yeah Leon, you nutbar – Andrew Little, described by business as a moderate, is a closet Marxist and only criminals and beneficiaries vote Labour, which is why the highest votes for Labour came from Wellington Central and Rongotai, both low crime and high employment areas.

      Why don’t you just say it? you mean you think only people with brown skin vote Labour. Scratch a tory, get a bigot.

    • Craig Glen Eden 8.2

      What a load of shit Leon!

      You don’t deserve any response that is in any more depth however just so you can be a little better informed. I work for a Union for 8 years after the National party cut our wages and conditions in the public health system. Who stood up to the then National Government and its draconian employment contracts act and the bosses, it certainly was people like you buddy it was the union.

      In case you haven’t noticed under National you are still paying Taxes for the people you so obviously despise.If you don’t like it you can always leave.

  9. Gee, David, it is called the “Labour” Party for a reason.

    It was formed to represent the interests of organised labour. Although, it hasn’t always done such a great job in recent decades, most of its activists and many of its parliamentarians do precisely that.

    Represent the interests of organised labour. Despite Mssrs. Edward’s and Trotter’s comments, the modern Labour party, does pay more than lip-service to this ideal.

  10. QoT 10

    I’m really failing to find the words to describe my reaction to this. It’s a kind of combination of headdesking, facepalming and monitorpunching.

  11. Trevor Mallard 11

    While it is hardly worth reponding to the penguin when he wears his Nat party hat in this way I think I should put on the record that I see no need to apologise for working with a union to try and save some of their members jobs. We do it all the time – not often as publicly as this.

    We are working on a bill which will help in this area – hope to have something out for comment over the next three weeks or so.

  12. Only Pengos friends can call him that Mr M.
    And National is called National for a reason QoT. Can’t imagine what it is though, shouldn’t have headdesked just before.

    • QoT 12.1

      … I’m sure this made sense in your head, Conor, but d@mned if I can see the relation to my comment.

  13. The Voice of Reason 13

    Just came back from attending two Telecom workers’ protests. Both were well supported by the public, lots of petitions signed, lots of money raised. The workers seemed in good heart, even the older ones who have been through this bogus restructuring many times before.

    My favotite sign was Honk if you Hate Telecom. That got a fantastic response from motorists. The Progressive blue was won because the loss of public sympathy lead to a loss of market share and eventually knackered the company. Apparently Kiwi’s don’t like Aussies coming here and trying to drive our wages down. Funny that. Where do VisionScream come from again?

    Farrar is just a tool of the bosses and not that sharp a tool either.

  14. lprent 14

    Ummm. Whatever pills dpf is on sound rather interesting. I want to write some science fiction at some stage. I should locate a supply before they’re illegal.

    Drugs strong enough to imagine a universe that the Labour party is not interested in the labour movement could prove useful. Kind of like imagining merchant bankers who don’t asset strip or wingnuts with logical arguments.

  15. Putting aside the childish attacks on David.
    I fully supoort the staff affected, EPMU, labour and the Standard in its campaign to publicise this disgusting assault by Telecom and Visionstream.

    It offends me as a resident of this country that a large corporate would attempt this.
    These workers are being screwed royally. This is not a quality control issue and is nothing more than an attempt to break a collective agreement that helps to keep our phones working.
    Right now there are families in the town I live in that are facing their worst nightmares.
    Our phones went out at around 8.30 this morning. The overseas callcentre has done a great job setting up diversions for those of us who asked and told us that our phones would be out until 7p.m on Thursday. I am writing this because a team of technicians got the far north back up and running as fast as they could despite the fact that come next friday they are out of work. I cannot say I would have been working in a professional manner today if I had been them.

    Come next friday who is going to fix faults in the Far North?

    Oh, and take me off moderation now will you Lynn. How on earth can my conversion to the dark side be completed if I am still being treated like the red headed stepchild?

  16. Batholomew Winstanley the III 16

    “I don’t know what it is about the word “Labour’ that the right finds so hard to understand.”

    That would be relevance i.e. the relevance of Labour to the majority of New Zealand voters.

    Quite simple really lads.

    Ball not the man eh.

  17. Daveo 17

    David Farrar is in the pay of Telecom. Explains a lot.

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2009/05/qs_about_xt_mobile_network.html

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