This morning the National Distribution Union put out a statement saying the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, had refused to attend an executive meeting on the absurd grounds that Telecom lines engineers belonging to a different union, the EPMU, had recently been on strike.
In Question Time today Sue Bradford asked whether the Minister’s refusal to meet with unions while others are taking industrial action would be extended to businesses. Wilkinson’s fill-in, Wayne Mapp, batted the question away, claiming it was merely a “clash of commitments” that prevented her from meeting with the NDU.
Turns out he wasn’t telling the truth. The NDU has released a recording of a phone message left by a Ministerial staffer which makes it clear Wilkinson was boycotting the NDU for political reasons. She says:
We understand your position but from our point of view the risk is still too high and it’s not appropriate for the minister to be involved in something like this.
I know that you’ve said to me that the strike action was carried out yesterday and that it is completed but we just don’t think that we can be guaranteed that by anybody… I’m sorry but I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s not appropriate for the Minister to be attending tomorrow at the NDU executive meeting.
Seems pretty clearcut to me. The Minister refused to attend the NDU executive meeting because another union had taken strike action the day before. She knows this position is untenable, especially in light of her refusal to extend the same policy to business. So National covers for her by making up a fake “clash of commitments”.
Here’s a tip for National’s staffers. Don’t leave politically sensitive messages on people’s answerphones. And if you do, make sure you tell your minister before they lie about it in the house.