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Unionised workers win pay rises, others get cuts

Written By: - Date published: 8:33 am, February 3rd, 2010 - 70 comments
Categories: Unions, wages - Tags:

The latest round of the Labour Cost Index is out and it shows that the nation’s 400,000 union members are the workers holding their ground as businesses try to cut wage costs to preserve their profit margins:

Inflation was 2% this year. If you didn’t get a pay rise to match or beat that, your standard of living fell.

75% of non-union workers saw their real pay packet fall. 75% of union members won real increases to their pay. And I don’t see any businesses closing down because they gave their workers inflation-matching rises.

It’s simple. If you want better pay and a better standard of living for your family, join your union (find your union here). For the same price as one beer per week, your union delivers help in employment disputes, better conditions, and bigger pay rises – year after year after year.

70 comments on “Unionised workers win pay rises, others get cuts ”

  1. IrishBill 1

    Not even a token argument from our resident right-wingers? I must say I’m immensely disappointed.

  2. snoozer 2

    hard to argue with those numbers.

    If your industry has a union (and nearly all do) and you don’t join, you’re really a sucker.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    My industry has no union.

    • IrishBill 3.1

      Which industry is that?

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        Computer programmer, IT.

        • IrishBill

          Then your union ins the EPMU. Their number is 0800 1 UNION.

          • Lanthanide

            EPMU did not come up on that swanky unionisation site that you linked to.

            • felix

              Select “IT Worker” and “Any Industry”.

              It’s the second union in the results.

              • Lanthanide

                Well their website is a bit stupid then.

              • felix

                Says the IT pro who either can’t use a drop-down menu or can’t read.

              • Lanthanide

                Excuse me, I *did* use the dropdown menu to select the specific job and industry that best describes my position.

                Am I supposed to think “oh, I should be *less specific* so that this website can give me the correct answers”? How am I supposed to know that choosing different ways to describe the same position will give different results? The whole reason I am using this website is for it to inform me, someone who has no clues about unions, about the unions that are applicable to my situation.

                Really they should have the categories set up so that if you choose a type of profession that is a specialised subset of a broader profession, that it displays unions first for the specialised profession, and then displays any other unions for the broader profession that weren’t already displayed in the first group.

              • felix

                Just saying it wasn’t hard to figure out.

                Don’t get bent about it.

              • Lanthanide

                There shouldn’t be anything to “figure out”.

              • felix

                As I experienced it there wasn’t really. YMMV. Good for you.

        • Richard

          What industry do you actually work in?

          What are you writing computer programs about?

  4. djp 4

    How much are union fees?

    • IrishBill 4.1

      Didn’t you read the article? The price of a beer per week. Typically they range from $4 to $10 depending on the union.

      • djp 4.1.1

        I didn’t see an article.

        so $10 per week, say $500 a year, thats getting close to 2% of a $30,000 dollar wage (before tax).

        • IrishBill

          Nobody on $30K is paying a $10 union fee. Those that do would include doctors, some senior teachers and airline pilots.

          And I meant post not article. My apologies.

          • djp

            oh ok, so the union fees tend to scale with the profession wages?

            another thing to factor is the cost of any strike action (you dont get paid while on strike right?)

            I guess it is up to each individual to weigh the pros and cons for his/her situation.. I am in IT like Lanthanide and have never considered unions

            • IrishBill

              Some unions scale fees, others charge a flat rate. The cost of strike action is minimal because very few negotiations involve industrial action (probably less than 1%) and often industrial action is structured to cause disruption or make a symbolic point without costing union members money.

              The other aspect of strike action is unions tend to get wage increases year on year and it is extremely rare for strike action on the same site two agreements in a row.

              Most unions will also provide hardship payments for workers who take significant strike action.

              edit: IT has a really low unionisation rate because it traditionally has been reasonably secure and high-paying. You only have to look at the fact Telecom is looking at outsourcing 400-1500 IT jobs to realise that those days are drawing to a close. I would strongly recommend anyone in IT start thinking about getting organised.

        • snoozer

          djp. $10 is the airline pilots etc. Unite’s dues are 1% of your wage up to $5 a week. PSA is $3.55 a week for someone on $30K.

          Those come $260 and $184 a year, 0.9% and 0.6% of gross wages

          Now, consider this, are you better off taking a pay cut with 0% or paying less than 1% to get an increase of at least inflation (ie 2%)?

          • snoozer

            not to mention all the other benefits of union membership

            • indiana

              like having your union fees donated to a political party?

              • IrishBill

                Most unions aren’t affiliated with political parties and those that are provide you with the option of not having any of your membership fee put to affiliation fees.

              • lukas

                “Most unions aren’t affiliated with political parties”

                Come now, we all know that is not true. That is like saying the BRT is not politically affiliated

              • Bright Red

                No lukas. Affliation is a formal process. It is a democratic decision made the membership of unions. If a union’s members choose to affliate with Labour that means the union gives some money (I think it’s about a $1 per member typically) to the party, and get a seat on the Affliates’ Council.

                Most unions are not affliated. Nor is the BRT affliated to National, they are on the same side or most issues, so I guess you could call them allied.

                You could check this out by going to their websites if you want to be informed. Or you just stop making silly assumptions.

  5. IrishBill 5

    Do you even understand what affiliating means?

  6. Here it is

    Oops in response to LuKKKKas’s request if anyone had seen Key’s education propaganda brochure.

  7. The Voice of Reason 7

    Top post, Marty.

    It must be galling for the righties to look at the graph and realize that unions have done more to close the wage gap with Oz than anything this vacuous government or its favourite economic zombie Don Brash could ever do.

    I feel a Billy Bragg song coming on …

  8. Brett 8

    How many union members are in the public service 90-95%?
    Its a hell of a lot easier to go on strike and demand money when the taxpayers footing the bill.
    As you know in NZ the majority of employers are small business owners who are probably struggling to stay afloat as it is.

    • Bright Red 8.1

      Most union members are working in the private sector.

      ”m not sure of the numbers for public sector but last I heard private sector was about 12%, that means public sector would be something around 60% – most of that is teachers, nurses, doctors.

      In the core public service its only about a third, nothing like 90-95%. Only teachers, nurses, doctors are that highly unionised.

  9. In my work days I was a local Union chairperson .When the voluntary union bill was passed most left the union. However these non- unionist were the first in line to gather the benifits won by the union.It angered me then and it still does . Its about time we demanded that benifits gained for workers by their union should be for union members only.
    Its also time for us all to expose employers that only employ workers
    on condition they do not join a union. Yes ! it still goes on especially in the small country towns. The non unionist who takes the benifits of the uionists fight are the real bludgers of society ,they need to be exposed asuch.

    • indiana 9.1

      “Its about time we demanded that benifits gained for workers by their union should be for union members only.”

      I agree. Does this mean an employer can have a collective agreement along aside individual agreements for jobs covered by the collective agreement? Currently we cannot. So unless this legislation is brought in, your stuck with “The non unionist who takes the benifits of the uionists fight are the real bludgers of society”

      • IrishBill 9.1.1

        You don’t even know the law.

        • indiana

          I am more than happy to concede where I am wrong…so if I have it wrong just let me know.

          My understanding is that if I employ carpet cleaners on a collective employment agreement, negotiated with the union. I cannot legally hire another carpet cleaner on different terms and conditions. I can put that person on an individual agreement, but their terms and conditions must mirror that of the collective.

          • IrishBill

            Nope. You can have individual agreements that are completely different to those of the collective agreement. It happens quite frequently.

            What you can’t do is use the terms of an individual agreement to induce someone to leave the union or reduce their terms and conditions if they do join.

            Many union members negotiate individual terms and conditions above the collective agreement because the collective is minimum rate document.

            Of course for the first thirty days of employment people have full access to the collective agreement but if they don’t join the union after that then they have to negotiate an individual agreement.

            • the pinkpostman

              However the fact remains that it is not only wages that Unions negotiate.Work conditions ,safety , and protective clothing ect are all Union success programmes . Many if not all were fought tooth and nail for.. Still the non union member enjoyed all these hard earned benifits. Once again non unionist are the biggest bludgers around. If a person has a religious objection then they should just pay their fee or make their fee to a charitable organisation.

  10. indiana 10

    “Of course for the first thirty days of employment people have full access to the collective agreement but if they don’t join the union after that then they have to negotiate an individual agreement.”

    I think that is the point I was making. I don’t think I can present a new employee with 2 options, a collective contract and an individual contract, where the pay rate for the individual may vary from the collective for exactly the same job. I agree fully with your second paragraph. After 30 days if a person fails to join a union how can an employer benefit by negotiating an individual agreement that has better terms and conditions than the collective – they would be falling into the trap of offering a contract to lure people away from the union. And I doubt that the employee would want to negotiate anything less than the collective terms and conditions.

    • IrishBill 10.1

      You can because you can offer rates over the collective. Being on an individual agreement doesn’t mean a worker can’t be a union member so it’s not an inducement to leave the union.

    • The Voice of Reason 10.2

      You can offer both an individual agreement and a collective agreement in that first 30 days, but the employee is covered by the collective during that time.

      Now I reckon, between me and Irish, you just got 300 bones worth of IR advice. Care to hit the Donate button at the top of the page? The difference for union members is they can ring an 0800 number and get that advice, plus other benefits including legal representation, paid on a subscription basis and all for for a weekly fee lower than the price of a jug of the amber nectar.

      How cool is that?

      • indiana 10.2.1

        Yeah thats pretty cool, but I rarely see individual contracts being negotiated with union representation. Equally it is rare to see unions fund disputes on behalf of individuals.

        • The Voice of Reason

          Well, it’s hardly likely that unions would negotiate an individual contract, they’re all about collective negotiation. Hard to have a union of one.

          I’m not sure what you mean about funding individual disputes, but unions regularly take court cases on behalf of individual members over unfair treatment, ACC claims, wage arrears and the like. Tend to win a lot, too.

  11. There is obviously a genuine knowledge deficit here among some reasonably articulate people about being a union member. Not surprising after a generation and a half have experienced the wide promotion of the individualist world view. People take on all manner of personal ‘challenges’ these days, sky diving, extreme sports, ‘heroically’ survive on minimum wages etc. How about a new challenge-IT guys in nerdy glasses inclusive, join your appropriate union!

  12. mike 12

    As I already posted here last year. Our waged staff got 2.5% last year and it only cost 7 full-time (unionised) staff their jobs.
    Well done EPMU!

    • IrishBill 12.1

      I don’t believe for a second that your company wouldn’t have made those redundancies if there had been no pay rise. I imagine you’re looking over your own shoulder though as you appear to only comment outside of work hours nowadays.

      • mike 12.1.1

        No Irish the fact is our new web marshal software blocks the standard due to ” violence/obsenities” beats me how I can still browse WOBH and KB ???
        Thanks for noticing though 🙂

    • The Voice of Reason 12.2

      If the salaries of 7 staff were needed to compensate for an increase of only 2.5%, then you must have a shitload of unionised staff. 100? 200? If your company is that big you’ve probably got an MD or CEO, maybe even a board of directors. I’d be looking for signs of incompetence, greed or mismanagement there first, rather than blaming the union.

      Of course, it could just be your fault.

  13. dave 13

    while I am supportive of unions and would not hesitate to join a union, it is not correct to state that unions are not affiliated with political parties. PSA union reps were quite upfront and overt in union meetings in 2005 and 2008 that members should vote Labour. Not one rep recommended that National or parties to the Right of the political spectrum should be considered

    • BLiP 13.1

      The reps, obviously, had read, understood, considered, checked and discussed the policy and were advising members based on what was in the best interests of the members’ short and long term interests. Sound advice as it turns out, and all part of the service.

    • Marty G 13.2

      dave. the PSA is not affiliated to the Labour Party. Affiliation is a formal status and the PSA chooses not to have it because of its unique relationship with the government of the day..

      In fact, one of the sticking points over the proposed SWFU, PSA amalgamation was SWFU’s affiliation.

  14. big bruv 14

    How did I miss this thread?

    Anyway, why would anybody want see their wages docked every week and that money be siphoned off into some union slush fund?

    Why would any worker want to give away their own negotiating rights to somebody who has no idea what you are worth as an employee?

    Do workers have any say in how their union dues are spent?, some might not the idea of having their money used to promote the labour party.

    • IrishBill 14.1

      Of course workers have a say in how their dues are spent. Unions are incorporated societies that are owned and governed by their members.

  15. big bruv 15


    So if I was to join a union and say that I did not want my fees used to support the Labour party in any way the union would agree?

  16. big bruv 16


    Can you believe that so many Kiwis think the educated elite of the left are arrogant tossers?
    I wonder where they get that idea from.

    I must admit, I would never again join a union, I hate them with a passion, I see them as nothing more than parasites stealing union dues from (mostly) hard working Kiwis.

    Interesting that you say joining a union is a choice, of course if you had your way we would go back to the bad old days of compulsory unionism.

    • lprent 16.1

      bb: You really do say some really really stupid things.

      What makes you think that I want to go back to compulsory unionism? Are you a mind-reader or just a numbskull who prefers to believe stereotypes rather than face reality. I suspect you are the latter rather than the former because it is clear that you cannot see inside my head.

      I don’t want to have compulsory unionism, and I never did. However, unlike your youthful and intellectually challenged self, I actually saw the difficulties involved in the system prior to the end of it from the view of management.

      Competent unions are pretty good things for competent managers to have around. They provide a channel for both the genuine problem cases and the nutbars in your workforce to get representation. Both need hand-holding. They allow for collective agreements where the main employment issues get thrashed out.

      However unions get to be a pain when they compete for customers using demarcation systems rather than persuasion.

      Basically I suspect as per normal you have absolutely no actual ideas in the topic you’re discussing.. All you seem to ever do is use your moronic stereotypes and don’t bother to use your brains…

      Incidentally I’m arrogant (and always have been) because I’m extremely competent at almost everything I do. The education was just something I added on top of that. It is a pity that you ignored that opportunity when you had it. Basically you look rather like a bit of a prat looking for some crap to fall into.

      Jez I’m in a bad mood today…. And bb doesn’t help. It was being up half of the night working on the new site setup.

      • big bruv 16.1.1


        I am constantly amazed at how you become so vicious when anybody dares question your view of the world, thank god the people of NZ tossed your lot out when they finally came to their senses.

        How I wish I was youthful, sadly those days are past, but like you I well remember when we all had to belong to the union, in my apprentice days I had some union thug storm into my place of work and interrogate me about why I had not yet joined the union, I told him that I was not interested as I was very well looked after by my employer. (who remains to this day one of my very best friends despite his Labour party membership).

        Once this moron (Incidentally, were you ever a union rep in Wellington back int he early 80’s?) had worked out that I was telling him in a very nice way that I was not interested in joining his union he proceeded to stab his finger into my chest and tell me “you do not have a choice”, now given that I was an apprentice butcher at this stage and had on my hips two or three razor sharpe knives I thought that this idiot was either incredibly thick (are you sure you were not a union rep?) or incredibly brave, anyway, it was only the timely intervention of by boss that calmed things down a bit.

        I have never forgotten that day or the thug from the union, to me they will always remain nothing more than parasites stealing money from hard working Kiwis.

        As for your admitted arrogance, well, at least you are honest about one thing, it is a pity that that level of arrogance is not matched by your ability, but then I find that with a lot of people who have a well hidden inferiority complex.

        • lprent

          Yeah yeah, let me translate that for you – returning your earlier mind-read / stereotyping ‘favour’.

          So what you’re saying is that you’ve never bothered to look at the good things that unions do. The reason for this is because you didn’t like a union rep when you were young.

          You haven’t bothered to use that thing you call a brain to think about the issues. Have you ever considered why unions managed to survive after the compulsory unionism was removed. Of course you bloody haven’t. That would involve effort.

          You just come across as both lazy and rather dull. You don’t bother thinking about issues – you just react to them. Sounds pretty damn pathetic to me. You’re also stupid enough to try to apply your prejudices to others (like me) based on assumption rather than evidence. That is just mind-blowingly stupid. You’re probably stupid enough to believe in absolute truths*

          BTW: I’ve never been a member of a union. Just on the other side of the table a few times.

          Update: opps – I forgot Act is a faith-based party following a creed despite all evidence to the contrary – sorry for attacking your religion. You do believe in absolute truths…..

  17. This BB wimp is very similar to the kind of “person’ that the Dairy Workers Union encountered on the margins of the Open Country Cheese Waharoa lockout (16.9-22.10.09), people such as head scab Leon Fowler from OCD Awarua site, and 13 other scabs from OCD Wanganui, that I won’t name here. Suffice it to say these semi articulate would be bullies are rather unpleasant types.

    BB doesn’t want to join a union-good!

    • big bruv 17.1

      Hang on Iprent

      I think I might have found the 1980’s union thug.

      The post bashed out by Tiger Mountain has all the hallmarks of an intellectually challenged union moron.

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