Convincing workers not to organise in their own best interests is one of the great successes of right-wing politics. Bryce Edwards looks at some of the issues – The future of the unions
Unions are struggling to survive amid public perceptions that they are irrelevant, backward and belong to the past.
Not sure why a supposed leftie like Edwards buys in to this framing so easily.
The public isn’t necessarily convinced about unions. According to UMR’s 2016 Mood of the Nation report, unions are the second least trusted institution – with only 30 per cent of those surveyed having confidence. This is more than the media (26%), but less than big business (31%), churches (33%), and banks (44%).
So unions are within margin of error of media, big business, and churches? How awful.
Kelly was a talented leader but the hard reality of union health remains grim. The movement she led has been barely holding its own after a catastrophic collapse in the 1990s.
While the economic reforms took their toll, there is no doubt the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 had a massive direct impact.
Yes, the undermining of the unions was a deliberate act, part of the neoliberal gutting of NZ. The political right hate unions because they protect working conditions, and raise wages – even today.
– Do collective agreements give bigger pay rises?
– 2.1 Times More Likely to get a pay rise…
– Public education workers benefit from union membership
– Why the Right wants to deny that unions increase wages
The failure of the union movement to engage with younger workers may be the biggest problem.
Well we agree on that at least. Edwards then goes on to list many successful union campaigns.
The Unite union has successfully organised fast food and other “precarious” groups of workers and managed to not only unionise them, but to negotiate collective agreements which rebuild some of the conditions eroded over the past 25 years.
Their 2005 “Supersize my Pay” campaign mobilised young workers to successfully end youth rates, their 2010 “$15 an hour” campaign helped push a National government to give substantial minimum wage increases every year.
And last year their “End Zero Hours” campaign not only achieved guaranteed hours for workers at the main fast food chains, but also forced the National government to change the law to improve security of employment for all workers.
The Living Wage is another high profile international campaign that has had real success.
That on top of higher pay for members is not bad for organisations that are supposedly “irrelevant, backward and belong to the past”.
Part of union bashing, of course, is bashing the party that represents workers. Here’s a fine specimen – Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion. Wilson basis his rant on Labour “faultlines” over Auckland – do National Party faultlines prove the same?. He then bizarrely concludes –
Actually, there is a point to Labour and it’s a really important one. They’re there to win elections. Labour is the main party of opposition and therefore is likely to be the majority party in any centre-left government. So they have to look credible. They have to be credible.
If they’re not, the whole centre-left suffers. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. Votes for NZ First and the Maori Party are also votes for the possibility of such a government.
Not bad for a party supposedly “sliding to oblivion” you might think. Labour’s Future of Work planning is essential, Labour is leading the way on housing and poverty, Labour will work with The Greens on climate change – while National drags its heals on all of these issues (A surplus of cash and a deficit of concern for people). Like unions, the Labour Party is needed today more than ever.