by Don Franks

For reasons known only to themselves, Unions Wellington have chosen to pitch their election message at the level of a slow-witted preschooler.Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 8.16.50 PM

The UW Voters Guide advises: “This election its important to think about your rights at work when you cast your ballot.”\

“Here’s how the parties stack up on major issues: a living wage, industry agreements to control rogue employers, and a change of government!”

Following that text is a little coloured diagram depicting categories Living wage, Industry agreements, Change the government. Labour and the Greens get a tick for each box. The Maori Party get two ticks, NZ First one, Top and National none.

Or, as a friend of mine put it -“it’s simple really. Labour good, Greens good, NZFirst half good, workers stupid”.

Indeed. Can you really imagine advising a workmate: “Look, you know, this election its important to think about your rights at work when you cast your ballot.”

No shit. My rights at work, eh? D’you imagine I don’t consider my own interests when the election comes round?”

My rights at work? Yes, I’ve thought about them at election time, and during the years in between.

I’ve thought about my rights at work since I first punched a clock card in the 1960s. If you want to know what I think about my rights at work I’ll tell you. They’ve reduced mate, year by year. Under Labour and National both.

Since I began working,unions have had their teeth pulled. Labour’s 1987 Labour Relations Act and National’s Employment Contracts Act have restricted workers’ right to strike and organise, to the extent that only a very small range of industrial action is legal.

I personally recall going on strike against sexual harassment, against victimisation of unionists, in defence of workmates who’d been wrongly sacked, in support of workers in other factories and workers in other countries and against nuclear warships. All illegal today, liable for fines or even imprisonment if you defied the law. Which we don’t, we’ve got out of the habit.

Why did we do that?

Several reasons.

There’s fewer jobs today. I mean proper jobs, not six month contracts.

Jobs where your hours were guaranteed, with penal rates for overtime. Penal rates? That means time-and-a-half or double time for working extra anti-social hours. I’m not surprised you never heard of it. Anyway, there’s not so many jobs and the bosses have more power. These days you need to have a CV, you have to submit to drug tests, you have to sign all sorts of stuff which we’d never heard of.

Good old days? Nah, not really. Even with more rights, we were still behind the eight ball, the bosses still owned the workplaces, could shut them down whenever they liked, their private property see. And did any politican of any stripe ever challenge the bosses’ right to pocket all the wealth our work made? Ha ha. Still, no doubt , we could hold our head upon a bit more back then I reckon.

But it’s not just economic changes thats dragged us down. I have to say, plenty of union officials helped chip away at our workers’ rights. Yes, I mean that.


By uncritically, year after year, keep telling us the Labour Party were our friend and we should have faith in them. Never oppose them in any way, not over anything. Even after all the shitty things they did like GST – a tax on the poor and low paid. Labour’s tax.

So anyway mate, yes, thank you I have thought about my rights at work, every election since I’ve been an adult.

And you know what? Every single election some bunch of Labour Party happy union officials would produce some bit of dumbed down crap for our political edification, just like this thing you’re offering me. Patronising little pamphlets, sometimes with cartoons on them, always essentially the same message – trust in Labour or the big bad Nats will dong you.

Well sometimes they did, and sometimes it was Labour that donged us, like in the eighties when all the jobs went west. Generational unemployment that we’ve never recovered from. Yes, I’ve thought seriously about my rights at work.

It’s probably about time you pricks did too.

Further reading
Redline articles on the Labour Party 
The Jacinda Files (1) 

  1. Daphna Whitmore says:

    I just watched the first election debate and right at the end there was discussion on Fair Pay/Pay Equity claim negotiations.

    Hosking: “Will you go back to seeing national strikes in an industry”
    Ardern: “No we will not”
    Hosking: “Is that a rock solid”
    Ardern: “Yes. No we will not”. “It’s antiquated, it’s last generation, it is not going to happen on my watch”

    Got that folks: restrictions on strikes are not going to be lifted under Labour.
    Workers mobilising, organising in large numbers is antiquated. They will have to talk nicely and say “please Sir (or Ma’am), please may I have some more”.

  2. Don Franks says:

    Yet I bet there will be some clown out there comparing her to Rose Luxemberg