Archive for the ‘Unions – NZ’ Category

by Don Franks

protest

Concessions by Labour to its coalition partner New Zealand First have further reduced workers’ rights on the job. Legislation will be in the form of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, now a formality to become law. 

The two recent concessions to the bosses, via NZ First, concerned union access to the workplace and the multi-employer collective agreement, or Meca.

Employers have a responsibility to enter into Meca bargaining but will not be compelled to settle an agreement. (more…)

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by Daphna Whitmore

Today, iwi-owned company Go Bus locked out close to 100 bus drivers in Hamilton. The drivers have been in negotiations since March 2017 and want a living wage of $20.55 an hour. Many of the drivers are paid less than $18 an hour, some as low as $17.30, and are struggling. They have rejected a 1.9% pay increase offered by the company.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 2.13.51 PM

First Union members block buses leaving the depot

The drivers belong to First Union and announced a partial strike to start 19 November. It was to be a fare strike with free rides for passengers on Go Bus in Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Otorohanga and Katikati. The company have responded aggressively by locking out the union members hoping to force submission.This is the biggest lockout of First Union members since 2006 when 500 employees were locked out by the supermarket giant Progressive Enterprises.

Go Bus is owned by Tainui and Ngai Tahu iwi, and despite giving lip service to supporting a living wage their companies are hard-nosed profit-driven entities. Ngai Tahu is the wealthiest iwi and the largest corporate land-owner in the South Island. In 2017 their net worth increased by $89m to $1.36b.The second in wealth of the iwi is Waikato-Tainui which has assets of $1.22b. The lockout shows that today’s iwi are capitalist enterprises and bear little resemblance to the iwi of classical Maori society before colonisation. (more…)

Militant (and illegal) strikes by teachers and other school employees in the US won major gains earlier this year; it’s an example worth emulating. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

by Don Franks

“In 2018, we’ll be making the message loud and clear – It’s Time. Time to lead, teach and learn. This means freeing teachers to teach so every child receives the personal attention they need to learn and thrive. It means freeing principals to focus on leading and it means ensuring we have enough teachers by attracting more people to teaching, by respecting them as professionals and paying them properly.

“We currently have a growing teacher shortage crisis already showing itself in our schools, which looks set to worsen with growing student numbers and less (sic) people training to become teachers.

“Our students come to school to learn all the skills and abilities that they’ll need to grow up healthy, happy and productive in the 21st century. Our nation can afford to ensure every child receives the education they need to succeed in life, and for every educator to be trusted and resourced to make that a reality. It’s simply a matter of priorities.

“As we go through negotiations for the Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement this year, we’ll be standing together for our students and for an education system that values, attracts and retains the amazing teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children.”

So says the New Zealand Educational Institute, the union for primary school teachers.  It’s the NZEI union office lead piece on the teachers’ impending pay struggle. 

The  campaign title page carries no target figure, no specific claims argued, no bottom line. Payment is barely mentioned in passing.  NZEI’s “loud clear message” is an abstract empty slogan “Time to lead, teach and learn”.

The original claim of 16% over two years appears further down, inside the document, beside the government counter offer of 3% over three years .

The union office does not make any defence of the original offer. It says in relation to the counter offer:

“Do you think the increase offered is sufficient to address the recruitment and retention issues?”

“Do you think there is enough benefit in the current offer to accept a 3 year term?”

Reasonable negotiation or the thin end of a sell-out?

Does it matter if the NZEI choose to waffle like this? (more…)

Kia ora koutou,

Fourteen quarry workers who took limited strike action last week in pursuit of pay parity with other workers in the industry have been locked out by their boss until Sunday, 12th August. You can support the locked out workers by donating to their hardship fund. Please follow the link here: https://together.nationbuilder.com/atlaslockout

For background, see here: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1808/S00079/quarry-owner-operator-locks-workers-out-of-work.htm

In solidarity – I roto i te kotahitanga

Malcolm Deans
Secretary, Unions Otago

Redline note: There’s a useful/informative article sympathetic to the workers in the Northern Advocate; see here.

The interview below was conducted with members of the rank-and-file Health Sector Workers Network who belong to the nurses’ union (the NZNO).

Philip Ferguson: What have been the key issues in the nurses’ dispute with the DHBs?

Health Sector Workers Network actvists: They really are two-fold.

There are the issues around safe staffing, which with chronic staff shortages, have seen Nurses, Midwives and HCAs working in dangerously unsafe working environments.  In many worksites, particularly the Emergency Departments and Mental Health facilities, there are daily incidents of verbal and physical abuse and assault of staff.

The ability to give excellent patient care without the need for care rationing will only be possible with more staff and clear patient-staff ratios.

Pay equity is the other important issue that members are passionate about.  The need to have remunerations that reflect skills and responsibilities is essential.  We need staff retention and the ability to attract new people to the profession.  If this doesn’t occur, Nurses, Midwives and HCAs will look elsewhere for better wages and conditions, like jumping the ditch to Australia.  Already nurses are leaving on an almost daily basis, resulting in chronic staff shortages and if these issues aren’t addressed it will only get worse.

PF: How successful has the industrial action been?

HSWN: There have been mixed feelings on the success of the strike action.  Due to this dispute being (more…)

Nurses have stood strong, but union head office has counselled giving up. Pic: Matthew Tso/Stuff

by Don Franks

“It is clear to all parties that there is no further additional funding available for this MECA.  The Government has made this clear repeatedly to all parties and publicly. On this basis we believe further strike action is highly unlikely to deliver any further improvements for our members.”

That’s a recommendation to union members from the NZ Nurses Organisation, just posted on Facebook by a union member who has issues with the union head office stance, Al Dietschin of the Health Sector Workers Network.

Al notes, this amounts to “(t)rying to convince us to surrender because they’d rather help the Government keep the BRR/fiscal restraint policy intact” and suggests an alternative strategy:  “If we were to strike again, aligned it with other public service/sector unions actions, and if we organised cross union pickets of Labour Party offices, we could force the purse strings open.”

I have issues myself, partly because, as an older citizen, I’m increasingly likely to require the assistance of nurses.  I want them to be properly paid so they are concentrating on the job of looking after me and are not distracted by economic discomfort.  At the moment, nurses definitely have the (more…)

by Susanne Kemp

Firefighters across New Zealand and around the world are marking International Firefighters’ Day today, May 4.

As the IFFD home page notes, “Firefighters dedicate their lives to the protection of life and property. Sometimes that dedication is in the form of countless hours volunteered over many years, in others it is many selfless years working in the industry. In all cases it risks the ultimate sacrifice of a firefighter’s life.”

In Third World countries, firefighting is an especially hazardous job due to widespread very poor health and safety conditions in factories, sweatshops and other workplaces and the under-spending on public services such as firefighting.

Bangla Desh firefighters and emergency workers

For instance, in the Tazreen Fashion factory fire in Dhaka, Bangla Desh, in 2012, at least 117 died while 200 were injured.  At the Kader Toy Factory fire in Thailand in 1993, despite the desperate efforts of firefighters, somewhere between 190-210 workers, mainly young women from rural areas, were killed and over 500 were injured.  The workers were locked inside the factory and firefighting crews were delayed by traffic jams in the area. (This fire is the subject of Don McGlashan’s powerful ‘Toy Factory Fire’ song on his first solo album.)

While we should think about the dangers faced by firefighters in NZ, we should never lose sight of the (more…)