Archive for the ‘Unions – NZ’ Category

The Health Sector Workers Network, a rank-and-file grouping of workers in the health sphere, has as one of its current projects the assembling of stories of resistance by workers in this sector.

HSWN are conducting interviews with people who have direct experience of taking industrial action – or engaging in any form of struggle or resistance – while working in the health sector.

Your story will be recorded and run on the HSWN site, but you can be anonymous if you wish.

So please get in touch with the Network’s project on struggle and resistance in the health sector.  You can email: 

The HSWN site, meanwhile, is here.

And HSWN on facebook is here.


by Phil Duncan

Teachers and school service workers in the US state of West Virginia are currently setting an example for workers across North America – and here in New Zealand – with a massive ‘wildcat’ strike.  These public employees are defying the bosses (the local state government and governor), the law and the top bureaucrats in their own union.

The workers’ industrial action has been in pursuit of not just their 5% pay claim, but also around worsening living standards due to high insurance and other ‘out-of-pocket’ costs. Teachers in the state are among the lowest-paid educators in the country – West Virginia ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of teacher pay.  The last time the state’s 20,000 teachers and 15,000 school service workers got a pay rise was four years ago.

They have also been facing rising insurance costs – like other public employees, they pay into the PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency) and the premiums have been rising as faster rates than pay has been increasing, thus depressing their actual take-home pay.

As one of the striking teachers reports, “Even with a master’s degree plus 45 credits and 15 years of teaching experience, I bring home an estimated (more…)

By Don Franks

NZ Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff has just published an interesting piece : “New Zealand needs to change how it does business.”

Richard notes that over the last 30 years, “the share of the economy going to working people has fallen from over 50 per cent to just over 40 per cent, cutting $20 billion  a year from pay packets.”Income-Inequality

The union leader sees this having occurred because:

“… too many decisions about the work we do nowadays are made outside of employment law altogether.

“You see it for the people who are pushed to become dependent contractors and take all of the risk and little of the reward – that’s tens of thousands of drivers, utilities technicians, and construction workers over the last decade alone.

“You see it in the boardroom level decisions to re-tender whole workforces on lower terms and conditions by changing contractors (even though they end up largely employing the same people). (more…)

by Don Franks

“Still no sugar! We told you yesterday. You’re supposed to be our delegate.” 

My workmate had a case. The bag in the smoko room was empty and I hadn’t got onto the boss about it. Not taking sugar in my own tea, I’d been slack. 

“Ok Afi, I’ll see him right now.”

So instead of taking the usual time to butter the guy up I interrupted the boss in his office when he was busy and went straight to the point. (more…)

The third Labour government under Norman Kirk enabled employers to take out injunctions against workers withdrawing their labour; Northern Drivers Union leader Bill Andersen was jailed for his union’s defying an injunction; the jailing sparked massive workers’ protests

by Don Franks


Jacinda Ardern’s dead against it.

Today’s unions accept tight government constraints on it.

At some time in the future workers will recall this potent weapon, because it gets results. I wrote the history below when the previous Labour government was in power, our circumstances today remain essentially the same.

Strikes have brought workers suffering and death. They’ve also won money and righted wrongs. Striking involves risk, excitement and, dare I say it – (more…)

by Don Franks

It was a stinking hot afternoon down at Fords Lower Hutt assembly plant when one of us deliberately smashed a new truck windscreen. The truck trim line was a small non-automated section where four or five painted cab shells got fitted out each day, their windows fixed in place by skilled use of a big rubber hammer.

A worker would tap around the edges of the glass, on this occasion whacking it hard in the middle so it shattered. This meant work in the area had to stop until a cleaner’s union guy was located, had made his dignified way across to us and methodically swept up all the pieces. That process took a good twenty minutes, during which we were able to enjoy a break.

Of course we didn’t pull that stunt too often or it would have looked suspicious. There were other, less dramatic ways to get a break.

This time as we sat watching (more…)

Resisting factory closure: Rixen factory occupation, Levin, 1981

by Don Franks

We call it an act of God. A natural calamity, outside human control, like an earthquake, forest fire or flood, for which no human can be held responsible.

In past times, acts of God covered much greater range; unexplained livestock deaths and crop failures for instance. When we knew no material explanation for a disaster, all we could do was wring our hands and pray. Hoping that if we showed contrition for our sin which must have caused the calamity, a stern parent-like deity might help us.

Today, because our understanding of the universe is better, fewer acts of God are accepted as such.

Acts of God are simply events that humans can’t control to their advantage yet.

Scientific leaps in recent years have been breathtakingly exciting and huge, but there are some areas where human behaviour remains in the dark ages.

A prime example is the field of industrial relations. Awful disasters for workers take place, quite regularly. Disasters like the loss of one’s job – one of the most punishing losses that can beset a person – and they are essentially accepted as acts of God. You can see an example below in this union media release from 18 January 2018. The words happen to be from the union E tū, however it’s a fairly  (more…)