Why are 2800 Kiwis on Strike — the unions’ case
We welcome a new columnist today who will give you a fairer picture of what’s affecting working people in New Zealand. – Helen Kelly, president of the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).
Ms Kelly has been President of the CTU since 2007. Among other tasks, she campaigns for equity in women’s pay and employment, and co-chairs the Workplace Health and Safety Council.
Helen holds an LLB from Victoria University and is also a qualified teacher.
Her first column explains why 2800 Kiwis are now on strike.
‘Two very different stories behind the disputes’By Helen Kelly, President of the NZCTU
There are currently over 2800 workers in New Zealand involved in some form of industrial action, and depending on who you listen to, there are two very different stories behind the disputes.
One story is that of business striving to be more productive, more flexible and modern. The narrative that the only way through tough economic times is to cut back, scale down and economise. We hear about greedy workers who are biting the hand that feeds them.
Standing up for fair conditions and pay
The other is of workers standing up for decent jobs, for fair pay and good conditions. Workers who want to be able to have a family life outside of work rather than having to sit by the phone to hear when they are next working. Workers who were not responsible for the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), but who are bearing the brunt of it.
The Talley’s AFFCO dispute and Ports of Auckland dispute are predominately about workers wanting job security, and their employer wanting ever increasing flexibility.
For the port workers, accepting Port demands would mean not knowing when their shifts are, not knowing what hours they will be working week to week, and being employed by a third-party contractor. For the meat workers, the dispute is about rosters, but also about other important issues like chain speed, and health and safety.
The Ports of Auckland dispute is becoming increasingly entrenched and being played out in the courts. The 300 workers are currently being stopped from returning to work by the ports. 1000 meat workers have been locked out by AFFCO after just 10 hours of negotiations. These are bully tactics, attempting to starve workers into submission.
Oceania’s ’11 cents above minimum’
The Oceania dispute is about decent and fair wages. the (mostly women) workforce at Oceania are paid 11 cents above the minimum wage. They are seeking a 3.5% increase, Oceania is offering 1.1%. These workers do one of our most important jobs – they care for our elderly. They often go above and beyond the call of duty and take on added responsibilities. These workers deserve decent pay.
There is little doubt the current industrial climate is worsening, and there are several high level disputes.
But that’s not the norm – there are 390,000 people in unions and 2,500 negotiated collective agreements and only some of these negotiations are likely to end up in a major argument.
We can’t lose sight of that fact that decent jobs are worth the fight. We are wholeheartedly supporting these workers.