Policy, positions, power for cash


Rodney highlights the biggest donations’ scandal:

The true donations scandal in New Zealand politics was reported this week without comment. It’s the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s $60,000 donation to Labour.

The EPMU is one of the six unions affiliated to Labour. The affiliated unions pay fees and fund the Party through donations. The donations and fees total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More significantly, union staff campaign for Labour and the unions run parallel campaigns. For example, Labour is campaigning for the “living wage”. In a parallel campaign the Services and Food Workers Union spent more than half a million dollars last year promoting that exact policy.

The union funding of Labour totals in the millions. And what does Labour provide in return? In effect the entire party. The unions get to determine the party’s leader. Their say counts for 20 per cent of the vote. That’s the difference between winning and losing by a wide margin.

Affiliation also buys a seat at the table. The affiliated unions have a guaranteed vice-president position on Labour’s all-powerful New Zealand Council.

They also get their people as MPs. The Labour Party enables the unions to parachute members into Parliament. Labour list MP Andrew Little headed the EPMU for 11 years before entering Parliament. . . 

That’s power and positions for cash.

If any organisation which donated to National had this sort of influence and reward for their money there would be cries of corruption.

But it doesn’t stop there, unions also get policy:

In 1999 the EPMU gave $100,000 to Labour. The following year the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act. This act gives the unions incredible power over Kiwi workplaces as well as easy access to workers’ pay packets.

The Employment Relations Act nicely closes the loop. The act was provided by the Labour Party. It gave the unions access to workers’ pockets, and that’s the money the unions now tip into Labour’s coffers.

Indeed, in the state sector it’s policy for Government to give union members a bonus to cover their union fees. You and I pay their union fees.

Unions and Labour are guilty of “cash for policy”, “cash to sit at the table”, “cash to decide the leader” and “cash to parachute members into Parliament”.

The rort serves to bolster Labour and entrench the power of union bosses.

Unions are highly politicised organisations that only exist now because of the legal privileges bestowed by Labour governments.

The rorting of our democracy by the unions and Labour would make a great expose.

But don’t expect anything soon: it’s the EPMU that represents journalists in this country.

That’s right, our journalists – through their union – help fund the Labour Party.

Now union membership is voluntary, not all journalists are members of the EPMU but any who are members are potentially compromised if they are covering or have any influence over stories on issues which could have any even vague political link.

Bias in reporting is easy – the stories that are covered, angle that’s taken, who’s interviewed, how much of what they say is used, the context around quotes . . . any and all of these can convey an impression that covertly, if not overtly, supports, distorts or opposes a world view.

Why different for unions?


The EPMU national conference has endorsed donations to the Labour Party and Green Party for their election campaigns.

“Our elected conference delegates feel very strongly that a Labour-Green coalition government is the best hope for restoring workers’ rights, rebuilding our manufacturing sector with a sustainable strategy for jobs, and ensuring that all Kiwis get a fair share of the growing economy,” says Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU. . . 

Note the Labour-Green coalition emphasising the influence the Green Party would have on government led by a weak Labour Party.

When they say workers’ rights they mean unions’ rights.

Rebuilding the manufacturing sector? Unions are buying in to the manufactured manufacturing crisis too even though the facts belie the panic.

Unions should be looking right not left for a sustainable strategy for jobs.

The Labour and Green strategy is anti-business and anti growth which is the antithesis of sustainable for jobs.

“Despite what the Prime Minister has claimed, unions don’t have millions of dollars to give to political parties,” says Bill Newson. “But this year we have a critical opportunity to make things better for New Zealand workers and their families and making donations to Labour and the Greens is one way we can make that happen.”

The donations total:

· $60,000 to the Labour Party

· $15,000 to the Green Party

“In addition the EPMU will be campaigning hard to get voters enrolled and turned out to vote in the election period,” says Bill Newson. “All voters deserve to have a say in who forms the next government.” . . .

What would be the reaction if a business gave $75,000 to National and one of its coalition partners, influenced candidate selection and policy then paid its staff to campaign on their behalf?

There would be cries of corruption.

Why is it any different for unions?

It’s not about the workers


The supposed motivation for the manufactured manufacturing crisis is jobs.

But it’s not about the workers.

Rob Hosking explains it’s really about power plays between left wing parties.

There is a massive Indian leg-wrestle going on not only between Labour and the Greens but within Labour, and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union is one of the most important power brokers on the left.

With the change in Labour Party rules last year, the EPMU will have a very large say in who the next leader is. There is also a battle on for support, at the next election,  of voters who work in this sector.

It is also about protecting the size of the EPMU by trying to keep manufacturing jobs. Shedding lower skilled jobs and employing higher-skilled workers is not so welcome by this group as such workers are less likely to be unionised. . .

If it was about the workers, those behind the manufactured crisis would be delighted that people were improving their skills, and earning ability.

But parties whose modus operandi is to tax and redistribute need people staying in low-paid jobs who will benefit more from redistribution than those in higher paid ones who will benefit less and pay more.

West Coast needs jobs


Miners from the West Coast and Huntly are protesting at parliament about job losses while Bathurst is battling its way through the consent process with a project which would provide jobs.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce is right when he calls on environmentalists who are fighting consents to think about the economic opportunities.

“The Escarpment Mine is an open cast mining project that is ready to go and would provide 225 jobs and incomes for workers and their families on the West Coast straight away,” Mr Joyce says.

“The developer is being held up from opening the Escarpment Mine by on-going litigation that has gone through the Environment Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

“These on-going objections are to resource consents which were granted more than a year ago. The whole consenting process for this development has now taken a staggering seven years.

“I call on those objectors to the mine to reconsider their appeals and consider the economic future of the West Coast and its people.

Environmentalists won the battle against sustainable logging on the Coast at the cost of many jobs – and pest control – and now they’re also wanting to stop mining even though the region desperately needs the jobs.

Few if any would call an open cast mine attractive but it will cover a relatively small area and the company can be required to leave the area in at least as good a state as it was before it started the project.

“I also call on the EPMU, Labour and the Greens to join my call and back the West Coast community by supporting the immediate development of the Escarpment Mine.

“The political opposition can’t have it both ways. They can’t on one hand moan about job losses and then on the other not support initiatives that would create the sort of jobs that they’re asking for.

“If we are serious about jobs and providing incomes on the West Coast then objectors should stop getting in the way of this immediate opportunity to create those jobs.”

There are more votes from the urban greens than West Coast reds so don’t hold your breath waiting for Labour to support the Minister’s call.

However, it purports to be the workers’ party and it’s MPs won’t be averse to photo opportunities with the protesters.

As for the EPMU, will it have the intestinal fortitude to show it really is representing workers and back the job creation or will politics come before people for it too?

Summit job losses no reason for currency tinkering


The announcement that 49.5 jobs will be lost at Summit Wool Spinners is very bad news for the people affected and the company.

Summit is one of North Otago’s biggest employers and that number of jobs lost will have an impact in the district.

It is not however, as the EPMU and  FIRST Union suggest a reason for government support or interference with the exchange rate.

Summit, a Japanese-owned company, was one of several businesses which received help at the peak of the global financial crisis which enabled it to retain most of its employees.

But that was never meant to be more than a temporary measure.

Summit’s fortunes have waxed and waned, and the currency is a significant factor in its fortunes, as it is with all exporters. The unions need to accept that and work with the company to find other ways to keep the business going and growing.

Budget headlines


We spent, taxed, borrowed too much – Labour

PSA accepts need for fiscal rectitude

CTU gives tick to savings, investment & exports

EPMU welcomes jobs forecast

Hawarira says thanks

Budget a bit tough: Act

Greens applaud focus on building economy

Students satisfied – NZUSA

We’re grateful – social service agencies

Flying pigs spotted

Met Service forecasts low temperatures in Hell

Not a good week for unions


It should have been a good week for unions.

The CTU and EPMU got plenty of publicity at the Labour Party conference last weekend and they tried to capitalise on that with marches against the government on Wednesday.

But that was all overshadowed by stories which put them on the wrong side of public opinion.

Few question the difficulties teachers face in their job. But demands for a 4% pay rise are out of step with the generally accepted need for frugality, and refusing to teach some classes when pupils are close to exams isn’t winning them any sympathy.

Nor is there much sympathy for claims by health workers when doctors say  strikes are putting patients at risk.

But the most damage to unions is that by the actors whose actions have put the filming of The Hobbit at risk.

Weta Workshop’s boss Sir Richard Taylor last night said the New Zealand film industry was “at some level of peril”.

He said a $670 million US-backed production of Tolkien classic The Hobbit could be produced elsewhere if a union boycott of the project was not lifted.

“We are deeply concerned it may [go overseas].

“Our industry is being put in a very dire place by very few people who have nothing to do with the film industry in New Zealand.”

A poll on the New Zealand Herald website last night showed 88% of respondents blamed the union for the Hobbit debacle and only 16% blamed Peter Jackson.

Phil Goff and his MPs have been notable for their silence on this issue.

That’s probably because it’s difficult for outsiders to discern much difference between unions and Labour so a bad week for one is a bad week for the other.

Three hats two too many


Andrew Little couldn’t give a better example of why being Labour Party president, national secretary of the EPMU and a would-be Labour MP means he’s wearing two hats too many:

But on TV3’s The Nation this morning, Mr Little seemed to be at odds with Labour Party Leader Phil Goff’s position on whether workers should be able to cash in their fourth week of annual leave.

Mr Goff has said he is relaxed about it, Mr Carter considered that a flip-flop and wrote his now infamous letter.

Today, Mr Little ruled it out.

“There will be no tradeability of the fourth week of annual leave,” he said.

That is a valid comment from a unionist but a party president and would-be MP should leave any comments on policy to the leader and caucus.

Disputing the leader’s comments on party funds isn’t helpful either:

But he denied Mr. Carter’s allegations that the party was short of money.

“As the president of the party I get the monthly financial reports…I know what the state of the parties finances are in, they are very healthy.”

Especially when he contradicts himself a few sentences earlier (07.58)

“We’ve been paying back debt from the last election . . .

Still being in debt from the last election when we’re at least half way to the next one doesn’t sound like the party finances are particularly healthy.

Feds don’t wear blue gumboots


Federated Farmers is sometimes referred to as the National Party in gumboots.

That has never been the case and nor should it be.

Feds is there to look after the best interests of its members and the organisation couldn’t do that if it was aligned in any way with a political party.

Any doubts over whether the organisation wears blue gumboots should have been dispelled by its actions this week.

The organisation put a very strong submission against the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme

“The ETS is world famous only in New Zealand. As the Wall Street Journal showed with several damning editorials, New Zealand is losing business credibility as investors increasingly look at us with incredulity,” says Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers. . .

“Federated Farmers made it clear to the Select Committee that the ETS should be repealed and replaced by non-punitive policy measures to transition New Zealand to a low-carbon economy.

Feds is equally vehement in its opposition to proposed increases to ACC levies which could result in a 70% increase in farmers’ levies.

“ACC’s bombshell will hurt farmers already struggling to make ends meet,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers ACC spokesperson.

. . . Instead of significantly increasing levies, it is time the Government made some tough decisions. I realise some of those decisions may be politically unpopular, but ACC must be brought under control. . . “

Feds would never protest as strongly if it was tied to National and it provides a more powerful voice for its members because of that.

This is apparently lost on some unions which continue to tie themselves to Labour. As Colin Espiner blogged:

But the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour) . . .

And Kiwiblog commented:

I can never work out if Labour is the political arm of the EPMU or if the EPMU is the industrial arm of Labour.

The benefits of independence are also lost to the Service & Food Workers Union. An email sent to Kiwiblog shows merger discussions between the SFWU and Public Service Association ended over differences on political allegiance:

The primary reason for doing so was the inability of both unions to reach sufficient agreement on the issue of political relationships and affiliations. Both unions have long standing and proud traditions on the issue of political relationships.

The SFWU has a long standing affiliation status with the Labour party, is this week signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and has explored a formal relationship with the Maori Party. The PSA has an equally strong commitment to remaining non affiliated and independent of political parties.

I don’t recall the PSA strongly opposing Labour and its policies but it is free to do so. However, it would be impossible for either the EPMU or SFWU to counter a Labour in the way Federated Farmers does with National and any other parties whose policies are in conflict with the best interests of farmers.

Governments come and governments go. A lobby group which doesn’t commit itself to a party is better placed to deal with all parties whether they are in power or opposition. If it’s allied to a party the interests of  members will take second place to the group’s political allegiance.


He would say that wouldn’t he


Andrew Little denied any conflict of interest between his roles as Labour Party president and General Secretary of the EPMU when he was interviewed on Q & A  this morning.

Well he would wouldn’t he?

If I was a member of Labour Party I’d probably be quite happy to have the voluntary wing led by someone who’d bring the money and mebership of a large union with him.

But if I was in the EPMU I would have concerns about how much of his time Little was devoting to his union duties and that there might be times that the best interests of the union might be different from those of the party.

Little was interviewed by Paul Holmes. The other feature interview on Q&A  was Guyon Espiner with John Key.

I hadn’t realise that the programme was on this morning so have jsut watched the interviews on line, but Kiwiblog,  thought it was pretty good overall while the Home Office  misses Agenda and Frogblog said it was visually and aurally obnoxious.

Gold in hypocricy


The annual girls’ artistic tour has distracted me from the news over the last couple of days.

In that time the EPMU has joined Winston Peters in the race for the gold in hypocricy by suspending Shawn Tan as organiser of their call centre because he’s been selected as a list candidate for Act. Keeping Stock points out the EPMU website lists various grounds on which workers can lodge compliants on discrimination.

Just imagine the uproar if a worker was suspended for standing for the Labour Party.

Union theory often seems to be based on the premise all employers are bad employers, out to take advantage of, exploit, and/or mistreat their employees. This action by the EPMU suggests that this prejudice against employers is because unions judge them by their own low standards.

More EFA failings


The Herald editorial  approves of the electoral Commission decision to allow unions to register as third parties under the Electoral FInance Act.

The decision, arrived at after seven months of legal wrangling directly involving the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, means the union can spend up to $120,000 on election advertising for or against a party. That is as it should be. The EPMU should be able to have its say, as should any organisation – business association, union or religious faction – from any part of the political spectrum.

Of course they should but the EFA severely constrains the ability of many gorups and individuals to have a say.

The Electoral Commission has undoubtedly exercised a liberal interpretation of the Electoral Finance Act. In reality, it had little choice if it was to deliver even a vague functionality to electoral proceedings, so inherent are the legislation’s absurdities.

It’s the EFA’s job to administer the law in spite of its flaws, not to make liberal interpretations because of them. The EPMU is affiliated to Labour and its general secretary sits on the party’s ruling council – that seems like involvement in the party’s workings to me and the EFA stipulates those involved in a party can’t register as third parties.

Meanwhile more EFA absurdities were illustrated at the weekend. All presentations at the National Party conference were authorised – even the of John Key shown before his speeech yesterday.

But when we walked out of the town hall we were greeted by a handful of protestors with banners which weren’t authorised.

What irony – National which opposed the law abides by it, Labour which introduced it and rammed it through parliament ignores it.

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