The election of a Labour Government gives the Aotearoa New Zealand union movement a fantastic opportunity to push our agenda as hard as we possibly can. As well as our policy priorities that we took to the election, E tū has a number of new policy areas that we will be advancing in our campaigning and organising over the next parliamentary term. On top of our election 2020 policy platform that included Fair Pay Agreements, extension of the Living Wage, and doubling sick leave, we have more to campaign for this term.
When workers in Aotearoa face redundancy, they often take a huge drop in pay when getting a new job. Without the luxury of time to take stock and consider their options – including possible retraining – they simply take the first job they can get.
At our conference we talked about a tool that could allow a more ‘Just Transition’ for people in this situation. Social insurance would provide a publicly run, universal entitlement to 80% of a worker’s previous pay for a period of up to two years. Funded by employers, government, and a small worker levy, social insurance would give people the time and space to find decent work, so they are not forced to settle for a new job at any price. Along with increased benefit levels, rights to redundancy compensation, and strong, industry-wide collective bargaining, social insurance could help to improve lives for working people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Government is responsible for paying for all sorts of services, from massive infrastructure projects, to the wages and conditions of cleaners and security guards who look after public buildings. The process of deciding who will carry out these tasks, and negotiating the terms of the agreement they have, is called procurement. Traditionally, procurement is focused on the bottom line – trying to get services as cheaply as possible. This is short-sighted. It is no good to have a cheaper service if it means workers are on poverty wages, because that results in all sorts of social harm.
That’s why E tū is campaigning for “social procurement”, which means the Government taking a wider view about the wellbeing of the people doing the work, and how that affects society – not just how much the service directly costs year to year. A good social procurement system would include promoting fair and safe employment practices, ensuring security and protection for workers when services change hands, supporting employment for disadvantaged groups, supporting local business, and meeting national and international standards for ethical and environmentally sustainable business.
Rebuild Better in E tū industries
E tū developed the Rebuild Better campaign at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis to set some fundamental principles for a recovery that keeps workers protected. The renewed direction of this campaign will focus on issues specific to our industries and sectors, and our union will be running new Rebuild Better campaigns in health, at the border, in property services, and beyond.
Our Rebuild Better campaigns are guided by these principles: prioritising community health and wellbeing, having workers’ wages lead the recovery, keeping and creating decent jobs, having union members involved in all decisions, and ending inequality.