Campaigning for Justice

Annie Newman and Rachel Mackintosh, Assistant National Secretaries

E tū members have been at the forefront of campaigning for justice for workers and their families since we formed as a new union four years ago. We have campaigned around big issues of equal pay, Living Wage and local and central government elections and we have campaigned on and across sites, taking strike action up and down the country for better collective agreements.

E tū member leaders have been on the front line of these campaigns as the voice of workers. Transformative change demands leverage, usually beyond individual workplaces so we have sufficient power to influence decision-makers. That’s why we reach out to other civil society organisations that share our concerns, whether they are unions, faith-based organisations or community groups. Organising for real change is not about the power of your argument but the argument about your power, as the old adage goes.

Big wins also take organised pressure and that’s why we are active in alliances, such as the Living Wage Movement and the emerging Auckland alliance, Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga. Organised people and a plan that targets the right decision-maker, with the right action, is a big part of the secret to winning. By uniting with our allies in the Living Wage Movement, E tū’s members are securing the Living Wage at councils around the country.

Organising for a win starts with a feeling that something needs to change. A campaign starts with us listening to each other’s stories about our lives now and listening to our vision of what life could be.

Then we understand that we are not alone and that, together, we have a vision to aim for.

We look around in this country and across the world for a sense of who else we stand with. E tū is part of an international labour movement and we are affiliated to Global Union Federations that connect unions around the world working in the same sectors. These connections let us learn from each other and work together. Unions around the world, including E tū, lent their skills and their megaphones to children in the recent school climate strike. Beyond single days like that, unions around the world have won victories that can give us a practical vision for making a better world right here.

We know that the countries with the greatest equality are countries with the strongest unions. A significant practical structure that supports equality and justice is collective bargaining that is organised beyond individual workplaces and even beyond large individual employers. Bargaining across a whole sector lifts whole communities out of poverty. Many countries have sector-wide bargaining and those are the countries where people are the happiest, most equal and healthiest in the world. Denmark is the happiest country in the world and has the third best equality. It has a similar population to New Zealand, and 80% of its workers are covered by collective bargaining, all of which is negotiated at sector level. In New Zealand, fewer than 20% of workers are covered by collective bargaining, and in the private sector it is about 10%, none of which is formally part of any sector agreement.

International bodies like the OECD have recognised that sector-wide bargaining creates better outcomes for countries. We know that it creates better lives for working people.

Our current labour laws hold us back from sector bargaining. We do not have the practical structures to help us reach our vision.

At the last general election E tū campaigned for a new law to give us sector bargaining through Fair Pay Agreements. Labour and the Greens supported us. Right now, we have the chance to be active in ensuring it is a good law that provides our members with decent lives through a floor of minimum standards, such as health and safety, training, hours of work and liveable wages. Already we have organised delegations to MPs and ministers, attended consultation meetings, written hundreds of submissions, and used our influence across the political spectrum so we can get the best legislation possible. Your involvement is essential in the months ahead if we are to win the most radical change to employment law in decades and deliver real transformative change in the lives of our members.