Editorial: Pride and sorrow

Bill Newson, National Secretary

Welcome to this latest edition of our union magazine and thank you for being an E tū member.

As I write this, I am aware that many of our E tū whānau are still struggling with the sorrowful aftermath of the deadly assault on the two Christchurch mosques on 15 March, which resulted in the deaths of 50 Muslim men, women, and children. This has rocked the city and indeed the country, as witnessed by the powerful public response as tens of thousands of people turned out for vigils and services to show their support for our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Our members are no exception. This tragedy has touched our union in a personal way. Firstly, I want to acknowledge E tū member Mohamad Moosid Mohamedhosen, who was among those murdered in this terrorist attack on people at prayer. Other members and staff have also been directly affected by this atrocity.

I write with pride as well as sorrow. In this issue, you will read about our members who have been working to support the many services involved in dealing with this tragedy. I would like to thank our E tū members at the hospitals that have worked around the clock to make sure the victims get the best care possible. This includes security, orderlies, cleaners, food service workers, and trade staff. Others have provided support for the emergency services working in the wake of the atrocity.

The tragedy and the country’s response was fresh in the minds of our delegates who turned out in strong numbers to our 21 Delegate Forums around the country last month. The Forums observed a minute’s silence in commemoration of those murdered and injured, and we have been discussing what we can do as a union to call out racism and bigotry to ensure all working people feel included and respected at work.

I believe New Zealanders have a keen collective sense of respect, tolerance, dignity, and a fair-go for all. This has really shone through in our nation’s response. I have also received a huge number of messages of support from across the global union movement, expressing the solidarity of working people across the world.

As we respond collectively, this is surely a reminder that we are at our best when we work together in union. Our strong delegate network is testimony to that. They are at the heart of our strongly democratic union.

It is important the Government continues to deliver policies which improve your working lives. Meaningful lives with decent work and pay are vital to creating the strong supportive communities we need to promote tolerance and acceptance. It’s about what’s fair.

On 6 May, a range of laws took effect which will shift the balance in the direction of workers. These include the right for the union to visit members in a workplace, obligations on employers to show good faith in collective bargaining, the return of rest and meal breaks, fairer provisions for new employees, reasonable time for workplace delegates to fulfil their roles, and fairer outcomes for unjustified dismissals.

Together with initiatives such as the significant increases in the minimum wage, these are meaningful improvements for New Zealand working people and mean we are better able to represent the interests of our members. Ahead lies the campaign to secure Fair Pay Agreements.

While we will no doubt witness an hysterical and ill-informed assault on these plans from key employer groups, the fact is that overseas economies that are most successful at distributing the wealth created at work often have a system of industry-wide minimum pay rates and conditions negotiated by employer and unions. This is key to driving up real wages.

We are also pleased to be included among the signatory parties to the Construction Industry Accord launched by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 14 April. This involves a whole-of-industry approach to addressing issues threatening the sustainability of the sector, including employment and income insecurity, health and safety issues, and migrant worker exploitation.

I want to close by recognising our Taranaki region delegates who have been very involved in the organisation of the Just Transition Summit held in New Plymouth on 9 and 10 May. The Summit is an important step in developing support for working people and their communities as we transition over coming decades from ‘carbon-heavy’ industries and into new carbon-neutral, high value jobs.

Thank you again for supporting our union by being an E tū member.