Editorial: Supporting a fair future

By Bill Newson, E tū National Secretary

Bill Newson, E tū National Secretary

Bill Newson, E tū National Secretary

Welcome to this edition of our union magazine. You will notice that we have a lot to say about the General Election to be held on Saturday 23 September.

Some people say unions should focus on achieving good wages and conditions for members, standing up against unfairness and inequality at work, ensuring health and safety, advocating for high quality apprenticeships and skill recognition, and advocating for working people to have a say in their workplaces.

They are absolutely correct. However, our ability to effectively achieve these things for our members is subject to, and fundamentally directed by, policies and legislation of governments.

We have all seen the negative results of government policies that have shifted the balance completely and unfairly in favour of employers and against working people and their unions, undermining our ability to ensure secure dignified jobs and a fair distribution of the wealth that we create at work.

As a strong, relevant and influential union of the future we have a responsibility to our members to be politically engaged and involved so that we can ensure better workplace laws.

Of course, our delegates and members understand that and that is why we had such resounding support for our general election strategies across our recent round of delegate forums and membership meetings.

We lead the debate for policies that are most likely to create high quality, secure and well-paid jobs for all Kiwis. Employment policies must be a key topic in this election.

The National-led coalition Government will try to argue that they have been successful in creating jobs. Therefore, it’s important that voters know the facts.

Statistic NZ’s Household Labour Force Survey defines employment as ‘any work for pay or profit for one hour or more in a week’. Yes, there certainly has been a trend towards minimum-wage, temporary, part-time casual work and it shows.

Our inequality gap is widening, the richest 10% of Kiwis now own 40% of our wealth while the lower 40% own just 3%. Is that fair when the skills of working people help create that wealth in the first place? Even the International Monetary Fund and World Bank regard increasing inequality as a threat to world economies (and that unions are an important part of the answer).

Real wages have stagnated and have not kept up with productivity. The problem is not productivity – it is how wealth is distributed. We need better laws to support fairer wage bargaining and we need better high-quality jobs as a foundation for sustained growth.

The fact is that a Labour-Green Government is our best chance of better policies for a fairer workplace.

Labour cannot form a government without a strong coalition partner. I appreciate some E tū members in carbon-linked jobs are concerned about Green Party policies and that’s fair enough. That is exactly why we need to engage and influence them towards policies in government that recognise and protect jobs and communities, and ensure fair policies for a Just Transition to the new industries of the future.

As a union official and National Secretary, I have always been careful to respect the political views and democratic intentions of our members.

It’s also important to stand up and speak out for what is right. We need a better government with better policies for working New Zealanders. A Labour-Green Government is our best chance of achieving that. Let’s use our vote wisely for a better future on 23 September.

Thank you again for being an E tū member.