Editorial: What a year…

Bill Newson, National Secretary

Bill Newson addresses the E tū Biennial Delegate Conference 2020

Kia ora E tū members,

Welcome to the final 2020 edition of our union magazine. You will find stories about our recent general election, our E tū conference, and various organising updates.

This has certainly been a roller coaster year with huge challenges, uncertainty, and stress for many of our members and your families.

I particularly acknowledge our members who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 business disruptions and those members who worked on the front line in essential jobs serving their fellow Kiwis during the heightened Alert Levels.

E tū has a clear view that we must “rebuild better”, with a focus on supporting working people in decent jobs with fair wages and conditions. We know that requires a government that is prepared to step up and step in with progressive policies for all Kiwis.

The “Red Tsunami” general election victory of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 17 October was testament to outstanding leadership in times of crisis, confidence in economic and social stewardship, a forward-looking Labour Party policy platform, and a well-run campaign in which E tū members played a key part.

We will continue to assert a strong voice for our members to ensure that the Government delivers on its employment-related policies.

The clear lesson of COVID-19 is that we must improve the minimum sick leave entitlement and strengthen worker participation in health and safety in all workplaces.

We know that the way we set wages in this country does not work for workers. It doesn’t fairly redistribute the wealth that we create at work or address wage stagnation. Part of the solution to this is to extend the Living Wage and to put in place a relevant wages platform that sets a minimum bar for wages and conditions in each industry that all employers must observe. That’s what Fair Pay Agreements are all about.

Members with an interest in American politics would have followed the recent election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris closely. The election of a woman of Indian and Jamaican heritage to the Vice Presidency is an extraordinary achievement for American federal politics.

Outgoing President Donald Trump is an ungracious and bitter loser. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that he resonated with millions of working-class Americans who feel voiceless and have been harshly affected by neoliberal economic deregulation. Trump was no real friend to working people and he was never going to bring the rust out of their “rust belt”. But their desperation blinded them to his xenophobic deception and there are lessons in this that have been learnt before in the mid-20th century.

E tū celebrated our own democracy in November with elected delegates attending our Biennial Conference held over two days in Auckland’s Eden Park. This is our union’s highest policy-setting forum, and this edition of our magazine carries a full report.

I think we can all agree that this has been a weird year. Phrases like “COVID test”, “family bubble”, “lockdown”, “wage subsidy”, “social distancing”, and “you’re on mute” became a new common language.

Celebrating union power at E tū’s Biennial

We rose to the challenge of COVID-19 together in our beautiful South Pacific country and we have a Government that can steer and support us as we navigate the challenges ahead.

We can be confident, and proud, that our union engaged with, served, and represented our members well throughout that challenging period. We remain focused on, and committed to, what needs to be done to rebuild better in times ahead.

Thank you for being an E tū member and best wishes to all E tū members and your families on behalf of our Presidents and

National Executive for the summer holiday period.

Bill Newson
National Secretary