The fight continues under a new Government

E tū members with political leaders at our election campaign launch in September

The votes have all been counted, and a National-led Government has won the election.

E tū members can be proud of the huge effort we put into the election campaign. Although we didn’t get the result we wanted, we used the opportunity to grow our union membership, to put workers’ issues on the agenda, and to educate people about the value of voting. These are all important achievements.

There are many obvious benefits to having a worker-friendly government, as demonstrated by Labour’s work over the last six years. We can celebrate the world leading Covid response, record minimum wage increases, doubling sick leave, introducing Fair Pay Agreements, creating a new public holiday for Matariki, and much more.

However, we know that parliament certainly isn’t the only place where we can win the change we need. The union movement exists because workers know we are powerful when we stand together, organising both locally and nationally in the face of all challenges.

That’s our opportunity and responsibility as we go forward. While our political allies in parliament will hold the new Government to account, our union will keep campaigning and organising to empower people and our communities for better lives.

While E tū was established in 2015, the origins of our union go back to the 19th Century, with the formation of the Carpenters Union in 1860. Our union whakapapa includes playing a part in the formation of the Labour Party in 1916. It’s good to remember this – we’ve been through thick and thin for over 160 years, and we will keep fighting for workers’ rights no matter who occupies the top floors of the Beehive!

A smaller Labour Party caucus in parliament has meant losing some MPs who are allies of E tū, such as Ibrahim Omer. He is realistic about the future for Aotearoa.

“We are in for a bumpy road ahead, there’s little doubt about that,” Ibrahim says.

“The National-led Government could be one of the worst for working people in decades. The policies they promoted, like cancelling Fair Pay Agreements and the full return of 90-day trials, are a giant leap backwards.

“But as well as difficulties, we are faced with new opportunities to come together and strengthen both the Labour Party and our union movement. It’s all about channelling our disappointment about the election results and turning that into energy for the battles to come.

“This is not the time to give up. It’s actually the time to stand up and fight for workers, and to keep the faith. We need to grow our union. We need people with leadership skills to become delegates. Everyone has a role, and I encourage everyone to get active.”

One of the new MPs to enter Parliament this time is Cushla Tangaere-Manuel, who won the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate and brings a wealth of experience in community leadership and advocacy. Cushla is excited about the opportunity.

Cushla Tangaere-Manuel

“Maintaining the legacy that Labour, and particularly Parekura Horomia, have with this seat brings a great sense of pride,” Cushla says.

“It is exciting to take up that legacy in my own way, backed by the support our Māori voters have put in me to advocate hard, and not leave the decision-making tables until the very end.

“With really important rights at stake for everyone, it’s important that together, we educate, do all we can do to hold the new Government to account, and motivate whānau to act.”

E tū also has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party, and we are growing a relationship with Te Pāti Māori. Both of these parties have won the biggest caucuses they have ever had, bringing in new MPs to strengthen the progressive voice in Parliament.

Green Party Co-Leader and E tū member Marama Davidson is ready for the challenge ahead.

“We will keep being clear that everything is about political choice, and we have the choice to do right for people who work, for our communities, for our environment, and for our planet,” Marama says.

Marama Davidson

“We will be at our strongest for the mission if we work across political parties and with our wider communities. I am constantly thinking that the only choice we have is hope. The gold is in the community-led movements, like unions, and the action that we see every single day.”

New Government’s commitment on contractors “A real backwards step”

Nureddin Abdurahman is a Wellington City Councillor for the Paekawakawa/Southern Ward and a proud E tū member. He has strong Labour values and his priorities on Council include protecting our public assets, providing better social housing, and making sure transport infrastructure is fit for purpose.

Before becoming a councillor, Nureddin had to supplement his income as a small business owner to support his young family. Like many people in his position, he turned to Uber driving.

Nureddin Abduraman

“It seemed like an easy and flexible way to make a bit more money when we really needed it,” Nureddin says.

He soon discovered that despite the appeal, working for Uber came with huge frustrations.

“The company promotes flexibility for their drivers, but in reality, they control it all. The systems of rewards and penalties in particular mean that drivers have to meet strict conditions to get the most out of the work.”

Uber employ their workers as ‘independent contractors’, which means they don’t get normal employee protections such as minimum leave provisions, a guarantee of at least the minimum wage, and the ability to have a union collective agreement.

This model is being used to exploit workers more and more often. The only recourse workers have to challenge this is to take a claim to the Employment Court, arguing that they should in fact be full employees because of the true nature of the work.

That’s exactly what E tū did, along with FIRST Union, and Nureddin was one of four claimants who went to court to prove they deserve the legal rights and protections of employees. We won the case, but Uber have appealed the decision.

The case highlights the problems with the independent contractor model, and the need to reform our employment laws to ensure it is fit for purpose in the changing world of work.

The alarming news is that the new Government seems to be moving in the complete opposite direction. Instead of helping workers to secure the protections they deserve, the National Party’s coalition agreement with the ACT Party includes stopping workers from taking their claims to the Employment Court.

“This is a real backwards step, as well as a huge slap in the face for workers who are trying to win what they deserve,” Nureddin says.

“We know that some employers will take advantage of vulnerable people who have few work options. That’s what Uber is currently doing. Workers need to be able to challenge their employment status in the courts, otherwise companies will simply keep getting away with exploiting the employment systems.

“The new Government’s plan here is only one part of a scary picture. They are also bringing back 90-day trials for all, removing Fair Pay Agreements, and fiddling with important health and safety protections. None of this is good news, and we need to stand up against it.”

Our union isn’t going to let them make these kinds of changes without a challenge. Worker perspectives must be at the forefront of any law changes that affect us, and E tū members will lead the charge against these anti-worker reforms.