Archive | April, 2014

West Fest for a Living Wage – May 3

29 Apr

To all Unite members and supporters,

On Saturday May 3 from 10-4.00pm the Living Wage Movement will hold a West Fest for a Living Wage at Corban Estate, Henderson, Auckland to give workers in West Auckland an opportunity to enjoy a day out with their families. This involves free

• organised games, sports, bouncy castle and more…

• Music and entertainment

• Food

• Giveaways, spot prizes, stall bingo

• A competition to paint a NZ flag with great prizes for the winner

• Storytellers

This is an opportunity for communities to

• Find out about the Living Wage

• Talk about the services in the local community

• Connect to other local organisations that are supporting local communities and get access to information

• Spend time together and strengthen the relationships that make our communities vibrant, liveable and so much more.

We know income inequality impacts on all social indicators of community well-being so we also think it’s important our communities talk to our political leaders in election and can raise the questions they have about well-being in West Auckland.

Local government leaders will answer questions about how they will address well-being in their local communities at 11.30-12.00noon. The panel will include: Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse and Local Board leaders, Catherine Farmer, Sandra Coney and Shane Henderson.

Political party leaders will form a panel at 1.00-1.30pm to discuss how their policies will foster community well-being and present are:

• Leader of the Labour Party, David Cunliffe

• Leader of the NZ First party, Winston Peters

• Leader of the Green Party, Russel Norman

Others yet to be confirmed – this political conversation invites only those parties currently in Parliament.


Mike Treen
National Director
Unite Union
09 8452132 ext 20
029 5254744

Families call for new rules to prevent forest deaths

28 Apr

Unions’ president says top five most dangerous industries share common traits.

Maryanne Butler-Finlay lost her husband Charles Finlay on July 19 last year in Tokoroa in a forestry accident.


The families of 11 forestry workers killed on the job last year will march on Parliament today to call for regulation in the industry to prevent more deaths.

The procession of the 100 grieving family members marks international Workers Memorial Day and will be led by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU), which is raising money to bring private prosecutions over at least two of the deaths.

Last year 51 Kiwis were killed in workplace accidents across a range of industries including agriculture, construction and manufacturing.

CTU president Helen Kelly said forestry was six times more dangerous than any other industry but all of the five worst industries followed a theme.

"They’re all primarily de-unionised, have long hours, have very dominant employer relationships and are largely contracted where the principals don’t employ the workers."

The CTU set up a Workers memorial Fund to help families affected by workplace deaths mount legal challenges.

WorkSafe NZ, the Government’s workplace health and safety regulator, is responsible for prosecuting employers but if it doesn’t families can pursue a private prosecution, though it is usually too costly.

Ms Kelly said the union was providing legal support to five families over eight forestry fatalities in the central North Island, at coronial inquests in Rotorua, including two where it has sought leave to prosecute.

Four of the eight inquests have been delayed because of pending criminal proceedings, including legal action taken by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment against a foreman over the death of 23-year-old Robert Epapara in March last year.

"Every single one of these deaths could have been avoided," Ms Kelly said.

The council would also use the fund to support three families who were seeking a review of the decision to drop charges against Peter Whittall, the former manager at Pike River Mine, where 29 workers died in an explosion in November 2010.

"Families ring me all the time completely unaware of their rights and missing out on their opportunity to have a say."

Ms Kelly said no one should die doing their job. She believed there was a "different threshold of acceptance around workplace deaths".

"I think there’s a tolerance which has got to change and these families are as entitled to justice as anybody else."

Labour Minister Simon Bridges said WorkSafe NZ had a clear mandate to bring down the death and injury toll in the workplace by 25 per cent in 2020.

Since August last year WorkSafe NZ had taken 300 enforcement actions in the forestry industry, including shutting down 25 operations, and there were currently two active prosecutions, he said.

CTU president Helen Kelly said forestry was six times more dangerous than any other industry.


The organisation had recently completed visits to 32 forestry owners and principals around the country while the independent industry-led inquiry into forestry safety was also under way.

Mr Bridges said the Health and Safety Reform Bill, currently at select committee, would overhaul the law and extend the duty to keep workers safe beyond the traditional employer.

Widow wants her man’s name cleared

Charles Finlay was not the kind of man to make silly mistakes.

The 45-year-old had 27 years of experience in the forestry industry, but on July 19 last year the father of three was killed by a falling tree in a workplace accident near Tokoroa.

Now his grieving wife, Maryanne Butler-Finlay, wants to take a private prosecution to prove her husband was not to blame for his death.

"He wasn’t an idiot. He was really health and safety conscious. And after Charles there were five more people."

Mrs Butler-Finlay, who took the couple’s 10-year-old twin daughters and their 21-year-old son, together with 30 extended family members, to Wellington for today’s march, said it was important to clear her husband’s name after WorkSafe NZ did not prosecute Mr Finlay’s employer.

"We have to stand up because we know what our men are like and they know the industry and they wouldn’t make silly mistakes.

"There is something seriously wrong going on in that industry. If there’s so many of us that have been put in this position, then why is that?"

Mrs Butler-Finlay, who said her husband was earning just $16 an hour when he died, wanted regulation of training, wages and hours of work.

She said her family were speaking out and taking legal action for all families affected by workplace deaths.

"Charles has been gone nine months and two weeks and it’s still very much like yesterday. The system is just cheating us, really, and it’s not right."

Danger jobs
Five worst industries for workplace fatalities:

NZ Herald

51 killed at work

27 Apr

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is remembering the loss of 51 people who lost their lives at work in the past year. April 28 is Workers Memorial Day; an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed at work. The CTU believes Workers Memorial Day is an opportunity for reflection and commitment to change.

“Last year 51 New Zealanders died at work. It’s all too easy to think of these tragic deaths as just another number; another empty statistic rather than someone loved, someone who was an important part of a community. Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, loved members of family fabric. 11 of the 51 workers who died at work were forestry workers, this makes forestry the most dangerous industry to work in.” Kelly said.

“On Sunday over 100 family members of forestry workers killed at work, are attending a memorial service. On Monday we shake buckets on street corners to raise money for a new Workers Memorial Fund which will fund legal support, advice, advocacy and representation to victims’ families when their loved one is killed at work. And at lunchtime we will silently process through Wellington streets, starting at the Railway Station at noon, to remember those who died at work. Our procession will end at Parliament – a place which has the power to make things safer at work.” CTU President Helen Kelly said.

“We need safer workplaces with workers, employers, and politicians working together to ensure that the right regulations and practices are in place. We need a Minister of Labour who is committed to safety at work. The current Minister, Simon Bridges, has too often shown that he cares more about helping companies increase profit margins than he does about saving lives.” Kelly said.

“As a society we believe that no worker should die doing their job. In no industry should the risks be so great and the safeguards so lacking, that workers are regularly harmed. Regardless of whether you work in an office or in the forest there should be no question that you’ll be able to finish your work day alive.” Kelly said.


Worksafe data on workplace fatalities:

For further comment, please contact:

Helen Kelly, President, CTU

021 776 741

Huia Welton, Campaigns & Communications Adviser 021 524 502

McDonald’s in a shitstorm in Canada

25 Apr

McDonald’s in the midst of a shitstorm over its abuse of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program. It’s so bad that the federal government has now suspended the application of the program in the food services industry.

Sandy Nelson lost her long-time restaurant job and says she was replaced by temporary foreign workers. (CBC)

The program was already under fire as it became more and more evident that it is being used to subvert the normal workings of the law of supply and demand in determining the wages and work conditions of workers. The examples of abuses piled up until this one involving several McDonald’s workers blew off the lid. If the government didn’t act, something dramatic was going to happen.

There are hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers in Canada and the numbers are growing fast.

The CEO of McDonald’s Canada has branded recent criticism of its use of temporary foreign workers “bullshit” in a conference call to franchisees that was given to the CBC.

Why support a Universal Basic Income

19 Apr

My Mike Treen
National Director, Unite Union

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The Mana movement’s support of the idea of a universal basic income is a welcome development. It could become one of the litmus issues that define the party and prove extremely popular.

If Mana are in a position to do so, they should demand that the concept be explored in a commission on tax and welfare to be established by the incoming Labour/Green government. The Green Party is also a supporter in principle for the idea.
The mechanics of a UBI are actually quite simple.

We would abolish WINZ and the giant bureaucracy it administers.

We would eliminate working for families and most welfare benefits.

Continue reading



8 Apr

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