Shit-stirrers or Problem solvers?

25 Sep

By Shanna Olsen-Reeder, Hotels organiser for Unite Union

Have you ever heard a Manager or person of ‘authority’ say something bad about the union? We hear whispers about it all the time. But why do employers say these things?

Are they right or wrong? Let’s look at some of the common things our members report hearing from their bosses.

They say: “Why would you join a union? The union doesn’t do anything.”

We say: “Our union is run by our members. We follow their direction and they are our boss! We work with individual members to solve their problems on site. We negotiate employment agreements for groups of workers. We educate our members and delegates on employment law and their rights at work. We have also run nationwide campaigns to get rid of youth rates, raise the minimum wage, and get better laws to benefit workers. Anyone who says the union ‘doesn’t do anything’ must not be watching the news when we are on it getting the job done!”

They say: “The union doesn’t put bread and butter on the table. It’s a waste of money. You can’t afford it, even if you get a pay rise the non-union people will get it anyway.

We say: “46% percent of New Zealanders did not get a pay rise last year. 98% of union members did. Being union guarantees you a representative bargaining for your pay rise. Being non-union doesn’t guarantee you anything. Your Employer isn’t doing you favour by paying you a wage. You are making millions for the company and their shareholders and they are giving you a tiny portion of that in return.

Being union means that for most of our members you can get free life insurance, free doctor visits for you and your family and discounts on food and entertainment. Even if you use the free doctor only a couple of times a year think how much money you have saved. It makes financial sense to be in the union.

They say: “You won’t get a promotion if you join the union.” Or “I’m a Manager and we aren’t supposed to join the union.”

We say: Every worker in New Zealand has the right to join the union. Doctors, nurses, police, firefighters all have unions. The law doesn’t allow Employers to discriminate against employees for being union members. We love to see our members getting promotions. If we ever saw evidence that a member had not been given a promotion due to their membership we’d take strong legal action against the employer.

They say: “You should be grateful for your job, it’s disrespectful to join a union.”

We say: Employment is a mutually beneficial agreement. You give the employer your labour, they pay you. Both the employer and employee should respect the other for their position but the employer has not done you a favour, any more than you have done them a favour.

They say: “The union is just for trouble-makers and shit-stirrers.”

We say: The union is for game-changers, problem solvers. We don’t just sit back and let bad things happen to our people. We do something about it. That is something for us to be proud of.

They say: “If you join the union they’ll cut your hours.

We say: It is illegal for a employer to discriminate against you for joining the union. If we see evidence a union members has been treated this way we take it very seriously so you should get in touch.

They say: “I can’t join the union, I’m on a work visa.”

We say: “The law says every worker in New Zealand can join a union. We take abuse of workers on work visas extremely seriously and would be taking serious legal action if we heard of an employer threatening a worker on a visa. Being union makes you safer as you have someone to back you up if something goes wrong.

Some Employers and bosses don’t like unions because those employers like power.

Unions help to take the power back and put it in the hands of workers. A few good employers are comfortable about this, but most bosses we work with do not want the workers to have any power. This is a threat to them and they will do and say things to try and bust the union.

If you hear any of the above comments at your workplace please call, txt or email the union immediately and report it. In some cases you can remain anonymous. If you are unsure please contact us asap and we can talk it through. Remember it is illegal for your boss to treat you badly for being in the union. There is a hefty fine for an employer making anti-union comments and we will follow up all complaints.

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