Tag Archives: CTU

CTU will not engage in Governments sham consultation process on Terrorist Bill

24 Nov

Media release

CTU will not engage in Governments sham consultation process on Terrorist Bill

Today the CTU has sent a letter to Prime Minister John Key articulating serious concerns about both the content and the rushed process the Government has clearly signalled it intends to follow to progress the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill into law and urging him to follow the proper process in considering this legislation.

“Rushing this legislation through is not appropriate or proper. We will not participate in a sham consultation process or take for ourselves the “luxury” of the chance to be heard at the select committee on the basis of some dubious selection criteria made by those to whom the Bill grants power while other legitimately interested citizens and groups are denied that opportunity,” CTU President, Helen Kelly said.

“There has been no evidence presented at all from the Prime Minister that such urgency is needed. Given the severe and unique nature of the powers being sought, quite the opposite is appropriate and a reasonable period of time should be made available for the public to have a say on this legislation,” Kelly said.

“The Bill provides authority for the SIS to trespass onto private property in order to conduct covert surveillance (such as installing video cameras and listening devices). These powers will compromise citizens’ right to avoid unreasonable search and seizure and to privacy. The Bill also extends the ability of the SIS to conduct warrantless surveillance for 48 hours in situations where it would be impracticable to get a warrant and it is believed that information may be lost. Warrantless surveillance as fundamentally irreconcilable with expectations of acceptable government behaviour in a free and open society. The only public accountability for the use of this power is that the SIS must note the number of times this power is used in their annual report,” Kelly said.

ENDS

View the letter here http://union.org.nz/news/2014/ctu-will-not-engage-governments-sham-consultation-process-terrorist-bill

For further comment, please contact:

Helen Kelly, President, CTU

021 776 741

Huia Welton | Communications & Campaigns Advisor | New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Te Kauae Kaimahi

ph: +64 4 802 3817 | cell: +64 021 524 502 |

www.facebook.com/fairness.at.work | www.union.org.nz | Follow us on twitter: @fairnessNZ

Unions – we’re about Fairness

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Beat the rain on Saturday!

17 Sep

Kia ora

So many people have already voted, over 350,000 in fact! Maybe you’re one of them?If you haven’t voted you still have time. The weather forecast for Saturday is rain and wind over most of the country. If you think the weather will impact on your ability to vote, or the ability of someone you know – then vote before Saturday!

Saturday is the last day to vote. The voting places close at 7pm on the dot! You can find a list of all the places here http://www.elections.org.nz/events/2014-general-election/information-voters-who-when-and-where

It’s really important that people know that on Saturday it’s not possible to enrol you can only vote.

Do you know anyone under between the ages of 18 – 30? Please ask them about when they’re planning to vote.

I’m looking forward to voting on Friday, Suffrage Day, with my son and other members of my family. Like you, I’m committed to having my say about who our next government is.

Let’s get out and vote!

Helen Kelly, CTU President
http://www.getoutandvote.org.nz/

Authorised by: Helen Kelly, NZCTU, Level 7, 178 Willis St, Wellington

Health and Safety Rep Training – a cut by any other name

15 Jan

By Helen Kelly, President, NZ Council of Trade Unions

(Reprinted from The Standard)

I couldn’t give a rats arse about Jordan Williams and his new little Act campaigning vehicle against the State, but I do care about health and safety and the manner in which some of the media have run his latest little ruse against training health and safety representatives in the workplace is a disgrace. Judith Collins has used it as a cover to announce the end of worker health and safety training by unions beyond this year, leaving workers unable to access the powers under the Health and Safety Act to issue hazard notices and represent their workmates.

Pike River disaster where 29 miners died proof of the need for Health and Safety training

In the world’s fastest OIA turnaround (just 19 days), Collins has given Williams the advice she sought from ACC regarding the contract it has with the CTU to deliver training to Health and Safety Representatives.

This training is the recognised training workers need under the Act to be able to issue Hazard Notices legally and carry out the role of representative. We have trained over 30,000 workers since 2003 (mostly non-union) to carry out this heroic role despite National cutting down the numbers we can train each year to a new low this year of just 1800 trainees across the whole NZ workforce.

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Select Committee Didn’t Listen re Employment Law Changes

11 Dec

Despite over 12,000 submissions making it clear the Governments proposed Employment Law changes are unfair and will drive wages down, the Select Committee report released today shows it has failed to listen to the working people of this country.

“With 50% of kiwis saying they are having trouble making ends meet, 46% of Kiwis not even getting a pay increase last year and recent reports of working families living below the poverty line, it is unbelievable the Government would continue with these very bad proposals” Helen Kelly, CTU President said.


Union rally against the planned changes to employment law

In its report back today the Government majority on the Select Committee, has recommended virtually no change and instead continues to support the removal of the lunch and tea break, the ability of employers to refuse to conclude a collective agreement in bargaining, and to not offer new workers coverage and has even extended the plans to remove employment security from the country’s cleaning and catering staff further than originally proposed.

“This law breaches international obligations and is unfair on working people in this country” Helen Kelly said.

“While Mr Bridges continues to state the current law favours workers, the reality of the prevalence of low paid, insecure and dangerous work speaks otherwise and for the Government to make that situation worse, shows it has no mercy for working people”.

“This Government is making a clear political choice to victimise those that make this economy run. The Government’s attitude that workers are a commodity and that low wages are desirable, is not in the interests of the over 70% of Kiwis who get their main source of income from wages. We are calling on the Prime Minister to listen to us, to ignore the Select Committee and pull this Bill, in the interests of all Kiwi mums and dads.”

What do we want from a labour-led government

20 Sep

By Mike Treen

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

I have avoided doing a blog on the Labour Party leadership race because I’m not a member of the Labour Party and I don’t have much confidence that they would deliver on the promises made.

In my view unionists and socialists should focus on building a social movement that can organise and mobilise working people in the hundreds of thousands. Relying on parliamentary representatives to do the job for us is a fundamental flaw.

Even if Labour’s new leader David Cunliffe was a committed socialist he would be powerless to stand up against the pressure big business would bring to bear unless there was a massive movement below to give strength to those in government who wanted to push forward real reforms in the interests of working people.

Big business launched a massive “winter of discontent” shortly after the election of the Helen Clark led Labour Alliance government in 1999. Following that display of strength the government reform programme came to a virtual halt. Similarly “closing the gaps” for Maori was shut down at the first hint of opposition and anything that smelt of affirmative action abandoned.

I don’t believe David Cunliffe is a socialist. He is someone from the right of the party who has genuinely come to question the mantras of free-market capitalism and the inequality it produces. But that is not unusual today – even World Bank and IMF economists are claiming a new found belief in the importance of reducing inequality. Their solutions to the problem however remain firmly within the bounds of those acceptable to the maintenance of the system.

And that is the nub of the problem. Big Business will only ever accept a programme of social reform that may benefit working people when they feel their system is under threat. That was true in the 1930 and 1940s. Millions of working people were mobilising internationally and usually under a socialist banner of some sort. The ruling classes got frightened and tolerated some reforms for a period. The great depression and war that followed also gave big business a profit boost that meant they could afford to pay a little more to keep the system safe.

That is not true today. Even the relatively modest policies that David Cunliffe is talking about – a living wage, small tax increases for the rich and a capital gains tax – are likely to generate significant business opposition.

The usual response from social democratic governments in those circumstances is capitulation. I expect no difference from a Cunliffe-led government. But I am also happy to be proved wrong.

Unionists and socialists inside and outside the Labour Party actually have a common interest here. This includes people like myself who is a Mana supporter and many Green Party activists as well.

The only way there would be a hope for David Cunliffe and co to stand up against big business in government would be if we had had a massively organised and mobilised working class movement that had an interest in the promised reforms happening.

This is where I think we need to look at what the priorities are that we want such a government to focus on. At the moment is seems to me that the CTU leaders are focussed on measures that can benefit workers generally outside of any organised framework. This is true for example of the living wage proposal or the idea of industry-wide national minimum standards being imposed by the government.

I have no problems with the proposals as such – any increase in income or protections for workers is of course something to celebrate. However what we need above all is the ability to organise as a class and impose our own solutions to the problems that face us.

Much more thought needs to go into what legal changes could be made that would give unions a greater ability to organise the 92% of the private sector workforce outside of unions. This includes access to the workplace and forcing employers to bargain for multi-employer collectives. We also need a significant extension of the right to strike to include those for political demands and for the enforcement of the existing contracts – rights eliminated by a previous Labour government.

(Unite National Director Mike Treen has a blog hosted on the TheDailyBlog website. The site is sponsored by several unions and hosts some of New Zealand’s leading progressive commentators. Mike’s blog will be covering union news and general political comment but the views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of Unite Union.)

The tale of Michael Stevens – killed 27 May 2008 – hit by falling tree

5 Jul

By Helen Kelly, President of the Council of Trade Unions

(Reprinted from The Standard)

I have collected up the available documentation on the men killed in the forest since 2008. I am going to try, using the documents I have, to tell their story – one at a time. I haven’t been able to contact all the families of these men and hope if any of them read this, they are not surprised or upset to see the details set out like this.


Since 2008, the industry has seen 33 deaths and 874 serious injuries

The documents are public but have never been pulled together in one place. If we have an inquiry – they will provide some of the clues to what is going on. I have OIA’d the last 50 serious harm injuries as well – but the MBIE won’t provide them. MBIE have not collated and looked at these deaths as a set – I think collectively they paint an important picture.

This week the Forest Owners said they would welcome an independent inquiry into the industry and we hope to meet with them to talk about this soon, but really we need Mr Bridges to get over the line on this and agree to support it. I am hoping telling these stories will help.

Michael Stevens was killed in Ngaumu Forest in the Wairarapa on 27 May 2008. He was 40 years old. He was employed by Montana Logging working in a Juken NZ forest. He was struck by a falling tree. The foremen became concerned when he had not heard any cutting from the area Michael was working in for a while and went to look. He was found dead.

Michael had only started work 7 months before the accident and had been to polytech for a training course before hand. He was basically a trainee and was working towards his first tree felling unit standard on the week prior to the accident. Montana records indicated that it had clear faith in his ability to work competently, safely and productively on his own with limited or no supervision. He was cutting a tree which had a large wind thrown tree leaning heavily against it creating a large amount of pressure on the standing tree, thus causing the tree to fall quicker after the back cut was completed and causing the wind thrown tree to spring forward in the direction the falling tree would have taken. Other wind thrown trees nearby made it difficult to establish an uphill escape route. The falling tree hit other trees on the ground and slid sideways and backwards striking him in the area of his predetermined escape route.

The inspector found Michael’s decision to cut a particular dangerous tree was the critical factor in his death – he blamed him. “In this case DOL believe that there has been a breach of Section 19, in that an employee’s inactions have been the major contributing factor into the cause of the accident” “In this case there are no clear recommendations that can be made to dramatically improve processes or procedures to ensure this does not occur again”.

He wrote in the report that Michael was a worker “who could be trusted, who had initiative, a great work ethic and immense passion for tree felling”.

The inquiry report has no details of an employment agreement, nor record the hours of work that week , nor the weather conditions at the time. It does record that Michael tested negative to drugs. Five contributing hazards and four contributing causes were identified by the inspector but none included the weather or fatigue. The inspector found Montana had a comprehensive management system for this logging operation – the Coroner concluded it did not.

Coroner Garry Evans carried out a full inquiry into Michaels death. He found the DOL had been wrong to attribute health and safety duties to Michael that actually sat with his employer. After hearing from an expert witness he concluded Michael was cutting a tree beyond his experience and in fact lacked the training to even recognise that he was out of his depth. He found the health and safety plan was a generic one and insufficient for the specific site, and that Michael had only two months tree felling experience and was doing work usually done by the most experienced fellers.

Coroner Garry Evans recorded that it “cannot reasonably be said that … an employee’s inactions have been the major contributing factor into the cause of the accident”. An expert witness found that other contributing factors to the poor decision made by Michael included weather conditions (raining, wet, poor light, cold), time of day and having had only one day of rest (Sunday) before starting the next weeks work, maybe some personal problems but this was questioned, and not enough experience. The expert said that with the wet conditions the likelihood of the tree sliding backward or sideways into the escape route was very high.

No prosecution was taken in relation to this death. It is unclear if the Coroners recommendations were adopted by the Department – there is no legal requirement under the Coroners Act for any party to formally respond.

Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws.

19 Jun

By Helen Kelly, Council of Trade Unions President

(Reprinted from The Standard)


Helen Kelly speaking rally in support of Ports of Auckland workers

The proposed changes to employment law make massive changes to the right to strike. Those opposed to the Bill by Jamie Lee-Ross to allow replacement labour during strikes, need to be consistent in this view and should also be very worried about the main Employment Relations Amendment Bill now in Select Committee.

The Bill changes the right to strike in three significant ways:

1. Notice for strikes.

Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.

2. A strike tax

The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.

3. Restrictions on the right to strike

The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.

There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.

40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.

The Amendment Bill removes the duty to conclude a collective, and provides for a party to apply to the Court to deem bargaining concluded without a settlement. If this is granted then the expiring collective agreement expires immediately leaving no collective in place and putting all workers onto individual employment agreements (remember the Employment Contracts Act?). If bargaining is deemed concluded by the Court without settlement, then both parties are frozen in relation to restarting bargaining for 60 days including from taking strike action in pursuit of a collective agreement. So there employees will sit – no collective, no bargaining and no strike rights. During this time the employer can offer individual agreements to workers to break up the bargaining unit.

All of this is technical but the reality is that this Bill is aimed to drive wages down. It is dramatic and will be used to contract out workers like the wharfies, to remove collective coverage from vulnerable workers like cleaners and hospital service and clerical workers, to undermine school support staff bargaining and to force dramatic cuts in wages and conditions on many unionised groups of workers who will be left choosing between bargaining at all and “take it or leave it” offers. A reduction of wages in collective agreements impacts on all those other workers whose wages are based on the collective and influences wages across industries as well.

The Minister of Labour spoke to the ILO conference today – he reiterated his point that this evens up the power of employers against employees, he waxed on about supporting the ILO and he ignored the fact the changes break the agreements between the New Zealand Government and the ILO. He is creating a situation where collective bargaining will not be promoted as per the requirements of this house. In doing so the Government puts New Zealand’s international reputation at risk. It has referenced these conventions in many of its trade agreements but clearly it does not honour these either!

Don’t get distracted by the Jamie Lee Ross Bill, it is serious too but if you cant strike at all – the issue of replacement labour becomes the sideshow in this larger debate about the future of work in New Zealand.

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