Three extreme left controlled unions are to merge into one mega-union.
Very bad news for New Zealand’s economic and political future.
From the New Zealand Herald
Three of New Zealand’s most aggressive unions have agreed to merge into what will be the country’s biggest private sector union.
The Service and Food Workers Union, National Distribution Union and Unite Union will have a total of 54,000 members, about 7000 more than the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).
The EPMU spurned a Service and Food Workers request for a merger early this year, throwing it into the arms of the two smaller unions. The executives of the three merger partners approved the deal in principle last week.
The new union, as yet unnamed, will be Auckland-based and targeted at low-paid workers in fast-growing service sectors such as retailing and hospitality where unions currently represent fewer than 5 per cent of all workers.
Unite general secretary Matt McCarten, who has grown his membership five-fold in the past two years through a media-savvy “Supersize my Pay” campaign, said he wanted the new union to double its numbers within a year to easily surpass the country’s biggest union, the 55,000-member Public Service Association.
“It’s not just about a union getting bigger. It’s about getting the critical mass,” he said.
“I think what it will become is the catalyst to organise other unions around it with a campaigning union approach around social justice issues.
“In my view I’d want it doubled within 12 months. The others all think that’s ambitious but I think we could do it, easy.
“I think workers don’t have a problem with joining a union at all. What we need is the capacity to meet their needs – that’s what has held us back.”
The new union will start with a combined income of $15 million a year. Mr McCarten has bolstered Unite’s income through partnerships with Te Wananga o Aotearoa and the United Credit Union and is looking at new schemes such as a “union card” offering discounts with retail partners.
He said the new union would offer “membership for life” which individuals could carry with them between jobs, and he hoped it would dedicate 15 to 20 per cent of its budget to supporting workers who were not members of any union.
“I think workers will feel quite positive if they know that 20 per cent of their money goes to workers who are not in unions but need support, and after that they will join,” he said.
National Distribution Union national secretary Laila Harre said the union would start recruiting in high schools to give young people somewhere to get advice even before they signed their first employment contracts.
“I hope we come up with a category of membership that every mum and dad will want to give their kids for Christmas,” she said.