Council of Trade Unions (CTU) held its biennial conference in
Wellington, New Zealand, on October 21st and
main speaker on October 21st was the New Zealand Prime Minister, John
Key, who spoke primarily about the efforts of the government to deal
with the current economic problems facing New Zealand, including the
escalating levels of unemployment, through "reforming"
taxation and reforming ACC, "reforming" the public service
to make it "smarter" and introducing workplace (counter)
reforms that included the 90 day “Hire and Fire” Law
fact he was even allowed to turn up to speak at the CTU conference is
an insult and abomanation to workers.
major "achievements" of the National government has been to
introduce a 90 day "hire and fire" law that has done
nothing to encourage employers to hire people who would otherwise
struggle to get a job, get rid of around 1200 people in the Ministry
of Social Development and another 500 people in the Ministry of
Health, introduce hefty ACC levies on workers and people who own
mopeds and motorcycles, and introduce an excess of $100 on all ACC
the same time as the government is using taxes to subsidise McDonalds
to hire New Zealand workers at no cost to McDonalds.
government have also cut back on funding for adult education classes
by 90% and prevented people receiving Training Incentive Allowances
from doing post-secondary level training courses which means, in
effect, they can’t get training that’ll be of any practical value
in the work force.
as bad was the inviting of the Greens who, by forming an agreement
with National, have exposed themselves as hypocrites.
it is true that minor parties have been instrumental in passing laws
that benefited many workers, such as four weeks annual leave, paid
maternity leave, and Working for Families to name but a few and that
the Greens have openly come out in support of the workers at NZ Bus,
Open Country Dairy cheese factory (Talley’s), Telecom, Ministry of
Justice and elsewhere who are currently taking industrial action. The
reality is that they have opted for a class collaborationist approach
with the result that these reforms are only token at best.
Greens have failed to understand that the underlying cause of so much
inequality in society is the capitalist system, which is based
largely on gambling in the finance and stock markets. Merely
tinkering at the edges of a fundamentally rotten system to achieve a
few minor improvements to the lives of working class people is not
the way forward.
the more conservative of workers are now seeing the flaws inherent in
the capitalist system but there appears to be no decisive or
revolutionary leadership in the trade unions who are ready to state
the obvious: capitalism has failed and the only way forward is
Goff, leader of the Labour Party, gave a speech on October 22nd that
was critical of the actions of the current government with stinging
attacks on the 90 day "hire and fire" law, the cuts to the
public service and the changes to ACC but did not indicate much of a
turn in Labour’s policy towards 'core values'.
speech delivered what amounted to a predictable condemnation of the
government that would be expected from the main opposition party
rather than providing any fresh hope that the Labour Party would be
moving towards a more socialist policy, despite recent rhetoric at
the recent Labour conference.
telling were the speeches – or rather the general lack of them –
from some of the trade union leadership. Though much was said about
the need to display solidarity with workers who were on strike and
the need to recruit more workers and strengthen union leadership
there was virtually no mention of giving workers any real say in the
running of the unions or even putting forward a more militant
platform in which to fight the ruling class Certainly, no clear
industrial policy to defend workers and advance the cause of labour
in New Zealand was put forward by the CTU.
fact the only thing that came close this was the CTU's
Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) which in brief sows
reformist illusions regarding the capitalist economy (an analysis of
this will be in the next magazine). Dispite this it shows the
beginning of the pressure that the leadership is coming under due to
the fact that such a document has been produced for discussion. This
is a welcome development.
the only good thing to have come out of the conference was the
admission from a few speakers that capitalist globalisation is not
benefiting the workers but they fell well short of advocating the
only viable alternative: revolutionary socialism as advocated in The
Communist Manifesto. Even if they only
advocated the ten principles outlined for developed countries in the
it would be a major advance forward for the CTU and the trade union
movement in general.
the gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand has become the
largest in the OECD nations and 24,000 workers have lost their jobs
in the last quarter (excluding the 500 Ministry of Health jobs that
are to go that was announced only the day before John Key gave his
speech) the union leaders appear to be more interested in playing
'nice in the sandpit' with the ruling classes than throwing them out.
in all, the CTU conference simply proved that the present trade
union leadership is ethically bankrupt in allowing a non-class based
platform to address conference. It is highly questionable
that the leadership is up to the tasks ahead of it.
One may argue that some of the CTU leadership have long ceased to
represent the workers in any meaningful way.
will test out this leadership. If the leadership is found
wanting the rank and file of the unions will challenge and replace
the present leadership with a new militant leadership prepared to act
in the interest of the working class: as workers will
have no alternative but to transform their organisations they have
built up over generations to combat the bosses and the rotten
the cruellest irony of the conference was that the tea and raisin
scones that the delegates (and myself) enjoyed were served by
non-unionised workers in one of the lowest paid industries in New
Zealand: the hospitality industry. included the 90 Day "Hire and