President’s address, Richard Wagstaff: CTU Conference 2019

Engā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karangatanga maha, tēnā koutou

Ourworld was built by working people, with our energy and commitment, with ourskill and our knowledge, with our sweat and toil. And we’ve built it for ourcommunities, for our people, for our families, for everyone ….to share fairly.Because we know we’re in this together and living our core values means wevalue inclusiveness, collectivism, solidarity, and helping each other.

Wedidn’t build this world for the few – we built it for the many – for everyone.

Thisconference is about us getting our fair share of what we’ve built, somethingwe’re not getting, something that requires decent wages and salaries, decentbenefits and strong public services.

Noneof these things will be achieved without a strong labour movement – and astrong union movement can only thrive in an industrial environment that allowsworking people to freely organise collectively, without fear, negotiating froma position that commands respect, where we can speak up with confidence andsecurity.

Itdoesn’t matter where we are – whether it’s in the workplace at a members meeting, or it’sin a select committee hearing, or it’s at the bargaining table – our job astrade unionists is to represent the aspirations and dreams of working people -that’s who we are. No one else can do that. No one else can speak for us. Noone else can negotiate collectively on behalf of working people. We are the independentvoice of working people.

Toomany workers in Aotearoa can’t effectively do that right now because too manyworking people have no union and no bargaining power.

Isit any wonder then, that under these conditions we’ve become a low wageeconomy, with ‘poor productivity?

Oneof the biggest barriers to fixing this problem is the complete lack of anindustry wide approach to negotiating wages. Unlike just about every other OECD country, we’re stuck in the dark ageswith just individual or enterprise bargaining, without any industrycoordination.

FairPay Agreements are meant to be a way of putting right this gaping hole in ourindustrial laws. The FPA working group came up with a way of stopping the raceto the bottom, a race where workers always come last. These Agreements will enableNZ to grow up and create industry wide bargaining minimums that raise the baron working conditions for specific industries and improve training and industrycoordination that can’t be undermined by cowboy employers.

So today we are releasing our response to the WorkingGroup’s report that was given to the Government last December. We think theWorking Group did a great job identifying the problems of our ‘race to thebottom’ system of wage setting and came up with practical and workableproposals under which industry-wide agreements could be established.

Our response is called ‘Framework for Fairness’. To makesure Fair Pay Agreements are really fair, our response establishes six keypillars that are fundamental. They are:

  1. Thepurpose of Fair Pay Agreements is to enable working people to improve theirterms and conditions of employment, and their skills in a coordinated industryor sector.
  2. Workingpeople will negotiate FPA’s through their union.
  3. FairPay Agreements must cover every person working in a sector or industry,including contractors to protect full employment rights.
  4. FairPay Agreements must be about more than just pay rates, because hours of work,training, leave, career progression and how we save for our lives after workare just as important as base wages.
  5. Theremust be an independent arbitration available to swiftly and comprehensivelyresolve disputes, with as wide a mandate as possible.
  6. Andfinally, agreements reached must be final, not be subject to further hurdles ortinkering.

The policy work is done and now it is our Government’s turnto put these principles urgently into law so Fair Pay Agreement negotiationscan begin. We eagerly await their response.

Gettinga fair share also means getting Pay Equity. We are making great strides in thisregard, having built on the incredible Care and Support Settlement, we’ve movedon to reach settlements for social workers, education support workers, mentalhealth and addiction workers. There is of course much more in the pipeline andmuch, much more to achieve. And Pay Equity needs to go beyond fixing the inequity between men and women, it needs to extend to the terrible imbalancebetween ethnicities- between Maori and Pakeha, between Pacific workers andPakeha and between Asian workers and Pakeha.

Butwhen it comes to getting our fair share, it’s important to understand our expectationsgo way further than simply getting our share of the economic pie.

Ourexpectations are more than just sharing the products of our labour, they arealso about sharing the process of our labour! Not just sharing what we produce,but also how we produce it.

We wanta fair share of life too!

Considerworking time. The amount of time wespend at work needs to be right. There needs to be enough time left over for usto be with our friends and family, enough time for us to call our own timewhere we are free to do our own thing, and of course enough time to sleep.

Rightnow Kiwis tend to work too long or too short – We need a better approach toworking time that Goldilocks would support – not too little or too much, butjust right. Getting there means we need to start seriously moving the full timeworking week to less hours and in time less days.

And wewant a fair share of control over our own lives, not just by having more timeaway from work, but also by having more say at work.

Whenwe work for a wage or salary, we are not exchanging our humanity for financialcompensation. We are not surrendering our dignity and our mana by saying to ourboss ‘you’ve paid for me so you can treat me as you please’ and unions do notaccept the imposition of micro management or hi tech surveillance. Nor do weaccept the concept of a master servant relationship. Getting dignity at workmeans being treated with respect, being listened to and being in control. Itmeans Industrial Democracy as well as economic democracy.

Asthe International Labour Organisation clearly states – labour is not acommodity. Work is to be respected. And workers need to be paid fairly inexchange for their contribution, not as some sort of compensation for enduring misery.

Donewell, a workplace is somewhere where people derive a powerful sense ofsatisfaction, self-esteem and meaning. It’s where we reach our potential. Goodwork is actually a great source of wellness.

Andwe also know that work done badly is the opposite – it is dangerous, it isboring, it is demeaning, it is alienating and destructive to the human spirit.

Sowhen the Government talks about wellbeing, the CTU says look to the workplace,look where over 2.5 million people work day in and day out. Our message to NZis – if we’re serious about improving the wellbeing of our people, we should puta real focus on and invest in the workplace, because it has great potential tobe a key source of wellbeing.

Butto maximise that opportunity, we’ll need to change our workplaces so theculture is focused on much more than just profit and efficiency, but promotesthe interests of people.

Andlet us not forget fairly sharing the work that has to be done to address theclimate emergency. There is no fairshare when the planet is dying. We have to do our bit and we are. The studentclimate march here and around the world was strongly supported by unions. Butwe are not about simply condemning whole industries and treating them asoutcasts, because the workers in those industries need recognition for theirachievements and deserve our support to transition to new industries. The global call of the ITUC for a JustTransition, where everyone shares the benefits, and the burden of change to a lowcarbon future is very much about this idea of getting a fair share. The JustTransition work our affiliates are doing in Taranaki is a great example doingjust that.

Gettingour share isn’t going to be easy. We know full well that some people, someinterests are getting far more than their fair share – and they aren’t going togive it up easily. They have deep pockets and an army of lobbyists.

Lookat the constant Chicken Little act we get every time their castle is threatened.Earlier in the year we heard how the speculators and bankers couldn’t entertaina fairer tax system – and they wheeled out their lobbyists and propaganda andbombed any chance for a Capital Gains Tax. A Tax designed explicitly to makesure speculators started paying their way, so we could all get a fairer share.

Andjust last week we saw them raise their heads again, this time against theReserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr, who had the audacity to question thebehaviour of our big banks, their exorbitant profits and the risk they pose tothe NZ economy.

Nowthey’re getting personal, suggesting Adrian Orr is some kind of bully bringingdisrepute on the office of the RB Governor – who, we are told, shouldn’t rufflefeathers and say anything too challenging. Pretty incredible when you think DonBrash- a poster child for the neo liberal establishment and who went on to headthe Act Party – was the first RB Governor appointed. We never heard a whisperabout ruffling feathers then amidst grinding poverty, unemployment andausterity.

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