International Unions on Red Alert over Attacks on Workers in New Zealand

The powerful group of global unions that brings together organised workers internationally across the world’s continents is calling for an immediate end to concerted attacks on workers in New Zealand.

Global union federations representing food workers, transport workers and public sector workers have joined the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in demanding an end to the union-busting measures that New Zealand’s workers have endured over recent months.

Within the last two years the Government has reduced worker and union rights under the Employment Relations Act including access rights and is now promising to implement further changes which will undermine collective bargaining.

Now, the ITF, IUF and PSI together with other global union bodies are condemning employer behaviour and are stressing that best practice industrial relations result in healthier growth. They believe that the route to improved industrial competitiveness is via good industrial relations – not via attacks on workers. However, recent months have seen:

- A four-month dispute at New Zealand’s port of Auckland after the port management used a threat of dismissal of all workers unless the management claims in collective bargaining were all accepted. This has threatened the jobs of almost 300 members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand, their families and communities – and the loss of public sector jobs.
- A lock-out of some 1,000 meat workers at Affco, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Talley’s Group, a leading New Zealand processor of seafood, vegetables, dairy products and meat. The New Zealand Meat Workers Union has been in negotiations for a new collective agreement with Affco, whose aim it is to get more workers on individual agreements (IEAs) and reduce pay at will.
- A nine-month dispute between the care home company Oceania and members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the Service and Food Workers Union, Ngā Ringa Tota (SFWU). At stake is whether Oceania accepts that it cannot hold onto public money intended for staff pay, and thus the safety and care of residents.

“These targeted attacks are part of a political drive to union-bust and privatise – and it’s more of what’s coming for organised workers everywhere,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC. “Public employment is under threat and private employers are using the excuse of financial restraint to get rid of unions whom they think threaten their profitability. Ordinary families should not have to pay with their rights, their job security and working conditions.”

The global unions are asking for:

1. An immediate end to public and private sector attacks on workers and good faith negotiations in all ongoing disputes
2. A government commitment to quality public services, quality public sector jobs and decent work in the private sector
3. A commitment by government and employers to trade union rights and positive industrial relations, in the interests of New Zealand’s economic stability, its working communities and its international reputation

International Trade Union Confederation
International Transport Workers’ Federation
International Union of Foodworkers
Public Services International
Council of Global Unions