OFF THE RECORD
08 March 2018
Having had a frank and often hilarious chat with one of the leading movers and shakers at First Union toward the end of 2017, made me realise why they are currently viewed as the most active and fastest growing union in NZ. They are focused, passionate and with loads of energy to uplift the working class! Especially in sectors where an employer is perceived as being greedy, unethical and exploitive of workers.
Hence, they are focusing on, the so called precarious workers. These types of workers are often new arrivals to NZ, or are Kiwis desperate in search for work so they can pay the rent and feed their families. It is not uncommon for some employers to wilfully and strategically tap into this desperate situation by hiring casuals, contractors & temp employees to keep their labour cost at the lowest base possible.
For those exploitive employers, First Union has a message – treat all your workers with respect, dignity and fairness! If not, we will be on your case!!
First, is focusing on the previously not well organised employment sectors in NZ such as forestry and agriculture. Companies using 3rd party ‘on hire’ workforces who pay incorrectly, manipulate hours & rest breaks and treat regular long-serving persons as aliens, by not observing the correct and lawful employment contract status, watch out – First will be on your case in 2018!!
First have hired younger, energised and culturally aligned organisers with the ability to take on the hard issues! They also dedicate a lot of time to education and coaching of delegates. A key ingredient for building credibility and membership growth.
First is well organise and networked, know how to use social and mainstream media and are willing to use the strike tool when negotiations don’t deliver results.
First, unashamedly, promotes socialistic values and will challenge worker exploitation and corporate greed no matter the size and reputation of a company.
Their 2018 wage goal is to achieve a minimum increases beyond 3%; however they advise they will be pushing hard for higher wages in companies who can afford this.
First, has allegedly grown membership by around 3% each year over the last couple of years and is now closing in on 30,000. Their goal is to become the best and most active union in the private sector in NZ. They seem well on their way to achieving this.
First Union also assists and supplies informal support to other unions covering sectors that they are not directly involved in, such as hospitality and fast-food.
First advises that employers can expect a flurry of negotiations and industrial activity early in 2018. It is also rumoured that they have a growing strike fund nudging the $1 Mil mark.
First will be keen to utilise the new Fair Pay Agreements, by grouping companies in similar industries together, for bargaining purposes. This is to ensure that individual company profitability is not driven predominantly by labour cost.
Their model for success seems simple – get the right organisers and delegates, have a clear vision, communicate with and educate members, challenge employers with poor work practices & wages and negotiate hard.
I have no doubt that in 2018, the First will boldly continue to market their brand of unionism and effectiveness by exposing those companies and/or individual managers who believe in the old doctrine of “profits before people”!
Unless specified, all articles are summaries of articles gathered from various news publications. For full citations please click on the article heading.