The red flag’s being hoisted up the pole in central Wellington today by the Public Service Association calling for the great unwashed to show their support for District Health Boards to give their admin staff pay rises of between 15 and 45 per cent.
The shell-shocked DHBs are already bracing themselves for a nurses’ strike next week along with other bureaucrats at the IRD and MBIE who’ll down pens a few weeks later. The equally shell-shocked Government must be wondering where it went wrong with all the industrial turmoil.
It was Labour that went wrong when it doffed its cap to the trade unions in 2012, giving them 40 per cent of the vote, the same as MPs, when it came to choosing a leader. They didn’t get it with Jacinda Ardern because the leadership change was within three months of an election.
It’s not to say that trade unions are nothing more than agitators and stirrers, they’re not. They’ve honourably represented people who feel they don’t have a voice and they’ve achieved the pay and working conditions that many of us enjoy today. But it’s now their impatient voice and their muscle flexing that sees the Government with its back to the wall. They believe their sympathetic mates now occupy the Beehive and it’s payback time but if they’re not careful, that could come back to bite them.
It’s already hitting the Government where it really hurts. It should come as no surprise though that business confidence is nowhere near where it should be, not helped by the changes being planned for the industrial landscape that prompted employer advocates and businesses to take out newspaper ads pleading with the Beehive to show reason.
What the ads show is that the Government’s hasn’t been listening to the numerous closed-door meetings that have led us to this point.
What irks them are things like trade union reps having automatic access without permission to the shop floor, forcing businesses to settle collective agreements, even if they don’t agree with them, and not allowing them to opt out of collective contracts.
The bosses’ ad campaign was weakened by their objection to the 90-day probationary period being scrapped, whereas in fact 97 per cent of businesses, those with fewer than 20 workers, will still be covered. The bigger companies have human resources wallahs to help them get rid of those who aren’t up to the job. So that’s a red herring.
But while the unions may have celebrated with a hearty rendition of The Red Flag last October after Winston Peters anointed them the winners declaring he wanted to show the human face of capitalism, they’d now do well to pause and reflect on the last line of that Labour anthem: We’ll keep the red flag flying here.
If they’re not careful, it could just be flying at half mast after the next election.
Source: Newstalk ZB