Go Reagan on the Firefighters

The fire-fighters union is preparing to die in a ditch over pay:

Firefighters will go on strike in two weeks, after failing to negotiate a 8.75 per cent pay rise with the Fire Service.

The Professional Firefighters Union claimed that firefighters straight out of training were paid less per hour than the minimum wage and said their pay, and that of other firefighters, needed to be increased.

The union’s national president Steve Warner said the union was asking for the 8.75 per cent rise in two stages – 3.75 per cent for six months backdating to January 1 this year, and a further 5 per cent for the following 12 months.

Warner said the two-stage increase could compound to be more than 8.75 per cent, in effect bringing the total pay rise to around 8.93 per cent.

Mediation between the Fire Service and the union broke down yesterday as the Fire Service stuck to its offer of 2.5 per cent.

On Thursday I blogged about what Dame Margaret Bazely thinks about the NZPFU.

I reckon John Key should go all Ronald Reagan on them.

On August 3, 1981 the union declared a strike, seeking better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. In addition, PATCO no longer wanted to be included within the civil service clauses that had haunted it for decades. In doing so, the union violated a law {5 U.S.C. (Supp. III 1956) 118p.} that banned strikes by government unions. Ronald Reagan declared the PATCO strike a “peril to national safety” and ordered them back to work under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Only 1,300 of the nearly 13,000 controllers returned to work. Subsequently, Reagan demanded those remaining on strike return to work within 48 hours, otherwise their jobs would be forfeited. At the same time Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis organized for replacements and started contingency plans. By prioritizing and cutting flights severely, and even adopting methods of air traffic management PATCO had previously lobbied for, the government was initially able to have 50% of flights available.

On August 5, following the PATCO workers’ refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order, and banned them from federal service for life.

Reagan went further though:

PATCO was decertified from its right to represent workers by the Federal Labor Relations Authority on October 22, 1981. The decision was appealed.

Some former striking controllers were allowed to reapply after 1986 and were rehired; they and their replacements are now represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which was organized in 1987 and had no connection with PATCO.

Irrational and intransigent unions should be broken. The NZPFU is one such union, if a professional like Dame Margaret Bazely thinks that they are scum then they should be de-registered and start again.


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  • kimbo


    From memory, Reagan had a relatively plentiful supply of military air traffic controllers to step into the breach.

    Anyone know if there are enough volunteer fire fighters in NZ to cover if I’m dumb enough to set my kitchen on fire while frying up some chips, and all these deregistered fire-fighters are presumably picketing, or have moved on to assorted McJobs as penance for their folly?

    Love Dame Margaret, though. Honest, gutsy lady. Love what she did to torpedo the legal-aid troughing that was going on. Easy target though – the public haven’t got much sympathy for lawyers, nor many of their rat bag clients, nor even less for paying their legal bills.

    Firefighters – nah. Ladies love the calenders and the “I need a hero” syndrome. Same reason why nurses always get a measure sympathy from the public during industrial action, whereas the teachers can go get stuffed.


  • kevin

    Put the fire fighting work out to tender…

  • Thankfully in the 80s we had “Side-Line” Stan Rodger who told unions and employers to talk to each other instead of making outrageous demands and waiting for the government to settle disputes.

    As for the Firefighters Union, privatise them back to the insurance industry. No insurance, no callout.

  • peterwn

    In the 1990’s, the Business Round Table thought it had just the thing to deal with the Firefighters Union and the then government took up its recommendations accordingly. The guy they recommended to chair the Fire Service did not have a clue about insustrial and public relations and it was game, set and match for the firefighters. He had to be dumped and Bame Margaret brought in to try and stabilise the things as best as possible. anyone taking the union on must be aware that it is very adept at PR and can easily win public sympathy with stories of brave firefighters. Part of the aim of the proposed strike is to trap the Nats into a damaging PR battle just prior to an election.