Rodney Hide on Union muscle

Rodney Hide discusses the union muscle controlling the Labour leader selection.

The Labour Party is now busy deciding our other option for prime minister. It’s a big deal. The disturbing thing is that our option is being decided not in the backroom of the Labour Party but in the backroom of half-a-dozen unions.

The few dozen delegates belonging to the likes of the EPMU and the Meat Workers together hold 20% of the leadership vote. Their vote counts. Big time.

These are the unions that have affiliated with the Labour Party. They exercise enormous power within Labour and are now getting to choose our other option for prime minister.

The president of the NZ Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, is clear on how the unions will work their vote. “The union executive – or members – will make the decision about who to support and those [delegate] votes will be cast on behalf of the union.”

As Mrs Kelly has made plain, the delegates will be voting as their executives dictate. And, again as Ms Kelly has explained, the union executives are meeting and discussing their vote. The unions will block-vote and that vote is very powerful. 

Despite the rules I might add.

The Service and Food Workers is the only affiliated union that gives members a vote. But members only get to vote if they turn up to the leadership hustings or live further than a given distance from the meetings and take the trouble to apply to vote. All the other unions are voting through their delegates.

The contenders will be anxious to win that 20% union vote and will promise whatever they must to get that vote. Party members can’t organise a block vote. Nor can the caucus. But for the unions it’s easy. They have a blank cheque to write policy for a future Labour-led government.

It’s a disgusting and unwanted development in New Zealand politics. We wouldn’t want Federated Farmers or Business New Zealand having the determining vote for the leader of the National Party. Or Forest & Bird deciding the Green leadership.

Rodney is dead correct on that. Imagine the uproar if Federated Farmers could directly vote on the leader of the National party along with the members of the NZ Initiative, and the Employers and Manufacturers Association. Labour would be issuing press releases that National was in the pocket of big business…oh wait they already do that…and yet the unions are voting in the selection of Labour’s next leader.

Our options for prime minister are narrow enough now without six unions tilting the field their way. We have in the past been anxious about big money affecting politics. But now we have unions with a direct say over who gets to lead the Labour Party. The would-be leaders must go cap in hand to the unions and win their support. That’s a power that no financial donor has ever been able to exercise.

Still, we shouldn’t get too hot and bothered. It’s MMP. It won’t be us deciding the next prime minister: it will be Winston, after we have all voted.


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  • unitedtribes

    Who cares how they get their new leader. Their all fuckwits. If the voters realise its the unions running the show they will melt away

  • johnbronkhorst

    This sort of back room deal has been going on for decades in labour. They have just changed the way they do it, added the word VOTE to it, in order to try and fool people into believing it is actually democratic!!

  • I’m Right

    Still anxious to hear Helen Kelly’s salary, and the rest of the Union leaders salary….I truly believe that if the rank and file members realise that Kelly, fir example, is on 150K, certainly 100K+, it would make the ‘poor’ workers sit up and think!, one policy i’m annoyed that National have not implemented since 2008 is the fact employers collect union dues….make it the union’s job! and if the members have to fill out a form giving up their dues most will opt out, These are the people that NEVER will vote for National so what have they got to lose, FFS National cut the unions off at the knees as they use the union dues to undermine you and deposit into Labours campaign chest….how fucking stupid are you really!

  • AngryTory

    National needs to make it illegal for anyone to garnish wages to a union, illegal for unions to be involved in politics, and illegal for state employees or contractors to belong to a union. Frankly I’d go one further so any state employee or bludger (including the Winston-voting mass of codger-bludgers) cannot vote – this is common in a lot of countries, to deal with the blatant conflict of interest.

    If Whale ran a “Beppe Grillo” or “UKUP” style list party – he’d certainly get over 5% – he could deliver this by the end of next year. Far more useful than 2-3 charter schools.

    • Dumrse

      I’m keen on you to expand on your “(including the Winston-voting mass of codger-bludgers)” comment. Do you mean super annuitants, in general?

      • GazzW

        Yes, every single one of you Dumrse, in fact AT would probably have you taken out and shot on reaching 65.

        • AngryTory

          Explain why you’re a bludger on the dole (“jobseeker’s allowance”) til you turn 65 when your benefit doubles cos you’re on the super. You don’t have to be very far to the left of Helen to see that makes no sense!

      • AngryTory

        Of course. In spite of all rhetoric about “paying taxes all their lives” all the baby-boomers’ monies have been spent – on benefits, civil servant salaries, railways, gold-plated schools, hospitals & roads etc. There simply isn’t any money left for super or anything else – anyone who is 20, or 30, or 40 isn’t going to get any state super, and someone in their 50s certainly isn’t going to get it at 65! This is not what I want: this is what the basic arithmetic tells us.

        Ideally, then, super payments – like any and all other benefits – should just be stopped. But certainly those in receipt of such payments cannot be permitted to vote on their continuance. There’s a basic conflict of interest there.

        • Dumrse

          I’m struggling to see if you are left or right of centre however I can only conclude you are not even on the same line. Your obviously aggrieved that by the time you get to retirement there won’t be fuck all left so what are you doing about it? I’m also concerned about it and can tell you when I retire I will have NLT three superannuation income streams maybe four if national super still exists. Am I rich and famous, fuck off. Given I have worked since I left school I consider myself to be working class and I’ve saved every fucking penny of it. So, Angry Cunt, slow down, chill out, and think about how you can make a difference. And, by the way, don’t go fucking near anything the baby boomers paid for. You and all you mates can start again for all I care. Maybe I just should have said, shows us your basic arithmetic spread sheet.

    • Hazards001

      “Frankly I’d go one further so any state employee or bludger (including
      the Winston-voting mass of codger-bludgers) cannot vote – this is common
      in a lot of countries, to deal with the blatant conflict of interest.”

      Sorry? Which countries exactly are you referring too?

      Are these places like Syria Egypt Cuba Kazakhstan or Libya maybe?
      I’d like to see this list of countries you are referring too…maybe you’d like to go live there?

  • middleagedwhiteguy

    There is one of the three candidates that will be anointed as the “union candidate”. If that is the case, will that decision be disseminated through the union rank and file with the “suggestion” that those union members who are also direct labour members vote for that person?

    Now it probably goes without saying that politically active people join unions and political parties. How many of the Labour Grass Roots are also union members? If it’s 75%, then straight away 50% of the total vote will go to the union candidate. Given the probable caucus support of the three contenders, with Cunliffe having 8 from 34 to date, Robertson 7 out of 34 and Jones 3, Lets look at the maths…..

    Cunliffe has about 23% of the caucus vote on factional lines, Robertson about 20%, Jones about 8.8%. This is guesswork by commentators better able than I, but 48% of caucus is yet to be assigned to a candidate. But for the sake of argument, lets just extrapolate what we have and assume that at the end, Cunliffe has 44% of the caucus vote, Robertson 38% and Jones 18%.

    Say the unions back Cunliffe, their 20% and the caucus vote will give Cunliffe 37-38% needing the unions to only control 32-33% of the membership role to pick the leader. Having said that, should the caucus meet in secret, pick a leader and agree to block vote that candidate, then they only need control 25% of the party vote.

    Obviously, the best result would be for the unions and caucus to agree to support a single candidate rendering the membership vote moot. The shitfight would be legendary!!

  • BJ

    So if the unions get together and put forward a unanimous decision on a Labour Leader candidate – how can that be in keeping with the ethical/moral/legal intent of voting? Surely the weight a vote carries should only be proportional to how many individuals are voting – and not an organisation getting a ‘block vote’ and then the individuals within that organisation that are also Labour members,getting an individual vote – effectively getting two votes. How can this be allowed legally when it may well affect the whole country. It’s just plain wrong.

  • I paint my poo blue

    Communism runs strong in the left. There is nothing materially different with the what NZ Unions stand for and what socialists and commies think.
    We are I for a dangerous time if these cats get ahold of the reigns with Russell ‘I should piss off back to Ausy’ Norman.

  • Carlos

    Unions are a blight. It’s a pity the Syrian regime dust invite them all over for a conference.

  • Michael

    I notice John Key is criticising one candidate only… he is hoping Cunliffe rips the Labour Party caucus apart?