SFWU ripping off low paid workers?

Is the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) over-charging members?  – Observation by the Owl

The Owl loves to do his own homework and only ever uses information available in the public domain.

But today I have broken that rule because the piece of information sent to me is very worthwhile and one that I believe is for the good of all cleaners and SFWU members to know about.


A cleaner at their first job of 30 hours would have $6.24 per week deducted from their wages (by the employer) for union fees.

A cleaner at their second job of 10 hours plus would have $5.10 per week deducted from their wages (by the employer) for union fees 

A grand total of $11.34 or $589.68 (in other terms the union member would have had to work close to two weeks to pay for their total annual union fee – however that is not my point)

Where is the discount?

The SFWU table below shows quite clearly that an employee with one employer has only to pay $7.26 at 40 hours per week.

That’s a whopping $4.08 per week or $212.16 p.a. LESS – now that’s a lot of money going out from low paid cleaner’s wages for argument sake who generally have two or three jobs. Most people aligned with SWFU would be in that category. Its looks like this formula has been in place for years.

Question to the SFWU by the Owl?

1. SFWU please explain and how many other Union members suffer this fate?

2. Will the SFWU repay their over-charging?

3. Is there somewhere that Union members can clarify the fee charging on the SFWU website when there is one or more employers that a SWFU member works for?

Observation by the Owl

If I was a member I would be seeking clarification straight away and see if there is a discount policy or an ability to reclaim overpayment of fees based on discrimination on how many employers I work for.

Here are the SFWU Fees from October 2012 – they get renewed in October 2013 – let’s see if SFWU change their policy and give an early Xmas present for SFWU members



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  • LionKing

    Excellent observations from the Owl. Clear case here of the Unions tucking their members multiple times, but because they’re stupid, hey no worries they won’t even know. It’s no wonder the Unions are kicking up such a stink about Bridge’s pending law changes as they know they about to get one in the chops.

    • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

      I agree with you LionKing. If they are stupid enough, let them be ripped. They deserve this and I have no sympathy.

  • Hillary Green

    So if I have read this correctly, the SFWU is potentially receiving membership fees from, in this case low paid cleaners, multiple times? And if the Owl is correct, and it certainly looks this way, then those low paid cleaners have to work effectively for two weeks just to pay for their union fees! That is outrageous.

  • Naylor

    What a rort. Poor saps have no idea they’re getting screwed by their union ‘mates’. Feel sorry for them really. Working away, thinking the unions are looking after them, but in reality they’re just taking it up the arse on a monthly basis by the SFWU. Who needs enemies when that’s happening to you.

  • Allyson

    If you think our Union movt does a poor job representing the low paid, you should see what they do for the unpaid.

  • Barney

    No wonder the unions love Part 6A so much, it has seen heaps of cleaners end up with multiple employers all deducting union fees,,hmmmm. Where is the transparency around this? Oh thats right there isn’t any, just the way the NZ union movement likes it.

    • Owl

      6A I have never followed nor do i have an opinion – cleverer people than me can comment on 6A – I just worked out that low paid staff could be due up to $2,000.00 if the have been doubled dipped on for years.

      Then I can say I have helped union members! I am their biggest advocate against their executives. Someone has to keep the Union organisers honest!

  • DLM

    Lol – discount policy from the SFWU – yeah right. Even funnier is trying to get a repayment of fees from them. Unions have a habit of making money disappear faster than a wall st trader.

  • johnbronkhorst

    SO that’s where the labour party funds are coming from!!

  • Ducky

    WoW! I didn’t know being a union honcho gets a good pay from their members. man , I should have been a union rep when I ws young, I could be an angry MP by now.

  • Aquarius 61

    Another reason that union fees should be paid directly by the member, rather than from wages?

    • CheesyEarWax

      Exactly. Automatic union payments can be done with a few mouse clicks by members.

      • johnbronkhorst

        and not cost the employer bank fees! Especially if they have many unions to deal with.

  • Phar Lap

    Was wondering was that mentioned union run by the Kelly ,Mc Carten gang.,or just so called faceless people,who run NZ Lie-bour and Green parties.

  • Plue

    Perhaps the Owl would like to compare union fee increases Vs the increase in members wages. I bet fee inflation outstrips wage inflation
    They could limit their fee increases to achieved wage rises (as a percentage obviously) thereby aligning the unions interests with its members.

    LOL, sorry for that last idea I off for a lie down.

    • Owl

      i am – been working on it for a while

  • Jonny997

    This union member is working 1 hour per week JUST TO PAY UNION FEES!!! What the fuck!

  • Muffin

    Unions are the lowest scum, that said, in this case isn’t the employee getting the union ‘protection’ for two workplaces and hence the premium? Either way I can’t beleive people pay these leeches

  • signing birds

    Even worse it’s a regressive tax system. Those at the bottom end pay more per hour than those at the top . Exactly the policy that Unions get so pissed at governments for.

    Unions should eat their own lunch and implement a progressive scale – those that work the most should pay more per hour – that’s the way they say they want it:



    I dare them to try out their policies on their own first.

    But we all know this will never happen, because leftists are all about telling other people what to do, whereas they are special and exempt from such things.

  • Brian of Mt Wellington

    I bet the union will say they didn’t realise this rip off and are thankful to ”Owl” for bringing this to their attention and they will look into it. That will be the end of it as they wont mention it again.

  • johnbronkhorst

    So does this mean that person in the SFWU and working 2 part time jobs, has 2 union cards and 2 votes at the next election of representatives?

    • Whanga_Cynic

      Very clever, John, but guess what the answer is????

      • johnbronkhorst

        do I really need to GUESS!!

  • Jman

    So short version of what you’re saying: unions charge more for someone who works 40 hours a week made up of 2 jobs – Job A of 30 hours, Job B of 10 hours, compared to someone who works the same 40 hours a week but all in the same job.

    Agree it sounds like a ripoff to me.

    • Hazards001

      Sounds like secondary tax to me. Another rip off..or working for families..another rip off.

  • Callum

    This might just represent the fact that members with multiple employers incur more costs in having their collective agreements negotiated compared to a member with only one employer? No union supporter but the answer seems pretty obvious to me.

  • Unbalanced

    Has anyone thought that maybe this blog has got it wrong and that the fee is not based on the number of jobs you have but the total numbe of hours you work in a week. Hence maximum fee would be for 40hours plus, lesser fee for lesser total hours worked. Seems pretty obvious to me. Anyone asked the Union?

  • Time For Accountability

    Does the worker have the option of say being a member for the lower paid job and not for the higher job?

  • waiukunigel

    While I enjoy the research behind these posts, it would make much better reading if you actually asked these questions you raise from the people concerned and then reported their response (or lack of), rather than just saying these are things people need to answer, Anyone can ask questions. Finding the answers is what people like to read. Just a thought,

  • SFWU

    This post shows a complete misunderstanding of how union fees work. Many SFWU members work two jobs. The union covers both jobs. The member either increases their fee at one job or arranges through the union to pay by direct debit if their main employer will not cooperate. We rely on our members’ honesty.

    • Mad dog

      Do the lucky members get to pay secondary tax too

  • Simian

    1. Who the hell is “The Owl” (or maybe who cares?)

    2. How is this story any different to your complaints about the WINZ card story (http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/08/if-it-bleeds-it-leads/#axzz2cS6jkF6W).

    3. You do realize unions are not compulsory don’t you?

    4. If you look at the SFWU site you can see that you can pay through your bank account instead of through an employer (http://sfwu.org.nz/index.asp?pageID=2145822260)

    5. Can you read? The website states your fees are based on the number or hours of work per week not the number of employers.

    • Owl

      To answer question One.
      I am a non-affllated party member and one who has always stated believe in unions and a real advocate for members. I walk with the members as they need a voice too.

      I do not get paid and never ever have asked for payment – I use the Owl because I can as I don’t make any money – nor do I ever want too.

      Helen Kelly and Gary Parsloe invited me as a member of the public to get involved against the Ports of Auckland and stand beside them. All I ever did was say ok – but – first I want to know who they were e.g, NZCTU and MUNZ.

      An innocent look on the societies office registrar showed me some glaring issues on accountability and reporting. My research since then (2011) has seen the a number of Unions have to re-write their accounts showing millions in hidden revenues and cash.

      This is members money not the executive. Unions members are now millions and millions of dollar richer on their unions balance sheets.

      I am very proud of this achievement and maybe 330,000 unions might say thank you one day…but then again..praise was never my objective.

      • Simian

        Hey if you have made accountability better I thank you as a member of a union! But if your smart enough to do that you must be smart enough to know this is a nothing story! It really comes off as an attempt at a beat up.

        • owl

          last time I was criticised for my stories on Union Finances was by Chris Trotter on here. I thanked him for his criticism of my dodgy financial story lines.

          12 months later whoa – MUNZ, EMPU, Meatworkers all ended up re-submitting years of new accounts with for an example MUNZ with a new $10M revised balance sheet. Did MUNZ members thank me for finding them $10M on undisclosed assets? NO – but I don’t care really. Meatworkers – Millions again!

          The Owl does his homework and draws lines on public information freely available

          I am drawing a new line…

          • Simian

            Hey I thanked you above (so now you cant complain about never getting thanked, although none of those are the union I am a member of) and from the sounds of what you are talking about that is a clear violation by the unions involved.

            But IF anyone is paying more than they should because of working 2 jobs it’s not the unions fault it’s the members fault. The site clearly explains your fees are based on the hours you work each week, it doesn’t say at each job. If you were unsure about that then you should talk to your union rep. I thought the right believed in self reliance.

            Maybe the unions could implement a system to check for gross over-payment of members fees, but it also works the other way I would imagine it’s very easy for a member to say I do 39 hours when really they do 40 just so they can pay less. Any system would also cost money which reduces the money they can use to help members (although from the sounds of what your saying some of them have found a bit more lately!).

          • Time For Accountability

            Owl is correct about the benefits he given union members whereby Millions of dollars, mainly hidden in branch accounts, was never reported properly to members.

            There are several unions and like minded institutions that are still in default.

            But it is more than that – he highlighted a systemic problem and cleared up a widespread problem for the benefit of the members.

            1. Unions not reporting at all.
            2. Unions suppressing millions in branches. If you need a challenge – find any reports to members that account for shed funds in the meat-working industry that sit outside the union.

            3. Financial Statements not published on the Incorporated Society register.
            4. Failure of the registrar to ensure the missing accounts are filed.
            5. EPMU had two 5-6 million reporting issues. One lot fell out of the balance sheet from one year to the second was a similar amount lost but hidden in a subsidiary.
            6. Taxation issues that were not properly reported in the first instance.

            Underpinning much of this were Chartered Accountants who in my opinion failed because.
            1. They prepared accounts that did not comply with the mandatory accounting standards.
            2. Auditors who failed to understand union branches were in fact part of the whole union and not separate entities.
            3. Auditors who failed to audit the accounts to ensure compliance with the mandatory accounting standards.
            4. a massive failure by the same auditors who re-audited certain financial statements when they were corrected by millions of dollars and who did not withdraw their original audit reports and merely issued revised audit reports with no mention of the changes or the reason for the changes.
            5. There is a massive failure by the NZICA practice review unit that has failed to pick up on these failures. That is a random selection process but given all accountants are reviewed on about a three year cycle then it inconceivable these issues have not come to their attention.
            6. In the act under which NZICA exists they have a responsibility to educate the industry. Clearly they have failed.

            Then there was the matter that Unite union took its own employees paye and used it for other purposes rather than pay it to the IRD. Everytime you watch McCarten on TV wonder if he used those funds for his own political self promotion.