Who is Andrew Little? – The EPMU Years

Andrew Little’s claim that he is a leader is based around his years at the EPMU. He spent 19 years in the union movement, and is very proud of his achievements at the EPMU.

Our pinko mate Farrar knows union history backwards and wrote the following in 2009:

Andrew became the union’s general counsel in 1997, then the assistant national secretary and next year will celebrate ten years as national secretary of the EPMU.

For many years Andrew has also been on the National Council of the Labour Party, representing the union affiliates who provide much of the money and manpower to Labour in exchange for bulk voting rights at conferences.

In his Palmerston North campaign speech he made the following claim.

I am standing for the Labour Party Leadership for two principal reasons. Firstly I have led significant change in a large organisation. When I took over at the EPMU, our largest private sector union, we were an organisation in three parts.   

Some people were not talking to each other. The organisation was not coordinated. People just went off and did what they liked.

I made the organisation one organisation. I gave it a single purpose that it organised to and worked under. And I turned it into a high impact organisation.

I nurtured the talent that we had and I brought in new talent. And I made it an organisation that was the envy of the Labour Movement and indeed of many others.

Note the use of “I”.

He claims all the credit for the success of the EPMU, and does not share it with the rest of the staff at the EPMU.

It would have been far easier for him to talk about the team he bought together to rebuild the EPMU and make it the largest private sector union in the country.

So he was the boss, the swinging dick, the bloke who the buck stopped with.


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  • metalnwood

    So how many people were in the EPMU at the time? I dont mean workers paying dues as there are many organisations that represent tens of thousands of people with very few staff.

    I was just curious, I mean compared to someone who restructured a company of thousands, or similar?

    It’s easy to say I fixed our ‘largest’ union that was in ‘3’ parts if those three parts were Joe, Sally and Moe.

    My guess is he made some changes in a place that was no bigger than a SME, probably smaller. Yay for him, department heads are doing this all the time in companies.

    • peterwn

      In fairness to EPMU and other current unions, Rogernomics and the ‘derecognition’ of unions with the passing of the Employment Contracts Act left unions in a very vulnerable position and merger was the only hope of survival such as Printers, Electrical Workers etc into EPMU and various central and local government unions into PSA. The main tasks and functions of a union are membership building and resolution of individual and local issues (the role of the ‘organiser’), collective bargaining and advocacy at a national level (including involvement in politics). It would be perhaps fair to say that following the formation of EPMU, there were factions there pulling in different directions, leadership and unification were required to properly consummate the merger. Although an organisation who merely advocates at a national level needs only a small Wellington based staff (eg CEO, a few advisers/researchers, and a few office staff), EPMU with its significantly broader functions needs a significantly larger staff spread throughout NZ.

  • Andrew Gibson

    I’m not sure leadership of an organisation like the EPMU is even relevant. There’s not the same commercial pressure as, say, running a corporate or a Government. Little’s experience would be more akin to running a sports body like NZ Tennis, where the only challenges are to raise membership levels and get the organisation noticed.

  • Justsayn

    It is interesting how one might judge “success” in the context of a union official. I think it must be by the circumstances of its membership, the size of that membership, and how much the members have to pay in membership.

    In that light I’d be interested to know:
    – what percentage of the average wage did EPMU members average when he took over the union?
    – how many members were there when he took over?
    – what was the EPMU’s membership fee when he took over?

    – what percentage of the average wage did EPMU members average when he left the union?
    – how many members were there when he left?
    – what was the membership fee when he left?

    – what percentage of the average wage do the EPMU members average now?
    – how many members are there now?
    – what is the membership fee now?

    • Asian_driver

      he got the union people new signwritten cars, that’s success !

    • – What was his salary when he started
      – What was his salary at the end
      – Compare his salary increase with that of the members over the same time

  • Hard1

    “I gave it a single purpose that it organised to and worked under.”

    Unions across the board had the same single purpose long before Little came along. All he did was combine several ailing fiefdoms .If this is the crowning highlight of Little’s career, I would suggest he is more suited to be Mayor of Mangakino.

  • In Vino Veritas

    Pike River Mine. “We will bring you home safely to your families each night”. Except they didn’t. And they must have known about their members safety fears. And the EPMU did nothing. Nothing, when they could have pulled their members on strike because of safety issues. A member pays his fees in exchange for the Union promoting his interests (including safety) and doesn’t get it. In the business world, that’s breach of contract. Why hasn’t Andrew Little and the EPMU been held accountable for their lack of action over safety issues at the mine? When they had a contractual obligation to protect their members? After all, this Union was all for the Directors and Management (and shareholders!) of Pike River to be held accountable.

    • Dave_1924

      Very well said IVV. And the answer is Unions have lost focus on their primary goals [Workers pay and working conditions] and are more into political games nowadays. I dislike Helen Kelly’s politics but I do like her campaign on safety in the forestry indusrty….

  • Diddle_De_Dee

    Sorry Andrew but you will never be Prime Minister material. You may be a nice guy and mean well in your view, but you do not have the stature or personality to ever represent NZ in any capacity, especially on the world stage and you also need to address your anger issues. Untill Labour can come up with an equivilant of John Key or better they will never be a future government.

  • Isn’t a dictator best suited for a communist party?

  • Just a thought …

    Hey guys ‘ mine is bigger than yours ……. so just ” suck it up ” …….. actually maybe I need to rephrase that ……

  • taurangaruru

    What wee Andy would like us all to believe is that his business acumen is similar to John Key’s & therefore he is a credible alternative as PM.

  • Curly1952

    Sounds to me like he is trying to be like John Key and become very popular himself with a view to being the pinnacle of any left success. .
    The big difference is JK didn’t and doesn’t need to brag about what he did he has just carried on on his own unflustered and sound way letting his performance speak for it self backed by a very sound group.
    Old angry Andy will fail as what he fails to realise is that you need to have charisma to be as good as as JK.

  • Dave

    Andrew, when i think of a leader, I think of people like John Key, Rob Fyfe to name just 2. a leader is more a developer of their people and a builder of teams, the one who sets the direction, who sorts out the appropriate team members to achieve the goals, and empowers everyone to do the job. A real leader is not needed one day, they have everything going so well, the teams know what to do, how to self manage and what is expected of them. Your teams should also over time learn to trust your direction, to follow, and again, sadly they didn’t even want you let alone like you, they carry knives waiting, waiting…….

    Leadership is an Art Andrew, it is half inside you, and half learnt. You lack the natural leadership skills Andrew, that Gene is missing from you and whilst you can learn a lot, sadly you cannot lead.

    PS: Perhaps a study of EI and a few books by Daniel Goldman, the expert on Emotional Intelligance.

    Example one ….. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emotional-Intelligence-Matter-More-Than/dp/0747528306/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422324207&sr=1-1&keywords=Goleman+daniel

    Example two ….. http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-New-Leaders-Transforming-Leadership/dp/0751533815/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=0C7DV7Q7V9S7M9ZPCC8S

  • Wahbonnah

    Read Cam’s last sentence in his post.
    “…the bloke who the buck stopped with.”
    Cam’s setting him up for a fall. I can’t wait for some Impertinent Questions for Mr Little.

  • Wheninrome

    Big wages bill, how many people are employed in this Union?