August 8, 2005
Industrial action a reflection of low wages - union
The EMA’s shock-horror announcement that industrial action has risen is indicative of some of the underlying problems in New Zealand’s industrial relations, says the union leading the Fair Share – Five in ’05 campaign.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said that not only was the EMA’s claims of an 800 per cent increase in workplace stoppages grossly inflated, it was also an outdated method of measuring the state of industrial relations.
“The EMA has based its claim on its own interpretation of statements by unions, and in the process has added thousands of extra days to the tally – such as claiming 2000 lost days in the Metals dispute,” he said.
“But that aside, simply using the number of days’ industrial action as a measure of the state of industrial relations is a crude and out-moded technique, and we should be past this type of rhetoric.”
Mr Little said that there were many factors to measuring industrial relations, including productivity and the income level of workers.
“Working people take industrial action as a last resort when they feel they can’t get their message across in any other way.”
Mr Little said that the union did not resile from the fact that industrial action was up, but said that it had to be seen in context.
“This country might have had an extremely low level of industrial action in recent years, but it has also had extremely low wages,” he said.
“This year, working people have made a decision to lift their wages and, unfortunately, that has meant that some have had to take industrial action.”
Mr Little said that the vast majority of agreements had been settled without industrial action.
“Workers don’t like confrontational disputes any more than employers do,” he said.
“There are much better ways of conducting industrial relations, and we are always ready to address issues like productivity and wage rates with employers who are forward-looking enough to engage properly with their workforce.”