September 7, 2004
Unions should be at China FTA bargaining table
The union that represents manufacturing workers is calling for workers to be represented in trade talks with China.
The 50,000-member Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union has told the Government that the Council of Trade Unions should be part of the free trade agreement negotiating party in order to promote and protect New Zealand’s labour standards.
It also wants tariffs kept in place for as long as possible during the transition to an FTA, especially in high-tech and research-and-development-type manufacturing.
National secretary Andrew Little said that China was rapidly transforming itself into a high-quality manufacturing country on a scale which New Zealanders could scarely imagine.
“China is going to affect us dramatically, with or without a free trade agreement,” he said.
“It’s naïve to think that we can close the borders and hide from it – our members are already feeling the effects of the rise in Chinese manufacturing.”
What was needed was a realistic plan to deal with what was coming, Mr Little said.
The union has called for increased spending on skills, training, education and work organisation as part of a national transition programme of adjustment to the consequences of a free trade agreement with China.
Mr Little said that it was important that New Zealand join with all nations in applying pressure to get China to recognise international labour standards.