Helen Kelly, NZCTU President address to the New Zealand Labour Party Congress, Wellington, 13th April 2008
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā kārangaranga maha o ngā mata waka, me ngā momo tāngata katoa o te hui nei. Tēnā koutou katoa.
Thank you for again inviting the CTU to address your congress in this very important year. I bring greetings from our other officers – Richard Wagstaff and Sharon Clair (our Vice Presidents) and Carol Beaumont our CTU Secretary.
As a movement that represents over 360,000 workers we understand how important this election is.
Working people have been given the chance to get back on their feet with this government.
Some people have talked about time for a change – this government has bought about a sea change for working people:
a change for good,
a change that has given them dignity at work,
a change that has invested in their lives and futures,
a change that means they have more holidays,
a change that means more balance in the Employment Relations legislation,
a change that has increased the minimum wage by more than 70% and virtually removed youth rates,
a change that has bought thousands of new teachers and nurses into health and education,
a change that means 20 hours free ECE for 4 and 5 year olds,
that has recreated apprentices and workplace training,
a change that provides for 14 weeks paid parental leave,
that has removed interest of student loans,
a change that means working families get significant tax credits through working for families,
a change that has created strong tripartite initiatives between the CTU, Bus NZ and Government,
a change that is rolling out pay and employment equity in the state sector,
that has put unions and workers back into workplace health and safety,
that has re-nationalised ACC, our world leading scheme - and reintroduced lump sum compensation,
a change that has resulted in industry initiatives in a number of low paid sectors such as aged care
that has meant cheaper visits to the doctor and lower prescription charges
a change that has introduced income related rents for low-income families,
that returned Kindergarten teachers to the State sector,
that abolished bulk funding of teachers’ salaries in schools,
that guaranteed time and a half for public holidays
and a change that introduced KiwiSaver
And this is just the short list of what has changed.
For New Zealand workers this sea change has meant life changes.
This is not just because of good policies. It is because we have a Government made up of people who care about workers, who understand the difficulties they face, and who try to make things better.
Of course this does not mean that we live in paradise! There is more to do. And workers are really feeling the pinch at the moment with high food prices, rising petrol costs and high rents and mortgage payments.
So we need more change and with the continuation of a Labour led government we know that will happen. Labour is the Government with a proven record of change for the better and we need more of it.
Now it is not the only party of change. Workers saw plenty of changes in the 1990s with the National Government – this change left them shortchanged ……and with only small change!
And we know a leopard doesn’t change its spots and this is not a case where the more things change the more they remain the same – we have seen National’s industrial relations policy and it is dramatic and will have a major negative impact on working people.
Before I go into more detail I have a little slide show – it lines up two speeches side by side with remarkably similar language and ideas and shows National’s plans for industrial relations are the same as in 1991.
And that is just the ERA. National are also promising:
creating more incentives to work by reducing Working for Families (despite low unemployment)
reduced employment rights for workers in SMEs
the 90 days of no rights when you get a new job.
reduced statutory holiday pay
the flexibility to "swap" the extra weeks leave for cash (selling annual leave)
reduced ability to accrue holiday leave
privatisation of ACC
repeal of the Flexible Working Hours Legislation
removal of transfer of undertakings provisions
I know workers won’t benefit from this type of change and our job this election year is to make sure this message is clear, that workers enrol, know the issues, and vote.
The CTU is running a major election campaign with our affiliate unions to ensure this happens. We have developed strategies and structures to make sure our key messages get out and workers and delegates know what is at stake and organise at work to make sure all union members and their families know. We will not only be highlighting positive changes for workers over the last 8 years, but noting how the various parties voted in relation to those changes and exposing National’s IR policy.
We know that when the party manifestos come out, there will be a stark difference. Labour’s manifesto will contain policies that continue to make NZ a good place for all to live in and actually for business to operate in (Labour’s achievements in building successful businesses in this country is also well worth noting). National’s policies will be focused on their friends – and no more will this be the case than in IR. Not only will National have the policy I have set out (no doubt fudged and hidden) but it is unlikely on its record to contain any policies that will actually continue to build the standard of living for workers and their families. This will be another point of contrast.
So once again – the NZCTU knows how important this election is to working people, we recognise Labour’s record, we will contribute to ensuring working people know the issues and vote and we look forward to working in 2009 and beyond to continue the change already embarked on, with a government that delivers change for the betterment of all New Zealanders.