23 October 2003
Union Movement Challenged to Transform
The union movement is continuing to grow, but needs to transform to sustain its position as the voice of working people, Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont said today.
Speaking at the CTU Conference in Wellington, Carol Beaumont told delegates that, despite the Employment Relations Act, for many union organisers their day to day reality is similar to that under the Employment Contracts Act.
“We remain trapped in a bargaining treadmill. Many unions are still facing hostile employer strategies which seek to undermine unions and collective bargaining.”
Carol Beaumont said there was some positive news – with campaigns to attract young workers, and significant union education. There are also active union structures for Maori, women, Pacific Island workers and queer workers.
While 62 per cent of public sector workers are union members, only 12.4 per cent of the private sector workforce is unionised, Carol Beaumont said. Three-quarters of all members work in just two sectors – the public service and manufacturing.
“We are running fast to stand still, and overall density levels of 21.7 per cent are simply not enough to command status and influence.”
Unions have established three goals for recovery, she said. “They are building unionism, rebuilding the state, and embedding unions as natural partners so we have a say in the governance of our country, our industries and our workplaces.
“The union movement has withstood many challenges, including the direct assault of the 1990s. We rose to the challenges then, and I am confident we can do so now,” Carol Beaumont said.