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Unions withdraw co-operation on trade issues

Unions withdraw co-operation on trade issues

The Council of Trade Unions is withdrawing co-operation with the Government on trade agreement issues.

Helen Kelly, CTU President, said: “We have always raised our concerns – sometimes very strongly – about trade agreement negotiations in terms of tariff reductions, labour standards and other matters but we have also been prepared to work with government and business to promote the best possible outcome for New Zealand.”

“But now this Government has gone down a path which tries to compete with other countries through reducing fairness at work for New Zealand wage and salary earners.”

The Government had invited Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO (central union organisation in USA) to New Zealand and a visit was scheduled for early next year. This visit would have been significant for both countries. The CTU has agreed with the AFL-CIO that he should now not come given the attacks this Government has unleashed on wage and salary earners. It would be untenable for him to be here meeting a Government that stands against all he believes in.

“It is one thing to co-operate with trade negotiations in the context of a domestic programme which invests in skills, promotes fairness at work and respect for the role of unions. But we cannot work with a Government on trade matters when the protection against unfair dismissal, the right to a meal break, the right to access union advice and support at work, are all undermined. That can only result in one thing – as it did in the 1990s – lower wages and conditions for workers.”

“There are no good reasons for these attacks. There have been no issues about access to unions for workers. The number on unemployment benefits fell from 162,000 in 1999 to 17,465 in May 2008 without the 90 day law. Every wage and salary earner should have protection against unfair dismissal. We can agree to trial periods. They apply now. We can agree to fair dismissal. That applies now. But we will not agree to unfair dismissal with no right of appeal.”

“Instead of legislating for unfairness at work, the Government should be working with unions, employers and the wider community to promote decent jobs, and get the economy moving again in a positive direction.”

ENDS

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