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Putting workers FIRST: new 28,000 strong trade union formed

Media Release: FIRST Union
Wednesday October 12, 2011

Putting workers FIRST: new 28,000 strong trade union formed

The National Distribution Union and Finsec have joined forces to form New Zealand’s newest union – FIRST Union.

It will be launched in Auckland tomorrow, at one of the union’s four foundation conferences.

The union combines 23,000 workers from the NDU’s four sectors of retail, transport & logistics, textiles, and wood, with nearly 5,000 finance workers from Finsec.

Robert Reid, formerly of the NDU and now FIRST Union General Secretary, said “FIRST Union will give a new generation of workers the opportunity to discover the power of working collectively to improve the lives of themselves and their families.”

He said that the NDU had a proud history as a struggle based union, proving itself most recently during the Progressive lockout in 2006, and had regularly been involved in wider issues affecting workers such as supporting Ngati Whatua at Bastion Point, opposing the 1970s dawn raids on Pacific Islanders and supporting timber workers poisoned by PCPs and other chemicals.

Andrew Casidy, new Finance sector secretary for FIRST Union, said finance workers were some of the first to unionise in New Zealand with the formation of guilds for bank officers and insurance workers in the early 1900s, which evolved into the unions that formed Finsec.

He said the NDU and Finsec had a similar approach to unionism.

“We were campaigns focused and organising focused. We recognised that you get change from your employers not just by what you do at the worksite, but by building community support,” he said.

Robert Reid said that both the NDU and Finsec were themselves formed from amalgamations, and they and their component unions would live on within FIRST Union, which had chosen as its slogan ‘putting workers first’.

FIRST Union will be launched at 1.30pm in the Rutherford Room, Alexander Park Raceway, Greenlane Rd West, this Thursday October 13.

A history of the two organisations is here: http://www.firstunion.org.nz/our_union


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