Over the time the Ports of Auckland v MUNZ dispute has been happening I have been jousting with Robert Winter over at Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow, always taking the employers side. Robert is passionate about the role of unions, may even be a union official (I don't know) and expounds on Employment Law at a level I cannot and do not try to compete with.
What I want to do here is give you a precis of a recent experience with a Union Delegate. This took place in early February when Allied Work Force, who provide casual staff to Watties in Hastings invited me to participate in an induction meeting before the work started. The first speaker they put up was the local Union Delegate - what an oaf.
This man was foul mouthed, persisted in calling company management `those bastards' throughout his 15/20 minutes talk. The way he bad mouthed Watties, who were presumably also his employer, was almost unbelieveable. Almost unbelieveable but, not unexpected because as soon as I say him I could see what was going to happen. While he was talking he went around the room distributing membership forms and instructed attendees to complete them so the union could protect them from `those bastards' once work started. By his style of speech and mannerisms there was a high degree of coercian in getting people to sign up - no bullying but definitely an expectation that everyone would sign up.
I do not exaggerate - the `those bastards' phrase must have been used close to twenty times during his presentation. Bloody and bugger were also in regular usage although he did not resort to the `F' or `C' words.
Now this man was not addressing just a bunch of unemployed New Zealanders looking for work. Among the 25/30 people in attendance were a number of Asians, a few probably from Europe or maybe South America - I found out last week there were people from Argentina and Chile working in the Peach House as I was. Therefore this man did not reflect well on New Zealand.
I politely told him I would not be joining the Union and would fight my own battles with the company if necessary. I wonder now if this is the reason I only got seven days work in total while others will have up to three months work. Is Allied Work Force bowing to Union pressure and giving preference to union members - this of course is a different issue.
From my observations and experience some Unions are living in the past and holding New Zealand and it's employers back. They need to change not only their attitudes but the way they communicate what they offer to potential members.