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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 8. 19th April 1973

Direct Bargaining Forgotten

Direct Bargaining Forgotten

Speaking to a seminar in Dunedin in March of last year, Mr G.H. Andersen, the Secretary of the Northern Drivers Union, stressed that "direct bargaining had provided the basis for improved conditions and had strengthened the unions". Once the new Bill was introduced, with its vicious penalties for political strikes this point was lost sight of. Unions concentrated their attack on the penalty provisions, but while it is almost certain that these clauses will be dropped from the Labour Government's new draft, it is equally clear that the new draft will restore the powers of compulsory arbitration and will seriously curtail the opportunities for direct bargaining. The new Minister of Labour spelled this out when he told the Accountants' Society early last month that "direct bargaining between employers and unions would almost certainly be discouraged in the new Industrial Relations Bill" because "we have got to get back to a system of conciliation first and arbitration later".

When presenting evidence to the Parliamentary Labour Bills Committee, Mr W.J. Anton, of the Federated Labourers' Association, demanded that the Bill be redrafted to allow free collective bargaining with a minimum of restriction, but with a right of the parties to agree to arbitration. Mr Skinner, who gave evidence on behalf of the Federation of Labour, was more cautious, but he too stressed that "workers are entitled to bargain and use all the strength at their command in the making of agreements with employers concerning wages and conditions". More recently still, in their wage dispute the freezing workers successfully resisted all attempts by the employers to force them into arbitration.

There are of course some weak and small unions, with little economic punch, which will wish to rely on the proposed new Industrial Commission for their wages and conditions, but the policy of the Alliance of Labour in 1936 still holds good, that direct negotiation between unions and employers is the best method of settling disputes, and that if unions wish to use this method they must be able to do so by law. If the Government succeeds in imposing compulsory arbitration on everybody, this can only work to the detriment of wage and salary earners, for it will force the sellers of labour power to accept a poorer price for it than they could obtain on an open market.