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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 19, 1976.]

Trouble Brewing?

Trouble Brewing?

The Trade Union Movement is preparing for a confrontation with the National Government when they attempt to introduce a rash of repressive industrial legislation later this month.

Pressure is being put on the Federation of Labour National Executive to find out the details of the Government's legislation and to start a campaign informing workers of its implications for the continued existence of their union.

Over the past few weeks the National Party's caucus committee on industrial relations has had a number of long meetings to discuss the problems of how, when and what they will introduce. One of the difficult points has been over whether they will incorporate their plans for voluntary unionism in the same bill as their other amendments (see Salient No. 14 1976).

Indications are that they will split the two areas so that they are introduced in two separate bills. Government's immediate concern is to leg-iron the trade union movement before they start any real action against the extremely restrictive wage bargaining regulations, and at the same time prevent them from stopping nuclear warships from coming into New Zealand ports.

Meanwhile, more information has leaked out on details of the legislation to be introduced

..... All strikes will be illegal, except those during annual award negotiations. Each day of an illegal strike will be defined as a new breach of the law which will incur a fine of $500 per worker and $1500 per union per day.

..... Every union official, management committee member, organiser or job delegate who calls for, helps, or does not attempt to prevent an "illegal" strike will be fined heavily and may be prevented by a magistrate from holding union office for an unlimited period. This means that the only way a union leader could keep within the law would be by scab-herding.

..... The Labour Department will hold ballots of workers on the compulsory/ voluntary unionism issue on the unqualified preference clause, under the proposed new system, a vote of 50% plus one against unqualified preference would establish voluntary unionism. There is to be no qualified preference. These and other provisions are aimed at making it as difficult as possible to preserve the current system of preference for unionists.

..... Anyone who attempts to control, coerce or influence these ballots will be liable to be fined. This provision is aimed at making it illegal for a union to direct its members how to vote.

..... There will have to be a majority vote before any union money can be used to put forward the union's point of view or to publicise the ballot. This provision is aimed at keeping union members uninformed before they vote in the ballot and at preventing the union from telling members what it thinks.

The general inaction from the trade unions seems to be tied up with the present negotiations by the Federation of Labour for a new Drivers' Union award. If the drivers break through the regulations, many more unions will follow in their wake. But meanwhile the others are sitting around doing nothing.


But unions don't expect to have an easy win in either the wage struggle or the struggle against the industrial legislation. They are painfully aware that the Government is not neutral in fights between the interests of labour and capital. It backs capital every time.

So, while they don't expect to make any real changes to the Government's wage plans or its legislative plans, they have enough united power, if it comes to the showdown, to put up quite a fight. At the moment there is a lull before the storm but the signs are that it will break fairly soon.