There's been a changing of the guards at the National Distribution Union.

Laila Harre is leaving the post as national general secretary in August and will be replaced by president Robert Reid.

Harre has ensured that the NDU, like the wider trade union 'leadership', have continued to enforce the neoliberal agenda and kept their membership in line.

Harre was one of the union leaders invited to attend the 'Job summit' in February, which was basically an exercise in ensuring that the burden of the economic crisis was dumped on the shoulders of the working class.

Harre has played her part with her enthusiastic promotion of the 'nine day fortnight' which has allowed participating businesses to cut shifts and hours - with the government providing a temporary six month public subsidy.

There is no guarantee that workers will not be made redundant once the subsidy runs out. The 'nine day fortnight' is simply a temporary reprieve.

Harre's desire to collaborate with business has meant that she has failed to organise any resistance to the growing number of job losses.

Her response to the massive redundancies at Lane Walker Rudkin was simply appalling. When real union leadership was required to fight the nearly 200 job losses, Harre organised a few cake stalls to raise a so-called 'fighting fund'.

Even this inept 'cake campaign' lasted no more than a few weeks.

The sacked LWR workers have been treated appallingly. Not only have they not received the holiday and redundancy money they are legally entitled to, they have been hung out to dry by Laila Harre and her NDU officials.

Unfortunately Robert Reid does not represent a much needed 'wind of change' blowing through the NDU offices. Very much in the Harre mould, it'll be business as usual at the NDU and more failures to provide strong union leadership.

When 87 workers lost their jobs at the Pacific Brands clothing manufacturer in March this year, Reid's response was to shrug his shoulders and cry a few crocodile tears.

The NDU press release was headed "Another day, another closure: Pacific Brand's NZ workers get the bad news.'

No campaign was mounted to defend the threatened jobs. Reid's only concern was that "Pacific Brands workers redundancy payments are safe if closure and redundancy is the final decision".

Reid's failure to defend threatened jobs was also evident recently when the Line 7 clothing manufacturer announced it was going into receivership.

Despite the fact that more than a 100 workers faced the prospect of redundancy at a time when the job market is severely contracting, Reid had nothing more to offer than the facile comment that he was 'worried for the future of Line 7 workers'.

Once again no campaign was mounted to defend the threatened jobs.

The appointment of the lacklustre Reid has, not surprisingly, been approved by the Labour Party Head Office.

On the Labour-aligned blog The Standard 'Eddie' writes:

'Robert Reid’s a solid unionist with more than thirty-five years in the movement. The transition should be pretty seamless, Reid’s had a very hands-on leadership role in the union over the last couple of years and he’s highly regarded in the movement. A natural choice for the position really.'

As I mentioned in a previous post ''Eddie'' is Jenny Michie. Michie is an organiser and the communications officer at Labour Party HQ.

And what of Laila Harre?

She is apparently heading off to a new job at the Auckland Transition Agency. This is the new bureaucracy that will be overseeing the integration of the various Auckland city councils into the new 'supercity'.

There will be a lot of redundancies and Harre's role will be to ensure that the workers get the boot with a minimum of fuss.

The comment by 'Eddie' on Harre's new job is astonishing.

'There’s a lot of redundancies and upheaval tipped in that area so I’m glad it’s someone from our side of the fence handling it,' she says.

Yes, I'm sure the unfortunate workers will be 'glad' they are being sacked by Harre rather than by someone else. Perhaps she'll organise a cake stall or two for them.


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