When John Key talked about real change at the last election I don't imagine many people thought he meant big tax cuts for the wealthy and a whole load of next-to-nothing for the rest of us. While Minister of Finance Bill English gets a tax cut of over $200 a week someone on the unemployment benefit will get $1.20. That will be completely wiped out by the rise in GST and a predicted six percent inflation rate.

To paraphrase the Minister of Social 'Development' Paula Bennett, the dream is not only over for beneficiaries - it has been replaced by a nightmare of grinding poverty and harassment from WINZ functionaries.

The gap between rich and poor continues to grow alarmingly in this country and the Budget will simply accelerate this process. For Bill English to say that his Budget had not addressed social and economic inequality was something of an understatement.

But, because you didn't ask for it, the Key Government are lining up another wave of privatisation. In its sights are, among other state owned enterprises, Kiwibank and TVNZ.

In the face of this dismal Budget and faced with more unpalatable Government initiatives in the future, what are the leaderships of the CTU and the PSA planning to do?

No prizes for guessing.

They are planning to do what they normally do which is nothing.

Twenty five years of accommodating itself to neoliberalism, of so-called 'social partnerships' with government has left us with a wretched union leadership that refuses to fight.

CTU President Helen Kelly is right up there in the gutless union leader stakes.

I saw her on Q+A On Sunday. If there was ever time for a union leader to show some real anger then this was it. Instead she merely admonished Key and English as if they were two naughty schoolboys who had been caught smoking behind the bike sheds.

Of course she leads a CTU that has collaborated with the government and employers to prevent resistance to redundancies and the cutting of conditions. Statistics NZ figures show there were a mere 18 work stoppages in the 12 months to June 2009 involving 1,551 workers—a big decline from 30 stoppages involving 7,200 workers the previous year.

Over at the PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott also has nothing to offer workers.

In 2009 nearly 1500 public servants lost their jobs and a further 2000 jobs are projected to go by the end of 2011 - and that was before we knew what the Budget had in store.

The PSA have accepted all these job losses with barely a whimper.

Said the hapless Pilott in a speech last week ' 'The Government wants less public services and wants to pay less for public services'

She went on to say: 'The Government has a clear preference for private services over public services.'

So what are the PSA going to do about it? Pilott had absolutely nothing to say on the matter because she has no plan of resistance. She's going to do nothing and get paid a lot of money for failing to protect the interests of her members.

Its clear the CTU and the PSA are simply going to roll over again and let the Government stick it to workers. This is both contemptible and unacceptable.

The conditions now demand the creation of a vigorous rank and file campaign for the political renewal of the whole labour movement. We simply cannot allow the likes of Kelly, Pilott and Little to continue to betray workers in this country.


  1. Matt McCaren summed up the CTU quite nicely when he wrote on the 2008 Junior Doctor's Strike:

    "[Helen] Kelly says she hopes the strike 'doesn't give unions a bad name' and the doctors' union is not a 'modern union'. This is because it focuses too much on getting better wages and conditions for its members and lacks professional advisers, 'such as policy analysts, economists, lawyers and advocates'. Its crimes include not attending talk-fests with Ministry of Health and DHB officials and other unions to 'work towards a better health system'."

  2. When she headed what was then the AUS, Helen Kelly engineered the dismissal of one of the union's most effective and respected staff members. He had been at the forefront of national and local bargaining and was a great communicator with the membership. What was particularly galling was the way in which the union hierarchy used the exact processes which they criticised employers for: his position was reviewed and then restructured and then he was expected to re-apply for a diminished role. With pride intact, he chose to leave.

    Meanwhile, the whole process was clouded in vagueness and lack of communication from Kelly and the rest of the hierarchy, with the membership somewhat bewildered as to why one of their best advocates had been shoved aside. It seems that Kelly has learned a thing or two about unfair labour practices, but perhaps as much about how to implement them as to combat them.


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