Tomorrow, in what has been widely described as' a council of war', unions will meet to thrash out tactics to combat the National-led Government's proposed labour law 'reforms'.

Already there are indications that the 'council of war' may prove to be something of a damp squid with the CTU set to backpedal from its earlier statements that it was prepared to 'go to the streets' and fight the Government.

The speculation is that the CTU, the PSA and the conservative Labour-affiliated unions will not support any full mobilisation to fight the 'reforms'.

Instead they will only support a largely symbolic campaign, designed to cause as little disruption as possible.

This is the position that the Labour Party leadership favours.

This has parallels to 1991 when the CTU failed to call for a General Strike against the National Government's Employment Contracts Act.

Despite overwhelming rank and file support for a General Strike, the CTU Special Affiliates Conference voted against it.

It wished to avoid any direct confrontation with the Government and capital. CTU President Ken Douglas even claimed at the time 'that the era of confrontational class struggle had passed.'

It was an abject sellout by the CTU and one that proved to be a huge historical blunder.

After the ECA was passed, workers wages fell and the union movement fractured, losing tens of thousands of members in the process.

So we have come to another crucial historical moment. Will it be fight or flee?

Former Green MP Sue Bradford has commented:

My question to the CTU and its constituent unions is whether they are going to have the resolve to actually fight what’s going down in 2010 with every means at their disposal, or whether there’s going to be another sellout like that of Ken Douglas, Angela Foulkes and their allies back in 1991.

I sincerely hope that this time around Helen Kelly, Peter Conway and their colleagues will embrace a full response to the proposed reforms, and that the CTU will be a lot more aware than it was in the 90s of the inextricable link between proposed industrial and welfare changes

The CTU cannot afford to fool itself that organising a few big rallies with dozens of sometimes rather tedious speakers and putting out a couple of leaflets will be enough to cause the Government or its allies any concern.

In Parliament yesterday the Government was openly derisive of the CTU's failure to fulfil its threat to 'name and shame' employers who took on workers under the 90 day bill legislation

Clearly the Government feels it has the measure of the CTU hierarchy.

Let's hope it's a false confidence.


  1. I'm about as far from being a fan of Ken Douglas as it's possible to be, Steve, but I've never before encountered the words you attribute to him. If you're going to damn someone with a quotation, you really are morally obliged to supply its source and context.


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