In the fight against the government's austerity policies, the leadership of the Combined Trades Union has nothing to offer but press releases and soundbites. Is it little wonder that the CTU lost over 8000 members between 2009 - 11?
The organisers of the protests don't have a lot of material resources but what they lack materially they make up for in enthusiasm and determination. The October 5 protests have already attracted a lot of attention from the mainstream media so, in that respect, they have already succeeded - they have crashed Paula Bennett's 'Bash A Beneficiary A Day Party'. Sorry Ms Bennett - the victims of the government's austerity policies are not going to blamed by you for being jobless and poor.
While the October 5 protest's have attracted support from some individual unions (such as Unite) the Combined Trades Union is, again, sitting on the sidelines and doing exactly nothing.
While Helen Kelly and co are quick to criticise the Key government and its policies, that is all they prepared to do. If they are feeling unusually 'aggressive' they might stick a video on YouTube, otherwise it's the predictable press releases and media soundbites. Which, of course, the government duly ignores.
The CTU's policy is depressingly familiar.
It will again trot behind a politically bankrupt Labour Party in the hope it'll win the next election - rather than fight this government right here, right now.
It also did that, of course, in the years leading up to the 2008 and actively suppressed strike action in order to give Phil Goff and Labour a clear run at the election. It was a disastrous strategy and now ordinary people are paying the heavy price for the CTU's inertia. But the officials of the CTU remain in their well-paid jobs, seemingly unaccountable for their stupidity, laziness and incompetence. A big problem is that these people are unaccountable because there is no real democracy within the trade union movement. It is little wonder that it is dominated by do-nothing bureaucrats.
It's an absolute indictment on the CTU top brass that at time when resistance is required to the government's austerity polices, there has been so little industrial action. Indeed strikes are at an all-time low.
So its again been up to individual unions to engage in struggle for their members but , by definition, they have been isolated and limited struggles and which the Key government has been able to absorb.
So the CTU is providing no answers and no leadership for the mass of workers when such leadership is desperately needed. We are expected to believe that David 'raise the retirement age to 65' Shearer is the answer - despite the fact he has no intention of upsetting the neoliberal applecart.
Having consistently shafted workers in his role as national secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union we are supposed to give someone like Andrew Little the opportunity to do exactly the same thing in government? Gosh, we're do I sign up? That sounds just fantastic!
Electoralism is again failing ordinary New Zealanders. Perhaps both the CTU and Labour should reflect on the fact that to win an election you have to show that you are prepared to take the fight to this government and that you are offering something more than yet another variation on the failed policies of neoliberalism. Lauding the virtues of the free market, as Labour often does, doesn't even hint that Labour has anything to offer people presently suffering under the Key government.
So when you see ordinary people protesting on Friday think also about a union bureaucracy that isn't prepared to fight for the workers it claims to represent and stands idly while beneficiaries, who it claims it supports, continue to be bashed by this government.