Helen Kelly  has had  nothing to say about either  Labour's decision to raise the retirement age to 67  or to allow deep sea oil drilling off the coast of New Zealand.   As usual, the interests of the Labour Party come well  before the interests of workers and the environment.

Helen Kelly, President  of the CTU, has recently been highlighting the appalling standard of safety in the forestry industry, which has seen eight deaths this year.

It featured prominently in her address to the Labour party conference in November  where she highlighted the death of forestry worker, Charles Finlay. Her description of Finlay's working day and its impact on his private life is worth reading.

Kelly has actually has been gathering up available documentation on the men killed in the forest since 2008 and has been telling the stories of each worker, one at a time.

It is all part of the CTU's campaign for greater safety in the forestry industry.

While I'm not suggesting that Kelly is playing politics on this issue, because it is a serious and valid issue and she has done good work on it, it does, nevertheless,  dovetail with the interests of the Labour Party to score points against the Key government in an election year.

In striking contrast Kelly has had nothing to say about David Cunliffe's insistence that a Labour-led government will raise the retirement age of 67. This is in despite  of the Labour Party conference voting against it.

This is an issue that also  strikes at the heart of the best interests of  vulnerable workers. The implication of Labour's scheme is that if you are in a low wage job, you won't  be able to afford to retire - you will be shackled to the workplace even longer. But you might get time off to wave goodbye to a newly-retired David Cunliffe heading off on a  extensive overseas holiday, his gold-plated superannuation package in tow.

Kelly is keeping her mouth shut because the CTU will support  the  policy if Labour does manage to make it to the government benches.

In 2011 CTU economist Peter Conway said:  'The increase in the qualifying age for NZ Super will be a challenging issue for unions to work through.'

This is union bureaucrat code for 'yes, we will support the raising of the minimum age'.

As I said last year:

People have  a right to a decent and living pension and at age when they can enjoy it. It is scandalous that the CTU leadership are prepared to support Labour's message: ‘Work until you drop if you can't afford to retire.

But this is not the only notable issue that Helen Kelly and the CTU  have chosen to run away from.

David Cunliffe's declaration that Labour will not oppose deep sea oil drilling hasn't elicited any comment from Kelly either. In this respect she is echoing  the double standards of many Labour supporters.

They protested long  and loud when National announced it was going to allow  deep sea oil drilling but have since gone  largely silent since Cunliffe gave it the green light.

Now we get these kind  of weasel words from the likes of  Labour Party supporter 'Mickey Savage": 'The Labour Party is a broad church and its members hold a diversity of views...And the debate on deep sea oil drilling certainly shows that there is a diversity of views on this issue within the party.'

What a load of self-interested twaddle but, in another sense, 'Mickey Savage' is right -  Labour is just a talkshop for blowhards like him.

Labour cannot be changed into a vehicle for genuine socialist change. At the core of the party is the belief that you have to work within capitalism, and cooperate with business to make the system more profitable. If that means squeezing workers, then so be it.

What these two issues highlight is that Helen  Kelly and the CTU will sacrifice the best  interests of workers and the environment - and who knows what next - on the altar of Labour's venal political ambitions. 

It also highlights the absence of a political party that will defend the interests of working  people and everyone under the cosh of the neoliberal policies that parliament has enforced for three decades.  This would be a party that  would offer a real alternative developing policies that offer structural alternatives to the domination of the neoliberal agenda based upon collective and democratic ownership and control.


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