Come again?

So, let’s get this straight. National’s going to spend all election year bagging unions (see here, here, and here), and then get offended when the unions fight back?

That’s right. Gerry Brownlee’s getting his knickers into a twist because the Public Service Association (PSA), one of the unions that represents public servants, has had the outrageous gall to point out that National plans to cut the numbers of public servants. Hmm, I’m not sure that repeating a National party policy is a hangable offence, but clearly I’m not au fait with National’s levels of righteous indignation.

The reason unions are opposed to National’s industrial relations policy is that it’s anti-union. Brownlee is trying to conflate what the PSA says publicly and what its individual members, as individual public servants, say publicly. Of course it wouldn’t be appropriate for policy advisors in, say, the Ministry of Transport or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to tell the Dominion Post that National’s policies would be a disaster for our transport systems and our international reputation. However, it is a union’s job, especially in an election year, to evaluate different parties’ policies with respect its members.

The PSA’s comments are nothing special: the nurses’ union comments on different parties’ health policies, and the CTU has published a brochure on different parties’ industrial relations policies. And if Mr Brownlee doesn’t like that, perhaps he should change his party’s anti-union policies.

2 Comments Posted

  1. Isn’t that precisely Frog’s point?! A union representing employees in an industrial bargaining capacity (which is how the union is speaking) is an entirely different entity to the employees themselves.
    Of course the union has (and is entitled to have) an opinion on the effect a specific government is likely to have on employment conditions. They’d be negligent if they didn’t.
    As for not having the right to speak publicly, presumably the Business Roundtable should then express no public position on the relative merits of different political parties/policies, since it represents members that receive contracts from government?

  2. A union has a right to inform its members about comparision of party policy. It doesn’t need to do this through the public domain. Especially when those members are part of the public sector.

    From State Servants, Political Parties and Elections: Guidance for the 2005 Election Period

    “The main message is that, if State servants are to be able to effectively serve successive Governments that may be drawn from different political parties, they must be, and be seen to be, politically neutral.”

    Opps, how can a statement from a union representing State servants, that is published in a newspaper be seen as politically neutral. They should have distributed the comparision of different parties policy outside of the public domain, using the union channels to members only, be it email lists or whatever.

    So, does this mean that if National wins governance, does that mean we can expect to see most of the public sector resign given this public demonstration of a lack of will to serve successive Governments?

    I’m sorry, but that is inappropriate behaviour for an organisation that respresents state servants. Even though the definition does not expand to unions in the above document – it probably needs modification to ensure that organisations that are soely representative of State servants are also included.

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