Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Wharf-row union among big donors to Labour

Photo / Dean Purcell
Photo / Dean Purcell

Labour's donations from unions last year included $18,500 from the Maritime Union - but the union says it does not expect greater support from the party over the Ports of Auckland because of the grant.

Overall, Labour received $120,500 from its five affiliated unions and the FIRST Union. The amount was slightly more than the $117,500 in disclosed donations from unions in 2008, despite the tougher economic times and job losses.

That included $18,500 from the Maritime Union and its branches, which are affiliated with Labour. The union is in a stoush with the Ports of Auckland and there have been some calls for Labour to take a stronger public stance in support of MUNZ.

MUNZ national secretary Joe Fleetwood said the union was satisfied with Labour's response as it had kept in contact with the union and some MPs had visited the picket lines. Auckland MP Phil Twyford had also put out a statement about the issue.

He said the union did not expect anything more because of its donation or its status as an affiliate.

The largest donation was from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union which gave $40,000, according to the disclosure to the Electoral Commission.

However, that donation was $20,000 less than in 2008 and the lowest the union has given since 1999 - a drop its national secretary Bill Newson said was because of its falling membership in economic hard times when many workers in the manufacturing sectors were hit with redundancies and job losses.

Extra costs such as representation at the Pike River royal commission also affected the union's ability to donate.

Department of Labour records show that between 2008 and 2011, the EPMU's membership shrank by 7000 - a 16 per cent drop from 44,808 to 37,808.

Mr Newson said the donation size was not related to Labour's chances of winning the election or out of dissatisfaction with its policies, which he described as "quite gutsy."

The EPMU's donation was disclosed under electoral laws which require prompt disclosure of donations of more than $30,000. The other union donations will not be officially disclosed until parties file their election returns in March. However, the other unions volunteered the information when asked by the Herald.

Some were down - the Meat Workers' Union gave $18,000, $7500 less than in 2008, and the Service and Food Workers' Union gave $15,000, down $5000 from 2008.

SFWU John Ryall said his union now focused more on running its own campaigns on election issues rather than simply giving money to parties, including opposing National's changes to employment laws.

The slack was picked up by larger donations from MUNZ and the Dairy Workers' Union which donated $25,000 - $13,000 more than in 2008. The FIRST union (a merger of the old National Distribution Union and Finsec) also donated $4000 each to Labour, the Green Party and the Mana Party. It is not an affiliate of Labour, but has sometimes donated to it, including $24,000 in 2005.

Labour received only two donations of more than $30,000 in 2011 - the EPMU donation and $50,000 from the Todd Corporation, which gave the same amount to National.

By comparison, National received eight, totalling $490,938, mostly from corporates.

The most recently disclosed was $86,005 from the Gallagher Group, an agriculture company based in Hamilton.

Labour general secretary Chris Flatt said the low number of large donations was not a reflection of the party's fundraising effort, which had met its targets.

"We've always had a number of smaller donations from individuals and groups. That continued last year."

WHAT THEY GAVE
(2008 donation in brackets)
* Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union: $40,000 (2008: $60,000)
* Dairy Workers' Union: $25,000 (2008: $12,000)
* Maritime Union: $18,500 (2008: none disclosed)
* Meat Workers' Union: $18,000 (2008: $25,500)
* Service and Food Workers' Union: $15,000 (2008: $20,000)
* FIRST Union (not affiliated): $4000 (2008: nil)

- NZ Herald

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