Rodney Hide: Unions buy their way to power

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Labour MP Andrew Little was head of the EPMU for 11 year. Photo / APN
Labour MP Andrew Little was head of the EPMU for 11 year. Photo / APN

The true donations scandal in New Zealand politics was reported this week without comment. It's the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union's $60,000 donation to Labour.

The EPMU is one of the six unions affiliated to Labour. The affiliated unions pay fees and fund the Party through donations. The donations and fees total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More significantly, union staff campaign for Labour and the unions run parallel campaigns. For example, Labour is campaigning for the "living wage". In a parallel campaign the Services and Food Workers Union spent more than half a million dollars last year promoting that exact policy.

The union funding of Labour totals in the millions. And what does Labour provide in return? In effect the entire party. The unions get to determine the party's leader. Their say counts for 20 per cent of the vote. That's the difference between winning and losing by a wide margin.

Affiliation also buys a seat at the table. The affiliated unions have a guaranteed vice-president position on Labour's all-powerful New Zealand Council.

They also get their people as MPs. The Labour Party enables the unions to parachute members into Parliament. Labour list MP Andrew Little headed the EPMU for 11 years before entering Parliament.

Being a union boss come Labour's list selection time isn't as good as being a Maori lesbian but it's a close second.

And the unions get policy, lots of policy. In 1999 the EPMU gave $100,000 to Labour. The following year the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act. This act gives the unions incredible power over Kiwi workplaces as well as easy access to workers' pay packets.

The Employment Relations Act nicely closes the loop. The act was provided by the Labour Party. It gave the unions access to workers' pockets, and that's the money the unions now tip into Labour's coffers.

Indeed, in the state sector it's policy for Government to give union members a bonus to cover their union fees. You and I pay their union fees.

Unions and Labour are guilty of "cash for policy", "cash to sit at the table", "cash to decide the leader" and "cash to parachute members into Parliament".

The rort serves to bolster Labour and entrench the power of union bosses.

Unions are highly politicised organisations that only exist now because of the legal privileges bestowed by Labour governments.

The rorting of our democracy by the unions and Labour would make a great expose.

But don't expect anything soon: it's the EPMU that represents journalists in this country.

That's right, our journalists - through their union - help fund the Labour Party.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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