Talk about awkward timing. The Council of Trade Unions have their annual shindig on this week.

And they've decided now is a good time to put a bit of pressure on the Government, mainly the Labour Party, around these Fair Pay Agreements.

You haven't heard about these agreements for a while and there is a good reason for that - they're trouble. And the timing now couldn't be worse given this week's polls for Labour.


Part of Labour's issue is, of course, the lack of confidence and the almost constant slide in economic activity. Confidence has been an issue pretty much since day one, but in the past 12 months it's cemented itself into real economic activity, or lack of it.

PM confirms more consultation for Fair Pay Agreements
Premium - Unions pressure Labour for controversial change to fair pay agreements
BusinessNZ opposes working group's proposal on Fair Pay Agreements
No room for individual contracts in Fair Pay Agreement proposals

GDP for the second quarter was 0.5 per cent. It'll be lower when this past quarter's numbers are released before Christmas. And economists are opening talking about growth next year (election year) being in the one per cent range.

What drove all of that, or part of what drove all of that, was the sense that Labour are pro-unions, and unionism is anathema to many modern and successful workplaces. And a resurgence in unions leads nowhere good for jobs or the bottom line.

The Fair Pay Agreements, just to refresh everyone's memories, are deals across an entire industry. It's where unions tell employers what gets paid. You might remember the working group, led by Jim Bolger, alarmingly suggested that if one in 10 of the workforce wanted a Fair Pay Agreement - everyone had to join.

It's a deal whereby what you pay in one city, you pay in another. What you pay in one company, you pay everywhere. Individuality is gone, individual responsibility is gone, skill and reward is gone. It's the union movement and influence of old.

Even Jacinda Ardern gave a speech when this came out, and she needed to try and at least shore-up some sort of relationship with businesses, and even she said the Fair Pay Agreements in this term would be limited to one or two industries.

And then smartly, up until now, she hasn't said a word about them again. Until yesterday when she turned up at the conference and sprayed cold water all over them.


How this plays out will be fascinating. The unions see this as their time, their party is running the country and they want to grab every advantage they can.

Labour, given polling and perception, have a real fight to survive into a second term next year. So rolling out their love of unionism, I think even they can see, isn't the smartest game in town.

And that's before you get to Winston Peters, who has his own game underway of spot the difference. He's desperate to unshackle himself from Labour and look like his own man, hence he turned up yesterday and gave them a spray of his own.

If you look at his game plan, so far it's the Emissions Trading Scheme and farming, it's the Capital Gains Tax, and it's Ihumātao. Notice how that's vanished?

And I suspect it'll be the same for the Fair Pay Agreements.

If the unions think, or thought, this was Christmas, they're in for some real disappointment. Because what they want and what Labour can deliver now looks to be two very different things.