New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (Ctu) Thesis

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¶ … New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU)

Many countries are experiencing a decline in union membership and some observers question whether unions are still needed given their diminished role in collective bargaining in recent years. In spite of these trends, though, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) continues to protect the interests of more than a third of a million union workers and actively campaigns against political initiatives that may damage their membership. To determine the CTU's current status, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature to determine when the organisation was established, its membership, funding sources, its stance on political initiatives, and the view of the world it is attempting to promote. A discussion of some other organisations that are involved in similar work, the CTU's strongest opponents and other relevant information is also provided. An analysis of the CTU's business ethics and their application to the work of the CTU and other similar organisations around the world and an assessment of whether there is still a place for trade unions in the New Zealand workplace is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

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TOPIC: Thesis on New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (Ctu) Assignment

Today, the CTU is an internationally recognised central trade union centre in New Zealand that is funded in large part by the 40 affiliated unions it represents with between 330,000 (Conway, 2005) and 350,000 members (About us, 2009). The organization also receives funds from the New Zealand government from time to time for various training initiatives (Foley, 2004). The history of the CTU began with the establishment of the Federation of Labour (FOL) in 1937 in an effort to provide a centralized, collective voice for the workers of New Zealand (Franks, 2008). According to labour historian and the Communications & Research Officer at the Council of Trade Unions from 1994 to 1999, Peter Franks, by the 1980s, "The FOL started to shed some of its conservatism. Important debates about equal pay, the Vietnam War and apartheid took place at its conferences. Demands for better representation of women and Maori were first argued and advanced within the FOL. All of this was important in achieving the recognition of diversity that is part of the CTU today" (2008, p. 3). Following a period of economic instability and the growing need for improved labour-management relations, a new centralized union organisation was proposed in 1982 and, in response, the CTU was established in 1987 (Franks, 2008).

Stance on Political Initiatives

The CTU's annual submissions seeking an increase in the minimum wage have regularly called for clearer definitions of its purpose, development of explicit criteria for setting it, and a formal process of consultation over the application of the criteria. Their 1998 submission suggested three reference points:

1. The level of the unemployment benefit, because workers should not be worse off after taking waged employment;

2. Some stable relationship to the average wage to stop the low paid getting left too far behind; and,

3. With regard to the level of minimum rates in collective agreements so that the minimum wage can be a factor in eliminating 'low pay ghettoes' from the labour market. The minimum wage, they argued should not be seen as a primary wage fixing instrument, but rather as a safety net protection against exploitation for those who do not have conditions of employment determined through a (fair) process of collective bargaining, and who do not have the personal leverage (skills etc.) to secure an adequate employment contract (quoted in Figart at p. 145).

More recently, in response to the New Zealand government's support of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions has generally supported a sustainable development framework; however, the CTU has also emphasized that there must be a "just transition" in place for workers, their families and their communities when there were sound environmental reasons for phasing out certain types of production or economic activity (quoted in Yang, 2004 at p. 7).

As to equal pay for equal work and the issue of gender in employment, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions expressed their dissatisfaction with a number of the initiatives taken in New Zealand concerning gender discrimination and the CTU has supported the need to move beyond the enterprise level, and even to extend comparisons to overcome the gap between the public and private sectors in cases where direct comparisons could not be made within one sector (Cruz, Potobsky & Swepston, 1999, p. 251). According to these authors, "New Zealand Council of Trade Unions complained that all the measures being taken by the Government to eliminate discrimination were too little and too slow" (Cruz et al., 1999, p. 288).

A study by Winchester (2006) notes that prior to 2001, New Zealand's only free trade agreement (FTA) was the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) Agreement which was enacted in 1983. More recently, though, the New Zealand government has been aggressively seeking to promote additional free trade agreements, a trend that is disturbing to the leadership of the CTU for various reasons, but primarily due to the adverse impact that reduced or abolished tariffs will have on the country's workers. According to Winchester, New Zealand has established free trade deal with Singapore and has also begun free trade negotiations with China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Chile, as well as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade emphasizes that New Zealand's rationale for seeking to establish these types of free trade agreements is actually to ensure access to markets for the country's exporters and to promote the process of multilateral trade liberalization (Winchester, 2006).

As an indication of the organization's continuing relevancy in a changing world (discussed further below), Winchester points out that a major issue that has been identified by a number of observers, but particularly the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, concerns the trade negotiations between New Zealand and China, as well as the liberalization of trade in general and the potential adverse effect these initiatives will have on New Zealand workers who are employed in the textiles, clothing and footwear sector. In this regard, Winchester (2006) reports that, "Downward pressure on the wage paid to unskilled labour employed in the textiles, clothing and footwear sector presents a dilemma for policy makers as these workers are typically in the lower tail of the income distribution" (p. 46).

This is not to say, of course, that the CTU is opposed to increased international commerce, but it is to say that there are two sides to these negotiations and the CTU is ensuring that the affected workers' voice is being heard. According to Peter Conway, Secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, "Unions generally support international trade. The CTU's union members in public services, education, the textile and clothing sector and manufacturing could see adverse consequences from trade agreements -- but also those in the dairy and meat industries who may see improved job opportunities (but still have major concerns about the connection between trade agreements, food security, the dominance of multinationals, and many other issues, including labour standards)" (2005, p. 15).

To date, the CTU has been involved in recent years in numerous trade negotiations and related areas of work, including the following:

1. The WTO in general including the GATT;

2. The New Zealand-Singapore closer economic partnership;

3. The proposed New Zealand-Hong Kong closer economic partnership;

4. The review of ANZCERTA (CER) between New Zealand and Australia;

5. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) guidelines on multinational enterprises, including support for a revitalised national contact point;

6. The Pacific three with New Zealand, Chile, and Singapore;

7. The proposed New Zealand-China free trade agreement;

8. The New Zealand-Malaysia free trade agreement;

9. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus;

10. The post-2005 Tariff Review;

11. Meetings on Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and supporting International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) calls for a union forum, participation of trade union representatives in APEC committees, working groups and ministerial meetings, establishment of regular contacts between the APLN and the APEC secretariat and inclusion of trade union representatives in the national consultative committees established by APEC members and in national delegations to APEC meetings; and,

12. PACER, PICTA including liaison with SPOCTU (Conway, 2005, p. 15).

The View of the World the CTU is Attempting to Promote

The stated objectives of the CTU are to promote an equitable playing field for the workers of New Zealand that ensures they receive an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. To this end, the CTU has maintained that existing regulatory and policy arrangements should include a number of the elements of the extensive privatisation and deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s but should not represent a foundation for rigid commitments in international trade agreement negotiations (Conway, 2005). According to the CTU's secretary, "Labour's policy… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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