Thursday, September 21, 2006

Power in the hand of the workers

At the start it was about Woolworths distribution, going into the second week it was about New Zealand workers in general, there was a lot of members of the public that saw that, and rallied behind us.
That's from Shane Cooper, a worker at the Palmerston North distribution centre.

I pay tribute to the 500 workers who stayed solid, stayed union, and fought the battle. One of the workers at Farvona road said 'someone has to fight for the next generation and it might as well be us'.

The media keep asking 'who won' - as if it was a game, the sort of game with one set of rules and a referee. It doesn't work like that. This settlement is a victory for the workers, and it wouldn't have happened without a struggle. But it's not complete victory. The workers were without pay for 4 weeks, that's basically 8% of their yearly wages, and a three-year term is a high price to pay for parity. But in three years they will be able to negotiate again, and fight again for everything they didn't get this one. In a way, for workers, any dispute where they come out stronger than they went in, and better able to fight the next one, is a victory.

The company is claiming victory, because there are still three documents. I can see that you might think that if you didn't have a lot of experience in collective agreement negotiations. Collective agreements - single-site, multi-site, single employer, or multi-employer, are means to an ends (getting workers what they want). There is almost no practical difference between bargaining three seperate agreements with the same expiry date nationally, and a single national collective agreement.

The reason the victory isn't a total victory isn't because of the form, but because of the content. It took a four week lock-out to get a 4%-7% increase on a three-year deal.

12 comments:

  1. In a way, for workers, any dispute where they come out stronger than they went in, and better able to fight the next one, is a victory.
    Actually a victory would be where the workers came out with their best possible outcome - but of course that would be a pacisfist view point.

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  2. Good grief. Alan, they didn't 'stay on strike for longer than they needed to'; they were *locked out*. To return to work they would have had to give up their union memberships. Which they wanted to keep, because they wanted to have the ability to bargain collectively *and have their contracts expire at the same time*. Because if they ended at different times it would be another way for Progressive to undermine collective bargaining and further divide and conquer. Do you understand Progressive's motivations at all? (It's like you have this rosy, tender glow about giant corporations trying to maintain profit margins, but *unions* are the evil ones. Weird.)

    Oh, and if you think Progressive Enterprises would agree to a 'profit-sharing' idea, you are clearly crackers. It took them four weeks to agree to *pay parity* for people earning crappy hourly wages. Do you think they are at all interested in sharing profits with their employees, even ultra-efficient ones? Seriously?

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  3. Gerrit12:31 pm

    Everything is negiotable. Even profit sharing.

    Butyou need to have an open mind to every possiblity and put ideas on the table for negotiation.

    That is the trouble with cloth cap unions, no thinking about other opportunities. Bet it wasn't even put on the table.

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  4. If the union could barely manage to negotiate a bread-and-butter demand like equal pay for equal work, I hardly think some pie-in-the-sky proposal about profit-sharing would be a possibility. Why not ask the union to negotiate free unicorn rides for all Progressive's workers? That's just about as likely.

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  5. "Everything is negotiable, even profit-sharing." And in this case, negotiating even pay parity and a small increase required withstanding an attempt by the employer to starve them into submission. And you Gerrit were not even happy about that level of negotiation - if they'd decided to hold out for profit-sharing, no doubt the dispute would still be going on (until hell freezes over, as far as Progressive's shareholders would be concerned), and you'd still be giving us lectures about cloth caps.

    For those who think the workers were stupid to let the lockout drag on this long because they lost more money than they eventually gained, tell us exactly what they would have got out of submitting and going back to work on the management's terms 2 weeks ago - apart from your jeering cat-calls that is?

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  6. Gerrit2:27 pm

    Fine if that is all the union members expected and they are happy then all is cool.

    The CEO negotiated a performace bonus worth a few million but the workers (unions) cant negotiate a few hundred dollars worth of performance bonus?

    Says something I guess. Both being paid by the same paymaster (the shareholders)

    See you in three years locked out again. Because unless you change something that will happen again.

    The days of them and us are gone for goodness sake, work together to share in the profits.

    Profit share could be in the form of company shares offered at free or super discount rates. Profit share that way. The workers would be sharing in the company profits even after they have left the company.

    My NZ Steel shares are paying dividends even though I havent worked there for a long time.

    But I suspect that would mean participating in the capitalist system. Something no socialist will be party to.

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  7. Gerrit - interesting that you have worked for the "evil empire" of Fletchers.

    It has obviously helped with your out to of the box thinking. For those that don't know Fletchers sponsers discounted shares with interest free loans to its employees on a regular basis.
    Read - profit sharing.

    But of course Danielle / Psycho Milt that is not something any corporate would ever think about doing would it?

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  8. if they'd decided to hold out for profit-sharing
    Gerrit never opined that they should have held out for profit sharing - he raised the perspective that hey it should have at least been something the Unions were putting on the table in the first place.

    And here is the surprise for those that seem to know *nothing* about corporations - they are frequntly more willing to engage in the various methods of profit sharing because it is a variable cost that only increases in times of profitable conditions rather than being a fixed cost which raises their risk profile.

    Furthermore most methods of profit sharing don't actually cost the company as much as what a comensurate pay rise would.

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  9. Gerrit4:30 pm

    sfollfMe not happy with the level of negotiation?? Never said that, merely pointed out that the just settled dispute was an excercise in haggling, not negotiation.

    Negotiation requires reciprocity.

    Look up the word and talk about real negotiation and then you might just see how to get profit sharing into an equation and onto the table.

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  10. iiq374: "...they are frequntly more willing to engage in the various methods of profit sharing because it is a variable cost that only increases in times of profitable conditions rather than being a fixed cost which raises their risk profile."

    This is no doubt why Progressive promptly put it on the table as a tempting alternative? What? They didn't? I wonder why.

    Gerrit: "The CEO negotiated a performace bonus worth a few million but the workers (unions) cant negotiate a few hundred dollars worth of performance bonus?"

    Yes, why is that, I wonder? It's because the workers rely on cloth-cap unionists to do their negotiating, right? If they'd just followed the CEO's example and negotiated for themselves, they'd all be millionaires now just like him. Honestly, that Laila Harre should be strung up from the nearest lamppost.

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  11. This is no doubt why Progressive promptly put it on the table as a tempting alternative? What? They didn't? I wonder why.
    Because businesses tend not to approach these types of agreements in the face of a hostile negotiating party. Why? Because it involves co-operation. Other reasons include the fact that it requires an assumption of loyalty from the staff, as well as increases in administrative effort.

    So yes - it does normally need to be brought to the table by the workers as an alternative that they are willing to consider.

    As the point [sic] that you make against Gerrit; It is that they rely on people that emply a combative style of bargaining and that are typically unwilling to enter into "risky" performance based reward schemes. Shock horror that some union members might earn more than others because they reach targets...

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  12. Anonymous3:10 pm

    If a trade union goes on strike what does a civil union do? Go on dike?

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