After a slow start to the month, November has actually proven to be quite busy from an industrial relations perspective. There have been several ongoing negotiations that have boiled over in the second half of the month. It seems that Covid and CPI pressures are creating a greater gap between employers and unions, and the recently released Labour Market Statistics have added to the gap too.
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1. November Industrial Relations Activities
- FIRST Union members at The Warehouse who work in the distribution centre took industrial action, citing wage issues, precarious work and Covid-19 safety as the key matters.
- After three days of strike action seeking an increase in line with CPI, Countdown and FIRST Union have reached agreement for their DC employees in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch. The union says the new agreement made them some of the highest-paid distribution workers in the country.
- RMTU workers at Kiwirail, including the Interislander rail ferry, are taking strike action on 16 & 17 of December. The union says that the 8% wage claim is to ‘catch up’ from the last two years of increased living costs.
- Members of the RMTU have issued strike notice for the Port of Timaru and Quality Marshalling for a 24-hour strike on Thursday 16 December. Bargaining for a MECA has been ongoing since May. The RMTU is claiming 8% increase in wages.
- A delay in processing the increase for nurses in Canterbury DHB has led to nurses organising a protest in Christchurch. They will be paid a lump sum prior to Christmas, but the DHB has said it won’t be until February that increases to pay rates and backpay are implemented.
2. Labour Market Statistics – September 2021 quarter
The Labour Market Statistics, released on 3 November, confirming what we’ve all been experiencing over the past few months. They represent a drop in unemployment and underutilisation, and an increase in labour force participation. The most significant number from an industrial relations perspective is the increase in Labour Cost Index of 3.8% annual change. The biggest contributors to this were construction; education and training; and healthcare and social assistance.
3. The Spinoff ‘When the Facts Change’ Podcast
To follow on from the above release, The Spinoff hosted a podcast on the exact topic. Their ‘When the Facts Change’ podcast is weekly commentary on NZ economics, business and political matters. In this episode Bernard Hickey talks to CTU chief economist Craig Renney and Kiwibank economist Mary Jo Vergara to get their thoughts on the data.
4. Government extends living wage to include public service contractors
Part of Labour’s election promise was to extend the living wage to all contractors and service providers to the core government businesses – which includes security guards, cleaners, and caterers. On 10 November, this was confirmed to take effect for any new or renewed service contracts negotiated after 1 December 2021. The living wage is currently $22.75 per hour.
5. November in Union History
‘Black Tuesday’ – 12 November 1912 – was a significant day in union history. It represents the day that Fred Evans was killed in a dispute with the Waihi Goldmining Company. The workers had been on strike for six months over the introduction of what we now call an ‘in-house union’, and the police and strikebreakers stormed the union hall in Waihi. Fred Evans is one of only two fatalities relating to industrial action in New Zealand.