Labour pressured by friendly fire strike threats

It seems a bit ironic that wage claims and threats of strikes have ramped up substantially now Labour lead the Government. In opposition Labour seems closely associated with unions, the PSA and worker groups like the teachers and nurses, so why are they getting more militant now Labour hold then purse strings?

Payback for their electoral support – large scale payback, because it works.

Hamish Rutherford: Labour’s sympathetic ear means it is destined to feel far more pressure from unions

The timing of strike threats from a growing number of corners of the public sector, must be galling for the new Government.

After years of small increases under National, Labour arrives in the Beehive, makes an offer – then doubles it – and the nurses announce plans to walk off the job for the first time in a generation.

So why now? Why didn’t the nurses strike at any point during the last nine years?

“All of the concerns that you are hearing here, were raised with the previous government,” New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Memo Musa said as the group formally rejected the Government’s $500 million offer. It was “not about sympathy” he added.

“The issue now, is pretty much an issue of timing.”

In part it will be economic timing – National tool over in 2008 as the Global Financial Crisis struck and care was needed in spending during years of deficits. Inflation has also been very low for a decade now, and wage increases have been meagre for most workers.

So Labour taking over at the same that surpluses have come back – more money available and a friendly Government is an opportune time to push for a big lift in wages. And they are pushing hard.

Timing is everything, and the nurses are not alone in realising this.

Teachers – who admittedly have used industrial action regularly – are calling for “action”, with votes on strikes in August.

Thousands of core public servants are also being balloted on strikes. Although the proposed action by more than 4000 members of the Public Service Association – two two-hour strikes in July – will hardly bring the nation to a halt, the way it is being billed is telling.

The PSA has opted for “co-ordinated” action across Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), with national secretary Glenn Barclay saying it was “a big deal because we haven’t had industrial action in the public service for a long time”.

Labour will come under more pressure from the unions for a good reason.

It is not just that expectations are higher, it is that the Government has a sympathetic ear. Unions are likely to protest more under the current administration because it will work.

Labour have already raised minimum wages, and promise more increases. They may get pushed by threats of strikes to give generous increases to nurses, teachers and other public servants.

This will be good for the economy, short term.

But it will put a lot of pressure on companies to pay more too, or public-private wage disparities will increase.

If private sector wages are forced to follow Government wage generosity this will likely lead to price inflation as well.And there will be pressure to increase benefits.

Will we end up any better off?

Leave a comment


  1. artcroft

     /  20th June 2018

    Everyones heard the Greens demand that benefits be raised. No way are public servants who haven’t seen a wage rise above inflation for a decade going to be satisfied with nothing while bene’s get raised. This is where we find out what Labour really stand for.

  2. Blazer

     /  20th June 2018

    9 years of neglect and ignorance can’t be remedied over night.

    ‘ Inflation has also been very low for a decade now, ‘…how much is a potato these days,a lettuce,a kumara,a pie,?

    How much is spent as % of earnings on a roof over your head for the average family with this decade of low inflation?

    What a load of horse shyte.

    • PDB

       /  20th June 2018

      “9 years of neglect and ignorance can’t be remedied over night.”

      Labour had plenty of money to spend on nurses & teacher pay increases but decided first year students from well-off families and Winston were more deserving of billions of $. They were also gifted a much bigger surplus from the outgoing National govt so your ‘9 years of neglect’ doesn’t wash.

  3. Strong For Life

     /  20th June 2018

    Good on the nurses, teachers etc going for pay rises as they deserve them. Most workers had minimal pay rises, hardly keeping up with inflation and rising costs, over the past decade or so and now is the time to address that. MPs from all parties cannot protest too much as they always get lavish pay rises each July from their beloved Remuneration Authority. This year will be no different. The day I see MPs refuse their large annual rises and take a pay decrease will be the day workers should accept less.

  4. Patzcuaro

     /  20th June 2018
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th June 2018

    Labour => tax and spend => private debt + public waste

    Unions and monopolies (public and private) go together like hand in glove – since neither need worry about fleecing and abusing their “customers”. Labour is merely their political wing.

    • Blazer

       /  20th June 2018

      you talking about Federated Farmers,Fonterra …or just trotting out your well worn cliches that you think pass as an argument.


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