Union membership

The Spinoff graphically shows the relatively small number of people now belonging to unions, and how less young people belong to unions.

Chart of the Week: are unions losing the young?

Are unions in New Zealand dwindling? With unions trending towards older workers, they may very well be.


Most people don’t belong to unions, and that is more pronounced amongst young people.

Labour Party application rejected

This came up on Twitter today:


Dear Sophie

Thank you for your recent application to become a registered supporter.

As part of the process to sign up as a registered supporter all applicants are asked to confirm the following statement: I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.

A panel of the NEC has considered your application, and has decided to reject it on the grounds that you tweeted in support of the Green party on 8 May 2015.

Yours sincerely,

Iain McNicol
General Secretary of The Labour Party

I can’t verify it (Update – now verified) but it fits with other information readily findable. UK Labour membership terms and conditions include:

  • By applying to become a member of the Labour Party you agree to accept and conform to the constitution, programme, principles and policy of the Party.
  • You also confirm that you are not a member of any other registered political party (save the Co-operative party); and you are not a member of any organisation incompatible with membership of the Labour Party.

Applications to become an Affiliated or Registered Supporter will be rejected if:

  • The Labour Party has reason to believe that you do not support the Labour Party’s aims and values.

And there are reports along similar lines, like this last year: Labour leadership election: rejected supporters express their anger:

Labour supporters have expressed their anger at being barred from the leadership vote, as the party steps up efforts to weed out those suspected of not being genuine supporters.

It is understood that Labour sent out a fresh batch of emails to supporters this morning informing them that their applications have been rejected and that they will not be able to vote in the leadership election.

The rejection email reads:

We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party and therefore we are rejecting your application.

Although you may have received or may still receive a ballot paper, it will not work and if you do vote it will not be counted.

Should you wish to dispute rejection by the Labour Party you would have to submit and pursue an application to join Labour as a full member.

But this sort of vetting seems to have happened closer to home as well: Labour declines membership of a former candidate because he criticised them on Facebook:

As you know, you resigned your membership of the NZ Labour Party on May 14th 2015 and sought to rejoin on August 28th 2015.  Council retains the right to decide on membership applications, and in your case has decided to decline the application.

Although there is no obligation to provide reasons for this decision, Council were well aware that you operate a “Labour Members and Supporters” Facebook page which has from time to time contained unhelpful comments which could well be regarded as risking disrepute.

Political parties that don’t allow criticism or alternative views.

UPDATE: Missy has provided a link to verification of the UK Labour rejection letter:

Independent: Woman blocked from joining Labour on basis she tweeted support for Greens

‘I’m dismayed that my opinion is being so easily discarded just because I share points of view with other parties on the left,’ says Corbyn-supporting Welsh poet Sophie McKeand.

“I don’t see votes for The Left as mutually exclusive. We have much more in common than we have points of contention and this is what we need to focus on.”

The letter, which the Welsh poet posted on Twitter branding it a “total farce”, has been met with anger and surprise on social media.

It comes days after Jeremy Corbyn expressed concern that some of his supporters have been “unfairly” barred from voting after four people with a combined Labour Party membership of 163 years said they had received similar rejection.

Mr Corbyn has encouraged supporters who have been denied a vote to challenge it and advised on how best to do so, tweeting: “Have you been denied a vote? Make sure you challenge. Share details with Liz Davies, former Labour NEC & barrister.”

Regeneration for Labour?

It’s been fairly well known that the Labour Party has needed some major regeneration since 2008 and post-Helen Clark. It’s also been fairly obvious that this hasn’t worked very well, with a decreasing vote for Labour in each election this century to an embarrassing low in 2014.

The Standard has offered candidates a forum “for the upcoming Labour Party internal elections the chance to guest post about why they’re running”.

Yesterday they had a Guest post: Eva Hartshorn-Sanders for Senior Vice President

This was “fully moderated to prevent excessive trolling” which is fair enough for a post like that.

The post is quite long and quite negative, especially in the opening paragraphs. And quite politically waffly.

Comments are interesting with some fair questions. with Patrick Leland asked: “One thing you didn’t mention is what you would actually do if elected. Can you please elaborate?”

Eva responded:

The Senior Vice President position sits on NZ Council and is part of the governance team. From working with NZ Council over the past four years, there is a lot of policy, legal and strategic decisions that they will be making going forward – and I would be able to bring my skills to help as part of this core work.

Important decisions going forward relate to the selection of candidates and the list selection work as part of the Moderating Committee – I understand this process from helping to run the Ikaroa-Rawhiti bi-election selection process and working on the drafting with Roger Palairet for the recent constitutional amendments.

Some of this has been answered above – networking is important for campaigning, fundraising, and membership growth. I also think the SVP has an important role for staying in touch with members and working with caucus. The links and connections are important.

Also quite waffly – I still have no idea about specifically what she would try to do, but I also have no idea what a senior vice president is expected to do.

Probably prompted by this in her post…

I have worked in law, policy, campaigning and organising.  This includes nine years working in Government in NZ, two years as a senior legal and political adviser for the (Labour) Leader of the Opposition in the UK House of Lords, private practice and now at the PPTA as a public and employment lawyer.  As part of my job, I travel the country speaking to union members about the issues that are important to them, in their schools and communities.  I have strong links with women throughout the country through my pro bono work for the National Council of Women and the New Horizons for Women Trust.  I have governance experience as a Board member of New Horizons, focussed on governance, policy, sponsors and donors, audit and risk, and for the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme, where I helped to ensure that members were able to access their whole pension for the purposes of their first home loan.

…Adam asked a pertinent question: “You seem to be a careerist political type, do you think you have enough experience outside of politics to bring to the role?”

A careerist political type? That’s interesting. Lots of experience. I had my first job at the age of 11 delivering pamphlets – that has to be useful for this role, right? I have worked in all sorts of jobs through my life – if that’s the sort of thing you were asking about? Burger King “maintenance man” in 2000, cafe assistant, retail work, working at a creche, multiple babysitting jobs, Judo coach at Camp America (CCUSA), government, politics, union. And I do NGO work for fun – not really that political – unless you want it to be.

lprent also raised questions about two critical issues for Labour: “So I’m surprised that I don’t see a mention in your post of the two really big issues that I see for both the president and vice-presidential roles. Strategies for raising money and increasing membership.”

Building membership is an important part of our future. I think we need to continue to modernise the Party and its structures, to make sure that we all have a place within in it to be active and to have a voice.

That may help retain some members but I don’t see how it addresses attracting new members. Labour has a reputation for not being particularly welcoming of different voices.

Re the fundraising aspect – I would be one in a team that will be implementing the fundraising strategy from Fraser House, taking expert advice from professional staff. But I have some experience in this area running events for PPTA, NCW and the New Horizons for Women Trust, including working with sponsors and donors portfolio.

The fundraising strategy from Fraser House appears to have been working poorly for some time. For years Labour’s fundraising has been way behind National’s, and the Greens now raise more funds than Labour.

Labour has major problems with a lack of members and money. Perhaps they aren’t part of the senior vice presidents job description but Eva appears to be more of a willing worker within the party as it is than potential for regeneration.

While Eva looks young and may be new generation she sounds ‘same old’, and that hasn’t been working well for Labour. I don’t see much drive for party regeneration.

Greens churn 1/3 of members

Green membership shows healthy growth of about  33% over the last year – Labour are likely to be envious.

But curiously Greens have also lost about a third of their members over the same period.

From Stuff: Greens conference will see the first incarnation of the left alliance in action

Shaw, who was elected co-leader at the party’s last AGM to replace former co-leader Russel Norman, would also come under assessment for his first year. 

Under the party’s constitution, both leaders were required to stand for re-election. It was unlikely however, any contenders would run against them.  

He set the ambitious target of doubling the party’s membership in the first year, and then doubling it again by the next. 

While the target has not been achieved, Shaw’s goal has seen the party’s membership grow from about 4500 last year, to more than 6000.

“We’ve had 3000 members join in the last year, so there’s been a high level of churn. 

That means they must have lost about 1,500 of 4,500 members and gained twice as many.

I wonder if they are not recording renewals correctly, and some of those losses have actually immediately re-joined.

Otherwise, as Shaw says, that’s a high level of churn.

It would be interesting to know if it is a normal level of churn or if it’s unusually high.

If it’s unusually high then is it a high level of general disenchantment – or is it related to losing Russel Norman (who was replaced as co-leader by Shaw).

MoU a sign of Labour desperation?

Greens have wanted an openly closer relationship with Labour for years. Cunliffe refused to even symbolically associate with them before the 2014 election despite Russel Norman’s efforts, and said that was a mistake after the election after Labour support continued a decade long slide.

So seeing Metiria Turei beaming at the Memorandum of Understanding announcement is not a surprise (although James Shaw looked less ecstatic as a bystander).

But why did Labour make this move, and especially, why now?

Some have claimed it was hurried and lacked substance – the latter is certainly true. It’s an odd move mid-term.

And both Labour and Greens looked unprepared for inevitable questions asked by the media. All they repeated was that the MoU was designed to enable a change of Government and meant nothing when it came to coalition forming.

Andrew Little even implied that partnership trust wasn’t important by saying that it wasn’t a monogamous relationship. Announcing an engagement and straight away suggesting that fucking around was fine doesn’t suggest a close bond.

So is it nothing more than a symbolic marriage of convenience? Or even a shotgun wedding – has Labour done this out of desperation?

They have struggled to make any headway in polls since Andrew Little took over the leadership and Little has faired even worse in polls. There are a number of suggestions that polls were a significant factor – see MoU a poll punt?

But Labour’s problems run deeper than poll problems. It’s well known they have problems with fundraising.

Last month David Farrar (and others) pointed out Once again Labour getting fewer donations than Greens.

Total donations (over $1,500) in 2015 were:

  1. National $1,400,896
  2. Greens $407,978
  3. Labour $279.134

I understand Labour is so broke they are forcing their MPs to pay a levy to fund the likely Mt Roskill by-election.

There are also claims Labour are having major problems with membership.

Richard Harman at Politik in Little goes after the “rich prick”:

POLITIK has learned that the party’s membership is now probably below that of the Greens, which would place it below 5000. Possibly less than half that.

In contrast, National is aiming to recruit up to 35,000 members before the next election campaign.

Chris Trotter adds to this in – See more at: Unconvinced: Why Chris Trotter Is So Sceptical About The Labour-Green “Understanding”:

If true (and Richard is no slouch when it comes to acquiring “usually reliable” sources) that would indicate a total of, at most, 5,000.

Some have gone so far as to say that if the number of affiliated trade union members is subtracted from that total, then there may actually be fewer than 2,000 paid-up ordinary members in the whole party.

Trotter also comments on fundraising problems:

For months now there has been much discussion “inside the beltway” of Labour’s deep-seated financial difficulties.

The slightest suggestion that a person might harbour left-wing sympathies has been enough to earn them a deluge of begging e-mails from Andrew Little and other Labour politicians.

People make a joke of it, but those who know something about political fundraising are only too aware that these are the tactics of desperation.

And on the MoU annoluncement:

The gimcrack quality of yesterday’s (31/5/16) announcement: a hastily cobbled together presser in the old Legislative Chamber; likewise had a story to tell.

It seemed odd that the only audience apart from journalists were Green and Labour MPs and staffers. Membership of both parties were absent from the event and seemed to be absent from the decision making.

It is the story of an exhausted and impecunious political organisation. A party stumbling towards its 100th anniversary in desperate need of support – any support.

It is also the story of a younger and much more vital party desperate for its chance to exercise real power, and absolutely determined that it will not, once again, be robbed of its chance at the eleventh hour.

Such is my understanding of the Labour-Green “Understanding”

Greens look to be the stronger party in how they operate, with donation levels and with membership.

Has Andrew Little rushed Labour into the MoU in a desperate attempt to prop up his party with the Greens?


And any thought the party might have had of assembling a three-party coalition to take power after the next election seems to have been dashed by NZ First Leader Winston Peters actively campaigning against Labour.

Peters can see when disaffected votes are up for grabs.

Greens could also pick up some votes off the Labour carcass.

Something may drastically change, but going by the reaction to the MoU announcement (from media and from across the political spectrum) an ‘understanding’ with no substance and with no expectation of faithfulness is unlikely to be the game changer that Greens want and Labour desperately needs.

Scoop membership drive

The Scoop Foundation is doing a membership drive, possibly timed to try and take advantage of the uncertainty over the future of journalism in New Zealand with the merger talks going on between Fairfax and NZME.

Journalism: A New Model – The 2016 Scoop Foundation Membership Drive

The Scoop Foundation is seeking public support to safeguard the future of public interest journalism in New Zealand.

To ensure public access to comprehensive, free, timely news is maintained during this dark hour for journalism. And to provide every voice in NZ the opportunity to be heard in the national debate.

You can donate at Pledge Me: The Scoop Foundation : the best chance to create an independent guardian for public interest journalism in NZ

In the first half of 2016 news organisations everywhere were forced to take drastic measures to stay alive.

In March The Independent in the United Kingdom ceased publication of its print edition. It was a harbinger of a deepening global news crisis.

This week here in NZ the two largest news organisations have proposed a merger as their Australian owners simultaneously announce their intention to exit the NZ market. Massive journalism job losses now loom over an already battered profession. Even the UK Guardian, one of the world’s largest digital publishers has had to announce layoffs.

With your support over the past 18 months Scoop has against enormous odds managed to create a new kind of news organisation, one based on a new model for funding journalism, not dependent on advertising, which offers the prospect of providing a long term sustainable platform to support the growth of a new generation of independent news publishers.

Everybody is invited to be part of this new future for news.

Thinking about Scoop I use them occasionally when I’m looking for media releases but don’t think of going there for news or for journalism. Ironically I see them as repeaters, not reporters.

Maybe I should check their New Zealand Politics summary page.


Peters vows to contest next election, unless….

This weekend NZ First are having their  22nd annual convention. For a support sized party they have done very well, recovering from a hiccup in 2008, recovering to get back into parliament in 2011 and building support in 2014.

Stuff reports: He’s 70, but Winston Peters has no plans to retire

Forty years after he first entered New Zealand politics, the NZ First leader is planning his next election campaign and heading into his party’s 22nd annual convention. Isn’t he tired of politics?

“Why would you ask that?” he chuckles.

“I’m 70 years old, that’s a fact. But the point is I’m in a job I can do and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

“I could give it up and my next big wish would be to spend time doing up boats and what have you. But the reality is, would I be interested after three months doing that? How many days can you go fishing?”

Bolstered by the Northland by-election win, he says he’ll stand again in 2017.

That will disappoint a few opponents but please most of his party, except perhaps for one or two with their own ambitions.

And Peters is pushing to build the party even more.

“This convention is all about two things: membership and money,” he says.

Head office will waive levies on electorates if they reach new membership targets. Peters is also a Facebook devotee. “We are the second highest on Facebook to John Key, we are past 40,000.”

That depends on who ‘we’ is.

The New Zealand First Political Party has 7,806 likes on Facebook.

It’s Winston Peters Politician who has 40,354 likes.

And other party Facebook likes:

  • Labour Party 40,322
  • Green Party 73,484

There is a lot riding on his personal appeal. Winston’s drive for more membership has been quoted as a condition of his carrying on.

Winston Peters has vowed to resign as NZ First leader if his party membership does not grow by at least 10,000 over the next two years.

In two years time we will be heading towards the next election. Will Peters stand by that? Maybe his new energy and charm will attract 10,000 new members so he doesn’t have to face that decision.

But if he steps down the forty thousand likes may step down with him.

UPDATE ALREADY (This is Winston): Winston Peters goes all-in on ‘tens of thousands’ NZ First membership increase

NZ First leader Winston Peters will resign if he fails to increase party membership by  “tens of thousands” in the next two years.

Peters made the pledge to become a “mass membership party” to reporters at his party’s annual convention in Rotorua on Saturday morning.


…in a baffling exchange, he immediately backed down.

“We are targeting tens and tens of thousands of party members…we think that is possible,” he said.

Asked if he would resign if he didn’t meet that target, Peters replied: “Yeah. precisely. Because there would be no sense going on … two years flat … do we have a target of more than ten thousand? Yes we do.”

Then asked to re-affirm if he would stand down, Peters changed his mind.

He answered:  “No. I said if we don’t increase our membership. Go through it very slowly … maybe I didn’t hear it properly. But I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t wrong to the factor of three times that.”

So now it’s just “if we don’t increase our membership”.

There will be no way to hold Peters to account on his goal – he won’t release membership figures.

So Winston’s rhetoric wins again, whatever he meant to say.

Shaw sets a high target for Green membership

New Green co-leader James Shaw has set some very optimistic membership targets on lifting Green membership.

NZH reports on his key-note speech at the Green conference in ‘More like modern NZ’ says new co-leader.

During the half-hour address at the party’s AGM in Auckland this morning, Mr Shaw set out ambitious plans for the Greens.

He wanted to double the membership of the party this year and double it again next year. The party currently has around 6000 members.

While the National Party was a “behemoth” of money and strategists, he said, the Green Party’s strength came from its members.

“If we’re going to contend with such a formidable adversary, we need a lot more of them. And then twice that number again.”

Shaw didn’t mention Labour, he wants the Greens to take National on.

Shaw has been effective in his Wellington electorate, with Greens out-polling Labour in the party vote last election.

It will be much harder lifting membership across the country, especially as proposed, to four times the current membership in two years, from 6,000 to 24,000. That’s probably more than Labour membership (excluding union affiliates).

Mr Shaw said, the Green Party needed to be more like modern New Zealand.

“People vote for people they feel a connection to. If we aim to govern the country then we need to represent it.”

To get a connection with far more people, to get many more members Greens, will have to do a much better selling job with their policies, or they will have to significantly change their policy approach.

Shaw may appeal to a wider range of New Zealanders, but Metiria Turei is still co-leader and it’s hard to see her broadening her appeal much.

What if those targets aren’t reached? We may not hear about it – Shaw may hope that it’s forgotten.

Greens are a niche party. Trying to make them “more like modern New Zealand” would mean making major changes to their policy positions and priorities, something Shaw hasn’t given any indication of doing.

It will be interesting to see how he goes on boosting Green membership.

Shaw hasn’t said it explicitly but he appears to be trying to take over from Labour as the main opposition party.

United Future confirm 500 signed up members

In a email to party members Peter Dunne has confirmed that the United Future Party has over 500 signed (on paper) members.

Great news everybody. Thanks to your speedy response and the magnificent efforts of our volunteers, we now have more than 500 individually signed membership declarations. We will be submitting these to the Electoral Commission tomorrow to begin the process of re-registering UnitedFuture.

This is a stunning achievement in just 19 days, and I am extremely grateful to everyone involved. The next step is for the Commission to verify the membership declarations, through contacting a random sample. They say this process will take their paid, professional staff between six and eight weeks to complete. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of our volunteers’ book!

That’s 6-8 weeks to check fifty or so memberships. Seems a long time for a little number but the Electoral Commission have already said they have limited resources, and have never checked the membership of currently registered parties.

Most if not all registered parties would probably struggle to produce 500 signed-on-paper members without doing some work to obtain them, even the large parties. Most membership is now done online – and the online registration of most parties does not comply with Electoral Commission requirements.

It will be a relief to Dunne and management to be on track to re-register so that the the party can be properly registered again.

It should then be up to Parliament’s speaker to officially recognise the party again.

Despite many obituaries being written the UnitedFuture party has continued to exist. By being honest about membership verification difficulties they discovered themselves in an Electoral Commission black hole, and were shafted by competing parties in Parliament putting pressure on the Speaker to deal politically with an unprecedented situation.

But the party will thwart attempts to remove them from the political landscape and is on the rise again – already to greater heights than it’s been for many years.

Silver lining in United Future clouds

United Future has had major membership problems. First it had a dwindling membership, and when it admitted the numbers had dropped below 500 the Electoral Commission de-registered the party.

There is no legal allowance for re-registration of a party so United Future has to register as a new party using old fashioned paper records. That sounds absurd but it’s the rules as stipulated by legislation and the Electoral Commission.

So this is a major administrative task for the party. It also puts party funding in jeopardy. A ruling from Parliament’s Speaker on this is yet to be made.

So this all looks very messy, and it is. It’s also embarrassing for the party.

But there has already been a significant silver lining.

All small parties struggle to maintain interest and members. Government support parties tend to fade in importance in the eyes of voters.

But all the publicity since the shock de-registration has precipitated a surge in new membership.And as Peter Dunne has said:

“Events surrounding my resignation, funnily enough, also helped.”

Reports indicate the numbers have close to trebled, which means somewhere around 1500 members. This is huge compared to the past few years.

The party has a lot to do to manage the new membership. If they want to retain interest they need to include the members in party affairs, keep them informed, listen to them and encourage active participation.

The dark clouds that have engulfed United Future have also provided an injection of new interest in the party. This was badly needed. It has to be used wisely.

There is now an opportunity to revitalise the party and make it relevant in next year’s election. There’s a lot to do but at least the party has had the boot up the bum it needed.