With the NDU’s current focus on re-unionising Foodstuffs, in the first collective bargaining across its northern wholesale arm, Gilmours, we were this week presented with a 0% offer on the standard rate of $11.74 an hour.
Despite continuing record low unemployment – 3.5 per cent according to yesterday’s and quantifiable labour and skills shortages, we are a low wage country and not a lot is happening to change that.
Between 1993 and 2003 the average annual increase in real wages was 0.7 per cent, only slightly more than half the OECD average of 1.1 per cent and the Australian average of 1.3 per cent.
From 1980 to 2001 real wages actually fell by 6.5 per cent – compared to increases in Australia of 28 per cent, Canada 39 per cent, UK 46 per cent and Finland 68 per cent).
The gender pay gap is widening again, after narrowing in large part due to wage cuts for men rather than wage increases for women.
So how have the bosses been doing?
According to a Reserve Bank study, from 2000 to 2004, corporate profits increased by 11 per cent a year. Whereas in 2000 a CEO could expect to earn eight times as much as the pay of the average worker, by 2006, the average CEO pay-packet was 19 times the average wage.
Meanwhile New Zealand holds second place in the OECD for our long working hours. One in five us works more than 50 hours a week.
Anna Berger, Chair of the US’s largest union grouping, Change to Win, places the urgent need for unionising the new workforce in the expanding service sector at the centre of the project to restore incomes and social protection:
“The myth of the new American economy… that highly aid, high tech jobs will offset the loss of the well-paid, union jobs in manufacturing; that all we had to do was re-train and re-tool; that the new economy is on the information superhighway is pure fiction.
“In reality, unless we do something about it, the new economy is a dead-end street of underpaid, high-turnover, no-benefit jobs that cannot sustain families…
“The workers of the new economy are not low wage workers in low wage jobs – they are underpaid workers in underpaid occupations.
“We should always remember that the good jobs of the 20th century were the underpaid jobs at the turn of the previous century, until workers joined together in unions – bargained contracts that provided living wages and family benefits –