Rodney Hide on Dodgy Unions

Rodney’s been kind enough to read?my?book for the benefit of NBR readers

The stunning revelation of Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater?s book ?Dodgy Unions?? is how little unions give the Labour Party.

I had always thought it was millions.

That?s because of the power union bosses exercise over the party. Union bosses get to vote for party leader, they block vote candidate selection, get a say on the party list, have a seat at the all-powerful National Council and carry a block vote at regional and national conferences.

No other group exercises such a power over any other party in New Zealand.

Indeed, it?s unclear how the Labour Party gets around the Electoral Act requiring ?democratic procedures in candidate selection? by financial members or by delegates ?elected or otherwise selected? by current financial members of the party.

Certainly, the power of the unions within the Labour Party breaches the spirit of the democracy provisions of the Electoral Act if not the Act itself. Imagine if the National Board of Federated Farmers? had a vote for the leader of the National Party, National?s list, electorate candidates and had a guaranteed seat at National?s Board of Directors. There would be outrage. And rightly so.

But what?s truly shocking from ?Dodgy Unions? is that Labour Party sells itself so cheap.

The Union movement takes in $120 million a year. It has equity of over $120 million.

But over the last 18 years the unions have given Labour only $700,000. That?s less than $40,000 a year. For every thousand dollars the unions rake in only 33 cents goes to Labour.

Moreover, Labour?s big donations over the last 18 years total over $6 million. The unions provide less than 12 percent.

The unions are fat and rich, they have enormous power within Labour, but are tightwad funders, so much so that Labour is running deficits unable to afford its pretence of a democratic election for leader.

Labour MPs have long complained union domination disheartening and disempowering them and their members. The question I have now, is why do they put up with it?

More importantly, with the Labour Party so obviously skint, why isn’t the Union movement at large helping out?

A political party should be owned and run by its own members, not outside groups. …

The party is old and tired. The voters can see it.

Labour?s constitution reads like something from the United Nations. The all-powerful National Council must have a Maori Senior Vice-President, an affiliate Vice-President, a Pacific Islands Vice-President, a Women’s Vice-President, a Youth Vice-President, a Rainbow Representative, and two representatives elected by Te Kaunihera Maori, one of whom shall be a woman.

The party exhausts itself on identity politics overlaid with raw union power. It?s no wonder it?s broke and out-of-puff.

The party needs deep constitutional and organisational reform to be fit for purpose. What?s needed is a leadership not pandering to special interests but smashing them.

Oh, everyone can see what Labour needs. ?Except Labour.


– Rodney Hide, NBR