I think unions are in for a big disappointment.
They still think they’re going to get Fair Pay Agreements, and you know what? They’re not.
The idea with Fair pay agreements, you’ll remember, is that entire industries could be forced to pay their workers a higher rate, and that’s the same rate regardless of whether they’re based in Auckland or Ashburton.
And the idea is these agreements can be triggered by 1000 workers or by 10 per cent of the industry demanding a pay rise, whichever is smaller.
Anyway, unions have been waiting patiently for this law. At the last election, the government promised the agreements. Then it appointed Jim Bolger to lead the working group. He reported back. The government released the report.
And that was nine months ago. Since then? Tumbleweed.
This is as awkward as a pair of tight pants for this government, and so it’s not going to happen.
And the main reason is business, really. Business hates the idea, and the last thing Labour needs is business to be any grumpier than it is right now.
Remember, it’s as grumpy as it was during the global financial crisis. So it’s dead, and there’s really nothing unions can do.
Because this government is making a choice: who do they need more, unions or business? And it’s going to choose business. Because when business is grumpy, it’s the front page of the Herald and it comes back every month in business confidence surveys.
But when unions are grumpy, what happens? Nothing, because unions have nowhere else to go. They’ll keep giving Labour donations every election, and campaign support every election, because for all Labour’s broken promises, it’s still better for unions than National.
And that is why this promise will be broken: because there are no consequences to Labour.
The Prime Minister said this law would be passed in time for one or two of these agreements to be triggered by the next election. The next election’s a year away. That time frame is so tight, it’s close to impossible.
We haven’t had the consultation phase yet, so unions need to accept the reality: business has won, unions have lost.