The EPMU (NZ)

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Convert
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Joined: 20-07-06
Jul 26 2006 23:30
The EPMU (NZ)

Is it just me or is the EPMU fucking useless? About a year ago i wanted to join a union coz the bosses were getting pretty agro. The only one i could find that covered call centres was the engineers union (strangely).  As there are only about 5 out of 150 employees in a union here I decided to call an organiser to have a chat with them about coming through the site and talking to people.  For a start the organiser wouldn't step foot on Telecom property as they were 'banned' - wtf im sure thats illegal? Then the organiser was totally disinterested in coming and organising the site saying "we want people to join for the right reasons not the wrong reason" WTF is the right reason?  Instead he gave me a bunch of forms for anyone who wanted to join, stressing several times the envelope was postage paid - wow. They even said that i had to make automatic payments myself for fees as Telecom refuse to take union fees out of wages, which is definately illegal (i emailed the department of labour).  What hope is there of a union making any difference if it cant even enforce the law that is backing it. Useless bunch of pussies i reakon. Has anyone else had experiences good or bad with EPMU? In retrospect I guess I would have tried to start our own union, but im leaving this hell hole soon.

Skraeling
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Jul 29 2006 00:54
Convert wrote:
<p>Is it just me or is the EPMU fucking useless?

G'day Convert, no it's not you, the Engineers Union is a notorious right wing & bureaucratic union. They are useless. They don't want to shake the boat, just work with bosses and lobby the govt. They go on and on about collaboration with the boss (they call it "partnership", support the Labour Party to the hilt, and don't really give a shit about workers in the EPMU (apart from collecting their dues). Your experience with the EPMU organiser is pretty typical. But I havent had any personal experiences with the EPMU.

What were the Telecom bosses getting up to that pissed you off? what did you and yr co workers do about it apart from try to join a union?

There are a couple of more useful unions you could join. Unite for one. i think they organised a call centre in Auckland last year. Unite would be best if your in Auckland or Wgtn. if you are in Dunedin, you could join the magnificient, fabulous anarchist inspired union the Autonomous Workers Union. both the AWU and Unite cover all workers.

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For a start the organiser wouldn&#39;t step foot on Telecom property as they were &#39;banned&#39; - wtf im sure thats illegal? Then the organiser was totally disinterested in coming and organising the site saying &quot;we want people to join for the right reasons not the wrong reason&quot; WTF is the right reason?

yeah its illegal for Telecom to ban union reps from entering Telecom. all they need to go is give notice that they are coming, i think 24 hours, and they can set foot on the property. the interesting thing for me is that organiser showed some interest in your worksite, probably cos its large, which means money money money for the EPMU if they organised it. if you're in a small workplace, they normally dont show any itnerest at all.

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They even said that i had to make automatic payments myself for fees as Telecom refuse to take union fees out of wages, which is definately illegal (i emailed the department of labour).

yeah it is illegal. but bosses get away with it cos most dont know the law. also check out the dept of labour website for info on the law, "factsheets" etc

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In retrospect I guess I would have tried to start our own union, but im leaving this hell hole soon.</p>

yeah, its pretty easy to start your own union these days, you only need 20 or 30 members to start one up. or do you mean a sort of informal, workplace resistance group ie. you and your fellow workmates getting informally together and doing stuff without doing all the legal shit you need to do to start up an official union?

Convert
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Jul 30 2006 21:08
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G'day Convert, no it's not you, the Engineers Union is a notorious right wing & bureaucratic union

Good to know, I was so gutted when I realised this.

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What were the Telecom bosses getting up to that pissed you off?

A lot of things but mainly their overall attitude, trying to make us work like machines. Analysing our productivity down to the minute, using software (called NICE ironically) to remotely monitor and record our calls (for training purposes of course - yet to have any training a year later), they are supposed to tell us when they will be recording, but they dont. We kicked up a bit of a fuss so then they said ok we are recording at random times on any day so now you know you could be recorded anytime . More fuss, now they record tues, weds, thurs.

Not even adhering to their own self imposed guidelines/rules, changing the nature of the job dramatically for the worse, constantly increasing targets. Forcing us to change our start time, from 8.30 - 5.00 (with 30min lunch) to 8.00 - 5.00 (60min lunch). Thats one of my biggest problems, we just spend too much time at work.

Dont get me wrong I'm not a lazy person, I do volunteer work on my weekends etc.

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what did you and yr co workers do about it apart from try to join a union?

Bitch and moan and make life as difficult as possible for our boss. Not very constructive but we didnt really know what to do.

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yeah, its pretty easy to start your own union these days, you only need 20 or 30 members to start one up. or do you mean a sort of informal, workplace resistance group ie. you and your fellow workmates getting informally together and doing stuff without doing all the legal shit you need to do to start up an official union?

I think its only 15 now, so pretty easy. The only thing i wasnt sure about is that you have to have an office to register as a union, not sure if you could just put it down as someone home or not?

I mean a formal union. I thought about it for a while but then ended up joining epmu. The trouble is the job is so shit that everyone leaves so soon. Im not sure I could find many people willing to really fight the bosses, most just realise its a crap job and leave.

Also a lot of workers here buy into the bosses propaganda, that if they work hard they might get promoted etc. And there is a strong culture of toeing the line, I got demoted for, in my bosses own words, "not kissing ass" - no shit.

Skraeling
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Aug 1 2006 06:53
Convert wrote:
Quote:
What were the Telecom bosses getting up to that pissed you off?

A lot of things but mainly their overall attitude, trying to make us work like machines. Analysing our productivity down to the minute, using software (called NICE ironically) to remotely monitor and record our calls (for training purposes of course - yet to have any training a year later), they are supposed to tell us when they will be recording, but they dont. We kicked up a bit of a fuss so then they said ok we are recording at random times on any day so now you know you could be recorded anytime . More fuss, now they record tues, weds, thurs.

NICE!!!!! how ironic! Bastard control freaks. Treating you like machines and criminals who need to be monitored all the time -- I hate that shit. Its so dehumanising. Oh well at least by kicking up a fuss you reduced them to three days in a week monitoring. I'd hate to be monitored all the time. I'd would drive me bonkers.

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Not even adhering to their own self imposed guidelines/rules, changing the nature of the job dramatically for the worse, constantly increasing targets. Forcing us to change our start time, from 8.30 - 5.00 (with 30min lunch) to 8.00 - 5.00 (60min lunch). Thats one of my biggest problems, we just spend too much time at work.

i can see why you want to join a union. yeah, tis quite a common problem of overwork and working too long, even the Dept of Labour and the CTU talk of a work/life balance (but dont do much about it).

have you seen the Wobbly (IWW) pamphlet How to Fire Your Boss? I found it useful, it contains some useful tips on workplace subversion that you can do without a union, but its just some suggestions, they obviously don't work in all times and places, just when the time is ripe and you can get away with it. eg. if they are always making you work faster and increasing targets, an organised go-slow might do the trick (if you cant get enuf workmates to do it with you, that is)

Convert wrote:
Quote:
yeah, its pretty easy to start your own union these days, you only need 20 or 30 members to start one up. or do you mean a sort of informal, workplace resistance group ie. you and your fellow workmates getting informally together and doing stuff without doing all the legal shit you need to do to start up an official union?

I think its only 15 now, so pretty easy. The only thing i wasnt sure about is that you have to have an office to register as a union, not sure if you could just put it down as someone home or not?

Yeah you're right it is 15. I forgot. (I helped set up the Autonomous Workers Union in Dunedin). You can use your home address to register, we did it that way. (If you want the AWU's decentralised style constitution, PM me) i should say i'm kinda sceptical of unions these days, i don't think all that much can be achieved thru the legal system and the severe Employment Relations Act, and think by doing what you did (informally kicking up a fuss) can achieve just as much as a union can (tho don't get me wrong, unions can be useful at times!)

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I mean a formal union. I thought about it for a while but then ended up joining epmu. The trouble is the job is so shit that everyone leaves so soon. Im not sure I could find many people willing to really fight the bosses, most just realise its a crap job and leave.

yeah thats a huge problem nowadays, i agree. shit jobs always have a high turnover. i think unions drawing upon the old wobbly strategy of having a union that covers all workers, and is not tied to a particular workplace or occupation, gets around this somewhat (you take the union with you even if you leave your job)

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And there is a strong culture of toeing the line, I got demoted for, in my bosses own words, "not kissing ass" - no shit.

that sucks! at least they didnt fire you!

smush
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Aug 22 2006 22:04

i agree that the EPMU is not a very good union - however, compare them with the PSA or SFWU they are actually still one of the stauncher unions in Aotearoa at the moment. I haven't read much of their literature, but it seems they are not so much into the 'partnership with Labour' idea. Their members go on strike rather often compared with other workers and they have been putting quite a bit of work into the campaing agains the 90 day bill - which is of course a legislation coming from National (and the union bureaucrats would NEVER attack the Labour Party and the ERA because Andrew Little wants to be a MP sometime soon (he bought a house in Rongotai apparently whihc is where he want to run - safe Labour seat).

I had a very similar experience when i did a labouring job with Allied Workforce. They pay was shit, conditions terrible. So after the second day i went to see the union people in their office (can't remember their name). When i told them i want to join the union they said "which union?" grrrr "your union you morons!". I asked whether they'd help me organise my workplace and they said "we don't really do that but here are some sign up sheets and you can do it yourself". Grrr, they just keep an office going and live of the wages of workers while around 6,000 people work at Allied Workforce and work hard jobs for $10.50.

so i guess i find most unions, includinging unite, rather frustrating because they are top-down organisations and the bureaucrats think everything is sweet under Labour. For a while i thought that Unite was going to be different - well, turend out it wasn't. and here i am again, grumpy and disillusioned with the union movement. So i get quite excited when a union like the epmu DOES something and not only sits in their offices.

where to from here...? if only i knew!

Skraeling
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Aug 31 2006 10:06
smush wrote:
i agree that the EPMU is not a very good union - however, compare them with the PSA or SFWU they are actually still one of the stauncher unions in Aotearoa at the moment. I haven't read much of their literature, but it seems they are not so much into the 'partnership with Labour' idea.

hmmm, for sure the PSA is probably the most right wing union in NZ at the mo. but to include the Servos (SFWU) in the same breath as the Engineers? I dunno. As far as i know, the servos have been at the forefront of the "organising" model of unionism which is opposed to the "partnership" model of the PSA and the Engineers (i believe). I found the servos in practice to be OKish, but fairly overstretched and their wedding to Labour is hard to take, but i remember they organised a picket in dunedin a few years ago and got a casino worker reinstated because of it.

anyway, for sure the Engineers have been are the forefront of opposing the 90 day no rights bill, but they are still pretty right wing IHMO. I just read some of Andrew Little's recent speeches and they made me kind of sick. While he opposes the Mapp bill he goes on about workers increasing their productivity, "quality management", better "workplace culture" (ie. a culture more conducive to higher productivity) -- its all about a nice, cosy compromise between unions and capitalists with unions given the role of watchdogs over the workers making sure they increase their productivity in return for better wages as far as i can see. Tho maybe they have shifted a wee bit leftward in the last few years.

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so i guess i find most unions, includinging unite, rather frustrating because they are top-down organisations and the bureaucrats think everything is sweet under Labour. For a while i thought that Unite was going to be different - well, turend out it wasn't. and here i am again, grumpy and disillusioned with the union movement. So i get quite excited when a union like the epmu DOES something and not only sits in their offices.

i fully share your frustration with unions. cor blimey they are annoying. a lot of people thought Unite was fantastic and got sucked in. i think its important to note the more right wing unions have always done lots of stuff, organised campaigns, occasionally gone on strike, won better wages and conditions occassionally, and organised ritualistic opposition to National etc. as well, part of their job is to crush rank and file militancy eg. the Engineers was one of the unions who voted against the general strike in 1991 against the notorious ECA...

Mike Porton
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Sep 8 2006 23:02

Get your facts straight Skraeling the EPMU does not subscribe to the partnership model - in fact they were a key player in knocking down when the PSA tried to push it on other unions through the CTU. They've also been responsible for the majority of industrial action taken in Aotearoa in the last two years and were the union that pushed the "fair share" campaign that's seen the wages of working people rise more in those same two years than they have in decades. They're also key players in the current dispute against Progressive Enterprises and were the key player in knocking the 90-Day No-Rights bill over. Come to think of it I'm pretty certain they worked closely with the AWU in Dunedin on that campaign and have provided help and resources to them: that doesn't sound very right-wing to me.
So Andrew Little's comments made you sick? What makes me feel sick is people spouting uninformed nonsense and attacking an organisation that is actually making a change in working people's lives. I know a couple of EPMU organisers and I know they work their guts out to do right for and with their members. Your ill-informed armchair-socialist statements are an insult to them and the workers they represent.
As for the '91 dispute? That was fifteen years ago - I'm willing to bet you can't even remember it happening.

Skraeling
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Sep 13 2006 02:49
Mike Porton wrote:
Get your facts straight Skraeling the EPMU does not subscribe to the partnership model - in fact they were a key player in knocking down when the PSA tried to push it on other unions through the CTU.

OK, you've pulled me up on this one. i'm obviously wrong. I think i vaguely remember it when the Engineers (before they became the EPMU) were considered quite rightist and reactionary and i heard a few horror stories about them and obviously my views have been shaped by this.

edit: i cut out a whole lot of unneccessarily prickly stuff. Just because the EPMU does a lot for workers, and organsiers work their arses off for it, does not make them beyond criticism. See Convert's experience with the EPMU above, for example. The EMPU are still a mainstream bureaucratic union whose leadership is tied to the right wing Labour Party. Plus its funny that when i read Andrew Little's speeches, he was talking of a nice cosy partnership between unions and capital and forcing workers to increase productivity. I think there is nothing wrong with libertarian communists being critical of such stuff. Indeed, there is a long tradition of us criticising mainstream unions.

Torrance
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Sep 14 2006 08:13
Quote:
edit: i cut out a whole lot of unneccessarily prickly stuff.

I thought it was quite good!

Having been involed with the NDU lockout stuff I've realised there's a lot of very uncritical glorification of unions by many anarchists, and many apologists for bureaucrats. We need a better critique of unions, and any alternative forms of workplace resistance.

I haven't thought about it properly yet, but I think an anti-power workplace form of struggle would be quite radically decentralised and different to both mainstream unions, and even those marginal radical unions.

Skraeling
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Sep 15 2006 06:29

well, some of my comments weren't based on fact, which is what i got pulled up on, which is fair enuf

i agree with ya Torrance, but dont you think if we quite rightly criticise unions (including even the radical ones), we need to offer positive alternatives? i'd be interested what people think are good ones. a good starting point is to ask oneself how are workers actually resisting capital on the job in the here and now? what is possible in today's climate of rigid anti strike legislation and employer militancy (eg the lockout)?

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Steven.
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Joined: 27-06-06
Sep 21 2006 15:19

That said, the first poster criticising the fact they won't take dues through the employer is not really valid, because that's a good thing!

Convert
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Sep 25 2006 13:46

That said, the first poster criticising the fact they won't take dues through the employer is not really valid, because that's a good thing!

How so?

bastarx
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Oct 25 2006 09:21

Because having the dues automatically handed to you by the boss means the delegates don't have to go round and talk to all the workers every month or whatever.

Personally I don't think it would make that much difference.

Convert
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Oct 26 2006 15:33

Oh ok.

But its not as if they would bother anyway.

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happychaos
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Nov 10 2006 05:31

Actually automatic dues is a bad thing. Over 90% of union dues in NZ are through the employer. Now what happens if National get in, and get rid of the seemingly irrelevant employer deducations? I mean, most NZ aren't going to kick up a fuss about stopping employer deductions - it doesn't seem *that* bad, I mean, it's not like 90's right? Well actually get rid of employer deducations in a largely inactive union membership and you'll be in the shit. You'll have to resign everyone up. Most unions have a plan to switch people over to member deductions.

(Just a note: The IWW were always against automatic deductions because it took away the face-2-face relationshiop away from delegate and member and control/participation by the member.)