Guilty outburst from Labour on the ECA

  • Bill English

Pete Hodgson's guilty outburst about the National Party's ad campaign tells us all we need to know about Labour's sensitivity to the compulsory unionism issue, Treasurer Bill English said today.

"For months Mr Hodgson has been walking a tightrope - telling unions that a Labour Government would return them to a position of power, yet assuring the public that they will do no such thing.

"Even accepting Labour's policy at face value, it will make it difficult for anyone who doesn't want to join a union. Anyone who chooses not to join will lose important rights, especially the right to make an enterprise agreement.

"If New Zealand workers are denied the right to make a legal deal with their employer unless they join a union, then that is a return to the bad old days of union power.

"The challenge is to unleash the creativity and energy of New Zealanders - workers and employers - so there is more for everyone. Helen Clark would do that by strangling employers with strikes, and by putting union bosses between workers and job opportunities.

"What is Helen Clark's excuse for repealing the ECA and handing the factory keys to her union mates? She admitted in last night's Sky TV debate that most New Zealand bosses are good employers - but claimed the ECA needed to be repealed in order to punish the tiny minority.

"How does it help the unemployed if we make it more difficult for good businesses to create good jobs? How do we create a growing, innovative economy if we drag the best employers down to the level of the worst?

"Since the Employment Contracts Act was put in place, more than 280,000 new jobs have been created. And that's a net figure. Every single job lost at places like Bendon and the car factories has been replaced, plus 280,000 more as well.

"At the same time, real wages grew by 9% -- the opposite of moving to a low-wage economy.

"That's more than a quarter of a million New Zealanders whose incomes and prospects have been improved.

"And that's a quarter of a million extra people paying tax - which has contributed mightily to our ability to repay debt, increase social spending, and cut tax rates at the same time. On television last night, Helen Clark denied that those things had even happened. That is appalling ignorance of the facts, and of how to make economies grow and create opportunities.

"Four workers out of every five have chosen to deal directly with their employer, and avoid the union bosses. That is the fact that terrifies unions and Labour. That's the real reason they want to repeal the Employment Contracts Act," said Mr English.