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Campaigning for fairness: The concept of fairness at work has many facets. NZNO's campaigns this year will reflect that.

The strand woven through all NZNO's campaigns this year will be fairness for all. From infancy, humans are wired towards wanting fairness. Research shows that even toddlers will work to achieve fairness and block inequity. (1) Yet the latest Council of Trade Unions (CTU) figures show that, in the adult world of work, we have a long way to go to achieve fairness. (2) Put simply, despite the economic pie growing in size, many people are working harder while getting a smaller slices of that income pie.

CTU economist Bill Rosenberg has shown that, if working New Zealanders' wages had grown with the pie since 1981, we'd all be an average $11,500 a year better off. (3)

The just-released CTU cost of living and income survey showed more than 70 per cent of working people had incomes that were not keeping up with the cost of living. (2) This was while the majority of working people reported they were working harder with less job security. Bigger pie, smaller slices.

The solution to unfairness

Collective bargaining is one of the best solutions to this unfairness--this is not a hypothesis, it's a fact. The Victoria University Centre for Labour, Employment and Work 2017/18 analysis of collective employment agreements (CEAs) again showed people covered by a CEA get better pay rises--the union pay premium. (4,5)

Many of the campaigns run this year will be about achieving fair bargaining outcomes. The extent of these campaigns will be determined by just how fair (or not) employers' offers to members are.

NZNO will also be looking at how to support other unions' campaigns in their quest for fair offers. Recently, the Residents Doctors' Association told NZNO how it valued nurses' support during recent strike action.

For those who are not covered by a CEA, this year promises greater fairness too. This year, fair pay agreements (FPAs) will be introduced. These are essentially sector-wide agreements with employers that set agreed minimum standards for all those working in an industry. They are similar to what used to be called "national awards" and many countries, including Australia, use them to set fair wages.

FPAs would stop the race to the bottom we have seen with wages over the last few decades and start to put a fair share back into the pockets of working people. No doubt there will be "the sky will fall" campaigning from some business sectors. Fortunately, you will also see unions campaigning to set the record straight on these agreements. No, the sky will not fall, there will just be a little more sunshine for all.

This year will also see improvements in pay equity legislation. Unions, including NZNO, will continue to campaign on this fundamental right, both as the proposed law changes make their way through Parliament and as different groups of women workers advance their pay equity claims.

Work must be safe

Fairness at work goes beyond wages--for work to be fair it also has to be safe. This year, NZNO will campaign to ensure work and workplaces are safe. One such campaign is In Safe Hands to achieve safe staffing levels in aged care. (You can send a postcard right now, at www. to support safe staffing in aged care.) NZNO will also campaign on ensuring all members have workplaces free from violence and aggression.

Fairness at work really matters. It's not an intangible concept, or inconsequential. Fairness at work enables children to go to school happy, healthy and able to participate in all school activities. Fairness at work means patients have better health outcomes because they can afford the necessities for health and well-being. And fairness at work means you come home safe from a shift, well paid for your valuable work.

This year, I'm inviting you to commit to three things--big or small--to make work fairer for all. These could be as simple as sending an In Safe Hands postcard, supporting a CTU petition, supporting colleagues in other sectors, or supporting other workers during their collective bargaining. Or you could step up to be a workplace delegate or a health and safety rep.

We are all better off when fairness prevails. So here's to working together to see 2019 become fairer for all.


(1) Geraci, A., & Surian, L. (2011). The developmental roots of fairness: Infants' reactions to equal and unequal distributions of resources. Developmental Science, 14, 1012-1020.

(2) New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. (2019). Mood of workforce shows urgent need for change. Media release, January 7. Retrieved from

(3) New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. (2018). Workers out of pocket $11,500 a year as a result of decades of poor government policy. Media release, March 22. Retrieved from

(4) Centre for Labour, Employment and Work. (2018). Bargaining Trends and Employment Law Update 2017/18. Wellington: Victoria University.

(5) New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. (2018). The Union Pay Premium, 2018. Economic Bulletin, November 1. Retrieved from www.
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Title Annotation:industrial focus
Author:Choveaux, Georgia
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Feb 1, 2019
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