New union eyes target of 50,000 families

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 03/05/2011

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The Council of Trade Unions is poised to launch a new union aimed at signing up members for $1 a week in non-unionised workplaces.

CTU president Helen Kelly said the Together union, likely to be launched today, would target new members through existing family links and had the potential to recruit 50,000 families. It would be run by the CTU, with affiliated unions providing the executive board. "It is acknowledging that there are thousands of workers, 90 per cent of workers in the private sector, for which access to a union is really hard."

It would target hard-to-organise sites, such as small workplaces or dairies, where the employer may be hostile and joining a traditional union may mean not getting rostered on the next day.

Of the 367,000 employed in the retail sector, for example, only 16,000 were in a union.

"You can't expect the [National Distribution Union] to resource the organisation of the other 350,000 without support from us."

Members of public sector unions such as the NZEI, the PSA and the NZ Nurses Organisation were often concerned family members were not covered by unions.

Through the new union they could sign up as many family members as they liked for $1 a week, though that could not include members who were in sites where unions were organised or actively recruiting.

Together would then contact the individual to ensure they agreed. Workers could join without their employer needing to know. Members would receive advice on pay, working conditions and what to do if faced with dismissal.

It was not in competition with Matt McCarten's Unite union, Ms Kelly said. Private sector unions would be the beneficiaries.

"It would give them a serious resource to organise from."

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