Unions are largely about protection--protecting themselves and their jobs against competition. Unions are pretty happy about competition in general, as long as it is the "other guy" that is having to compete. When competition lowers food prices and supermarket goodies, unionists approve. When competition brings a flood of cheap, reasonable quality imports such as furniture, TV's, computers, and mobile phones into the country so that they become affordable, thereby raising living standards generally, unions applaud.
But when labour is overpriced and competition beckons, unionists protest with all the righteous indignation they can muster. Competition is for the other guy, not our guys.
Actually they are not that candid, but it is that to which their protestations amount. The theme has been running through the Ports of Auckland dispute.
The chime has been taken up by Phil Twyford, Labour MP and union apologist (which is to recognize that the unions control the NZ Labour Party which has sadly degenerated to little more than the political wing of unions.) Twyford laments how Labour's former protege, Major Len Brown is betraying the Maritime Union by not supporting the striking port workers.
Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people. Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs. . . .
It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security.
So, in Twyford-world the Mayor is committed to the young, the brown, and the working people. Yippee. This means he needs to stand up for workers' rights and their job security. But, dear Phil, what about all those young, brown folk who do not have jobs or who are ambitious to advance their careers and would give their right arms to work on the Ports of Auckland, for half the hundred thousand dollar average income of your feather-bedded union friends? They are ambitious, hard working, eager to get ahead. They want a chance to compete for jobs on the Ports, fairly and squarely. But Phil, being a unionist stooge, wants to close the shop against them, and protect the overpaid positions of Labour's favoured elite--Maritime Union members.
Competition produces casualties--it is true. But competition drives down prices, generating a rise in living standards in general. Competition will surely drive down the costs of labour at the Ports of Auckland. It will certainly threaten the job security of the union members. But, in return it will lift the standard of living of the entire city. Goods will flow in and out of the Port more cheaply, thereby lowering costs for all--importers, exporters and households. Just imagine, the Ports of Auckland could hire two willing, eager, ambitious workers for the current price of one feather bedded unionist. It's time, Phil for you to stand up for all working people in Auckland, not just your privileged, feather-bedded union mates who long ago bought your political party and whose venal stooge you have become.
Unionists and business owners hate competition. As Milton Friedman once sagely observed, self-seeking intellectuals are those who demand freedom for themselves and restrictions upon all their academic competitors; self-seeking business owners and unions want protective controls for themselves, but everyone else to face the discipline of open competition.
The next thing you know is Phil and his mob will be looking for the protection of state funding and legal barriers to entry for other political parties. It's called politician-rights and job security. Oh, sorry, we forgot. They already have tried that--and the electorate, thankfully, kicked them out. So will go the Maritime Union, we prognosticate.