When FIRST Union bursts into life in October it will get off to a flying start.
During the last three years NDU membership numbers have been growing rapidly and were at 23,075 at the end of August this year.
The introduction of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 had a devastating effect on the union movement because
of the diffi culties in getting access to workplaces and negotiating collective agreements.
Thousands of workers were railroaded on to individual employment contracts that stripped their rights away and eroded their incomes. Union membership plummeted throughout the country.
For the NDU this meant a steady decline in membership which fell from 20,000 in 1994 to a low of 17,300 in 1997.
Changes in the way the union operates and a growing awareness among workers of the advantage of union membership have turned things around.
Workers at Prolife Foods in Hamilton are a good example of the new enthusiasm for union membership. Recently 70 of them signed up to the NDU despite most of them having had no previous union contact.
“I think with the recession a lot of people are out of work and we could end up working for next to nothing if we don’t do something about it,” said delegate Marshall Moeke.
“People are looking for a solution and joining a union is the way to go.”
NDU General Secretary Robert Reid agrees, “FIRST Union will continue to reach out and meet workers’ needs. This will give a new generation of worker the opportunity to discover the power of working collectively to improve the lives of themselves and their families,” he said.
(Source: National Distribution Union)