The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) held its biennial conference in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 21st and 22nd, 2009.
The main speaker on October 21st was the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, who spoke primarily about the efforts of the government to deal with the current economic problems facing New Zealand, including the escalating levels of unemployment, through "reforming" taxation and reforming ACC, "reforming" the public service to make it "smarter" and introducing workplace (counter) reforms that included the 90 day “Hire and Fire” Law
The fact he was even allowed to turn up to speak at the CTU conference is an insult and abomanation to workers.
The major "achievements" of the National government has been to introduce a 90 day "hire and fire" law that has done nothing to encourage employers to hire people who would otherwise struggle to get a job, get rid of around 1200 people in the Ministry of Social Development and another 500 people in the Ministry of Health, introduce hefty ACC levies on workers and people who own mopeds and motorcycles, and introduce an excess of $100 on all ACC claims.
At the same time as the government is using taxes to subsidise McDonalds to hire New Zealand workers at no cost to McDonalds.
The government have also cut back on funding for adult education classes by 90% and prevented people receiving Training Incentive Allowances from doing post-secondary level training courses which means, in effect, they can’t get training that’ll be of any practical value in the work force.

Green Party
Equally as bad was the inviting of the Greens who, by forming an agreement with National, have exposed themselves as hypocrites.
While it is true that minor parties have been instrumental in passing laws that benefited many workers, such as four weeks annual leave, paid maternity leave, and Working for Families to name but a few and that the Greens have openly come out in support of the workers at NZ Bus, Open Country Dairy cheese factory (Talley’s), Telecom, Ministry of Justice and elsewhere who are currently taking industrial action. The reality is that they have opted for a class collaborationist approach with the result that these reforms are only token at best.
The Greens have failed to understand that the underlying cause of so much inequality in society is the capitalist system, which is based largely on gambling in the finance and stock markets. Merely tinkering at the edges of a fundamentally rotten system to achieve a few minor improvements to the lives of working class people is not the way forward.
Even the more conservative of workers are now seeing the flaws inherent in the capitalist system but there appears to be no decisive or revolutionary leadership in the trade unions who are ready to state the obvious: capitalism has failed and the only way forward is through socialism
Labour Party
Phil Goff, leader of the Labour Party, gave a speech on October 22nd that was critical of the actions of the current government with stinging attacks on the 90 day "hire and fire" law, the cuts to the public service and the changes to ACC but did not indicate much of a turn in Labour’s policy towards 'core values'.
His speech delivered what amounted to a predictable condemnation of the government that would be expected from the main opposition party rather than providing any fresh hope that the Labour Party would be moving towards a more socialist policy, despite recent rhetoric at the recent Labour conference.
More telling were the speeches – or rather the general lack of them – from some of the trade union leadership. Though much was said about the need to display solidarity with workers who were on strike and the need to recruit more workers and strengthen union leadership there was virtually no mention of giving workers any real say in the running of the unions or even putting forward a more militant platform in which to fight the ruling class  Certainly, no clear industrial policy to defend workers and advance the cause of labour in New Zealand was put forward by the CTU. 
In fact the only thing that came close this  was the CTU's Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) which in brief sows reformist illusions regarding the capitalist economy (an analysis of this will be in the next magazine).  Dispite this it shows the beginning of the pressure that the leadership is coming under due to the fact that such a document has been produced for discussion. This is a welcome development.
About the only good thing to have come out of the conference was the admission from a few speakers that capitalist globalisation is not benefiting the workers but they fell well short of advocating the only viable alternative: revolutionary socialism as advocated in The Communist Manifesto. Even if they only advocated the ten principles outlined for developed countries in the Manifesto it would be a major advance forward for the CTU and the trade union movement in general.
As the gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand has become the largest in the OECD nations and 24,000 workers have lost their jobs in the last quarter (excluding the 500 Ministry of Health jobs that are to go that was announced only the day before John Key gave his speech) the union leaders appear to be more interested in playing 'nice in the sandpit' with the ruling classes than throwing them out.
All in all, the CTU conference simply proved that the present trade union leadership is ethically bankrupt in allowing a non-class based platform to address conference.  It is highly questionable that the leadership is up to the tasks ahead of it.  One may argue that some of the CTU leadership have long ceased to represent the workers in any meaningful way. 
Events will test out this leadership.  If the leadership is found wanting the rank and file of the unions will challenge and replace the present leadership with a new militant leadership prepared to act in the interest of the working class:  as  workers will have no alternative but to transform their organisations they have built up over generations to combat the bosses and the rotten capitalist system.
Finally, the cruellest irony of the conference was that the tea and raisin scones that the delegates (and myself) enjoyed were served by non-unionised workers in one of the lowest paid industries in New Zealand: the hospitality industry. included the 90 Day "Hire and Fire" law.