100 Years On - Labour is still not a Commodity

100 Years On - Labour is still not a Commodity

The 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation this year is a timely reminder of its continued relevance.

Its constitution still strikes a chord for those of us fighting for workers' rights:

Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice; And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required; … by the regulation of the hours of work, … the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, … recognition of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value…

In 1944, the Philadelphia Declaration confirmed the vision of the ILO in a few simple words: Labour is not a commodity.


Since then the organisation has played a role at key historical junctures – the Great Depression, decolonisation, the creation of Solidarność in Poland, the victory over apartheid in South Africa. 

Each year the NZ Council of Trade Unions participates in ILO conferences, which adopt international labour standards. They are a crucial building block towards achieving fair globalisation, which delivers social justice and lasting peace. In 1999 the ILO proposed the decent work agenda, which encompasses the creation of employment, respect and fulfilment of rights at work, ensuring social security, and negotiation between unions and employers. 


Twenty years on a landmark report entitled Work for a Brighter Future, addresses today’s challenges to decent work including unprecedented transformational and technological change. This year’s annual ILO conference adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.

It underlines the importance of taking a human-centred approach. Technology needs to benefit human beings - not the other way around. 
The declaration also promotes workers’ rights as key to achieving inclusive growth, and the importance of the public sector. The declaration recognises contractors and self-employed people must enjoy adequate protection like all other workers.


This Declaration was adopted by the New Zealand government, its employer and union representatives. It therefore guides our goals, work relationships, and negotiations in this country. The PSA is also supporting a CTU campaign for New Zealand to ratify ILO convention 87, which sets out the rights of unions to exist and organise, and Convention 151 which extends union rights to public service workers.

We would also like this country to put into practice the protections in a new ILO convention, which recognises that violence and harassment at work are human rights violations.

Although 100 years old, the ILO is not a lame duck but a grand dame able to influence the world of work, yet relying on all of us to make decent work a reality in the 21st century.

Also in this issue:

President's Message

Tēnā koutou e te whānau

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Obituary: Lynn Middleton

PSA’s first female national secretary and equal pay leader

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Working for Free

From November 18 New Zealand women effectively began working for free until the end of the year because of the 11.9% pay gap between men and women.

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Kindly leading the way to Equal Pay

As women began working for free in New Zealand on November 18, the PSA was working hard on a number of fronts to close the gender pay gap.

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Stand Up for Library Workers

Local government library assistants launched a campaign on November 22 to raise awareness of their equal pay claim and the work they do.

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Stark statistics help fight for equal pay and transparency

More than a third of PSA members or 27,291 of you shared your pay information with us in our first union-wide pay survey in September.

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CTU Conference: “We are delivering, but we have so much more to deliver”

The CTU Biennial conference in October was an opportunity to reflect on the significant gains made for working people during the Government’s first two years in power - and to challenge it to go further.

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Fair Pay Agreements will give workers a fairer deal

The PSA and other unions believe Fair Pay Agreements will offer a fairer deal for many of this country’s most vulnerable workers.

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Honours for workers on frontline

PSA members were to the fore as the Public Service Day awards
were announced in November.

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PSAY Hui Inspires Success

Inspirational speeches at this year’s PSA Youth Hui have propelled Elvisa Van Der Leden into a seat at the council table.

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Pasefika Voices on Climate Strike

“We must change our practices of ignorance and neglect”

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“It opens their eyes”: Sector Māngai elected at Hui

There’s a mix of old and new amongst the Sector Māngai elected at Public Sector, DHB and Combined sector hui in August and September.

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Reducing Māori Health Inequities

Appearing before the Māori Affairs Select Committee to speak to the Inquiry into Health Inequities for Māori was “awe-inspiring” for Allan Franks.

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‘It’s important to have Māori and female voices at the table’

From small town Aotearoa to the United Nations – it’s been a big year for one PSA member from Te Puni Kokiri.

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Your voice, our system

The PSA is hosting regional and online health forums in December to give members another opportunity to have their say in the reshaping of services.

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Fearsome fighter

PSA delegate Kelly Broerse says her colleagues at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) in Auckland are used to her showing up at work with black eyes and bruises.

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A lifetime of discovery

Geologist, science communicator and PSA member Hamish Campbell can look back on forty years of “exploration, adventure and discovery” as he retires this year.

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Unity in Diversity

Out@PSA is getting active at Pride celebrations and beyond

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