We've seen the news in recent days that the Electoral Commission has cleared the way for the EPMU to register as a third party for this year's election, despite their well documented links to the Labour Party. The Herald noted:
"The decision includes the Maritime Union, the Dairy Workers Union, the Meat Workers' and Related Trades Union and the Service and Food Workers Union, all of which were waiting for the EPMU decision."
What the Electoral Commission has essentially done is cleared the way for each of these five unions to spend up to $120,000, or $600,000 to run election campaigns. Whilst the EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little says that the union's "campaign on workers' rights focused on issues, rather than parties. ", it doesn't take much imagination to deduce that the EPMU and other unions will not be endorsing National or Act! Their campaign in 2005 was strongly pro-Labour/anti-National.
I note that the Service and Food Workers' Union (SFWU) was one of those cleared to register. And it is there that my attention goes. For in 2005, the SFWU had a budget of $70,000 for its election activities. But in 2005, the SFWU spent a total of $237,364 on election activities - $167,364 over budget. The expenditure was itemised in the SFWU's Financial Report as "$100,274 spent on printing, photocopying, postage, petrol cost, telephone tolls, the delegates' election conference and delegates' expenses. The cost for staff involved in election activities was $137,090. Our Union dedicated almost 7% of total resources as well as one-month labour force for the election campaign."
Spending over budget is a recipe for disaster. As Michael Cullen would have doubtless advised the SFWU had they consulted him. For the SFWU made a loss of $218,000 in the 2005/6 year. And who makes up the shortfall? I'm only guessing, but the largest source of income to a union would seem to be the subscriptions of its members.
And now here's the interesting bit! The Labour Party declared a donation from the SFWU of $20,000 in 2005. I don't have a problem with that. The Union had budgeted for an election campaign, and doubtless made provision for a cash contribution to the party to whom they are allied (with a small 'a'). But the Union's total electoral spend was a whole lot more than $20,000 - so what benefit did the Labour Party derive from the additional $217,364 of the SFWU's election spending? And have incorrect declarations been made?
Prior to the 2005 election, the SFWU National and Northern Reginal Secretary was Darien Fenton, now a Labour list MP. Was the SFWU's massive overspend in any way related to see one of their brethren elected to Parliament by way of the Labour Party list? I'll let you be the judge of that. And who succeeded Mrs Fenton as Northern Regional Secretary of the SFWU? None other than Jill Ovens, partner of "Megaphone Len" Richards. And in case you missed it, here's where Len is working now.
There's a whole lot more to tell about the SFWU, who will presumably register as a third party under the EFA on Monday. Watch this space...