Despite thousands taking part in strike action this year, union membership continues to decrease

Unions are acknowledging the need to change to stay relevant as numbers continue to decrease.

Despite thousands of workers taking to the streets several times this year, only 18 per cent of employees in New Zealand are members of unions.

"It's become more accepted, certainly amongst the younger workers, that you don't have to join the union and in fact most workers realise unions will get them benefits whether they're part of the union or not," Victoria University professor Stephen Blumenfeld told 1 NEWS.

New Zealand's most violent and disruptive industrial confrontation happened in 1913 when 16,000 watersiders and miners to part in strike action.

Another waterfront strike in 1951 wasn't as violent, but was one of the longest, lasting 151 days.

In the following decades the number of strikes reached an all-time high. But the big change came in 1991 when a law change saw more employees negotiating directly with employers.

Union membership has dropped from half a million to around 300,000.

"It means there's less money in the union coffers and it costs money to be effective," said Mr Blumenfeld.

Recent long-running strike action with nurses has now been solved, but this week teachers plan to walk off the job proving unions still have a voice.

"Unions are now pushing for causes that are really salient for young workers," said Mr Blumenfeld.

"Unions are actually part of the overall movement for social change and I think a lot of young people are seeing the union as an avenue for them to be engaged in other campaigns, so things like climate change and its impact on the future of work," said PSA Union's Lauren Hourigan.

Unions fight to remain relevant as membership drops from half a million to about 300,000. Source: 1 NEWS


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Sister of Kiwi teen killed by mass murderer on Norwegian island makes emotional return

The sister of the Kiwi teenager killed by mass murderer Anders Breivik in Norway seven years ago has made an emotional return to the summer camp where her sister spent her last days.

Sharidyn Svebakk-Bohn was one of 77 who died in the attack on Utoya Island in 2011.

Sharidyn's sister Savannah Svebakk-Bohn, 14, is now the same age her elder sister was when she was murdered when attending a Young Labour summer camp.

"I wanted to honour the fact if I go there, I will be honouring her staying there, her living, the fact she was happy for the few days that she was there," Savannah said.

Sharidyn was the youngest victim of Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in the mass terror attack.

The family moved home to the Bay of Plenty several years ago, where they planted a tree in Sharidyn's memory on Mount Maunganui.

Now back in Norway, they spoke to 1 NEWS via Skype about Savannah's decision to go back to the place her older sister had spent her last few days.

"They weren't sure that they would get me back and I thought that it was a difficult question to ask them but that it was necessary, important," she said.

Her mother, Vanessa Svebakk, said "we were all crying" but that they "understood it was important to her".

"As hard as it was for us to say yes, the decision at the end of the day had to be Savannah's," Ms Svebakk said.

Savannah asked her parents if she could attend the camp on what would have been Sharidyn's 21st birthday – and just days before the seventh anniversary of her death.

"Savannah's focus hasn't been on how her sister died, it has been on how Sharidyn lived, which is an inspiration for us as her parents."

Amongst the sadness, there was joy. Savannah said she had fun at the camp - playing games, making new friends and sleeping in the same camping area her sister did.

"I just thought that it was important to walk around a little bit. I felt that was my way of kind of coming to an understanding about what Sheridyn did," Savannah said.

Leaving her on the island overnight was extremely difficult for her parents - but now they say it was worth it.

"I don't think anyone would've been able to give us the gift. She brought everything full circle," Vanessa said.

"We lost a daughter there but we also got one home."

"It does give me happy memories but I don't think I can shake the feeling of knowing my sister was killed there. I can't ever feel completely at peace there, ever, because of what happened, but it's nice to know that what I did is to try honour her memory," Savannah said.

The family - who hope to one day move back to New Zealand - now say it may not be Savannah's last visit to the island.

Savannah Svebakk-Bonn, 14, is the same age her elder sister was when she was murdered while attending a Young Labour camp on Uttoya Island. Source: 1 NEWS