A Victory in the Long March for Equal Pay

kristine-smallAnother legal victory has been chalked up for equal pay and it is a big one. On 28 October the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement on the appeal by Terranova Homes against the Employment Court’s decision in favour of Kristine Bartlett’s case for equal pay. Two courts now have ruled that Terranova Homes, and by implication many other employers, are breaching the 1972 Equal Pay Act. The point of contention is whether a predominantly female workforce should be paid the same rates as a comparable predominantly male workforce working with the same levels of skills, effort, and responsibility. Terranova pay their women workers the same as their handful of men workers. This does not help the women as the men are paid a pittance as well. [Read more…]

Solidarity with Mexican Students

Acapulco protests

Photograph: Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Dear students and families of the Ayotzinapa Normal School:

It is with deep sorrow that we learnt of the terrible events of September 26 this year, when three students of your school were assassinated, and 43 were kidnapped by the municipal police of Iguala and Cucula, and handed over to a criminal group.

Those comrades, your sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends, are now martyrs of a cause we share with you from the distance of the other side of the ocean.

They were building a fairer future, they were fighting for social justice and they were progressing on it, they were achieving it step by step. That is why the authority was afraid of them, and sent the police to repress them, because they were making a difference. But the power of the richn and their corruption will never stop the voices of justice. Especially if it’s carried by those who dare to dream and the youth who fight for freedom, like the dear and beautiful disappeared students.

From here, thousands of kilometres away, we send you all of our solidarity and we assure you are not alone. Your loss is also our loss, and our hearts are also sad for those 46 students, who will be for ever in our memories as the seeds of freedom.

We demand justice for these events. We demand that the responsible be processed under the justice and sentenced as they deserve to be – be they mayors and policeman, legal authorities and criminal groups.
And to you, we beg you not to surrender. Your fight is our fight, and is just and true.

ALIVE THEY TOOK THEM, ALIVE WE WANT THEM BACK!

International Socialist Organisation.

Growing Inequality – and a sign of resistance

From left: Tamasailau, Nicole, Vaiopa’a, Maua, Faaasu, Jacoba and Moanille. Photo / Jason Oxenham (from the NZ Herald)

The latest Stats NZ Household Income report has revealed that inequality in New Zealand continues to grow. The New Zealand Herald was very careful to split out a number of stories to get the best possible spin, but in combination the picture is stark.

The first story was about household income. The median household income (the middle of the distribution, rather than the average) is up $25 on the previous year, a 4.3% rise and the largest in 7 years! Hoorah! Key’s rockstar economy at work! However, this is in contrast to the average income, which increased by 6.2 percent, indicating that the bulk of the growth was in the take home wealth of the already better off. [Read more…]

Lessons to learn from bitter defeat

AL-john-kerry-2109eThis was a defeat, and a big one. We have to start with this unpleasant reality. National, on the current results, could govern alone if they chose; at 48% their share of the vote has actually increased compared to the last election. This is an extraordinary situation. Over one million people voted for National. The Herald calls Key “triumphant”. The Dominion Post label him the “poll slayer.” The rich and powerful will be delighted with this result – National is the preferred party of the capitalist class, and it is in a strong position.

We must begin with a lucid registration of defeat. Over the last six years we have argued sometimes that Key’s support is ‘brittle’ or ‘hollow.’ These results show this to be wishful thinking rather than analysis – with each election National has maintained or increased its support. To win in 2008 it is true that National needed to position themselves ‘left’, working to shed the toxic legacy they kept from the 1990s. Tens of thousands of workers remember the Employment Contracts Act, Ruthenasia, the Mother of All Budgets. So Key brought National towards the centre, keeping popular Labour policies. What he has done from there is to redefine the ‘centre’ ground – National, over the last six years, has normalised its own position in society more generally. They have worked hard at promoting a socially liberal, ‘diverse’ image of themselves. And it is no lie: this isn’t a party of whisky-soaked old homophobes and racists. There are more right-wing Maori MPs than ever before; Key voted for equal marriage rights; the coalition with the Maori Party sought to draw more social layers in to this new ‘common sense.’
[Read more…]

March Against New Zealand’s Shame

DSC_0649600 – 700 people marched against domestic violence, ending at parliament, today. The march was a uniting call to action to address sexual and domestic violence. There were other protests on this issue throughout the country, with the one at parliament the largest by far.

The Facebook page for the event described it as follows: Women’s Refuge, Te Ohaakii a Hine-National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together, Shakti, Relationships Aotearoa, The Pacific Islands Safety and Prevention Project, National Network of Stopping Violence Services and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services joined together to organise the march because they see the profound social and economic impact of sexual and domestic violence in their daily work and believe it’s time to act now. [Read more…]

Ballot for industrial action by PSA members in the health sector

psaOver the first few days of August, a secret ballot for industrial action was conducted by Public Service Association (PSA) members in the health sector. The result was a resounding yes to industrial action. More than one third of the 12,000 PSA health members participated in the on-line ballot with 90% voting in favour.

Allied Health, Technical and Nursing PSA members, including Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Speech Language Therapists, Sterile Supply Workers, Cardiology Technicians, Public Health Nurses and Mental Health Nurses, went to the secret ballot to protest the DHBs’ 0.7% per year pay offer. With a ‘Rock star Economy’ and Bill English’s 2014 budget assurances that, “[workers] are entitled to expect a share in the economic recovery”, the 0.7% offer is a kick in the guts for health workers. [Read more…]

Condemn Anti-Semitic Attacks on John Key

ISOFist

We condemn the anti-Semitic defacing of National Party billboards reported over the last days. Racism serves to divide the working class, and to distract us from the real divisions in society. As socialists we are opposed to all forms of racism, regardless of who happens to be the target of racist slurs. All left-wing people should condemn these racist acts unequivocally.

[Read more…]

Con Devitt: One the Bosses Hated

Con Devitt

 

Con Devitt, an outstanding trade union militant, socialist and organizer, has died at the age of 86. Devitt, a long-time leader of the Boilermakers’ Union in Wellington, made an enormous contribution to the class struggle and the workers’ movement, especially in his important periods of leadership in the 1970s and 1980s.

From a working-class home in Glasgow, Devitt was part of the wave of post-war migration from Britain to New Zealand. Many of these migrants brought with them traditions of union solidarity and class struggle from Britain: John Findlay was another Clydeside boilermaker turned New Zealand union leader. It’s for this reason that the media and the right-wing cultivated the stereotype of the “whingeing Pom” and the outside agitator. Whatever his accent, however, Devitt spoke in a language workers – whether migrant or local – could understand. His message was to stand up for your rights and to trust in your own strength.

Boilermakers worked over 60-hour weeks at one stage, with many men leaving the industry with permanent hearing loss and little support. There was plenty for unions to fight over.

For this commitment, Devitt and his comrades in the Boilermakers’ Union earned the hatred and scorn of the ruling class, the political establishment – Labour and National – and the Wellington and national media. A 1977 commission of enquiry into the heavy engineering industry blamed closures on the unions and talked up “disruptive tactics and restrictive practices imposed by certain sections of the Auckland and Wellington boilermaker unions.” A concerted campaign of slanders against Wellington and Kawerau boilermakers led to their unions being deregistered. National Prime Minister Robert Muldoon ranted against him. The Dominion and the Evening Post editorialised against his tactics and outlook. We should take all of this as a sign he knew how to do a good job standing up for his members. [Read more…]

All the way for equal pay

Kristine-Bartlett-1200

Kristine Bartlett is a hero. She and her union, the SWFU, are spearheading the fight for equal pay through the courts. Last year Bartlett was in the Employment Court to argue that her miserable $14.46 an hour after 20 years experience as a caregiver breached the Equal Pay Act 1972. Her reasoning was that her pay was less than men would get for work of the same level of skill, effort and responsibility. She won. In a landmark decision the court ruled for the first time that the Act applied to comparisons between predominantly women’s jobs and men’s.

Bartlett’s employer, the rest home operator Terranova Homes & Care Ltd, appealed the decision with financial assistance from the New Zealand Aged Care Association. The case went to the Court of Appeal on 4 February 2014. The Attorney-General Chris Finlayson intervened to insist that the Court hear from the Government’s representatives because the decision could have “important public policy implications.” Indeed, thousands of women doing under-valued ‘women’s work’ like caring and cleaning jobs stand to gain if the appeal court upholds the original decision. Women’s rates of pay are on average 13% below men’s. Potentially, a huge inroad into the gender-gap is at stake. [Read more…]

Engineers and Servos Ponder Mega-Merger Union

EPMUTwo of Aotearoa’s largest unions, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) — my union — and the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU), may merge early next year. Members of both unions will vote on this in June.

With about 56,000 members, a merged union would be by far the largest private sector union in New Zealand – only about 2000 members smaller than the largest union in the country, the Public Service Association.In December, the SFWU magazine Our Voice, argued merging would mean more resources for campaigns like the Living Wage Campaign. The editorial implied a larger union could draw other unions and community groups into campaigns. Non-unionised private sector workers – who make up as much as 90% of the private sector workforce – would be more likely to join the mega-union, the editorial suggested. The latest issue of The Metal, the EPMU magazine spent even less space on the proposal, but did promise “a lot more detail about the amalgamation in a special edition of The Metal, including what it means for you and how we might work in the future”.

The EPMU and SFWU have a strong record of working together, but what do we stand to gain, or lose? [Read more…]

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