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...]

Rebuilding Our Unions

Union Rally

Dougal McNeill gave this talk as an introduction to one of the sessions at the ISO’s recent national conference / hui-a-tau, held in Auckland in December.

This talk is of necessity arranged in a bitsy, fragmentary, tentative way. That’s because this is the kind of year we’ve had – there has been no single event or struggle defining union struggle. And our own position, in a very modest way, is changing. We’re bigger now, more experienced, and able to try some new things. Some old ways of working aren’t going to suit us so well anymore.

 

I want to do four things: (1) outline the general state of union struggle; (2) look at what we’re calling ‘the political sphere’ and the unions; (3) think about how we talk about this, to ourselves and to our audience, and (4) end with some comments on what we need to be doing. [Read more...]

Auckland Action Against Poverty Welfare Impact

560983_501014533245828_1675135460_nToday I am going to give a brief overview of the recent Auckland Action Against Poverty Welfare Impact that I attended, what drives me to work in this area, and my plans to build a sustainable welfare advocacy service in Otepoti.

Firstly, my interest in welfare stems from my upbringing, living in a household sustained by the Domestic Purposes Benefit, and my personal experience being a sole parent receiving what was called the DPB before the National Government abolished it, and classed all parents as ‘jobseekers.’

A small disclaimer: I am not a “jobseeker” and no sole parent in Aotearoa is a jobseeker.  Parents have a job already, the most important job there is, to care for our babies and build healthy, happy, and capable, children.

Recent attacks on welfare effectively undermine parenting as a valid, fundamentally important function in Aotearoa. They try to set paid workers against unpaid workers, to ensure people in the paid working class attack unpaid workers instead of the real target, the ruling class. [Read more...]

Auckland Rallies for Workers’ Rights

UnionRally2Stop-work meetings in Petone, Auckland and then Christchurch this last week have been part of the campaign against National’s proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act. Yesterday’s rally drew thousands of workers.

Overall, the meeting, which lasted around forty minutes, was a lively event with an upbeat mood amongst almost 5000  workers. There were contingents from the Service and Food Workers’ Union, the Tertiary Education Union, the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation, First Union, Unite, the Maritime Union, the primary teachers’ NZEI, and the EPMU. [Read more...]

Wellington McDonald’s workers standing strong

Photo Credit: Damon Rusden

Photo Credit: Damon Rusden

Members of our Wellington branch were proud this morning to stand in solidarity with Unite union members striking for a living wage at McDonald’s. McDonald’s makes hefty profits, but its workers, on casual contracts, are paid minimum wages.

The strike was solid – union members on a morning shift came out, and were joined by supporters from the union movement. It was great to see flags and banners from the NZNO (the nurses’ union), First Union, and the Tertiary Education Union.
McDonalds is using bullying and intimidation to try and scare workers out of standing up for themselves. We saw that this morning. At one stage the store even sent people to hand out free vouchers to commuters leaving the railway station! But the strike stayed solid.
Unionised McDonald’s workers are an inspiration to us all.
More pictures below the fold:

“Restructuring”: Job Losses at Elam School of Fine Arts

Nick and Graeme sharing a moment[Thanks to Natasha Ovely for submitting this guest post.]

 

Somewhere alongside the white wall studios slapped with half-hearted painterly expressions and littered with lewd, lazy structures, lie a set of workshops brimming with activity that beckon the golden years of art-making. These technical workshops are fast paced and at times chaotic environments that few people can reign in, let alone command. Graeme Brett and Nick Waterson are among the few men who are capable of such a feat and are the pillars of the old establishment that is Elam School of Fine Arts. They are synonymous with its history and withstanding reputation as one of Auckland’s finest art schools. Now after years of dedication they, along with technicians from other art departments at the University of Auckland, stand to face the possibility of exile into a desert-like job market according to “The National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries- Technical Staffing Review Consultation Document”. [Read more...]

Socialism and the Campaign Against Asset Sales

168822_3051468142566_1815936209_nWhy do socialists oppose asset sales?  The answer seems obvious: socialists want state ownership because it provides popular control of the economy.  People on both the right and the left generally agree socialists stand for ‘big government’ and ‘state intervention’.  But being a revolutionary means questioning accepted wisdom and although reformists in Labour and the Greens might be happy with the equation “state ownership = socialism”, we have a different approach. [Read more...]

May Day: 2013

GarlandforMayDayKaimahi kaha – workers’ power!

May Day greetings to all our readers. Although Labour Day has had more official recognition and celebration in Aotearoa / New Zealand over the decades, May Day is the internationalist celebration of workers’ struggle and solidarity. You can read about the history of May Day here.

May Day marks our ongoing struggle for workers’ rights, democracy, dignity and socialism. In Wellington Unite union are holding a film screening and discussion on their campaigns for better wages and conditions, a great way to commemorate past victories by planning future struggle. Unite union members in Auckland’s Queen Street McDonalds store are set to strike this afternoon – what better way to mark international workers’ day! [Read more...]

Wellington Green Party Mayor votes for Outsourcing

After the extraordinary meeting of Wellington City Council. Sold; Maori and Pacific workers with Paul Eagle (left), other councillors and the PSA’s Glen Kelly.

After the extraordinary meeting of Wellington City Council. Sold; Maori and Pacific workers with Paul Eagle (left), other councillors and the PSA’s Glen Kelly.

There has been goings on at Wellington City Council of late to do with privatisation or “outsourcing” of services with a wobbly performance by the centre-left majority on the Council.

In December last year the councillors voted to sack the chief executive of 15 years in a move seen as a bid to rein in the senior management’s pursuit of cutbacks and privatization. Then, typically of the wavering the centre-left group, they voted to replace the top manager with an import from Britain with a reputation as a privatizer.

In March an article by Gordon Campbell revealed the failure of the centre-left to have taken control of Council affairs since the election in 2010 of Green Party Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. Campbell interviewed Labour councillor Paul Eagle:

 From the outset, Eagle explains, management has held the initiative. “There’s been a culture ever since I’ve been here,” he begins, “that anything to do with Council operations has really sat with management.” Councillors were thwarted ‘constantly’ by the distinction between governance vs operational matters. “But in plain English, when things get contracted out, when services get cut, councillors get given very little time, or information about the impacts…I really think what has been missing is the fundamental discussion around what is a public service, and what is commercial.” [Read more...]

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