Stop-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.
Speeches began on a radical note, with a musical introduction by former Polynesian Panther Tigilau Ness who sang a version of Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up. This was appropriate given the mood of the audience, and his roots as one of Aotearoa’s pioneering reggae artists. He then proceeded to further rouse the energetic crowd with another song.
Speakers included a cleaner from Auckland airport. She was followed by a speaker from Living Wage Aotearoa. CTU president Helen Kelly gave an informative speech on the very negative effects of the changes to part 6 A of the ERA. Finally Bill Newsome, of the EPMU, promised to ‘fight’ for these changes to be stopped.
This is a campaign that could gain real momentum. The mood of the crowd – Maori, Pasifika, Pakeha and Asian workers – showed that the unionized workforce of Aotearoa has yet to be smashed and is still a force to be reckoned with here in Tamaki Makaurau.
We have been building this rally for several weeks now on our stalls, and have been postering Auckland University campus and the city centre to promote it too. We had many good conversations with fellow unionists after the rally, discussed the way forward, and sold over 40 copies of our magazine Socialist Review.
Photo Credits: Derwin Smith and the EPMU Twitter Feed.