Wellington: back the bus drivers!

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National and Simon Bridges started the bus mess – but Chris Laidlaw and the GWRC need to fix it. They cannot wash their hands of the union’s just demands.

Hundreds of Wellington region bus drivers in the Tramways Union have voted for an ongoing strike from 23 October. Three bus companies that operate in the region may be affected: NZ Bus, Tranzit and Uzabus. Since the regional council awarded a large chunk of routes to Tranzit, drivers have lost their jobs or work under far worse terms and conditions. Tranzit has refused to negotiate a collective agreement with the Union.

 

Wellington’s bus services have been in chaos for months since new schedules were implemented. Greater Wellington Regional Council is responsible for bus services, parcelled out to five companies, and the suburban rail network. There is no ticketing integration overall, or even between all bus companies.

 

The reason for this mess is the contracting-out system. Wellington’s electric trolley bus network was scrapped last year in favour of polluting diesel buses purely to facilitate competition. Contracts were awarded to the companies that bid the lowest, and they seek to make their profit at the expense of drivers’ conditions and passenger services. On every count the use of the free market to run publicly-funded services has proven to be a failure.

 

It is not only Wellington where bus drivers have come to the end of their tethers. Throughout the year bus drivers in Auckland and the Waikato have taken strike action against intolerable conditions.

[Read more…]

Nurses show the way

fistRank and file nurses, midwives and health workers across the country have showed us the way forward. By speaking out – via Facebook, in face-to-face meetings, by all sorts of media – by marching in protest and, above all, by taking strike action in July, the first in over twenty years, they made health a major public topic. And they gave a lead to all of us by showing how you can win improvements in pay and conditions. The government is on notice. Equal pay, understaffed hospitals, overworked and underpaid nurses: these are issues that have not gone away. And they will not go away, because nurses will keep organising.

 

NZNO members have voted to accept the latest offer from the District Health Boards. This offer, compared to what was on the table in October last year, represents a real step forward. Health workers on the tops of their grades will get pay rises of 3% in phases over 2018 and 2019, totalling between 12 – 13% by the end of 2019. New pay bands have been created. A lump sum of $2000 will be paid. The DHBs have agreed to set up a national framework around staffing safety, a major issue raised by nurses during the dispute. The government has announced 500 extra nurses, a plan not connected to the negotiations by inconceivable without the pressure striking nurses exerted. There is extra funding available to work on safer staffing, and the DHBs have committed to pay equity by the end of next year. The union will need to hold them to account to make this happen.

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Strikes are Back: Victory to the Health Workers!

nursing-union-members-protest-outside-auckland-hospital-on-thursday-ahead-of-potential-strike-action-photo_jason-oxenham_nzhBy Martin Gregory

After a long slumber, the working class is awakening. In the first half of this year there was a smattering of industrial action, more than for years. The stirrings are hesitant. The actions, typically, limited to just hours or days. What more could we expect when it’s been decades since the unions used their now atrophied muscles? But this is the start of a revival. Young workers are tasting their power for the first time. They don’t carry the baggage of our defeats long ago. Today’s workers are learning valuable lessons from their first tentative actions that they will put to use tomorrow in bolder, more resolute strikes; strikes that win.

 

There has not been a strike at the Inland Revenue for 22 years, but on Monday PSA members there and at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment struck from 1pm to 3pm. This was a nation-wide strike involving over 4,000 workers. The biggest concentration was in the capital where about 500 marched. All around the country there were marches and rallies. The demands: across the board pay rises and an end to unfair pay systems that give management control over an individual’s pay. Another 2-hour stoppage is planned for 23 July. The PSA is currently handling a big increase in membership applications.

[Read more…]

The Budget: a socialist response

budget 2018“Budget 2018 sets out the first steps in a plan for transformation.” That’s how Grant Robertson introduced Labour’s first Budget. Hopes for transformation brought Labour, the Greens and NZ First into government last year. A glance around at the inequality, underfunding and social suffering that have become normalised after nine years of National shows how much needs to be transformed. There is a $2.7 billion gap in health funding between 2010 levels and now, according to Council of Trade Unions research. About one in eight children live in poverty. Workers have faced years of stagnant wages, and students have seen cuts to allowance eligibility and caps to the number of years they can receive a loan. The Salvation Army describes poverty levels as “critical”, with almost 40% of families facing food insecurity. Unemployed workers on benefits face the punitive and demeaning culture of WINZ, while families with at least one member in full-time employment make up about 40% of those in poverty. This is the background to Budget 2018, and to the kind of transformations needed by workers, students, and the poor.

 

Labour campaigned on a series of reforms that, since they won office, have seen their popularity increase: removing fees on the first year of tertiary study; an increase in the minimum wage; a healthy homes guarantee; a winter energy package for retired workers; extension to paid parental leave. These are all reforms socialists should support, but they are just a small fraction of the range of measures needed to address the scale of the problems working people face.

[Read more…]

Housing battle in Glen Innes

679_stand-to-stop-nikis-eviction_imageby Joshua Sims and Sam Snell

Ioela Niki Rauti is standing firm in the face of property developers.

Late 2014 Niki Rauti was served a 90 day eviction notice to vacate the Housing New Zealand state home she has lived in for over twenty years. With support from the local community, young activists and the Tamaki Housing group, she has fought attempts at eviction and won. The saga of Niki’s fight has been on-going for six years and she is now facing another eviction after the expiration of a new 90 day eviction notice served November 2016. With the possession order being granted by an adjudicator on Friday 24th February, Niki and her supporters have been kept on their toes, but have had some reprieve in a stay of proceedings being granted putting the eviction temporarily on hold.

Residents of Glen Innes along with members of the public and various organisations marched in numbers to Nikis’ residence at 14 Taniwha Street on the 17th January in solidarity and to begin mass occupation of the property. Roughly 300 people descended upon Niki’s property in two separate marches, one comprised solely of locals and the other of interested parties. Since then, the occupation has been intermittent.

This home is occupied! reads the banner outside Niki’s home. [Read more…]

Lyttleton port workers strike

families-matterBy Martin Gregory

 

Pushes from the bosses for greater ‘flexibility’ – the idea that workers should be available whenever their employer pleases, without the ability to plan for family and personal time – are coming in all sorts of industries in New Zealand. Maritime Union members in Lyttleton are resisting this at their work, and their cause should be supported by all workers.

 

Members of the Maritime Union are flexing their muscles at Lyttleton container port. They took strike action on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 January, and the union has given notices of further strikes from Friday 3 through to Sunday 5 February and on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 February. The International Socialist Organisation wishes the port workers well and that they win their demands in full.

[Read more…]

Making sense of politics in 2016

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Key ‘framed his face to all occasions’. Will English be able to do the same?

Andrew Tait gave this presentation to the International Socialist Organisation Hui-a-tau in Auckland last month.

 

2016, in New Zealand, has not been marked by major struggles or economic disasters or booms. The Key crew, masters anyway of administering sleeping gas, have managed to avoid major scandals or divisions. On the contrary, one of the worst of a bad lot, Judith Collins, has been rehabilitated after the Oravida scandal and retaken her place on the front bench. Bill English and Paula Bennett inherit a remarkably stable and strong government.

 

Although overshadowed by National, the reformist left have made some interesting moves – promising first to work together to replace National (a position the Greens have long avoided taking before an election) and then cementing that with a double-pronged attack on immigration tailor-made to dovetail with New Zealand First, the likely third party in any post-Key government.

[Read more…]

Blame the bosses – not migrants!

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Indian students fight deportation in Auckland. Migrant workers are part of the struggle – not victims to be pitied.

by Dougal McNeill

So this month saw the end of Planet Key. Bill English’s ascension gives us an opportunity to survey political possibilities for our movement. There is plenty for workers to feel angry about, and plenty about which the Government has nothing but the feeble excuses. From the housing situation in Auckland to the recent embarrassing back down in the face of union opposition to further education ‘reforms’, the last year has not gone all the government’s way. What has been missing, as usual, is any sort of concentrated opposition. There is the grounds to organise a credible opposition to National – just look at the inequality, poverty, and job insecurity that is the norm in New Zealand at the moment. But, shamefully, Labour have decided to pursue an anti-immigrant line. This is not helping them electorally, with September registering some of the worst poll results for Labour in a long time, and, more dangerously, it threatens to pull the whole 2017 election in a racist direction. This will be a disaster for working people. Instead of rejecting Labour’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, too many leaders in the trade union movement have accepted its logic.

 

Immigrants are not to blame for workers’ problems, and that we need to focus our political fire where it belongs – at the capitalist class and the National government.

[Read more…]

Class struggle – key to liberation

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Auckland health workers strike 2015. Photo: RNZ

Shomi Yoon gave this talk to the International Socialism Day School, Newtown, Wellington, last month.

It seems obvious that we need to understand the world in order to change it. Socialist strategy and tactics for liberation is not only about the downfall of capitalism but also for genuine liberation for all.

A Marxist understanding of class and understanding that this is the central divide in society is crucial. But more than this, it’s the working class that can transform society for genuine liberation. I want to contest the idea that putting class at the centre of our analysis means that other forms of oppression are secondary in importance to class – far from it – it provides a concrete analysis of where the oppression comes from and how we can overcome it. [Read more…]

Living Wage win in Wellington

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Living Wage supporters, including the author, mobilised to support this motion.

By Martin Gregory

 

The Greater Wellington Regional Council, meeting on 28 September, unanimously passed a Living Wage motion proposed by Sue Kedgely. I was one of a group of Living Wage activists present at the meeting. [Read more…]