Teachers’ Strikes: Lessons from our Struggle

By Romany Tasker-Poland, a teacher and ISO member

The teachers, primary and secondary, have had a victory (if a partial one). It has been a long fight. The first teachers’ strike was by NZEI primary teachers in August 2018. Primary teachers struck again in November in the form of rolling regional action. The last action was the historic NZEI and PPTA joint “mega-strike” on 29 May.

The public have been with us every step of the way. The massive turn-outs for the marches have been one indicator of that, as has the support flowing in through social media and the positive interviews in the mainstream media. And why would the public not support us? When we talk about the “the public”, who are we actually talking about? When we marched on Parliament these were the people marching with us: our students and their whānau, who see the work we do each day; our own children, families and whānau, who we are trying to support; our friends and co-workers; and workers from other industries demonstrating the principle of solidarity: your struggle is our struggle.

Throughout this struggle we have been threatened with public opprobrium. By the Ministry, the media, and union higher-ups. The Ministry has obvious reasons for trying to discourage us. Many mainstream media outlets are well-known for having a right-wing, anti-union slant; and aside from this, drama and conflict generate more interest and more revenue. If anything, the media coverage has been surprisingly positive overall. As for union officials, it is their job to mediate between workers and the Ministry. Negotiation is their bread and butter; striking deals is their modus operandi. That is why they are so often more conservative than the rank and file members, more apt to try to moderate expectations, and more apt to wring their hands about public opinion. For workers, it is hard to maintain self-confidence when you are hearing repeated threats that the tide of public opinion will inevitably turn against you. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When “public opinion” and “burden on parents” are the talking points being repeated, it becomes common sense that “the public” ought to feel aggrieved, or at least anxious about industrial action. [Read more…]

Abortion should come out of the Crimes Act

protest_high_court_1_web

2015 Wellington protest defends abortion rights before the High Court. Image credit: ALRANZ

by Shomi Yoon

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said these words in a televised leaders debate in the lead up to the elections. She is the first leader to bring up the issue of decriminalising abortion in a forum so close to an election. It came as a breath of fresh political air. Not because Ardern was taking a lead, but because – finally – she was a politician reflecting the existing sentiment out in wider society. Aotearoa is pro-choice. The number of women who have had terminations over the past thirty years is one measure of this. And yet, in Parliament, conservative views prevail. And – until this campaign – few Labour politicians have had the courage of their commitments to make their pro-choice stance meaningful.

[Read more…]

Making the Zika threat worse

20160109zikamosquito0658a1452886866.sm_aby Rebekah Ward and Nicole Colson

IMAGES OF Black and Brown people suffering an epidemic viral disease are flooding television screens yet again. This time, however, it isn’t Ebola but the Zika virus that is the culprit.

The current outbreak of the Zika virus evokes similar racist fears to those surrounding the 2014 Ebola epidemic–but more than that, the explosion in Zika cases has a special impact on reproductive freedoms and speaks to the rotten core of a system that puts profit above human needs.

The Zika virus, first reported in humans in 1952 in Africa, is related to the West Nile, Yellow Fever and Dengue viruses, and is carried in mosquitos from host to host. Since it was first reported, it has spread across Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, mutating and therefore changing its potential interaction with human hosts along the way. While most people are never aware that they have contracted the virus, the estimated 20 percent of those infected who experience symptoms report joint pain, fever, rash and conjunctivitis (red eyes). [Read more…]

Equal Pay for Women: the Long Struggle

SFWU member Kristine Bartlett - a campaigner for the whole class

SFWU member Kristine Bartlett – a campaigner for the whole class

By Dougal McNeill

Kristine Bartlett is a hero. Her case put the question of equal pay back at the centre of politics. Bartlett has been employed for twenty years doing socially vital work as a carer for the elderly, and yet she was paid an insulting $14.46 an hour. This, Bartlett and the SFWU argued, breached the Equal Pay Act (1972) — her pay was less than men would get for work of the same level of skill. She won. The court ruled for the first time that the Act applied to comparisons between predominantly women’s jobs and men’s. This win makes clear the point that true equal pay must involve pay equity. Because low-paid women are concentrated in female-dominated industries such as cleaning and care, it’s not enough to look at pay differences within single industries.

[Read more…]

On May Day – a Salute to Kristine Bartlett

Kristine Bartlett

By June Francis

Kristine Bartlett recently toured the country speaking about her work in aged care and the landmark legal victory for pay equity. As part of International Workers Day, we celebrate this working class hero’s tireless campaigning for equal pay in New Zealand.

Twenty three years ago Kristine Bartlett started work in aged care on $9 an hour.

  • Her work is shift work and it is hard work that requires compassion, responsibility, and care.
  • On a daily basis Kristine must meet the NZ standards set out in a 17 page document. She must ensure that patients are monitored; that there are no accidents; that things run on time.
  • Aged care workers do a lot of the work that Registered Nurses once did, for example palliative care – carrying out daily cares; laying out the deceased body as the loved ones would like to see them; looking after the family; then carrying on to care for the next patient. However the care workers are given no opportunity for debriefing.

[Read more…]

Abortion (lack of) rights in New Zealand: One Story

JumpingthroughhoopsThere’s so much pressure on women to be amazing all-rounders – the working mother of countless TV commercials who has the energy to cook, clean, and bake, all the while balance a fulltime job – you’d think that with that pressure might come the assumption we’re capable of making decisions about our own bodies and our own fertility.

You’d be wrong. In New Zealand 2015, women are still not trusted to make the choice of whether you can access an abortion or not.

In fact, abortion is still in the Crimes Act. This means that it’s illegal to get an abortion unless it’s organised in a certain way that meets the criteria of the law. A woman has to go through their GP, who will then refer them to two certifying consultants, and it is these certifying consultants who determine whether you fit the criteria for an abortion. This process can be straightforward – if you’re lucky. If you’re not, it can be complicated, expensive, and humiliating.

The perception among many women is that the process for getting an abortion is straightforward – but it’s not. This is something a close friend of mine found out recently when she found out she needed to have an abortion. She found this very process harrowing, painstakingly uncertain, and totally diminished her sense of control over her own life. [Read more…]

Sexual Assault and the Police

nz policeLast week’s decision by the New Zealand police not to press charges against the so-called “Roast Busters” confirmed for many that the police are incapable of taking rape or sexual violence seriously.

For survivors, the close to one-yearlong investigation Operation Clover was a slap in the face. The whole thing seemed faulty even before the investigation began. Despite videos of young men boasting online for having what amounted to non-consensual sex  – rape –  police initially said that their hands were tied because no one was “brave enough” to come forward to lay a formal complaint. It was revealed days later that someone had laid a formal complaint with the police … two years previously.

Compare this inaction to the police’s proactive stance when it comes to author Nicky Hager. After the publication of Dirty Politics in August revealing the sordid relationship between the National party, rightwing blogger Cameron Slater, lobby groups, and big business, police were knocking on Hager’s door with a search warrant by October. [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…]

Women and the Early Years of Japanese Communism

The_1st_Labor_Day_in_JapanShomi Yoon gave this talk as part of Marxism 2014 in Melbourne. Marxism 2015 will take place from April 2 – 5.

“What sort of woman are you? Demonstrating when you should be at home looking after your children?” This was the question Sadayo Nakasone faced by the arresting officer for participating in the first contingent of women to march on the second May Day held in Japan in 1921.

Nakasone, fired back, “What sort of man are you! A proletarian who works for the capitalists! Take a look at yourself!”

Nakasone, along with 20 other socialists, made history on this day as the first contingent of women to mark May Day in Japan. They were all arrested after marching under the banner of Sekirankai or Red Wave – an organisation that was established with the specific aim or participating in May Day but with the wider aim of overthrowing capitalism for genuine women’s liberation.

Women have always been involved in the communist and socialist movements from the earliest of days. The second May Day in 1921 is a continuation of this history but also symptomatic of the wider social and political struggles that were happening domestically and internationally that pushed these women into mobilizing onto the streets. The class was on the move, revolutionary ferment was in the air, and Red Wave women wanted to be part of this historical shift. [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…]