Defeat the Bill! The struggle against the Employment Contracts Bill, 1991

Stop Contracts Billby Dougal McNeill

 

‘We’ll need to go on strike, an ongoing strike.’  That’s how Jane Otuafi, a delegate in the Engineers’ Union, responded in March 1991 to the recently elected National government’s plan for an Employment Contracts Act. [1] ‘A general strike is the only answer,’ job delegate Sa Leutele of the Northern Distribution Union agreed. ‘I’ve had several meetings to explain to the boys that the only way we can fight is to stick together. Otherwise nobody will survive after the Bill.’ [2]

Leutele’s words were prophetic. The Employment Contracts Act, once it passed, had a devastating effect on workers’ rights and living standards in New Zealand. It dealt a body blow to the trade union movement, one from which we’ve never recovered. Union membership almost halved between 1991 and 1995, with union density going from 41.5% to 21.7%, and has staggered in the private sector ever since. Workers’ organisation and confidence – expressed in working days ‘lost’ to strike activity – has been hit harder, with historic low levels of industrial struggle through the 1990s and 2000s. ‘The ECA,’ as Brian Roper puts it, ‘effectively deunionised and casualised large sectors of the workforce.’ [3] The viciously unequal New Zealand we live in now is shaped by the legacy of the ECA: 10% of the population owning 52% of the wealth; casualization and low pay the norm across the service industries; homeless families living in cars a ‘new reality’; and racialized poverty resulting in a Māori unemployment rate twice the national average. [4] The union movement, a basic line of defence for working people, held this back. It’s no wonder, then, that National set out to destroy the unions as effective fighting tools. [Read more…]

We Back the Bus Drivers!

Bus Strike 1.jpegGowan Dichburn and Josh O’Sullivan joined bus drivers at yesterday’s strike in Auckland.

Stress and Fatigue at Central Depot

I got to the bus depot just before 9am. A few workers stood outside the gates blocking the exit with their cars, a dozen or so placards on the fence. I ask one worker how the strike is going, “The Strike is going well, no buses have gone out”. I started talking to Frank, the union delegate. [Read more…]

Get the Warehouse to pay a Living Wage

Warehouse Porirua

by Martin Gregory

Today International Socialists and local Living Wage activists joined striking First Union members in an hour’s action outside the Warehouse store in Porirua. We were asking shoppers to show their support for the in dispute workers by signing protest postcards to The Warehouse Group boss Mark Powell. In that short time over 200 signed.

Back in 2013 The Warehouse Group told us that they were going to pay the Living Wage, which is currently $19.25 an hour. The reality is rather different. Instead, the claimed living wage is what The Warehouse call a “career retailer wage” of at least $18.50 an hour. The catch is that to qualify you have to have been employed for 5 years or have clocked up 5,000 hours; a tall order given staff turnover and the number of part-time jobs in retail. Only 15% of The Warehouse workers get the boasted “career retailer wage”. [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…]

After the Elections: Political Perspectives in Japan

No Nukes

In-depth post-election perspectives from Japanese socialist Tsutomu Teramoto. Teramoto is a member of the Japan Revolutionary Communist League. 

As expected, the general election of December 14, 2014 gave an absolute majority of the seats again to the ruling coalition of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komei Party. LDP got 291 seats and Komei Party got 35 seats out of the total of 475 seats. The biggest opposition, Democratic Party (DP) got only 73 seats. [Read more…]

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…]

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