Mourn for the dead, fight for the living!

161014-helen-kelly_jpgby Jen Wilson

At this time we remember and honour long time union leader Helen Kelly, a brave and compassionate person who mourned with and comforted the families of workers killed at work; Forestry workers, the Pike River miners, Charanpreet Dhaliwal, aged only 22, beaten to death on his first night on the job as a security guard. So many dead because their lives and safety were not valued by their employers. Standing beside the grieving families Helen Kelly demanded justice, the prosecution of their employers who put profits above the lives of workers. She shined a light onto failed business practices which made these deaths inevitable and demanded and worked for change. Her death is a great loss. [Read more…]

Our ‘work ethic’ is not the problem

unnamedBy Andrew Tait

John Key came out this week and said it: New Zealanders are just too lazy or drug-addled to work, so we have to bring in migrants to “do a fabulous job” harvesting fruit and veges.

It’s a meme that has done the rounds on the media, slyly suggested by employers, farmers and politicians but never before as baldly stated by anyone as prominent as the Prime Minister. The truth is employers in agriculture are so addicted to profit they refuse to pay their workers a living wage. [Read more…]

NZEI and PPTA stand up to government’s attacks on public education.

worth-fighting-forBy Shomi Yoon

Unionised teachers in the secondary, primary and early childcare unions, PPTA and NZEI, attended paid union meeting nationwide to discuss a fightback against the government’s attacks on public education this week.

Thousands of teachers filled the Auckland and Wellington town halls to voice their anger and concern about the government’s plans. Thousands more filled halls from Invercargill to Northland – these mass meetings show the depth of the opposition to Bulk Funding 2.0 amongst teachers. There is a clear mood for resistance.

There’s a reason why this government hates teachers and the teaching profession: teachers fight back. Teachers have a strong and proud tradition of standing up for public education and demanding more for education. [Read more…]

Workers can run the world

NUW workers in Australia occupying a Dandenong factory, 2015

NUW workers in Australia occupying a Dandenong factory, 2015

Gowan Ditchburn gave this talk to the Auckland branch of the International Socialists in May.

Let us examine on of my favourite things on Earth, Democracy. No, not that silly parliamentary kind where you vote every few years. I mean real democracy. Control by the people. Actual control not sending people to parliament to argue like children for three years and pass a few laws which change very little. I mean getting to decide how everything is done. From the Economy and the distribution of goods and resources, to the planning of our cities. All this placed in the hands of the people. My aim is to bring you an interesting look at a different, better and much more democratic way of doing things. [Read more…]

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…]