Green Left Weekly: New Zealand workers fight casualisation

Service and Food Workers Union members at Ports of Auckland rally.

This article, by Workers Party member Joel Cosgrove, originally appeared in Green Left Weekly.

A number of high-profile industrial struggles are unfolding in New Zealand.

About 1500 aged care workers, members of the Service and Food Workers Union, are taking part in rolling strikes against a 1% pay rise offer. About 750 meat workers have been locked out by their employer AFFCO and about 1250 workers are involved in rolling stoppages in solidarity. Striking Auckland waterside workers are also into their fourth week on the picket line.

What links all these struggles are pay and conditions ― especially the fight against casualisation. [Read more...]

Green Left Weekly: Atrocity in Afghanistan fuels opposition to occupation

This article, by Tony Iltis, originally appeared on Green Left Weekly and will be republished in the April Spark.

For the US military and the pro-war Western corporate media, the March 11 slaughter of 16 civilians, nine of them children, as they slept in their homes in the villages of Alkozai and Najeeban in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, was an aberration.

For Afghans, it was just the latest massacre.

There are differing accounts of what happened. The US maintains the killings were the work of a single “rogue” soldier. Eyewitnesses, however, insist there was more than one attacker. [Read more...]

Zizek: What to make of the political Elvis (Wellington event)

“[Zizek uses] a dizzying array of wildly entertaining and often quite maddening rhetorical strategies are deployed in order to beguile, browbeat, dumbfound, dazzle, confuse, mislead, overwhelm, and generally subdue the reader into acceptance.” Edward R. O’Neill

Slavoj Zizek is one of the worlds most well-known and controversial philosophers.
As a Marxist theoretical thinker, he refuses to be easily labelled and categorised.
And yet Zizek is full of contradictions. He can be infuriatingly vague, suddenly putting his complex subject into a relatively simple and easily understandable phrase, often chucking in some pop cultural example to make his point and explain himself. Few people label themselves as Zizekians, due in part to the constant zig-zagging of his political framework. Yet he has a huge following, matched maybe, only by Noam Chomsky.
Come along for a discussion of Zizek’s ideas, the place of Zizek in radical social change and the myriad of discussions that stem from him.

5-7pm Monday
SU219, Student Union Building, Victoria University

“Illegal” solidarity action necessary to challenge employer offensive

Patricks dispute, 1998

Ian Anderson

“Blacking,” or black-listing of cargo, has a long and proud history among wharfies. In 1998 during the Australian Patricks dispute, when the Australian government in concert with private contractors launched an offensive to casualise Australian ports, wharfies in Auckland black-listed a ship loaded by scab labour. This international solidarity was a key factor in undermining the employer offensive, a struggle which was in many ways similar to the current attack  by Ports of Auckland.

On the 2nd of March, port workers in Wellington refused to work a ship loaded by scabs in Auckland. On a rainy and dreary night, a community picket drew in support from various unions, with delegates from Unite calling off an event that night to show solidarity. CentrePort promptly got a court order demanding Wellington wharfies unload the ship. All ships loaded by scabs have also been black-listed in Australia.

Labour opposes the right to solidarity strikes.

In the February Spark, we noted how solidarity strikes are crucial in challenging the current employer offensive. Labour’s Employment Relations Act bans solidarity strikes, because they challenge a “secondary employer” such as Wellington’s CentrePort.  The International Labour Organisation notes how the right to strike underpins all other basic rights, such as the right to organise, the right to a living wage, and even wider community claims; the refusal by wharfies to work nuclear warships was a key factor in introducing our nuclear-free policy.

Both Labour and National oppose the unrestricted right to strike because it undermines the basis of their class power. This right is never given, always taken. Workers and progressives must fight for the unrestricted freedom to strike.

Solidarity around the country

Lyttelton picket

Kelly Pope

Support for the striking Ports of Auckland workers has been evident in Christchurch and across the country this last month. On the 7th of March port workers in Lyttelton refused to unload the ship the Lisa Schulte which had been worked on by non-union workers in Auckland, following similar action by Wellington and Tauranga port workers. Around a hundred and fifty workers planned to boycott the ship in solidarity with Auckland workers and did so until that night.

In response to the action by staff, Lyttelton Port Company filed for an injunction to prevent workers from continuing to boycott the ship and the case was heard on the day. As solidarity strikes remain illegal, the court ordered workers on the picket line to resume work unloading the ship or face penalties which could include fines and imprisonment.

Workers remained on the picket line while the court case was attended by union organisers. In the evening a group of around thirty people marched down Lyttelton’s main street to the wharves in a display of support for the port workers challenging the anti-strike laws and drawing attention to the struggles of Auckland workers.

While the group, including representatives from a number of unions and political activists, were at the wharves, Libby Carr, secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union arrived from the court hearing. Though bringing the news of the ruling, she told those present that the workers would be heartened to hear of the support from the community and invited people to continue supporting the workers by attending the stopwork meeting for RMT and MUNZ union members the following day.

Spark Discussion Group: a space for radical ideas

5pm, Mondays
SU219 Student Union Building
Victoria University of Wellington

Report from the picket line

Mike Kay

Morale on the picket line remained strong on 20 March, despite the wet and wild weather. “We work out in this weather 24/7, so it’s no problem for us,” explained one wharfie. Another striker described how important the public support has been for them: “We had runners doing Round the Bays come past our picket line this weekend, and there were thousands of them clapping and cheering us. We also had players from the Bulldogs coming down to support us, although they weren’t allowed to wear any of their gears!”

Some politicians have been forced to get off the fence during the dispute: “We had Pita Sharples here the other day, giving everyone high fives. But [Auckland Mayor] Len Brown has been a big disappointment. He sat in on the last mediation we had with Ports of Auckland, but he said nothing.”

“Last Monday we put on a ‘hard picket’ which was effective. We kept it on just long enough to have the trucks backing up all down the road, just to send a message of the kind of disruption that is possible.”

Another high point was public demonstration on 10 March, with at least 5,000 people marching in support of the wharfies. The rally at the waterfront threatened to be a damp squib, with keynote speaker David Shearer delivering an underwhelming, stumbling speech that no doubt reflected his discomfort at addressing a group of staunch striking workers. Fortunately, the Maritime Union of Australia saved the day, with deputy national secretary Mick Doleman pledging: “We’ll be with you no matter how long it takes”.

Global union movement backs the Ports of Auckland workers

A powerful group of global unions which between them represent tens of millions of unionised workers, are now on ‘red alert’ over the treatment of workers in New Zealand that is being dramatically illustrated by disputes at the Ports of Auckland, Affco and the Oceania care company.

The warning was sounded last month by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), Public Services International (PSI), and the Council of Global Unions. [Read more...]

Senegal goes to the polls for second time after months of protest

Byron Clark

Last February, The Spark reported on the Occupy Nigeria protests that were taking place. Nigeria is not the only African country where massive demonstrations are erupting, indeed some commentators, such as Al Jazzera are starting to talk of an ‘African Spring’ similar to the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. As a continent subjected to colonial exploitation for a century, and neo-colonial exploitation ever since, Africa has many reasons to rebel.

 Protests have flared up in Senegal, centered on Independence Square in the capital, Dakar but large enough to extend much further, with demonstrators seizing control of a three block stretch of road during a clash with police. The target of these protests is president Abdoulaye Wade, who at 86 years old is running for his third term in office. While an election was held in February, a new election has already been called.

 Many Senegalese believe that Abdoulaye is preparing his son to take power when he dies, setting up a “neo-monarchy” similar to that accomplished by Assad in Syria and attempted by Ben Ali in Tunisia, Murabak in Egypt and Qaddafi in Libya. Of those dictators of course, only Assad remains, due to the extremely violent repression against protesters in Syria. The others were toppled by popular uprisings, providing inspiration to countries further south. [Read more...]

Drop the charges! Partial victory for Urewera 4 defendants

Chalking at Queer Avengers protest against media bigotry

On the 20th of March, the jury finally reached a verdict on firearms charges for the remaining 4 Urewera defendants. All were found guilty and not-guilty of a range of firearms charges. There was no resolution to the far more serious charge of belonging to an organised criminal group – on evidence that was gathered under “Terrorism” laws, with no terrorism charges laid.

Under various charges, and at diminishing returns for the Crown, the Urewera defendants have been harrassed under successive Labour and National governments. A press release by the October 15th Solidarity Group noted the bungling inconsistency of the Crown’s attack, and went on to explain the political basis of it, quoting Valerie Morse whose charges were dropped last year:

Operation 8 was a multimillion dollar police operation designed to harass Tuhoe and political activists. After six years, the crown has secured a few firearms convictions based on illegal evidence. This whole episode reveals the sad face of a racist country determined to quash Maori aspirations for sovereignty.

“We will fight for the freedom of our comrades. We will not cease. Ever. Ka whawhai tonu matou. Ake! Ake! Ake! [Read more...]

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