Solomon Islands calling for labour mobility

robert-sisilo2_200_200While the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) has received a lot of coverage lately, less attention has been given to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) which is a trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and a number of Pacific Island states.

Negotiations for a successor agreement, dubbed ‘PACER Plus’ have been on-going for years. While New Zealand and Australia want island nations to open their borders to imports, they have been less amenable to opening their own borders to borders to people.

Soloman Islands  trade negotiations envoy, Robert Sisilo is the latest to echo the call for regional labour mobility “Since all Island Countries will be expected to make binding commitments to reduce or eliminate their import duties on ANZ exports and hence lose much needed revenue, it is only fair that ANZ do likewise on labour mobility” he told the Soloman Star

Current immigration controls see workers from the Pacific bought to New Zealand to fill low wage jobs, largely seasonal jobs in agriculture and viticulture. Opening New Zealand’s borders to workers from throughout the Pacific would give Polynesian and Melanesian migrant workers in New Zealand more rights, and would be a first step toward opening borders to workers from across the globe.

December-January issue of the Spark online

Editorial

In what came as a surprise to John Key and probably no one else, New Zealand’s unemployment rate has hit a 13 year high; 7.3%. Concurrently the underemployed who work part-time but want to work more hours rose to 113,300 from 109,500. The same day the new unemployment rate was announced Christchurch based manufacturer Dynamic Controls announced it would be closing its contract manufacturing business with the loss of between forty and sixty jobs.

In was at Dynamic Controls where some of the technology hailed as examples of New Zealand entrepreneurialism- such as devices made by Humanware and Navman- were built by workers whose names will never be as well-known as the brands. That is over course, until cheaper overseas manufacturers were found.

It was also the place I got my first manufacturing job, at nineteen years old in 2005, a time when getting a job seemed as easy as owning a pair of steel capped boots. Of course this was no economic golden age, getting a job required registering with a temp agency and taking an ‘assignment’ with no job security and typically low pay.

While at that time the factory was taking on a huge number of staff (the temp agencies offered incentives for recruiting our friends, and I helped two co-workers from my previous job get work there) the company was preparing to move the manufacturing of their own product to their new factory in China, keeping the Christchurch plant for mostly contract manufacturing. A few months later I was gone, along with a number of other temps, and in the years since many permanent workers have been made redundant as well.

Other electronics manufacturers have also shed staff, meaning those in the pool of redundant workers with years of experience are competing for the few manufacturing jobs left. Today, there is no easy way in for a 19 year old, even with their own steel cap boots. This is part of the reason youth unemployment is over five points higher than the national average; at 13.4%.

As the government attacks the unemployed the young will become a demonised group, castigated for not trying hard enough to get a job, not spending enough time in education, not looking the part at job interviews or just plain being lazy. The reality is the young are just another group that capitalism has thrown on the scrap heap.

Spark December 2012

US Election: Four more years of Obama

Byron Clarkobama-2012

This year’s American presidential election saw a victory for incumbent Barack Obama. Obama was elected in 2008 on vague promises of ‘hope’ and ‘change’. While the election of the first African American president was historic, there has been very little change in foreign policy. Disillusionment is what could have cost Obama the election, but American liberals (and many of those further to the left) voted against republican challenger Mitt Romney. Much of the organised labour movement,
under attack in a number of states by right-wing state senates, also came out for Obama and Democrats on Election Day. While keeping in mind the bombs falling around the Middle East, there are some positive victories on reproductive rights, equal marriage and drug law reform. [Read more...]

Mana – A movement of the people

The following is the text of a speech given at a Socialist Alliance public meeting in Melbourne on 7 November by Workers Party member Grant Brookes

Tihei mauriora!Mana

Ko Ranginui kei runga

Ko Papat nuku kei raro

Ko ng tangata kei waenganui

Ko Grant Brookes ahau

Ko Helen toku mama

Ko Don toku papa

Na tepoti ahau

Na Koterana oku tipuna

Ko ng kaimahi o te ao taku iwi.

When a Maori person rises to talk in formal occasions, they often announce their speech, with “tihei mauriora!” translated literally, “sneeze of the life spirit”. It is then customary to recount one’s ancestry and tribal connections. So I said, Ranginui the sky father above, Papatunuku the earth mother below, the people in between. I am Grant Brookes. My mother is Helen, my father is Don. I am originally from Otepoti (Dunedin). My ancestors are from Scotland. Being Pakeha, or a New Zealand European, I have no Maori tribal connections, so I say; the workers of the world are my tribe.

I speak also as a socialist, and a member of the Workers Party. And I am a member of Mana. I have consulted with my ropu (or branch) and my Rohe (electorate) about today’s talk, though I must stress that I am not mandated in any way to speak on behalf of the party, and the views expressed are my own.  [Read more...]

Iwi may be compensated for end of seaborne sweatshops

Byron Clarkfish

A government agency has warned that the state may have to pay iwi upwards of $300 million in compensation for losing their access to foreign charter vessels (FCVs). The foreign ships became notorious for paying crews of mostly Indonesian workers less than New Zealand’s minimum wage, despite fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Last year 32 fishermen aboard the Korean owned Oyang 75 jumped ship in Lyttelton alleging unpaid wages as well as physical and sexual abuse by their superiors on the ship. Another vessel owned by the same outfit had previously sunk causing the deaths of six crew members. In May the government began to prepare legislation for a ban on FCVs after media (largely Sunday Star Times journalist Michael Field) and the University of Auckland Business School began publishing findings on mistreatment of workers. The ban will be implemented over the next four years.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has noted that as the FCVs were being used to fish the mainly Treaty of Waitangi fisheries quota allocated to iwi, the ban would disproportionately impact on Maori and iwi quota holders. Under treaty legislation, iwi are entitled to compensation for changes in government policy. MPI said that a “worst case scenario could result in a loss in export revenues of around $300 million annually.”  [Read more...]

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