Kiribati workers, members of Northern AWUNZ, fight redundancies and racism in Warkworth

The press release below was issued today (7/9/11) by the Northern Amalgamated Workers Union  which is in a redundancy dispute with Southern Paprika Limited. We note that the RSE policy is external to the union.

Media Release: Kiribati workers fight horticulture redundancies in Warkworth

For immediate publication

Workers at capsicum grower Southern Paprika Limited in Warkworth are being threatened with 13 redundancies, announced by the Company on Monday 5 September. The union on site, the Northern Amalgamated Workers Union has called for all the redundancies to be scrapped on the basis that no compelling justification has been put forward by SPL.

The Company admits that it is profitable, and that there is no financial case for the job cuts, citing instead “efficiencies”.

“At the same time as scrapping production jobs, the Company is proposing to create an additional HR position,” states union organiser Mike Kyriazopoulos. “How can getting rid of the people who pick, grade and pack the fruit, while making the company more top-heavy lead to greater efficiency?

Nearly all the workers come from Kiribati and Tuvalu, have put down roots in the local community, and will struggle to find alternative employment in the Warkworth area. The Company are proposing to bring in 16 temporary migrant workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in October.

“If a position is made redundant, only to be filled by an RSE worker, the Company risks violating its Agreement to Recruit under the RSE scheme,” says Kyriazopoulos. “Under RSE, they are required to ‘take all reasonable steps to recruit and train New Zealanders for available positions before trying to recruit non-New Zealand citizen or non resident workers.’ We will be taking this up at a political level.

“SPL claims that it is ‘carrying’ too many employees. But in the 12 years of its existence, the company has grown from 2.5 hectares to 14 hectares today, thanks to the efforts of its staff. It is the workers who have carried SPL on their shoulders.”

Notes:

  • The union has challenged the ability of the company to run a fair process for redundancy after the manner  in which it dealt with an incident involving a racist text on a company phone earlier in the year. A former Cadet Manager at SPL described the content of the text as being: “The best Christmas present I could have would be a black man swinging from a tree”.

No-one responsible for the text message was disciplined in the subsequent investigation by the company. However, two union members were disciplined for trying to conduct their own investigation into the incident. The union has referred the matter to the Human Rights Commission.

For further information, contact Mike Kyriazopoulos on 021 288 5601 or michael@awunz.org.nz

How to fight redundancies

Don Franks

A contribution to a discussion among Workers Party members

I don’t have a problem in principle with unions calling on the government to intervene on redundancies.

Its a call that can come up from the floor of union meetings.

If I had a say at such a meeting I’d say, well, I don’t expect the bastards to do anything, and the history of both parties shows that they’re unlikely to help now. However,we’ve got nothing to lose so if you want to put it to them, it can’t hurt to try. I’d couple that with specific concrete demands related to the specific situation, to try and forestall any unwanted type of government help, such as counselling. It certainly is inadequate and a betrayal for union leaders to call on the government for help and leave it at that. [Read more...]

Recession and Redundancy

The Spark October 2009
John Edmundson

As the recession has bitten, redundancies have risen and unemployment figures have begun to climb, Labour’s Darien Fenton has had her Private Member’s Bill drawn from the ballot. The Bill would enforce a minimum redundancy payout on all employers, starting at four weeks pay after one year of employment. The Labour Party of course is the party that introduced the Employment Relations Act, which does not even provide a definition of the word redundancy, let alone provide significant protection for workers. New Zealand workers actually have no legal right to redundancy compensation and very few have provision for it in their contracts.

Workers at LWR’s Wairarapa sites who were made redundant earlier this year have been told that they are unlikely to receive any more than seventy percent of their entitlement in redundancy and holiday pay. Approximately eighty percent of staff with written employment agreements (contracts) have no redundancy provisions at all according to a Massey University survey commissioned for the Department of Labour’s Restructuring and Redundancy Public Advisory Group. [Read more...]

Unemployed again – A main feature of capitalism

Jared Phillips

As a result of the recession, the National-led government has been made to face rising unemployment. Its response has been to attempt to offset unemployment with redundancy initiatives and job creation initiatives. The job creation initiatives are partly corporate welfare (if not corporate welfare, then company welfare) and partly based on the provision of freely trained skilled or semi-skilled labour to firms.

Investment into the different initiatives varies. However, the proportions of all such initiatives can only remain completely at odds with rising joblessness.

From a working class perspective, the response to unemployment must be made as a response against the capitalist system. This means recognising that unemployment is an inherent and increasingly (in the long-term) problematic aspect of capitalism. It also means recognising that during an economic downturn the demands and actions needed to significantly alleviate the rate of unemployment and the conditions of the unemployed must take an anti-capitalist form.

A sharp rise in unemployment

In August, Statistics New Zealand reported that there had been a 38.5 percent increase in joblessness between June 2008 and June 2009, and that the number of jobless people had increased in that period to 236,100.

It is commonly acknowledged that in order to produce a more favourable spin, parties in government emphasise the `Unemployed’ statistics from the Household Labour Force Survey, which are significantly lower than `Jobless’ figures from the same survey. A survey participant may be deemed to be ‘not seeking work’ through failure to check job advertisements. So the Jobless category is more relevant in understanding the extent of unemployment. Within the Jobless category is the unemployed category which had increased by 48,000 to a total of 138,000 in the year to June 2009. Also comprising the Jobless category are those defined as being without jobs because they are seeking work but are not currently available, and those who are `discouraged’ (generally this means long-term unemployed). In June these categories amounted to 98,100 of the jobless. The number of ‘discouraged workers’ had more than doubled on the previous year.

The category of work that declined most dramatically was women’s full-time employment, meaning women’s employment was effected disproportionately. While the report showed a general decline in full-time employment, it also showed an increase in the part-time employment category which was up by 7,000 positions in the June 2009 quarter.

The government’s initiatives

Bourgeois democratic governments, whilst functioning fundamentally as institutions of service to the ruling class, also seek to maintain social peace. With this comes the requirement to try and ensure that people have work.

The government’s concrete response to the rise in unemployment has consisted of initiatives – very public relations driven initiatives -for managing both job losses and redeployment throughout the economic downturn. [Read more...]

National’s McJob Creation Scheme

The Spark August 2009burger
Byron Clark

The government has made a deal with fast food giant McDonald’s in which young people receiving the unemployment benefit will be sent to jobs in McDonald’s restaurants, and have their ‘training’ subsidised by the state. Every beneficiary McDonald’s hires will get the company up to $16,000 which is the equivalent of about 8 months wages for a McDonalds worker. Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett is citing the relationship with the golden arches as an example of “the Government’s commitment to getting beneficiaries into jobs,” but while the growing number of unemployed certainly need jobs, McDonald’s needs workers a whole lot more, and this is what the scheme is really about.

Fast food is a growth industry during this recession, as people who would have previously eaten at more up-market restaurants lower their budgets. McDonald’s in New Zealand is continuing to build on its profits, enough to open a number of new outlets. They need to employ an estimated 6,000 workers over the next few years. The reason? Those workers are where their profit comes from. The company can provide an investment to build a new store with all the cooking and food preparing equipment that requires, but it can’t see a return on that investment until labour (ie, workers) is added. A McDonald’s worker doing an eight hour shift for minimum wage will be paid $100, but by turning raw materials (buns, meat patties, frozen Happy Meals, that worker could produce $200 for the company. Without the worker, McDonald’s couldn’t realise a profit. [Read more...]

Redundant clothing workers – NDU fails to take a fighting position

Omar Hamed and Jared Phillips
The Spark June 2009

The National Distribution Union’s (NDU) main public response to the May 15 redundancy of 186 clothing manufacturing workers employed by Lane Walker Rudkin (LWR) has been to invite workers and supporters to hold cake stalls as a fundraising activity for the redundant workers. Of LWR’s 470 staff, 102 in Christchurch, 61 in Greytown, 19 in Pahiatua, and four in Auckland have been made redundant.

LWR is New Zealand’s oldest currently-unionised company, and has operated since 1904. In recent years the company has been managed incompetently as a result of the break up in the personal relationship of Ken and Patricia Anderson, who took over the company from a group of businessmen in 2001. The bank, Westpac, won’t even release the redundancy payments. [Read more...]

Sealord works the system

Don Franks The Spark April 2009

On its website, fishing company Sealord boasts of its responsible environmental practice:

 “We are committed to harvesting the seas[sic] resources in a sustainable way and this is one of the key points of our company environmental policy. We have secure access to about 19 percent of New Zealand’s quota and have alliances or joint ventures in other countries. Wherever we operate we promote the adoption of sustainable fishing practices. In New Zealand waters we work with other fish quota holders, through fisheries management companies, to improve and monitor fishing standards, carry out research on fish stocks and find ways to reduce bycatch of mammals.” 

Sealord isn’t committed to employment sustainability. The company intends cutting 180 land-based jobs in Nelson and is not ruling out the closure of its plant there.

The Service and Food workers union estimates that a total of 500 workers could lose their jobs. The union notes that at a time when unity and collective cooperation between unions, employers and the Government is making headlines, Sealord have demanded that their employees must accept a reduction in wages to increase profits or face dismissal. 
 [Read more...]

Unions can’t cave in on migrant workers – solidarity needed

 Jared Phillips

 

Almost every day union leaders across different sectors make public comments and statements with which revolutionary socialists disagree. Often we publicly oppose them. Sometimes it is completely necessary to oppose them.

 In response to the economic downturn the Engineers Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) leadership has started an information campaign declaring that the recession has brought crunch-time to workers. But it’s not just crunch-time for the workers locked into the struggle for bread. It’s also crunch-time for the union leaderships. Will they stress unity and look to generalise class resistance, or will they identify less worthy sections of workers to be first on the chop-up blocks as part of a crisis-management process brokered by union bosses and ‘the’ bosses?

 On March 17 a major New Zealand newspaper – The Press – carried the headline ‘Get rid of migrant workers first: unions’, the TV1 website carried the story ‘Union: Kiwis before migrants in hard times’, and a popular weeknight current affairs show, Campbell Live, ended a segment with Andrew Little – leader of the EPMU – stating ‘We are saying that where the employer is left to choose between New Zealand workers and migrant workers on short term visas then they ought to favour New Zealand workers’.

  [Read more...]

Is capitalism heading for a meltdown?

Click here to download our special Spark supplement which analyses the crisis currently enveloping the world financial markets and asks what it might mean for workers as well as the rest of the global economy.

Fight redundancies!

Winstone Wallboards, a division of the Fletcher Building empire and the manufacturer of GIB plasterboards has told unions that they want to cut back their Penrose, Auckland operation from four shifts to three, resulting in redundancies. The unions issued the following statement in response:

[Read more...]

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