Recent job losses latest in a trend

The announcement of over 1000 job losses yesterday is certainly bad news for New Zealand workers, yet while various commentators have blamed the latest round of redundancies on the high dollar or the free trade agreement with China, this disappearance of jobs is nothing new, in 2007 job losses made the news almost every other week. The following article from the December 2007 issue of The Spark looks at last years job losses and the need for international solidarity to defend jobs:

2007 a tough year for New Zealand Workers

Byron Clark

2007 was a tough year for workers in New Zealand. In February the Brightwood milling plant closed leaving workers “high and dry” as the company’s aggressive anti-union stance left them with no redundancy cover. Later that month a Christchurch ice cream factory announced its closure. This seemed to be the start of a disturbing trend, as 2007 also saw Sleepyhead and Fisher & Paykel laying off 350 staff each, as well as redundancies at Click Clack, G.L Bowron, Skellerup, 3M and others. While manufacturing was the hardest hit, jobs seemed to be disappearing all over the place, Sealord announced plans to cut staff in September and more recently 60 jobs were lost at at freezing works owned by meat company PPCS. SkyCity announced 250 job cuts as a ‘cost cutting’ measure in May, and Telecommunications company TelstraClear announced 100 job cuts in July, with rival Telecom announcing 250 job cuts eight days later.

The stats

While New Zealand’s official unemployment rate is currently 3.5%, other statistics don’t look so good, according to Statistics New Zealand, 7,000 fewer people were working in the September quarter compared with the previous quarter, In addition, 10,000 fewer people are in full-time work, and 6,000 more are in part-time work. What this shows is that relatively well paid and often unionised jobs are disappearing, and being replaced with low paid casualised and part time jobs. An important task now is to organise workers at these new casual jobs to fight for their rights at work, as the Unite union has been doing, and to oppose the casualisation of what are currently permanent jobs. The jobs that are disappearing are doing so for various reasons, in some cases its for cost-cutting- laying of some workers and increasing the work load of those remaining, in other cases new technology was introduced, and rather than resulting less work or even a shorter working week as it should, caused the loss of jobs. The most common reason for job losses however, was the movement of production to the third world.

International solidarity protects jobs locally

The right to a job needs to be defended, whether that job is in New Zealand, China, or elsewhere. When workers are divided by national boarders it only benefits the capitalist class. To defend jobs here, workers should support struggles by workers overseas for a living wage and decent working conditions, rather than letting work rights deteriorate everywhere as a result of workers competing with each other. The Spark spoke to Jennifer Isles, a Workers Party member and delegate for the EMPU at Dynamic Controls, a Christchurch electronics factory which is in the process of moving production to China at the loss of 200 local jobs. “The company have put up photos of their new factory in China which show obviously worse conditions; the workers there have no anti-fatigue mats, no chairs, and no decent footwear. Yet the bosses tell us the new factory isn’t sweatshop- perhaps its a ‘perspiration store’”

Defend jobs

Its important that workers oppose redundancies and defend the right to work, going through the procedures, ‘working together with the company’, getting ‘positive media coverage’ and lobbying MPs do not save jobs or hold out any hope of doing so.

In redundancy situations, the only actions with any hope of success are bold direct action initiatives. If the workers occupy and make the biggest fuss possible, they have at the very least the chance of a better payout to shut them up, and, at best, the chance to keep the jobs. While attempts at resisting redundancy by direct action will not always win, but they are always worth trying.

The statistics cited in this article are from Radio NZ, 9 November 2007.

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