Smash the CMP lockout: Fund established, give money now!

Around 100 meat workers in Rangatikei – a provincial township in the Manawatu area – were locked out by Canterbury Meat Packers (CMP) ten days ago.

According to a CTU release the company is attempting to require the union (New Zealand Meat Workers Union)  to sign up to a 20-30% wage decrease before any return to work. We also understand that the company is trying to disestablish the 35-hour week and increase the weekly hours of work per employee.

Traditionally the meat industry has contained a powerful section of the workers movement in New Zealand. Because of this the bosses have consciously attacked meat industry employment conditions over the past few decades. Generally the meat industry has been an area in which militant workers and some sections of the left have worked hard to extend and uphold conditions. The 35-hour week (which is particularly important in the meat industry given the physical demand of the work) is an example of these efforts.

The CMP bosses announced record profits last year. This is obviously a strategic attack. By maintaining the lockout they appear to be ‘digging in’.

Workers shirts read 'Sit on this CMP'. This is an important dispute for all industrial and low-paid workers in New Zealand. (Photo taken from Manawatu Standard online)

The bosses cannot be allowed to win as this would make a precedent for further attacks on the working class particularly in the meat industry.

 Unions are encouraging local and Wellington people to attend the week-day picket line and give donations of food and supplies. Additional picket line infrastructure is also required such as trailers, gazebos, etc.

 The CTU has set up a dispute fund for contributions. The account number is 38-9007-0894028-08.

Initially Workers Party  has donated $200 and members will be collecting, including amongst dairy industry workers in Hamilton and at Occupy Wellington. We pledge to increase our donation to a modest $500 over the next few days.  We also urge all New Zealand readers of this website who are in comfortable employment to donate the equivalent of one day’s pay.

Election series article # 8: Defend MMP in the 2011 referendum

This article by Jared Phillips first appeared in the June 2011 issue of The Spark.

This year New Zealand electors will vote in a national referendum, held as part of the general elections, asking them firstly to indicate whether they want to change from MMP, and secondly to indicate their preferred electoral system. The other options are First Past the Post (FPP), Preferential Voting (PV), Single Transferable Vote (STV), and Supplementary Member (SM). If a majority votes in favour of retaining MMP that decision will be binding. However, if a majority votes against retaining MMP, there will be a further referendum in 2014 whereby electors will decide between MMP and whichever alternative procedure gains the most support in the 2011 referendum. If a new system is selected in 2014 it will come into effect at the 2017 election.

Real advanced democracy can only be imposed and administered by the majority of working people through a workers‘ government. In the current period though, in which the working class has clearly not yet recovered organisationally or politically from the onslaught of neo-liberalism, it is important to ensure that the electoral system offering the most democratic electoral procedure prevails. From this point of view it is in the best interests of the working people and oppressed groups to retain MMP.

[Read more…]

Wellington Protest: Call for Action on Oil Spill!

The grounding of the Rena containter ship 20kms off the coast of  Taurunga last Wednesday is having an environmental impact across the coastal area of the Bay of Plenty. The government itself has admitted that this is New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster. We encourage all Welllington readers to head to the protest against the government’s response and against policies which put profits ahead of the environment.

When: Thursday October 13, 12pm-1pm

Where: Corner or Grey Street and Lambton Quay

Demands include:
– The immediate deployment of boons and oil scooping equipment around
the ship and around the trailing oil spill at sea – not toxic
dispersants of simple beach clean-ups
– An emergency system for dealing with the containers spilling toxic
waste
– An immediate moratorium on offshore drilling

All groups and individuals welcome, particularly affected iwi and communities. Please distribute this event information widely.

October issue of The Spark – expanded election issue

Read the October issue of The Spark here

This month we present an expanded issue of The Spark which puts forward a socialist position on the upcoming general elections.*This starts with an assessment of the Mana Party project from a socialist point of view.  In the following pages we have an assessment of other major parties which attempts to capture their current direction and articulate correct socialist strategies towards each of them. These are followed by a reprinted article from an earlier issue of The Spark which puts forward a pro-MMP position for the upcoming election. We also include material from both national days of student action against fee increases, cuts to courses, and voluntary student membership. In regards to issues of internationalism we cover some of the issues for international students, take a look at the plight of a group of fishermen who were stranded in New Zealand, and report on the struggle against redundancy by a group of Kiribati workers north of Auckland.

*The September issue of The Spark was foregone in order to prepare for this expanded issue which we will continue to circulate throughout the general elections.

The footage – five videos from students’ national day of action

Students enter Hunter building

Up-close: Victoria University security hitting and pushing, hitting camera. Kassie Hartendorp, Workers Party branch organiser for Wellington on megaphone.

Students against debt

Vic and barricade/occupation in Auckland – TV3

Victoria University security again

For information on the day of action protests visit click here.

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

‘Other People’s Wars’: Real journalism exposing NZ imperialism

 Joel Cosgrove, Workers Party, Wellington

Anyone who reads the book will know more about New Zealand military and what it did in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf than any politician in parliament  – Nicky Hager.

With his latest book Nicky Hager has blown away the tightly controlled political and military cover for New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book itself was published on Thursday and once it has been read and analysed The Spark will publish a wider analysis drawn from Hager’s explosive scoop.

With his previous books ‘Secret Power’, ‘Secrets and Lies’, ‘Seeds of Distrust’, ‘The Hollow Men’ and now ‘Other People’s Wars’ Hager has cemented his place as one of the most important journalists New Zealand has ever produced.

The following is a summary of the key points that Hager makes in his book:

•       One of the major themes running throughout the book is the control the military have exerted over the media through public relations methods. Leaked documents show the strategies hatched by the military leadership to keep key events and information from parliament, the media, and the public.

•       Right from New Zealand’s first involvement in Afghanistan, confidential critical reports have circulated amongst the defence force concerning the lack of strategy regarding New Zealand involvement in imperialist wars, as well as tactical deficiencies with regard to the New Zealand deployments.

•       Primarily New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq has been motivated by diplomatic, defence, and trade concerns.

•       New Zealand’s involvement in the wars has been driven and led by defence staff, with a strong focus on rebuilding what is in effect the ANZUS alliance in all but name.

•       Officials and military staff developed a close and tight reign on any negative information coming out of the warzones, they resorted to misleading or outright lying to get a good story.

•       New Zealand troops have regularly engaged in combat activity or combat support. This activity was not confined to the SAS.

•       New Zealand Navy frigates and Air Force Orions’ were actively involved in supporting the US/UK invasion of Iraq.

•       New Zealand’s ‘reconstruction’ efforts in Bamiyan province were at best a fig-leaf and at worst an outright sham. Reconstruction projects were started afresh every 6 months and then left on the wayside with the end of each deployment. The successes hyped up in New Zealand were extremely over-exaggerated or downright lies.

•       There were undeclared US intelligence officers in the Kiwi base at Bamiyan who would often debrief New Zealand soldiers directly. New Zealand media were aware of their presence but as a whole, did not report on it, due to the perceived ‘irrelevance’ of raising it.

•       Hager has described this as the biggest leak in New Zealand history.

The response to this at Hager’s press conference and afterwards by the media and senior politicians has been illustrative. Guyon Espiner (TVONE political editor) stated that he was not surprised that U.S. intelligence officers were present in the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team base and that he even ate meals with them and was briefed, pledging to keep information secret. He then proceeded to ask Hager if he had gone to Afghanistan, which Hager has not. However Hager’s 1300+ footnotes representing five years of research and interviews has far more authenticity and accuracy when measured against the public relations-parachute-reporting that has characterised the majority of the New Zealand media’s reporting of Afghanistan to date.

Vernon Small in a recent Dominion opinion piece was surprisingly frank when he said that: “In fact, I, and other reporters before me, were introduced to US intelligence and communications staff at Bamiyan and at other Kiwi bases and ate and chatted with them. The stars and stripes flies alongside the New Zealand flag at Bamiyan to advertise the US contingent.”

John Key’s response has been to roll his eyes, rubbish the work on the grounds of its authorship by Hager and state blankly that although he has not read the work, there is no evidence to back up Hager’s claims. This has been an almost carbon copy to his dismissal of Jon Stephenson who is the only other major New Zealand journalist writing independently and critically about New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan. The only major difference between Key’s treatment of either journalist is the malice and personal attacks poured on Stephenson.

Phil Goff’s response has not been much better. Refusing to call for an inquiry and describing the book as ‘spurious’, again without reading it. The general response so far from media has been to focus almost entirely on the revelation of the presence of U.S. intelligence officials in the Bamiyan camp, normalising and downplaying the fact by revealing a general knowledge of their presence, justifying it through the nonchalant shrugging of their shoulders at the apparent lack of need to report this to the general public.

Jerry Mateparae, the recent head of the Defence Force, who officially took up the role Governor General on the day of the book’s release, has denied or been unable to recall any of the issues raised in the book. Simon Wilson writing in the Metro (before the publication of the book) wrote, “Mateparae is a former head of the SAS, the Army and the NZDF, and has therefore been responsible, in one capacity or another, for the troops in the field and for advising the government on their activities, for the entire period of the Afghan war.”

Hager being interviewed on TV3's Firstline after the publication of Other People's Wars

This is an aspect that Hager has talked about. Either senior parliamentarians in both the Labour and National governments lied, or they chose not to know about what was going, or both. The denials by both military and parliamentary figures have been clear to say they did not know about CIA bases. Not that there were not bases, or that they were staffed by intelligence figures, just a very specific, very vague wave-off, that relies on Hager not being able to provide documentation that directly links any of these senior figures to the issues raised. Key himself has been clear to talk about the lack of a “smoking gun” in relation to Hager’s claims.

One of the leaks is a confidential 2010 Defence Force report which said the projects overseen by the Provincial Reconstruction Team  “…do not appear to be sustainable in any way”. This is a key aspect behind the change in presentation of New Zealand’s support for imperialist interventions. We are ‘peacekeepers’ who are ‘rebuilding’ in occupied lands, from Bosnia, to East Timor and now Afghanistan and Iraq. The language of intervention, invasion, and occupation has changed and been softened to hide away the realities of New Zealand’s support of American invasions which have killed hundreds of thousands of lives over the past decade. Hager’s meticulous documentation deals a striking blow to this notion. New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan is about closer ties to the U.S., it is not about ‘hearts and minds’ or provincial reconstruction, it is about providing intelligence and support for the US bombing and indiscriminate attacks on the Afghan people. When they say that the SAS are ‘mentoring’ Afghan troops it is now clear – even though it was obvious before – that it means being at the front of any attacks or operations, not unlike U.S. ‘observers’ in the Vietnam war.

Fran O’Sullivan, in The New Zealand Herald, wrote that there exists “…a culture of secrecy which means New Zealand journalists can obtain clearer information from military websites overseas than is made readily available at home” and said “… much of the official information which the Labour government chose to publish was hopelessly outdated.”

This is the other important aspect of the story which Hager hasn’t engaged on to the same extent. Namely the co-option of the media (as if they weren’t already coopted to begin with). Every journalist who has spoken of their trips to Afghanistan since the publication of Hager’s book has done so as a defence of the establishment and as an attack on Hager’s credibility. None of them thought that the presence of U.S. intelligence officials camped within the New Zealand base was at all at odds with the ‘peacekeeping’, ‘reconstruction’ public face of the mission. The reality is that the media are no longer reporting on the military but instead reporting for the military.
In part the reason for this is that as mainstream journalists, they are reliant on the government and dominant political parties for stories, gossip, and scoops. If they break this system of patronage, then they lose their place in the food-chain.

While various governments have not been able to cow either Stephenson or Hager, both journalists stand as a testament to the ostracisation involved when actually holding power to account. The role of people like Richard Long, who moved from Evening Post editorship to being chief of staff to then National Party leader Don Brash as well as the tight links between media, business and the political sphere shown by the fallout from the News of the World scandal in England makes this symbiotic relationship clear.

Since 2001, the Workers Party and its forerunner organisations have joined in the calls and the marches against the war and New Zealand’s involvement, and on occasions the Workers Party has played key organisational and/or political roles in that movement. Clearly Hagar has outlined how the political parties and senior military figures have learnt and developed their public relations strategies and tactics. We need to learn from this in order to counteract government propaganda and whatever other public relations approaches they attempt next.

Links:

Stephen Price is a media lawyer and advisor to Hager, who has written from his perspective on the book and the issues raised.
http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz/?p=498

Selwyn Manning (Scoop Editor) in an interview on the matter on 95BfM as well as an outline of the book/issues itself
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1109/S00006/manning-hagers-new-book-new-gov-general-controversies.htm

Audrey Young provides an outline of the story so far from her perspective
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/audrey-young/news/article.cfm?a_id=164&objectid=10748912

Nicky Hager’s press release announcing the publication and release of the book.
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1109/S00013/release-of-nicky-hagers-new-book-other-peoples-wars.htm

Journalist Keith Ng focuses on the role in the media, as well as an interesting discussion within the comments section.
http://publicaddress.net/onpoint/other-peoples-wars/

A confrontational interview with Nicky Hager on TV3
http://www.scoop.co.nz/multimedia/tv/national/55767.html

An outline of the press conference and an audio recording of the Q&A after Hager outlined the general issues raised.
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1109/S00007/images-audio-nicky-hagers-new-book-other-peoples-wars.htm

Dominion Post Political Editor Vernon Small plays down Hager’s claims and distracts from the core issues raised.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5551660/Little-kept-from-media-eyes-at-base

Zetetic on the Standard focuses on the drivers behind the media herd mentality.
http://thestandard.org.nz/need-to-know/

Summary of the varied responses to Hager’s book
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1109/S00010/rnz-audio-reaction-to-new-nicky-hager-book.htm

Gordon Campbell opines on the book and the controversy surrounding it, as well as a video of the press conference.
http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2011/09/02/gordon-campbell-on-nicky-hager%E2%80%99s-new-book/

In Hamilton: An evening with a shack-dwellers’ movement leader

S’bu Zikode has been President of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement in South Africa since 2005. ABM is the largest organisation of the poor in South Africa and campaigns for housing, water and electricity supplies for the poorest South Africans.
 
When: Saturday September 3.
 
Where: Te Whare o Te Ata (Fairfield/Chartwell Community House), 60A Sare Crescent, Fairfield, Hamilton.
 
Schedule: 5.30pm Kai: Soup & Bread, 6.30 John Minto, 7.00 S’bu Zikode (8.30pm finish).
 
Cost: Koha / $2 unwaged.
 
Contact: Jared Phillips 029-4949-863 or Alvina Barret-Nepe 027-221-6864.

Public Forum hosted by Mana Movement (Hauraki-Waikato),
 
All Welcome!
 

Victoria university students support Palestinian resistance

Marika Pratley , PFLP Solidarity Campaign Coordinator for Wellington and member of Vic Palestine Group

Over August Vic Palestine Group organised a series of events to create awareness and build support  around Victoria University and Wellington for the Palestinian struggle. This included a film screening of Occupation 101, a Student Representative Council (SRC) on the right to education for Palestinians, a panel discussion on Israel and Palestine, and a fundraising gig to prepare for the photography exhibition “Unrecognised”, which is opened on Friday 19 August. Despite Zionists ripping down posters in an attempt to censor the campaign, there has been strong support and all events were well attended.

The SRC happened on the 29th of July in the Victorai University student union building, with over 140 people.   The motion was put forward: “To affiliate to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University as a public show of solidarity and support to all Palestinian students and teachers who are struggling to live,work and study under the illegal Israeli occupation.”, as part of the right2edu campaign*

John Minto from GPJA in Auckland was there to talk in support of the motion, and referenced the struggle of abolishing apartheid in South Africa as a reason for supporting the issue. There were also speakers from Vic Palestine, the Greens and other radical left organizations on campus.  Debate on the motion was based mostly on people not understanding the need for international solidarity, rather than being Zionist supporters. However  the outcome was an overwhelming majority of students in support of the right2edu campaign, and the motion was passed.

The SRC was followed by a panel in the first week of August. Nigel Parsons, a Political Scientist from Massey University opened the panel by discussing the Israel Palestine situation.  Dr. Parsons used Foucault’s theory of Bio-politics as a basis fo  discussing how the state functions in controlling people’s lives. He then proceeded to apply this through historical development of Israel, and how this control has impacted on the Palestinians as invidividuals and their community as a whole. He went onto discuss how the Oslo agreement relied on incorporating the PLO, leading to the Palestinian Authorities controlling their own resistance, and allowing for the development of settlements in the West Bank. He ended his talk pointing out that when demanding for ‘the right of state’ for Palestinians, its absolutely essential to consider what this means in practice, and what ‘type’ of state the Palestinians would be demanding.

This was followed by Hone Fowler from Kia Ora Gaza. He gave a skype presentation of photos from the Kia Ora Gaza convoy that visited Palestine in December last year, with other international organizations. Kia Ora Gaza are organising another group to go at the end of 2011 and are looking for volunteers.

The final part of the panel was presented by Nadia Rhiannon from Vic Palestine. She focused her talk on the experiences of Palestinian youth, and how they relate to the occupation. This included accounts of people in Palestine as well as her own experiences, being apart of the Palestinian diaspora that were born and raised outside of Palestine. She included example of how her cousin fell in love with an Israeli Conscientious objector, and what it feels like to have a displaced identity due to the denial of rights for the Palestinian community.

The final part of the Palestine Solidarity fortnight was a fundraising gig at Garett street in Wellington. This was done on behalf of the Concerned Citizens, to fundraise for a photo exhibition, which is intended to raise awareness of the UN meeting in September, which will decide whether or not Palestine will be recognized as a state. The photo exhibition is opening tonight in Wellington, and will be in the following cities on these dates.

Wellington – Garrett Street: 19th – 21st August

Dunedin – Tangente Cafe: 19th – 21st August

Hamilton – The Void: 19th – 21st August

Whanganui – The Arc Theatre: 19th – 21st August

Auckland – Te Karanga Gallery: 22nd August – 1st September

Gisborne – Dome Cinema: date TBC

East London (South Africa) – Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: August-September

 *Further information can be found at http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/

Workers Party news and activities from around the country

By writers for The Spark

Workers Party members and branches were active in a range of events in July. In mid-July the Wellington branch had a good independent presence on semester two orientation day at Victoria University. This led into another event on Sunday July 17 – the Big Left Radical Fair – which was held at Crossways Community Centre in Mt. Victoria, Wellington. Workers Party member Joel Cosgrove who has helped to form ‘Mutiny’ – a local left networking group – was a key organiser of  this event. It was attended by approximately 200+ people and 15 local organisations, including Palestine solidarity groups (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Wellington Palestine Group, and Students for Justice in Palestine), climate change groups, and other Marxist and anarchist groups.

For many of the people who attended this event it was their first exposure to radical politics. Cosgrove gave a speech on the topic ‘What is the Workers Party?’ The Queers Avengers – a recently formed GLBT group in which Workers Party members are participating – was another organisation that was represented at the fair (see interview page 8).

Also on Sunday July 17 Workers Party members in Hamilton and Auckland, plus party contacts/supporters, met for a day of study and political discussion. For the first part of the day the group studied a small work by American Marxist leader James P. Cannon. This was followed by an appraisal of the situation of the Workers Party in New Zealand and subsequent discussion. Time was assigned for the Mana Party/Movement to be discussed in the final session for the day. This was a serious political discussion about the political nature of the Mana Party and its class composition. The discussion also touched on aspects of Marxism and Maori liberation. It was very interactive as between six and eight young Mana activists asked if they could join in the discussion.

Matt Billington playing his Myth of Democracy acoustic set.

In Auckland and Hamilton Workers Party members have become involved in the Mana Party/Mana movement. In June of this year Workers Party members resolved that Mana is a Maori-led working class movement that our members would engage with in a constructive manner. In Auckland that has meant door-knocking and contributing towards policy ideas. In Hamilton Workers Party members and some rank-and-file workers are going about forming a workers’/socialist branch in Hamilton West with a view and proposal to look after Mana activity on a weekly basis at the Frankton markets and as such have been involved in Mana Hauraki/Waikato formative meetings so far, with one member being elected to the interim committee of that branch. Workers Party members in Hamilton also helped to organise for a GPJA-initiated (Global Peace and Justice Auckland) public meeting at the 30th anniversary of the anti-apartheid protest in Hamilton which stopped the game between the All Blacks and South Africa.

Auckland activist and musician Matt Billington played his Myth of Democracy acoustic set in Hamilton as a fundraiser for the Workers Party.

Byron Clarke has again been elected as branch organiser for the Workers Party’s Christchurch branch. Activity in Christchurch has continued to be limited because of the earthquakes and the heavy snowfall in the area.