MIGRANT WORKERS, THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AND THE UNIONS

Public Meeting: 7.30pm, Tuesday, April 7, Trades Hall. 147, Great North Rd, Grey Lynn AUCKLAND

Recently there have been decisions by companies to make NZ workers redundant while continuing to employ migrant workers on temporary visas. There have been calls by both the Labour Party, National and some unionists for these migrant workers to be laid off first. The immigration service has revoked the work visas of some workers who kept their jobs. Migrant advocates have raised concerns that racist sentiments are being fostered and ask the question why migrant workers shouldn’t have their rights protected. New Zealand-born or permanent residents ask why they should be sacked when temporary visa holders keep their jobs.

 This raises questions on how unions should be approaching migrant workers when there may be conflicting claims for support from different groups of workers who are their members.

 Addressing these questions will be speakers involved in the union movement and in advocating for migrant workers. These include:

 –         Laila Harre, National Secretary of the National Distribution Union

–         Dennis Maga, Migrante Aotearoa

–         John Minto, Organiser, Unite Union

–         Mike Treen, Global Peace and Justice Auckland (Chair)

 For more information contact Dennis Maga,  021 971 070 , dennis.maga@yahoo.co.nz

 

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…]

OPEN BORDERS OR LEFT NATIONALISM?

History
by Don Franks

Since its formation the Workers Party of New Zealand has recognised that immigration controls are essentially a boss’s device to control workers. Accordingly, the Workers Party has always stood firmly in opposition to immigration controls. Point 4 of our 5-point programme spells it out in these words:

“For working class unity and solidarity – equality for women, Maori and other ethnic minorities and people of all sexual orientations and identities; open borders and full rights for migrant workers”.

Some people see our policy of open borders as extremist. Others realise that a truly internationalist position can’t settle for anything less. Genuine socialists insist on workers absolute freedom to travel and take up residence wherever they choose. [Read more…]

Population is not the problem!

-Mike Kay

The Green Party has caused some controversy recently by releasing its Population Policy for New Zealand just prior to the election. The Greens estimate the maximum population that Aotearoa can sustain at 5.7 million. In order that we do not exceed this figure, they propose policies including: “initiatives to raise awareness amongst parents and potential parents regarding the issue of sustainable global population levels.”

They also propose to “regularly review NZ’s immigration policy to ensure that we are retaining capacity to absorb climate change refugees and returning NZ citizens.”

It seems strange that the Greens should have made this an issue in a country that is sparsely populated with an ageing population. But in today’s political discourse, “sustainability” is becoming an essential green veneer to reactionary measures such as immigration controls and restricting working class people’s consumption.

[Read more…]

Go Wellington versus environmental justice

green

Ian Anderson

The conduct of Go Wellington demonstrates the struggle between capitalism and environmental justice.

 Environmental justice refers not only to environmental impact, but the full participation of those affected. ‘Sustainability’ is the current buzzword amongst politicians, generally meaning the capacity of capitalist practices to dodge points-of-no-return for environmental reproduction. However, working people are disproportionately affected both by environmental degradation and capitalist solutions; as phrased by Karl Marx, “Capitalist production [works] by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.”

Public transport is often touted as a solution, with companies such as Go Wellington subsidised by local government. This approach is insufficient, primarily serving capitalist ends. Resources must be managed in service of human and environmental need, rather than profit.

 One line currently popular amongst politicians goes, ‘You don’t have to choose between sustainability and profit.’ In fact, green practices can increase profit; avoiding waste cuts costs, and there are enormous PR advantages to going green.

[Read more…]

Supporting migrant workers

– Nick Kelly

In February 2007, management at Go Wellington introduced a new shift structure designed to reduce all bus drivers to 8-hour working days, to limit drivers’ access to overtime. At the same time, a document described by drivers as a “scab flat-rate contract” was introduced to weaken the Tramways Union at the Wellington Kilbirnie depot.

As a result of these changes, a number of drivers quit and the company faced a shortage of labour. To fill the gap they began recruiting migrant workers from Fiji. The company also recruited some drivers from agents in Fiji, who would tell applicants to avoid joining the Tramways Union if they came and worked in New Zealand. They were encouraged to join the scab contract with inferior conditions instead.

However, the migrant workers got wise to what was going on and the majority signed up to the Tramways Union.

[Read more…]

Open borders – unite workers!

While capital, commodities and rich people get to travel more freely around the world, workers’ freedom to move is increasingly restricted. Big companies can move freely to where labour is cheaper, for instance, but workers can’t move freely to where wages are higher. The Labour government favours free trade agreements, for instance, while imposing new racist immigration restrictions.

It’s in the interests of workers to support each other and make common cause for the maximum freedom possible. Come along to this workers’ forum and find out more about Labour’s new immigration controls and how we can fight them..

Christchurch Workers Party forum

7.15pm, Monday, August 25

Workers Educational Association (WEA), 59 Gloucester Street

Immigration and citizenship: Labour versus workers

The article below originally appeared in revolution magazine, #21, August-October 2003:

Samoan protests for the return of their NZ citizenship point up the need for a campaign for open borders and workers’ solidarity as against Labour’s denial of Samoan (and other migrants’) rights, argues Philip Ferguson.

In late March, thousands of Samoans protested in Wellington, Christchurch and in Samoa itself, calling for the repeal of the NZ Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act of 1982.  This legislation, introduced by Muldoon’s National Party government, had stripped 100,000 Samoans of NZ citizenship rights.  The abolition of these citizenship rights was part of a miserable 70-year record of NZ dealings with the Samoan people.

NZ had invaded Samoa in 1914 and was the colonial power there for the next five decades.  Just after WW1, the NZ administration bore responsibility for an influenza epidemic that wiped out a quarter of the population.  The NZ government then viciously suppressed the mass movement for Samoan independence, including gunning down unarmed independence protesters in 1929.

After independence, NZ continued to act as lord and master of Samoa and other former NZ-ruled countries in the Pacific.  For instance, in the 1970s NZ governments masqueraded as generous aid donors to the Pacific.  Yet, at that very same time, for every dollar of aid the Pacific countries of the Commonwealth received from New Zealand, they lost $3.74 in trade with this country.  Most of the NZ aid was actually spent on NZ commodities, services and personnel.  Moreover, it had little impact on expanding Pacific island exports to NZ.  The 1970s also saw mass raids on Pacific Island ‘overstayers’ in NZ and large-scale deportations.

[Read more…]

Immigration Amendment Bill: limiting workers’ freedom

– John Edmundson

In the years following the September 11 2001 attacks, the world has seen a massive tightening of immigration controls. In this country, many New Zealanders’ first experience of this trend was the overnight quadrupling of the cost of maintaining a passport. In one fell swoop, the life of a passport was halved, from ten years to five, while the cost doubled as new “anti-terrorism” identification security features were added. In the US, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has gained, and proceeded to use, sweeping new powers to raid and subsequently deport “illegals”, mostly from Latin America.

The latest round of policy change comes with the Immigration Amendment Bill currently being debated in select committee. While this Bill was introduced by Labour, it appears to have support from National, ACT, New Zealand First and United Future. The Bill, if passed in anything remotely approaching its current form, will represent a massive attack on basic civil rights in New Zealand, not only for would-be immigrants or refugees but also for New Zealand citizens.

[Read more…]