The ongoing attack on workers’ rights

Unionised Rockgas workers target Jami-Lee Ross' office.

Unionised Rockgas workers target Jami-Lee Ross’ office.

Joel Cosgrove, Fightback member.

It’s ironic that the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Bill is being put forward by National backbench MP Jami-Lee Ross. The bill which allows employers to bring in temporary staff (scabs) to work when workers are on strike is  being put forward by an MP who has no history of actual work, having first been elected to the Manukau City Council at 18 in 2004 and then to the parliamentary seat of Botany at 25 in 2011. [Read more…]

The Hobbit and SkyCity: Government’s priorities laid bare


Writers for Fightback

Information released in late February, on the Hobbit labour dispute and the SkyCity convention centre deal, lays the National government’s priorities bare. In both cases, the government prioritised the needs of business owners over all other concerns.

On February 19th, the office of the deputy auditor-general released a report on the controversial SkyCity deal. SkyCity was given the contract for an international convention centre, in exchange for a law allowing 500 more pokies in its casino.

This report placed the blame on civil servants, rather than the government per se. However, in an opinion piece published the following week, prominent bourgeois commentator Rod Oram highlighted the “whitewash” and contradictions in this report.

Oram notes that SkyCity extensively lobbied the government to reject alternative options, such as a publicly owned convention centre. Before the government opened up an Expression Of Interest (EOI) in 2010, SkyCity had already been working with the government for a year, and had met with government representatives including the Prime Minister.

Oram notes the message this sends to businesses, “If you want to build a convention centre, school, road, hospital, prison or any other form of infrastructure, don’t bother with the appropriate processes… deal directly with the prime minister.”

It’s also telling that the government neglected the option of a publicly owned convention centre, and instead prioritised gambling profiteers. While community organisations focus on helping individuals with gambling addictions, those who profit from casinos remain untouched. The only challenge to SkyCity has come from wage claims by Unite members, a struggle which must be defended and extended. [Read more…]

Thousands say: “John Key, you’ve got mail, Aotearoa is not for sale”

Ian Anderson

The Aotearoa is Not For Sale hikoi departed from Cape Reinga on April the 23rd and reached parliament on May the 4th. This march demonstrated that tangata whenua are at the forefront of struggle against privatisation, expressed widespread opposition to asset sales, and raised questions of how to move forward.

Broad kaupapa
The kaupapa was broad, and contested. Thousands were united by opposition to National’s plans of selling 49% of state-owned assets to private companies. Other issues of corporate and ‘foreign’ ownership included the AFFCO meat-works lockout, offshore drilling and the Crafar Farms sale.

In an article for Scoop, Anti-capitalism must feature at hikoi against asset sales, Valerie Morse argued the focus should be on capitalist ownership rather than foreign ownership: “A number of very well known ‘kiwi’ brands equally well meet the definition of a multinational corporation… The fight shouldn’t be about domestic or foreign ownership; the fight should be about ownership full stop.” [Read more…]

What the Workers Party is about

All the registered parties got the following email a few weeks ago:

Dear Parties,
I am an 18 year old female. I would really like to be interested in politics, but I don’t know anything about it! I graduated high school 1 year ago, and for a few years political representitives have making sure I am enrolled to vote for the coming election. However no party has ever come forward to us to explain how everything works. I don’t know anyone my age who has a reasonable knowledge about politics. Probably, in the 2011 general election, most of my classmates will be making uninformed desicions about their choice of vote.

I understand that I can read your views on most of your websites but none of this makes any sense to me- there needs to some kind of 101 handbook ‘for dummies’ about what you are offering.

On Facebook, there is a tab on your profile called “Political Views”. All of my friends have things like “boring”, “what?!” or “none” written as theirs. You should be concerned!

Please explain!

Here’s what Jason Froch, a Workers Party member replied to her:

Many thanks,

I’m actually rather delighted by your e-mail, it’s good to know that I’m not alone.  I too have problems trying to make sense of that parliamentary sideshow that consists of bourgeois politics.

In 2008 we had before us:

v     An economic system which requires continued and rising levels of unemployment

v     State legislation that ensures the continuing fall of real wages derived from work, already down 25% since 1982.

v     A predatory war in Afghanistan where New Zealand soldiers assist in the slaughter of civilians, all to assure US military and economic interests

v     The continuation of an exploitative relationship with environment which will see a number of pacific islands underwater in the near future and cause massive social costs

v     Violence against women who are often unable to leave their abusers because of an inability to support themselves and their children

v     The spread of third-world diseases in our communities because of inadequate housing and an inability to afford a doctor visit

v     Not to mention disproportionate magnification of all the above if you happen to be born Maori, Pacific Islander, or are an immigrant

And yet this reality did not connect with those politicians whose happy smiles asked to be our representatives once again in 2008 (the only difference between them being marginal differences in the rate of tax cuts—43% of which have gone to the top 12% of taxpayers). [Read more…]

The Mana By-Election experiment

Note that this article does not necessarily represent the views of the whole party.

Don Franks

Below the big beaming blue and red billboards it was vacuous capitalist personality politics as usual.

Labour’s candidate claiming to be “working for Mana’ was Labour Party leader Phil Goff’s press secretary.

The best National’s Hekia Parata could produce for a slogan was a bastardisation of her own name – Vote Parata- “Heck yeah!”.

In the end Labour’s Kris Faafoi won the seat with 10,397 votes to  Parata’s 9317.

National came within 1080 votes of snatching a safe Labour seat  while their party is in government. Parata shattered Labour’s previous 6000-plus majority, turning Mana from the ninth safest seat in the country and one of Labour’s strongest bastions to a marginal one for the 2011 elections. [Read more…]

Law change during industrial disaster

Daphna Whitmore

While the Pike River mining disaster was unfolding the National Government passed new laws to curb workers’ rights.

Thousands protest against the law changes

International mining experts say that the mass deaths in Pike River should not have happened in a modern mine in a developed country. Perhaps they were unaware of the marginalised status of unions in New Zealand? The new laws are designed to keep unions even more sidelined.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No 2) and Holiday Amendment Bill make the following changes from April 2011: [Read more…]

Secret ballots? Workers should decide

Back in April The Spark carried an article sounding the alarm at National MP Tau Henare’s Private Member’s bill to require unions to run secret ballots for strike action. While the Council of Trade Unions gave its “support in principle” to the bill at the time, we warned that workers could become ensnared in pedantic legal challenges by employers trying to undermine strikes. No Right Turn blog had also given its backing to bill as “a bit of a no-brainer.”

Predictably, the moderate-sounding wording of the original has been amended by the select committee, so now employers could challenge strike ballots with injunctions. Now the CTU and their mates in the Labour Party are crying foul over the bill. Didn’t the 90 day “sack at will” law brought in by Henare’s party give them a clue about what were the government’s intentions with regard to employment laws? Are they really surprised that a bill proposing further restrictions on unions wouldn’t also include the right of employers to challenge the process? [Read more…]

Whanau Ora and Maori today

Phil Ferguson
The Spark
May 2010

On April 21, the report of the government-commissioned Whanau Ora taskforce was made public.  The key idea of Whanau Ora (“Well-being”) is the establishment of a one-stop- shop approach to the problems of individuals and families in relation to problems of health, education and the justice system.  Funds are to be diverted from existing stage agencies into a new Whanau Ora Trust which would contract out work to service providers to deal with the problems on a whanau basis.  In other words, where an individual family member had health, education or justice system problems, the individual would be viewed as part of their whanau and the whole whanau would be engaged in finding solutions.  This is seen as “empowering” both whanau and individual Maori.

Although Whanau Ora was originally conceived by its Maori Party architects as a programme for Maori, there is now agreement that all “families in need” will have access to the services provided through the programme. [Read more…]

Christchurch’s free health center to close

The Spark April 2010
Byron Clark

Christchurch’ s free youth health center known as 198 is likely to close at the end of this month due to a funding shortfall. The center has delivered health services to young people since 1995. In 2008-09 the center received $553,087 from the District Health Board but it was forecast to receive the lesser amount of $461,114 this year and unable to find alternative funding to make up the difference and will be facing bankruptcy if it doesn’t close. [Read more…]

Planned economy not planned unemployment

The Spark April 2010
Jared Phillips

In the first part of its first term the current National government strengthened its centrist positioning with a job creation agenda (national and regional job summits), redundancy packages (Job Support Scheme, transitional relief packages), and youth employment incentives (youth opportunities package). As was the international order-of-the-day, corporate welfare pervaded most of the policy that emerged. Now, outside of National and Labour’s struggle for the political centre, New Zealand’s increasing margins – the unemployed, the underemployed, the transient workforce – are up for direct punishment.

Key and Bennett launched Future Focus (aka beneficiary bashing)

As  soon as John Key and Paula Bennett announced Future Focus benefit reforms in late-March 2010 One News let the game begin with a headline story about Work and Income NZ fraud by an ex-gang member’s partner, who they’d ambushed with cameras at her court appearance. On queue, The New Zealand Herald (25/3/10) chimed the bell with its editorial ‘Benefit reform a step in the right direction’, in which there was a mouth-off about `Young women who regard the domestic purposes benefit as an open-ended career choice’, and a citation of John Key’s ‘breeding for business’ theory in regard to ‘unmarried women’ who ‘get pregnant’. This is the way in which the government has come out to front the mass unemployment problem. [Read more…]