Strike rights threatened

Mike Kay

A Private Member’s Bill introduced by the National Party MP Tau Henare has been drawn from the ballot to be debated in Parliament. The Bill proposes to amend the Employment Relations Act as follows:

“A strike may not proceed under this Act, unless the question has been submitted to a secret ballot of those employees who are members of the union that would become parties to the strike if it proceeded.”

The Council of Trade Unions has announced its “support in principle” for the bill, “as it largely reflects current practice.”

The British experience may be of some use in analysing the effect of secret ballots. Over there, the law has required a secret ballot prior to strike action for nearly 30 years. I asked an official with the Postal section of the Communication Workers Union his opinion on the issue. This is his response: [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…]

The Jobs Summit and how we respond to the Nat’s strategy

Philip Ferguson

Misjudging the Nats

Most of the left, both organised groups and the wider milieu of individual leftists, still really believe there is a fundamental difference between Labour and National.  While the Workers Party have never argued that they are exactly the same, we’re probably the only people who really believe – and act in accordance with the belief – that they are fundamentally the same.  They are liberal bourgeois parties; largely made up of urban, socially-liberal, middle class individuals.  Their goal is to manage the capitalist system.  Politically they’ve converged around liberal economics and liberal social policy, although both have some more blatantly right-wing social policies around issues like law and order.

 For much of the left, however, the Nats remain seen as some backwoods social reactionaries, a la Piggy Muldoon era.  And, economically, they are seen as unchanged since the 1990-93 period.  An especially crude representation of this view of the Nats was summed up in Socialist Aotearoa’s response to last November’s election: that a Nat-Act junta was now in power.

 We have always challenged this demonisation of the Nats and done so for three reasons:  one is that it always lets Labour off the hook; the second is that it’s just not an accurate analysis of what the National Party is in the twenty-first century.  The third reason is that it is devoid of any Marxist analysis of modern NZ capitalist society and the politics that the economic system requires.  [Read more…]

Rat Patrol and Workers Rights Campaign – fight unfair sackings

by Michael Ashton

An online survey commissioned by the New Zealand Business Council in February found that 1 in 5 people in the workforce fear that they will lose their jobs in 2009. Thirty-nine percent of those indicating they fear job loss are earners of between $20,001 and $30,000 a year, meaning that this category feels most insecure.

The introduction this month of the 90-day probationary employment legislation will compound the growing anxiety amongst working people and especially the working poor. A stand is being made through the Rat Patrol, a group of people who have undertaken to put pickets and a giant inflatable rat outside the premises of employers who unfairly dismiss workers in their first 90-days. [Read more…]

New Zealand’s Imperialist attitude toward Fiji

Byron Clark The Spark March 2009

In what John Key has described as sending “a strong message” Pacific Forum leaders voted earlier this year to suspend Fiji from the Forum unless the interim government sets an election date before May 1. The suspension means that Fiji cannot attend meetings between forum leaders, ministers or officials; it will also be excluded from benefiting from any regional initiatives run under the forum. Both Mr Key and forum chairman Toke Talagi said the decision was made by consensus, a surprising result given smaller Pacific nations were expected to vote against suspension, with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare stating in his speech (released to the media before the meeting) “I am of the strong view that adopting an isolationist approach would be unhelpful.”

Fiji has already lost the benefits of one “regional initative” – participation in the seasonal work scheme allowing Pacific Islanders to work in New Zealand. Fiji was suspended from the scheme by the previous Labour government. So far this sanction has done little – if anything – to destabilise the military regime, instead it has effected ordinary Fijians. The Fiji based Coalition for Democracy and Peace, consisting of citizens’ groups and non-governmental organisations, had said that the poor are the ones most affected by sanctions imposed by New Zealand. Even when New Zealand sent aid to Fiji (via the Red Cross) in the wake of horrific floods, local Fijians said a better way for the New Zealand Government to help them would be to let them work in New Zealand, rather than give aid money. A petition was circulated asking Prime Minister John Key to issue special directions for one-year work visas for flood victims, and for an equivalent to the Pacific Access Category for Fijian citizens already in New Zealand. [Read more…]

For a real summit

Don Franks

The worth of the recent Jobs Summit can be summed up in one word – Sealord.

The first major employment incident after the government sponsored summit was an announcement of imminent job losses from the aptly feudally titled company.

Sealord, owned jointly by Nippon Suisan Kaisha of Japan and Maori tribes via Aotearoa Fisheries, intends to cut 180 land-based jobs in Nelson and is not ruling out the closure of its plant there.

The Service & Food Workers Union (SFWU) said the company wanted to cut the pay of remaining workers by $70 a week.

Prime Minister John Key said:

“I think in the case of Sealords they’re actually restructuring their business.

“One thing we have to be realistic about is the recession will ultimately drive some of those changes, it’s not to say we’re not hugely sympathetic to those who have lost their job, we understand that there will be change,” Mr Key told TV3’s Sunrise.

In other words, when it comes to day to day business decisions, the summit means zilch. [Read more…]

Workers rights from day 1

Around 30 people picketed outside National MP Nicky Wagner’s office on Friday 27 February in protest at the government’s 90 day sacking law.90-day-protest-chch

The picket was called by the Workers Rights Campaign, a joint WP-Alliance initiative which has broadened out to involve class-struggle anarchists, Socialist Workers and anyone who wants to oppose the 90-day legislation on an anti-capitalist basis.

Wagner’s staff locked the doors, apparently fearing an occupation although one hadn’t been planned. Occupations can wait until the first firings start.

The attendance included Workers Party, Alliance, Socialist Workers, anarchists (including from the new Workers Solidarity Movement), and small contingents from both the EPMU and SFWU, with their union banners, plus some high school students from Unlimited (an alternative school in the city centre).

Picket against new “Fire-at-Will” law in Christchurch


Press Release: Workers Rights Campaign

Canterbury’s newly-formed Workers Rights Campaign is planning a symbolic picket at the offices of Government M.P. Nicola Wagner to protest at the new “fire-at-will” provisions of New Zealand’s industrial law.

Campaign spokesman Paul Piesse said today that the justification for the new law, which allows employers to sack workers within the first three months of their employment without giving any reason at all, let alone any justification, is a hypocritical sham.

The big lie, Mr Piesse said, is the deceit that the law would encourage employers to take on people they otherwise would not. Employers, he said, only ever employ people when they really need them. Their objective is to maximise their profits – they don’t function as a social service to the unemployed.

Neither do they engage the least appealing applicant; and nor will they because of the new law.

The Workers Rights Campaign says that the law is a breach of civil rights, in that it discriminates against a specific group of citizens – job applicants – distinguishing them from those already employed.

Mr Piesse added that the law is aimed at the most vulnerable: the young; casual and part time workers; those made redundant from their previous employment – likely to be a rapidly increasing number of New Zealanders; anyone changing jobs; and older workers.
The Workers Rights Campaign will picket the premises of any employer availing him/herself of this contemptible new law when it is brought to its attention.

Mr Piesse said that the new law was just the start of an employer-Government campaign to make working people pay the price of the inevitable and cyclic crisis of the capitalist system.

The picket at Wagner’s office, 189 Montreal St Christchurch, will take place on Friday 27th February at 1 p.m.

Kindergarten teachers deserve wider support

-Don Franks

The Spark February 2009

Kindergarten teachers are seeking to ensure they don’t cop a 90-day trial period when they start a new job.

The workers’ union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, has lodged the first employment claim in response to the National government’s anti-worker Employment Relations Amendment Act 2008. (Under the new law, rushed through Parliament before Christmas without any public consultation, an employer need give no reason for sacking someone in any work site of less than 20 people within the first 90 days of their employment.)

NZEI’s National Secretary Paul Goulter says the union believes the 90-day probation legislation is unfair and unjust to workers and has serious implications for the education sector where recruitment is a major challenge.

[Read more…]

Make National’s “Fire at Will” law a dead letter!


A forum to discuss plans for resisting the new 90-day legislation, the National-led government’s Xmas present to workers, is being held on Wednesday, February 4 at the WEA (Workers Educational Association) building, 59 Gloucester St, Christchurch, starting at 7pm.

Speakers include Andrew Mckenzie (Alliance; and a lawyer specialising in labour issues); Byron Clark (Workers Party; youth union activist); Fay Birch (cleaner and worker-advocate, specialising in personal grievance issues). Other union speakers have been invited.

The meeting is organised by the Workers Party and the Alliance Party.

All welcome!