“I’m a Wobbly through-and-through”: Interview with Australian RAFFWU/IWW unionist Tilde Joy

May Day 2018, so-called Melbourne (image via RAFFWU).

Tilde Joy is an anarchist, activist, trade unionist, and formerly the President of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU). Based in Melbourne, she is also a gamer, and does Twitch gaming streams under the name ULTROS_PROFESSIONAL.

  1. What were your first jobs and first experiences in the workforce? How did this shape your views on work?

My first job was at Hungry Jack’s, I was actually somehow hired illegally as a 14 year-old. The minimum age was supposed to be 14 and 9 months at the time, but they took me on 2 months after my 14th birthday. I was paid $6.15/hour at the time (2004), under an awful SDA agreement. Eventually there was a Fair Work decision which got me some backpay, but nothing near what I would have been owed. It was an awful workplace, no breaks – I took up smoking as a kid so I’d be allowed to have a sit down every now and then on my shift. Flat pay, no penalty rates whatsoever. The money being so underwhelming I’d try to take on extra responsibilities, doing the high-risk oil changing roles, passing all my tests making x-amount of whoppers in a minute. They gave me a gold badge! By the time I left that job I was making $7.50/hour. We’d start work as early as 6:30am, sometimes we’d get held back as late as 3am if the store was super messy at closing time. My managers were terrible people, one in particular was fond of showing me awful videos on his phone; beheadings, snuff films, really graphic porn. Terrible place for a child to be on a school night. We all joined the SDA during induction, we had no idea how bad we were being exploited. I quit when I was 16, forever embittered. I hated my bosses and knew we all deserved better, but the idea that the union could change that was not quite an idea that ever crossed our minds. We thought all the union was there for was movie vouchers and discounts at the other fastfood joints.

The main thing that I take away from that experience is that all forms of child labour should be abolished, and the first step towards that is the abolition of junior wages. That won’t stop people from hiring children – kids are inherently exploitable, and therefore desirable as workers – but we have to build the friction here, make it socially unacceptable for children to have jobs ultimately.

  1. When did you first come across a trade union, and were they a relevant force or not in your workplace?

Yeah, the SDA. We saw them on day 1, at induction, something something about how they made sure we were being treated well at work. Even back then they’d emphasise how they worked with the company to achieve that. But after the first day they were gone. We’d get the coupon booklet every year, that’s all. They certainly were a force in the workplace though, they were absolutely complicit in our exploitation. That’s their business model, offering ways for companies to save money on wages and placating an unorganised and fairly oblivious workforce with “perks”.

3. Can you explain what the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) is, and the undue organisational and financial influence it wields over its official political representation, the Australian Labor Party (ALP)? Why is the SDA so socially conservative and right-wing, and where does the tendency they represent come from historically? Besides the SDA itself, does this political current have much strength in other labour organisations?

It would be my pleasure. The SDA claims to be the biggest private-sector union in so-called Australia. They cover the retail and fastfood industries, as well as supposedly representing workers in warehousing. They are aligned to the right wing of the ALP and represent the legacy of the grouper movement, which dates back to the 1940’s. Conservative unionists, largely Catholics, organised to combat the influence of the Communist Party within the unions at that time. The National Civic Council ended up being one of the results of this, and the SDA finds its origins there, in anti-communism, social conservatism and political lobbying. In more recent memory the SDA has made submissions to the senate arguing against abortions, stem cell research and same-sex marriage. They were fairly well muzzled during the plebiscite campaign, and seem to have stepped away from openly stating their views, but we can’t forget that Julia Gillard’s alliance with the SDA in the 2010 leadership spill was precipitated upon Gillard towing their conservative line on same-sex marriage. It’s an obscene affair, making millions on yellow unionism, and using workers’ dues to lobby the ALP into withholding rights from women and queers, who are massively over-represented in retail and fast food. I’m sure reactionary elements such as this exist in other unions, and the alliance between the AWU and the SDA in northern QLD is of note here, but I think the depth of the rot in the SDA is somewhat unique.

  1. What relationship should unions have with political parties? In Australia, most unions are part of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and affiliated to the ALP. Do you think unions should disaffiliate from the ALP, and what purpose would that serve? Would you favour a union like RAFFWU affiliating with a radical political party?

Well, being a dues-paying member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) I think that any foray into electoralism is a losing strategy. Seeing the resounding failure of the Change the Rules campaign – the ACTU couldn’t even convince the ALP to adopt the right to strike as a policy – I think all the ALP does for the union movement is tamp down any semblance of class consciousness. The blind loyalty to the parliamentary party is absolutely to our detriment, and an active union movement that was willing to put ALP feet to the fire would undoubtedly be more effective. It’s hard to imagine how it could be worse. Certainly, if there are unions that still value the class struggle, they should disaffiliate and start holding parliamentarians to account.

As far as RAFFWU affiliating with a radical party, I wouldn’t be in favour. I’m a fan of big-tent leftism, I think we achieve more focussing on the specifics of class struggle – in RAFFWU’s case building grassroots industrial power – in a non-denominational formation. I mean, I’m a wobbly through and through, and what I love about the idea of the IWW is that we unite in the struggle and synthesise the best of all kinds of radical traditions. I guess I fear the prescriptivism of any given party. People don’t often come to the union movement with super developed politics and I reckon the friction and autonomy of the rank-and-file is the key to keeping the upper echelons honest. That’s the most beautiful thing in the world I think, people coming to radical conclusions through the struggle itself, and keeping the labour aristocracy in check.

  1. What was the reasoning behind the formation of RAFFWU? How do you regard rank-and-file attempts of SDA members to transform the organisation from the inside – is that a viable approach?

Well I wasn’t there on day 1, but the key aim was to challenge the SDA and get our penalty rates back. For decades workers under SDA deals earned substantially less than the minimum wage, and people had tried and tried to reform the SDA. Truth is the SDA punished delegates who tried to do shopfloor organising, one of RAFFWU’s organisers was in that situation before RAFFWU showed up. They were a delegate in a supermarket and their SDA organiser not only took their position away from them but argued to their boss that they should be sacked! They’re fundamentally opposed to even the most basic of workplace organising campaigns. They maintain anti-communist clauses in their rules, odds are that none of the people reading this right now would even be allowed to run for office. It’s a losing game.

But for me personally, why shouldn’t I attack the SDA from the outside? They have harmed me, starved me, gone to the parliament and argued I don’t deserve to exist. I owe them no loyalty, and no retail or fastfood worker on this continent does either. They are equally as implicated in our oppression as our bosses, I’m not here to rehabilitate them, I’m here to burn the house down.

  1. Please tell our readers about some of the activities RAFFWU has been involved in. To take one example – legal challenges have been an important part of RAFFWU strategy. How can legal victories win immediate gains while advancing workers’ rights and workers’ struggle as a whole?

Well the biggest example would have to be the redefinition of the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT). The SDA had sailed by on dodgy EBA’s since 2010, because they were compared to even worse deals from the WorkChoices era. They argued that their deals passed the BOOT because every worker was better off than the old agreement, even if they received less than the award minimums. The bosses didn’t complain about that and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) signed off on all of these atrocious deals. RAFFWU’s biggest innovation here was winning the argument that the BOOT test needed to be applied to the award wage as well. This lifted tens of thousands of workers’ wages to what should have been the minimum wage that whole time.

Other examples are the class action against Domino’s franchises that have attempted to pay workers under substandard SDA agreements without approval by the FWC. Or taking the biggest McDonald’s franchise in the southern hemisphere to court for denying workers toilet breaks and water and their paid 10-minute breaks (hopefully the zoomers won’t take up smoking or vaping or whatever like I did!).

Obviously these campaigns are not the direct result of rank-and-file organising, but the wins are phenomenal, and only possible because someone decided to take a stand against the SDA, who created and fostered these conditions.

  1. Unlike the SDA, RAFFWU takes a strong stance on social issues. You were yourself the first leader of an Australian trade union who is a trans woman. What has RAFFWU practically done when it comes to defending LGBTQIA+ rights, and are there any lessons there for the labour movement as a whole?

I’d like to push back on that question, the SDA does take a strong stance on social issues, and it’s a misogynistic, queerphobic, theocratic and Christian-supremacist stance. They’ve been forced to shut up for the past couple of years, but the rationale remains the same. Check out which parliamentarians came out of the SDA and check their influence on the ALP.

As far as how we enact our stances? RAFFWU is possibly the first union in so-called Australia to make paid transition leave a bargaining claim. We’ve got transphobic supervisors sacked from workplaces. We’ve run campaigns about sexual harassment in McDonald’s and JB-HiFi. We’ve demanded unlimited leave for family and domestic violence. We reject discriminatory parental leave policies which see fathers and queer parents locked out of sharing reproductive labour. We’ve established autonomous caucuses for queer workers and women to direct the union (full disclosure: I’ve just been offered a job facilitating and expanding these caucuses). We show up for International Working Women’s Day to keep transphobes and sex-worker-exclusionists confined to the marginal position they barely deserve. We bring workers out in support of the Kurdish struggle for autonomy in Rojava. We’ve shown up to defend sacred land from Djab Wurrung women’s country to Deebing Creek. We get out there for Invasion Day. And we do these things because they are working class issues. Touch One Touch All.

Insofar as lessons go, I can speak to RAFFWU’s strong emphasis on queer rights and queer unionism. When I first started meeting with my fellow RAFFWU activists from other shops it turned out we were all queers, and mostly women. And that’s because we’re the people who build the backbone of these industries. And because too often these are the only jobs that we can get, whether due to reproductive injustice or queerphobia and discrimination. And we’re not the only feminised/queer industry out there. Unions need to go and have a look at what their industries look like, because the movement has fallen prey to a weird version of identity politics in many cases. White blokes in utes and hi-vis is not where the action is at anymore, but that’s a lot of people’s only idea of what the working class is.

The lockdown here in so-called Melbourne shows that there are only maybe five or six jobs that matter: nurses, couriers, wharfies, truckers, chefs and shelf stackers. Everyone else can take a year off and the world keeps turning. Some of the people with the most industrial power at the moment are migrants, women and queers. The union movement needs to come to terms with that, drop the white-bloke identity stuff and get real. And I don’t mean “this is what a unionist looks like” posters.

  1. What kind of relationship does RAFFWU have to the other trade unions? Has the organisation been welcomed or sidelined by the existing trade unions since its foundation in 2016?

When we first got started we had some amazing support from the ETU, who weren’t affiliated with the ALP at the time (read into that what you will). Outside of that we’ve had brilliant support from the rank-and-file wherever we go, and so long as the union brass is at arm’s length from the parliament then other unions are happy to get behind us. The May 1 Movement in Warrang (so-called Sydney) is a good example.

  1. Among the organisations RAFFWU has collaborated with are the various Anti-Poverty Networks around Australia. What can RAFFWU and other unions do to assist the struggles of the unemployed, underemployed, and those living in poverty?

The way I see it unemployment is a major component of the precarity that characterises the industrial landscape right now. The fact that the coronavirus supplement was perceived as such a threat to employers demonstrates that our wages are intimately tied to the state’s administration of poverty. This should be core, the idea of the reserve army of labour is nothing new.

RAFFWU, and other unions, need to get behind campaigns to raise the rate and end the scam that is the JobActive scheme. For retail in particular, outfits like the salvos use forced labour (work-for-the-dole) in places where they could be actually giving people paid employment. We should also be putting effort into mutual aid schemes, like the ACP’s CUDL programmes for example. If we can defang the threats of homelessness and destitution we can start to destabilise the idea of work’s necessity. At some point automation and productivity gains are supposed to make life easier right? The 30-hour workweek is not even on the map it seems, because we’re all so desperate for whatever we can get.

  1. What are your views on current ACTU leader Sally McManus? Do you think she has offered any alternative to past ACTU leaders and policy in recent years, or does she represent more of the same?

I ran into Sally in the airport once, I was wearing my RAFFWU hoodie, she kinda gave me a glare and kept walking. I’m not a fan. For all the bluster at the start about breaking unjust laws I haven’t seen anything change. The pandemic gave us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take action – even protected action, under WorkSafe legislation – the opportunity to demonstrate some industrial muscle. We could have seen workers walking off on safety grounds, keeping communities safe from transmission. It was no secret that the place the virus spreads is work. The union movement could have shown their relevance, shown some leadership. Instead we had McManus palling around with Christian Porter to subsidise bosses’ wage bills. They dressed it up as saving jobs, but I’m not sure that played out, they’re cutting the subsidy now and sackings are soaring. We could have had a play at an actual functional welfare state.

But ultimately that kind of mass action is unlikely because the culture isn’t there. The union establishment doesn’t seem to care about class consciousness or militancy anymore, it’s just superannuation funds setting out to regulate the price of labour on behalf of their capitalist mates. I see McManus as part of that trajectory.

  1. How would you describe your own politics, and do you have any thoughts as to the best way forward for left-wing forces and the wider labour and progressive social movements?

I’m an anarcha-communist, perhaps not the best read leftist in the world, but I like to think I take after a lot of Kropotkin’s ideas. I’m down with syndicalism as far as workplace organising goes, but I think the establishment of communism can’t rest solely in the hands of able-bodied “productive” workers. Social ecology, democratic confederalism, that has a lot going for it, but I’ve only read Bookchin’s earlier stuff so I’m not confident in using that to describe myself.

I reckon the massive unrest we’ve seen in places like the so-called United States in 2020 could have gone a lot further if the labour movement had been in a position to strike on a mass scale. The best way forward? Christ help me. I don’t think we have the time on the clock to build the movement we need, but I think we do have to be on the lookout for the next insurrection. Who could have known that George Floyd would be the big one in 2020? Who could have picked that bus fares would have kicked off the uprising in Chile? A fuel tax started the Gilet Jaunes?! All of these movements have benefitted massively from the robustness that decentralised anarchist organising can facilitate in the face of modern militarised policing. The individualist anarchists drive me wild with some of the more deontological stuff, I’ll never be that pure I suppose, but they sure know how to handle the pigs and their chemical weapons. That mode of organising being practiced, being just picked up as the default way to do street-based actions, that’s mighty important. We don’t have that on this continent. Not by a long stretch.

The ability for people to take action in the 2020 uprisings was due in large part to mass-unemployment; i.e. more free time. The union movement can make that real too, if we picked up the old ideas of the 4-day week and things like that. If we fought to make the welfare state reliable, if we prioritised anti-poverty work. I dunno, a girl can dream.

Essential Workers: Essentially Expendable?

Image via GETTY/gpointstudio.

Originally published by the Health Sector Workers Network of Aotearoa on hswn.org.nz.

Also reprinted in the Pandemic issue of Fightback Magazine. Subscribe here.

Leading into the rāhui/lockdown in Aotearoa on the 25 March 2020, The Health Sector Workers Network of Aotearoa (HSWN) asked essential service workers about the issues they were facing. Receiving 134 responses in the final 10 days of March. They paint a consistent picture of stress and anxiety, safety concerns not being heard, fear of contracting Covid-19 or infecting loved ones and colleagues. The responses strongly called for immediate lockdown, adequate PPE and crucial financial support at a time when these essential measures were still being debated by government leaders. 

Due to the efforts of essential workers and the solidarity by the wider public in staying at home, Aotearoa has been able to relax the strictest social distancing and avoid the catastrophe faced in many other countries. However, the issues that essential workers identified are not new ones. Short-staffing, unsafe workplaces, low pay, work-related distress and frontline workers being excluded from decision-making are all long term problems that Covid-19 brought to the surface. The fact that workers doing the mahi that society depends on are treated as if their own well-being is expendable cannot continue.

HSWN members are essential workers too and we tautoko these responses. The delay in getting our survey out is testament to the high emotions, stress and long hours we experienced working on the Covid-19 frontline. Thank you to all the essential workers who answered our survey. See below the unedited responses to the following questions: 

 1) Where do you work and what is your role/area of essential work (paid on unpaid)?

 2) How is Covid-19 affecting your personal life and/or work as an essential service worker? (e.g. health and safety concerns, management response, mental health, financial concerns etc).

 3) What, in your opinion as a frontline worker, needs to be done? (e.g. community or official responses).

 LMC midwife, working the community, Canterbury

  • NO PPE!! WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PPE! Please help us. I have a limited volume of hand sanitiser, disinfectant and gloves. No masks, no gowns, no glasses, only if a confirmed case of covid-19. Don’t feel safe. Worried about passing illness to my family or pregnant women. Worried I won’t be able to continue working and there are not enough midwives to care for my clients. Why do bank staff have PPE but I don’t???
  • I need PPE. I need clear guidelines from the ministry of health and NZCOM. We have been told to use ‘clinical judgement’ when choosing who to see face to face. Lots of different interpretations of this.
  •  Grocery worker, New World, Wellington
  • Bosses have pushed for maximum overtime from staff, while taking very few precautions and offering nothing in return. Social distancing + ban on indoor gatherings is totally ignored. No protection at all for the staff, aside from disposable gloves, but it is not enforced strongly enough
  • Provide food boxes to those struggling with bills and isolation. Provide hand sanitiser + gloves to customers, Strict limit on entry into store, strictly limit distance between customers + staff. Offer hazard pay/bonuses to staff who continue to work.
  •  Registered Nurse, Waikato DHB
  • I feel our hospital is totally unprepared. Managers from women’s health were excluded from planning meetings due to the area being low risk. Adequate precautions not being taken and staff put at risk due to responses.
  • Close schools and stop lying to people about our policy being based on best scientific evidence and the Singapore/Taiwan response. Taiwan closed schools for extended breaks and delivered 81000 gallons of sanitiser to educational facilities, millions of masks, 25000 forehead thermometers, and has 95% of parents notifying schools of their children’s temperature every school morning prior to arriving.
  •  Freezing Works worker, Taranaki
  • We work with no distance restrictionswe are in close contact everyday, on dayshift at one time there may be 500 employees, on night shift 300 employees
  • Be provided with face masks.  Regular testing of all employees for Coronavirus.
  • Checkout operator
  • Concerned that customers are not staying away when they are unwell, I have an at risk mother who is on her own and if I get sick I can’t help her. We are understaffed most days and now have team members who refuse to serve customers which doubles the level of stress for the rest of us.
  • Clear direction to businesses on what qualifies as pre existing medical conditions and for my company to make a decision on how to keep stores safe for us. At the moment they seem to be more interested in profit and being seen to be doing the right thing
  •  Elderly support worker for Vision West
  • Personally accessing food and using public facilities like the local library. As a service I am dealing with aggressive N.O.K [next of kin] that are scared.
  • I think my employer needs to be timely with their PPE plan and also clients that do not have essential care should be put on hold. Also to minimise risk small teams of 6 need to only see 8- 10 clients. Primary care practice nurse
  • Work has been hectic since Monday. We have been one of the testing stations and our normal workload has been overrun by covid-19 enquiries from both pts and other health services. This has taken a major toll on all our staff.
  • Separate covid-19 clinics keeping potential risk away from our genuinely sick pts who need to be seen. Perhaps we could shut down any non-essential parts of our service and spare staff for the covid 19 centres.
  •  Registered Nurse, ICU
  •  I just got exposed to a covid positive co worker (doctor) who worked 4 days ago.
  •  Provide PPEs, strict social distancing policies. 
  •  New World grocery worker
  • My manager tried to force me to come into work even though I was sick. Not only a violation of my contract, but I’m sure that’s illegal at the moment
  •  Managers to respect the right to sick leave
  •  Petrol Station worker
  • Anxiety level increased
  • More health measures in place to serve customers 
  •  Clinical Specialty Nurse, CMDHB
  • My husband and I work in the same unit. If one is exposed then other will be affected as well. This will have financial burden on both of us as both need to isolate. Personal experience: after husband got flu like symptoms, I was still allowed to work as I had no symptoms. Husband was to isolate until results were up. Difficulty in getting healthline to answer phone calls. GPs are busy. Different advice from management and GPs. A lot of mental exhaustion felt during this period. Being in a leadership role I have to ensure that all my staff is prepared and able to deal with acute demands as well as COVID-19 patients. ICU/HDU trying to save beds for COVID-19 patients therefore other acute cases needing 1:1  deferred or kept at our unit until further notice. Our unit is not a ward therefore patients staying longer than 2 hours causes backlog of other cases needing space. Lack of staff due to specialty cares.
  • More funds for APPROPRIATE diagnosis. Husband had to get tested twice as first ones came up negative and due to busy GP clinic swabs got mixed up/too many people with flu-like symptoms. Standardized gold standard diagnosis. 
  •  Medical Centre receptionist/admin
  • Worried re being exposed and potentially taking home to family. Have had pneumonia previously.
  • Better safety from sick people (which we are trying to fast track at my work) supermarkets etc are very exposed all the time with no preventative measures
  •  Support worker for IDEA Services
  • Health and safety, infection control, not enough protective equipment is being supplied, no masks whatsoever, extra basic stuff like wipes sprays etc is having to come out if the normal provision money for housekeeping etc etc.
  • More protection for workers.
  •  Pizza delivery driver
  • Safety concerns especially if people don’t let us know beforehand on their orders if they are sick
  • All persons ordering anything MUST let us know if they are sick. 
  •  Hospital Admin, Dundedin
  • Would prefer to work from home, but not possible as there is no IT support available.
  •  Admin and Clerical staff in the hospital need to be kept advised about the situation in the hospital, just as doctors and nurses are!! 
  • Registered nurse youth health, West Auckland
  • Increased social distancing, considering decreasing appointments to essential only, potential shift forced by DHB to turn our clinic into a testing area which will greatly impact our current essential services.
  • Increased support on Primary Health Care side of management and containment, including paying RNs more, and providing proper funding for or directly providing essential PPE supplies.Registered Nurse, Nelson Hospital
  • Safety of family and friends, if I’m infected at work, will managers (also health professionals) be available to work on the wards? Will we have PPE? If not what is recommended by health and safety?
  • Managers need to involve staff, who will be front line in what the plan is, clear direction

Security, Southern District Health Board

  • Am very concerned for my health at work, no protection been given so far! Also very disappointed testing is not wide spread! How do we know it’s not already community spread if the government puts protocols in place to NOT TEST people who have all the symptoms? How do we not know that someone who has all the symptoms, has tried to get themselves tested but can not! How do we know they didn’t catch it from the person coughing in front of them at the supermarket! So pissed at our government right now! Too little, too late!
  • Ease of mind! Test people for crying out loud! Lock the country down like in China! You know in China they put a metal bar across the entrances to houses where people were infected! We are doing bugger all! No safety measures at supermarkets, no protection at work! 
  •  Registered Nurse, Ōpōtiki
  • Working 6-7 days a week. Partner in the higher risk category (male, diabetic on ACE inhibitor), he has had to close his business as he works in events and they are all cancelled/postponed.
  • Ensure sufficient PPE, encourage additional staff to work if possible to ensure more normal hours are being kept, otherwise working 7 days a week for a long time will end up with more staff off sickCheckout operator, New World, Thorndon
  • Putting my life at risk to serve others, not being able to stay 2 meters away from other people and not much precautions in place for staff. Uni courses are going online now.
  • More health and safety precautions for staffHome support worker for the elderly and people with disabilities
  • My agency has not provided PPE for some years. Now we can’t get any ourselves. Management won’t answer any questions about this – clients are cancelling care – less hours for us – as we move from house to house we fear transmitting the virus; however management have said we are no more at risk than any flu season. All our clients are extra vulnerable – we have five days a year sick leave and are expected to use it, and then apply for annual leave. There is no talk of special leave. – we already work erratic hours with cancelled cares and changes in guaranteed hours being a problem – Many of us are elderly ourselves or have respiratory problems. When on Friday Geneva told its workers over 70 and immunocompromised workers they couldn’t work, that meant many workers downed tools – some workers are leaving their jobs because their own health is poor. They are worried about getting infected. – management from my agency seems to treat the situation as business as usual. We’re just asked to watch the government website. We still get texts every day asking us to do jobs – there is nothing communicated about the free flu vaccine.
  • Clarity of communication. If they don’t know, tell us. Acknowledging our value as care workers. 

 Māori midwife in the community, Manawatū 

  • I am an asthmatic so is my son. Likewise my brother and my mother who is 67. I have made the choice to keep my son home. I can no longer support wāhine hapū to birth. I am lucky my husband can still work and I have another form of income at the moment.
  • There needs to be an action plan set for kaimahi Māori to make sure we as frontline staff are looked after in a culturally responsive way, as well as the whanau we support.

Security officer at supermarket

  • Scared, feeling helpless. Accepting probably going to get sick
  • Free public transport and other benefits for low wage essential workers.

Radiology, Mid Central Health

  • Have to work, shared child care, solo Mum. Who looks after my kids when I have to work? Or do I not work and not get paid?
  • Being told we don’t have enough protective gear at the hospital is very worrying. Produce more hand sanitizer, people are worried because it ran out.
  •  Caregiver for mother and uncle, one with dementia one with lung cancer
  • I am concerned I may carry virus to them as I’m their only contact to outside world at the moment. I’m the only one to do their shopping, cooking and personal cares. Very worried.
  • Level 4 needs to be put in place

 Forensic psychiatry, Mason Clinic

  • Rest of family at home. Onus on me not to bring the virus home-or take it to work!
  • A robust  barrier in place both at home and at work, a sort of firewall each end. Simple, but consistent. I will carry my ID, to prove that I am a health worker, and legitimately out of my house. Public information needs to be everywhere. Clear and simple guidelines, and repeated. People need to understand what is essential and what is useless. I saw quite a few people wearing disposable gloves at a supermarket yesterday, and touching everything with those gloved hands, as if they would somehow not transfer infection. I guess advice needs to be dynamic as we observe behaviours and see what the salient gaps in our defences are.

 Longline assistant, Countdown

  • Really concerned with the number of people rushing stores and no safety equipment provided for the workers.
  • People coming in and out of the store should be tested by their temperature and safety equipment such as gloves and masks should be provided to the workers.

Front Reception, DHB hospital

  • I’m not getting information given to me from my management or above as to what is happening so I am unable to put things in place and am not prepared for situations and questions I get asked at work by the public. I don’t know what’s happening with my job. This is affecting me getting to work as I depend on public transport. Health and safety hasn’t been covered efficiently for my area, the front of the hospital. This has been shown by an incident that occured due to the sanitiser and how everyone passed the buck to wanting to be accountable for it and wanting to prevent it, so I took it upon myself. Financially it’s beginning to cripple me as I was meant to be starting more hours this week because of financial struggle, now this will impact on me mentally and financially. Lack of team morale within the workplace has been a huge impact on me, no communication or compassion. No rallying together to care about one another at this time of need but this behaviour ripples from the top.
  • Supervisors and management’s needs to find out what is planned for our department for the next four weeks and let us know ASAP so we can plan our lives. There needs to be firm leaders in each team chosen my management to take the wheel during this time. Communication is the key. We also should be getting financial support for this especially people in my types of positions that have close proximity of contact with people in case we get ill as we are sacrificing our well being for the people or Aotearoa. 

 Nurse, ICU

  • Family separation. Young children and elderly parents so to protect them while being available to care for patients I have isolated myself from them. Although utilising PPE there are still concerns of transmission to healthcare workers as had happened in China & Italy. So while many are worried about being crowded at home many of us health carers are looking at a lonely time when we are at home. And frustrated I can’t help them with the everyday business and worry about the stress on my parents. And their worry for me. Once it gets busy then it’ll be very different as we will all have a hyper focus at work and we all anticipate working a lot of extras. Getting tired and needing to maximise our own immunity too is a concern.
  • Nutritional Meals/drinks supplied and perhaps accommodation for some….. not everyone can isolate as easily from loved ones as others can. Maybe some simple immune supplemental support for staff. And emotional support early to aid staff resilience.Maybe DHB only shopping times at supermarkets…to reduce public interaction but also free up supplies for essential workers. And supermarkets need to count customers and limit numbers of people going in and out of the stores. Lock down to limit spread of disease is important and we all need to adhere to it. 

 LMC Midwife

  • Isolated at home as my husband is immunocompromised and I have an underlying health condition as well. This means I have to pay a backup midwife out of my own pocket, to cover my caseload. Not sure how we are going to manage financially. Also have concerns about lack of PPE provisions for midwives working closely with people, particularly as there is no other profession that is at higher risk of exposure to body fluids. 

 District Nurse

  • Afraid of bringing the virus home to loved ones.
  • Provide health care workers who are working during a community outbreak with paid accommodation to help to contain the spread. There are many nurses out there for who it is impossible to isolate from family members within one household. 

 LMC Midwife

  • I’m concerned about lack of guidance from the MOH and NZCOM.. I’m worried for my health and risk of exposure. I’m currently unable to access any PPE or cleaning/disinfectant supplies.
  • More guidance, more support, more ppe and disinfectant supplies.

 Public transport bus driver

  • Financial concerns, health & safety concerns, implications of social distancing on single households
  • More emphasis on workplace cleaning for non-public areas; transfers of covid in car surfaces 

Self employed midwife

  • Expected to carry on seeing women with currently limited guidance and NP provision so far of PPE. 
  • Urgent provision of PPE and no expectations of us to work without them. And for midwives appreciate pay provision. It is shocking what we are expected to do for little pay and no pay 

 LMC Midwife, West Community

  • Very stressed. Have been given no PPE equipment, no guidance from the midwifery council or MOH and expected to still see women with no safety or information. Huge health and safety concerns, this has been poorly managed especially since it was obvious this would happen. Very worried about money. Rent should stop.
  • Rent and mortgage and bills need to be stopped. A ban on more than 2 products in supermarkets should have been implemented earlier. Should have been better control on stockpiling infection control equipment. The airport should have done better control and screening. We need answers from the MOH, we need PPE equipment and to not have accountability if something goes wrong because we weren’t allowed to see our patients. We need direction.

 Paramedic, Christchurch

  • Anxiety increased and a more stressful workload.
  • Promises for the future (both short and long term), practical and demonstrative assurances.

Ward clerk, Surgical wards

  • Mental health. Clinical depression diagnosed. No support groups – shut down at mo. Being at hospital I’m overly anxious, depressed and worried.Would rather be home but I can’t – I’m not 70 plus, pregnant etc. Clinical depression. Is not deemed unsafe.
  • Transparency. For staff at home and rostered days off, no work emails coming to home emails. So very much in the dark. 

Frontline Mental Health Crisis Respite 

  • My staff over half team at my site dropped off because of fear of taking COVID19 home. We that are working skeleton think we should be Compensated above our normal rate. The flak I’m getting from home because a partner has a Respiratory disease has caused our home stress. No assurances from our NGO or Capital Coast Health that they will give us Priority healthcare in the event of CV19. No danger money no promised time down when the Pandemic for all who are frontline Health on ordinary wages. Thanks guys.
  • All people before contact with Health workers, including my site in Mental Health Crisis respite, tested for Covid 19 before working with them. DHB to pick up.our Client Bedding done at Hospital to stop spread of germs. we only have a small home brand 5kg machine doesn’t ever seem up to standard yet they’re willing to risk clients beds not sanitized properly.

Practice Nurse

  • Very very upset today as both myself and husband who is working at another hospital in another region 6 hrs away, are front line medical workers. Kids very scared that we are both going to die! Management have been excellent in getting PPE, but I feel it’s been largely up to us if we wear it when dealing with the general public. Feeling very very torn between my children and my duty to my patients, very very stressful. Extremely worried about bringing virus home to my children.
  • Need to make general Public aware of how serious this Covid 19 is and how deadly it is! Proper policing of “lockdown” NO ONE out socialising ! Front line workers need to be protected from public who might see their needs as more important and get aggressive and abusive (this happens now let alone when there is this heightened stress)  There needs to be Adequate alternative services for counselling/mental health services e.g. phone consult.  this has finished just No Leave at this time. We are stressed.  It means washing clothing daily, no scrubs available and no booties or head covers either, so the power Bill’s at work skyrocket from showering before work and after. We Want to be compensated with higher rates of pay like Hospitals pay – time and half double time and unlimited sick leave during the pandemic.

No Concessions: Australian tertiary education workers fight back

By Ani White, NTEU member and casual tutor.

In Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), my union, a rank and file rebellion is challenging officials’ defeatist response to the COVID-19 crisis. This piece will begin by outlining the background situation, before outlining the No Concessions campaign led by members.

Background
Many university workers are not covered by JobKeeper, a payment for businesses significantly affected by COVID-19. The NTEU has therefore campaigned for JobKeeper, and full Federal funding. Over this period casuals have been sacked en masse, including 200 staff at my university RMIT. Universities are also seeking to implement a pay freeze, and to restructure Enterprise Bargaining Agreements.

However, the NTEU National Executive has been drawn into a managerial logic of helping balance the books, and a defeatist view of the crisis. A common idea, expressed both by the National Executive and those academics who support them, is that a sacrifice in pay is needed to protect job security. There is a liberal notion here of solidarity as self-sacrifice by privileged academics, rather than solidarity as a rising tide lifting all ships. Additionally, as highlighted by Kaye Broadbent in the Campus Morning Mail:

[N]ot everyone in the university sector is a highly paid academic. Universities are kept afloat by thousands of casual academics, fixed term research academics and casual and contract professional staff.

For the insecurely employed and low paid staff employed in universities reducing pay by any amount will create hardship – our rent and bills still need to be paid. For many university workers, their income is the only one in the household – especially since the crisis hit. And there’s no guarantee even with a pay cut that one more person will keep their job as a result.

Although negotiations are being conducted in secret, union militants have released information about the National Executive’s plans. According to an open letter by Katie Wood, a unionist at University of Melbourne:

On April 3, the National Executive of the NTEU unanimously approved a framework of negotiations that included the possibility of “general reductions in Agreement rates”. NTEU members were unaware of this decision until a Guardian article, published on April 17. Despite various denials from senior leadership that a reduction in rates is under discussion, a survey circulated in some branches asks members if they would be willing to take a reduction in hourly rates of up to 10%”

A document prepared for [the 25th of April’s] briefing of the NTEU National Council… states that the aim of the [National Executive] strategy is to secure “a strong Union role in managing the introduction of any cost saving measures” (emphasis mine).

In a more recent article for Red Flag, after the unconstitutional National Council meeting of April 25th, Wood reported the following:

This week, a hastily called national council “briefing” was rebadged as a “meeting of national councillors” to ram through a vote backing the national executive’s strategy of collaborating with management. The meeting approved the national executive’s motion by a vote of 89 to 13. That’s been touted as a vote of confidence in the strategy, but it has no standing in the union’s official rules – there was no procedure to propose motions beforehand, amendments were explicitly ruled out and procedural motions were repeatedly ignored.

Fightback
The No Concessions campaign began with a motion censuring the National Executive, passed on April 12th at a University of Sydney members’ meeting, by 117 votes to 2. Supporting motions have been passed at members’ meetings across the country. Over 800 members, including myself, signed a statement calling for no concessions by the NTEU National Executive.

Union meetings on Zoom have attracted hundreds of members. However, union officials often run these more like one-way seminars than democratic meetings. The managerial tone became apparent to me personally at a snap ‘rally’ of the Victorian NTEU, just before the No Concessions campaign kicked off: officials claimed that the state government was sympathetic, and members had no opportunity to speak. Members have used the chat function to challenge the official line, alongside establishing independent channels for communication between rank and file members.

After motions and statements being passed in various places, core activists are itching to translate this into action. Strikes are illegal outside of collective bargaining, with a risk of significant fines. However, refusal of unpaid work is under discussion as an industrial tactic. Alongside enforcing the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, this would double as a statement of solidarity with casuals who should be performing that work – a vastly preferable tactic to trading wage freezes for job security.

This week RMIT Casuals, my own section, passed a motion calling on staff to refuse unpaid work. Members are also campaigning for a National Day of Action on the 21st of May.

Freelancing isn’t free: precarity and self-organization in the “gig economy”

Agitprop from the Freelancer’s Union (USA)

by DAPHNE LAWLESS. From the new issue of FIGHTBACK magazine, “Trade Unions for the 21st Century”. To order a print copy for $NZ10 + postage, or to subscribe in electronic or print format, see here.

Under capitalism, we’re all supposed to dream of being “the boss” – as opposed to an exploited worker obeying the bosses’ orders. Obviously we can’t all be bosses – who would we order around and exploit? – but the next best thing, in modern “neoliberal” capitalism, is to be your own boss. Hence the appeal of those scam ads for “EARN BIG MONEY AT HOME”, which turns out to be selling cosmetics or bogus diet aids to your friends.

Capitalism is defined by the division between those who own capital – the tools, machines and resources – and those who have to work for a living for the owners of capital. “Self-employed” people are generally seen as being part of a “middle-class” between these two layers. In essence, they own just enough capital to make it possible to employ and exploit the labour of only one worker – themselves. The willingness of a self-employed person to “exploit their own labour” is one reason why small contractors are often more productive than waged or salaried workers – at a proportionate cost to their own health and personal lives.

The idea of self-employed people (often known as “freelancers”, especially when they are writers or other creative workers) as middle-class is an old-fashioned one. Increasingly, neoliberalism has made the idea of a full-time job, especially one “for life”, a thing of the past. Buzzwords like “downsizing” and “labour market flexibility” just boil down to more power for bosses to hire and fire, to drive down wages and conditions. In this situation, there is a whole new class of freelancers who can just be seen as casualised workers who own their own tools.

Freedom is a two-edged sword

A freelancer is only paid for the job. There is no guarantee of future employment, no sick leave and no holiday pay. In these situations, freelancing can even be seen as a form of “disguised unemployment”. Often, having several “clients” rather than a single employer paying you offers no escape from exploitation and mismanagement; the website clientsfromhell.com provides a regular supply of hilarious, depressing and true stories of freelancers suffering at the hands of bigoted, fraudulent, miserly, or simply ignorant employers. Freelance journalist Jacob Silverman complains:

Every generation has its comeuppance. Ours lies in the vast field of disappointment that you land in after you run the gauntlet of privatized education, unpaid internships, and other markers of the prestige economy. There you find that writing ability or general intelligence mean nothing if you don’t have the right connections, or the ability to flatter those in authority, or a father who once held the same job. Those who have mastered these forms of soft power succeed while the rest learn the meaning of “precariat” and debate joining the Democratic Socialists of America.[1]

However, there is another side of the story. Neoliberal ideology talks about the “freedom” of the freelance, be-your-own-boss lifestyle. And it really is freedom, of a sort. A freelance worker sets their own hours of work; they can often work from home, which gives opportunities to parents of small families.

Crucially, a freelance worker also has control over the conditions of their work – when your client/boss is only paying you for what you produce, you can produce it in any way you see fit, without a manager hovering over you. And a freelancer can also reject any job or any client which they consider repugnant, for whatever reason – if they can afford to. (The present author once rejected an opportunity to index the biography of a senior New Zealand politician – not for political reasons, but because the pay they were offering for it was negligible!)

But this is the same freedom that a stray cat has – the freedom to starve. The situation is even more dire in the United States, where the only affordable medical care for many workers is employer-provided health insurance. Being excluded from the “full-time” job market might mean a death sentence if you have needs which can’t be covered out of your own resources.

The author of this article became a freelancer when her employer went out of business; she simply purchased her work computer and kept doing the same job, often for the same international clients. I can testify to both the aspects of the equation above. The precarity and anxiety of sometimes not knowing where your next work (and pay) is coming from contrasts with other times when there is far too much work coming on tight deadlines and you have to choose between giving up a job and giving up your health. But all this is balanced by being able to work how I want, from where I want, producing work of which I can feel proud (that is, if I’m paid adequately to do so.) I can even just ditch work for the day to look after my preschool child, when necessary and deadlines permitting.

The freelance job-advertising website Upwork reports that

nearly half (46%) of Generation Z [those born after 1997] workers are freelancers, a number that is only projected to grow in the next five years …not only are more Gen Zers freelancing, but 73% are doing so by choice rather than necessity, while only 66% of Baby Boomers and 64% of Millennials can say the same, according to the report.[2]

Similarly the British Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed reports that in the UK:

the number of female freelancers has grown by 55% since 2008. New mothers choosing to take up freelance work rather than return to full-time office employment post-baby has shot up by 79%. Comparatively, the number of men freelancing has grown by 36% in the same time frame.[3]

This new form of employment relationship is thus dominated by younger people and by women, two of the most vulnerable sections of the working class. In these situations, the kneejerk reaction of the traditional workers’ movement that freelancing is just a way for employers to drive wages down, and should be discouraged or even abolished, looks as out as touch as those who say the same things about migrant workers. Many of us choose to freelance, and prefer the conditions of work to clocking in every day under a manager’s supervision. What we don’t like is the insecurity attached to it.

Ideology and organization

The point now should be not whether freelance work should exist, but how the position of freelance workers can be improved. And in the Marxist tradition, the answer to that has always been “the self-organization of the workers themselves”. But the current labour union movement has enough trouble organizing workers on small, geographically dispersed sites. How can we possibly organize workers who work from home, online, with a different “boss” every week or maybe even multiple bosses on the same day?

Another major problem with organizing freelancers is the strong influence of ruling-class ideas that freelancers should see themselves as “entrepreneurs” rather than workers – even when living in precarity at the whim of millionaire clients. According to Tom Cassauwers writing for Equal Times website:

Freelancers often see themselves as free-wheeling entrepreneurs, with little need for collective power or forming alliances with employees. On the other hand, some unions have a history of mistrusting freelancers, seeing them as a way for employers to undermine working conditions.

Freelancer Sarah Grey adds that corporate lobbyists invest a lot in trying to get freelancers to see law changes and union organization which would actually benefit them as a threat to their “freedom”:

Aligning freelancers ideologically with the goals of the petit-bourgeoisie (which some Marxists also do…), even though most have far more in common with the working class, erects yet another barrier to prevent them from organizing and demanding rights as workers.[4]

This tactic was used to gruesome effect by Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers in the dispute around the filming of the Hobbit films in New Zealand in 2010. When Actors’ Equity demanded a union contract, a slick PR operation by the employers whipped up fear that this would lead to the major studios abandoning film-making in New Zealand altogether. This led to film workers actually demonstrating in favour of law changes which deprived them of rights (one memorable sign said “EXPLOIT ME, PETER!”) and union spokesperson Robyn Malcolm faced vicious harassment.[5]

Another crucial question is how to distinguish between actual freelance workers and “fake freelancers” – workers who are actually working in traditional jobs but have been pushed into declaring themselves to be freelance or “independent contractors” so that their employers can deprive them of rights. The most familiar example of this in Aotearoa is workers at Chorus who maintain our telecommunications infrastructure.[6] Traditional unions or NGOs have to be careful to defend the rights of actual freelancers while also defending the rights of full-time workers to have all their appropriate rights and conditions of labour.[7]

What kind of organization?

Freelancer organization is currently most advanced in the United States, precisely because of the issue of health insurance mentioned above. The Freelancers’ Union (https://www.freelancersunion.org/), founded in 2001 by former labour lawyer and union organizer Sara Horowitz, concentrates mostly on advocacy and getting good deals on health insurance from its members. Their biggest victory in advocacy came with New York City enacting a “Freelance Isn’t Free” law, which requires that all freelancers be paid within 30 days alongside other legal protections.[8]

However, the Freelancers’ Union is not actually a “union” in the way we would understand it, in that it does not engage in collective bargaining on behalf of its members. It is in fact more similar a non-profit organization which provides services and advocacy in return for membership fees; a “top-down” organization, rather than an expression of workers’ power. It works for freelancers “within the system” rather than trying to change that system.[9]

One major issue in the United States is that the labour laws left over from the Franklin Roosevelt “New Deal” era specifically exclude many categories of workers (originally to make the law acceptable to racist Southern agriculture bosses). Thus, many freelancers and other “gig economy” workers couldn’t join a union if they wanted to. This is where NGO advocacy organizations play an important role, like the Freelancers’ Union, or like the organizations who have lobbied for improved conditions for Uber and Lyft drivers – even organizing successful strikes in Los Angeles.[10]

That said, there are successful models of union organization among freelance industries – the most famous being unions in the entertainment industry (which existed before the US labour laws mentioned above). The US television industry was brought to a near-halt by the Writers’ Guild of America strike of 2007-8,[11] and the same union is currently taking legal action against talent agencies who they say are exploiting their monopoly position against writers.[12]

The entertainment industry is one of the economic pillars of the US economy and – in that country, at least, can’t be easily outsourced to more desperate overseas workers (the threat of which proved so effective in the defeat of the actors’ unions in New Zealand during the Hobbit dispute). So it’s perhaps not surprising that “old-style” union power still has a foothold there. But what models are available for those of us in less “trendy” freelance jobs – for example, writing or editing jobs, where there is continuous downward pressure on pay, deadlines, and the quality of work deemed acceptable?

One recent answer comes from a very venerable source – the anarcho-syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or “Wobblies”) have recently started organizing among freelance journalists. An article from a member-organizer tells a story which is very familiar to freelancers in other industries:

Many new to the industry are expected to work “for exposure” (that is, for free or unliveable rates); writers covering sensitive topics are forced to shoulder the burden of legal liability and harassment from angry subjects and readers; health insurance is either a clusterfuck to obtain or simply out of reach. All of these problems follow the same dynamic: because freelancers are individually outgunned by the publications that they rely on for their livelihoods, they are forced to work under extremely exploitative conditions…

[S]taffers’ unions are only useful insofar as there are staffers; after being sold, [the website] Mic was relaunched without staffers — relying almost entirely on freelancers instead. If freelancers are not to be made de facto scabs, then they must be organized. And because staffers’ unions, bound by red tape and budgets, are not organizing freelancers, freelancers must organize themselves.[13]

The article goes on to discuss the question raised above, how to “map the workplace” (create ties between freelancers who might never meet each other in person) through one-on-one contacts through existing personal and professional networks. Crucially, the Wobbly organizers have worked on an international basis – just as feasible as local and national organizing when the community is globalised through the Internet – and has made no distinctions between print journalists, website journalists or bloggers. They have already announced a small victory: a Twitter campaign forcing the website Vox to rescind their rule prohibiting freelance writers from publicly discussing how much Vox pays them.

Other, more “traditional” labour unions have also had victories. In the US, the National Writers Union won a major battle for back-pay for freelance journalists in 2018.[14] The Dutch trade union FNV, the German union ver.di and the British trade union Community have all made serious efforts to organize freelancers – the latter, similarly to the American NWU, aims to concentrate mainly on problems with late payments.[15]

Andrew Pakes of the British union Prospect toured New Zealand last year, giving talks on the question of organizing freelance workers. In a website article, he explains:

Our approach is based on the premise of empowering freelancers (“what can freelancers do together for themselves?”) and our organizing strategy, communications and services are designed around supporting that.

We help freelance workers to organize themselves and treat the union as a source of experience, advice and administrative assistance – one that helps to create a sense of identity and pools knowledge to tackle shared concerns. This combines the best of union organizing with new ways of working and extending our reach into growing gig areas, in the creative industries, communication and digital sectors. This approach is not without its challenges and adaptability is key.[16]

The question is clearly not whether organizing freelance workers is possible, because it is being done. The question of whether traditional unionism, the “Wobbly shop” or an NGO advocacy-and-service model is the most effective is one which can only be established by experience. But time is long since due for freelance workers and their allies in Aotearoa/New Zealand to start making experiments.

Sarah Grey gives an excellent final word:

freelancers can no longer be written off as aligning ideologically with the petit-bourgeoisie. Freelancers increasingly come from working-class backgrounds, work for low wages, and share the primary interests — and the precarity — of the wider working class. We are not a precari-bourgeoisie — we are the future of class struggle.

[1] https://newrepublic.com/article/153744/gig-economy

[2] https://www.techrepublic.com/article/growth-of-the-gig-economy-46-of-gen-z-workers-are-freelancers/

[3] https://www.ceotodaymagazine.com/2018/07/the-rise-of-the-freelancer/

[4] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/05/freelance-independent-contractor-union-precariat/

[5] See our predecessor organization’s article at https://fightback.org.nz/2010/10/25/workers-party-statement-on-the-hobbit-dispute/, complete with comments from anti-union members of the entertainment industry

[6] https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/110473768/action-widens-against-chorus-subcontractors-accused-of-migrant-exploitation

[7] https://www.equaltimes.org/unions-should-push-for-the-rights

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/07/for-freelancers-getting-stiffed-is-part-of-the-job-some-in-new-york-city-want-to-fix-it/

[9] A good account of the positive and negatives of the Freelancers’ Union is provided here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/10/freelancers-union/

[10] https://www.teenvogue.com/story/freelancers-want-to-join-unions-but-labor-laws-wont-let-them

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007%E2%80%9308_Writers_Guild_of_America_strike

[12] https://www.businessinsider.com/tv-writers-union-says-agents-are-violating-antitrust-law-2019-8/

[13] https://organizing.work/2019/08/a-year-of-organizing-freelance-journalists/

[14] https://www.equaltimes.org/unions-should-push-for-the-rights

[15] https://community-tu.org/who-we-help/freelancers-and-self-employed/

[16] http://unions21.org.uk/news/lessons-for-a-collective-voice-in-a-freelance-world

“Workers in the most vulnerable part of the economy, they’re brave”: Organisation of migrant farm workers in Australia and Aotearoa

we feed you nuw

By Ani White.

It’s an open secret that the conditions faced by migrant farm workers in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand are dire.

In Aotearoa, a study conducted by Sue Bradford for FIRST Union and the Union Network of Migrant Workers (UNEMIG), released on UNEMIG’s fifth anniversary in August 2017, found evidence of dire exploitation of Filipino migrants in the dairy farm industry. The study interviewed 27 Filipino workers, three local workers, and one dairy farm manager. Health and safety precautions were practically nonexistent:

One farm worker said he wasn’t given a helmet to ride around on a motorbike and another said that for two years, he was made to ride a bike that didn’t have lights or brakes.

Another respondent said he was not provided proper training or wet weather gear, and had to pay $700 from his own pocket to buy one.[1]

This abuse is not limited to Filipino dairy workers. More than half of the Bay of Plenty’s kiwifruit employers audited in 2017 did not meet basic employment standards, as highlighted by FIRST Union when it launched its new Kiwifruit Workers Alliance.[2] Ni-Vanuatu workers in Marlborough’s vineyard sector approached Stuff anonymously with reports of underpayment.[3] Migrant worker abuse in Aotearoa extends throughout many industries, as found in a 2016 study interviewing more than 100 migrant workers, the first independent evidence-based study of its kind.[4]

In Australia, a Four Corners study into migrant farm work uncovered similar shocking conditions. Workers were paid as little as $3.95 an hour, worked shifts as long as 22 hours, and reported performing sexual favours to extend their visas, among numerous other abuses.5 Moreover, law-abiding farmers were priced out of the market. This shows that the brutality of the industry is not simply a matter of individual bad farmers, but compulsions of capital that must be resisted collectively.

Fortunately, FIRST Union in Aotearoa and the National Union Workers (NUW) in Australia have both taken up the organisation of migrant farm workers.

Mandeep Singh Bela, an organiser for FIRST Union and the coordinator of UNEMIG, says that working in isolated environments and having a lack of access to information about their rights is a major factor in migrant workers’ abuse. “Being a migrant myself in this country since 2009, I worked in the kiwifruit industry, and I’ve been in a similar boat, where I was paid below minimum wage entitlements, I was exploited, didn’t know where to go for help.” Bela moved on to work at Pak N Save, where FIRST is active, and became active in the union. To address the isolation and lack of information for migrant workers, FIRST and UNEMIG have now released a Migrant Workers’ Rights Passport(MWRP), which contains information on employment rights for migrants, collective agreements, and legal and mental health support services. The booklet will act as a work guide and vital connection point for migrants so they can safely work in Aotearoa.

Tim Nelthorpe, a national organiser with Australia’s NUW farm organising team, explains that the NUW has been organising in the horticulture sector for three years (Nelthorpe adds that while FIRST has been organising in the sector for even less time, the NUW has been impressed with their work rapidly winning over “hearts and minds”). One major cue was when members of the NUW, previously employed by poultry suppliers, moved into horticulture and reported shocking conditions, asking the union to take this issue up.

“We’re a supply chain union so we’re the union for the warehouse,” Nelthorpe explains. “The missing part of the supply chain should be in our union, and our members want those workers to be paid properly.” Aotearoa’s FIRST Union is similarly a supply-chain union with many members in supermarkets and warehouses.

Organisation at multiple points in the supply chain allows the NUW to place pressure at one point, for results at another point. Members who were worker-shareholders at Coles and Woolworths were able to place shareholder pressure in support of farm workers. “When they mess with our farm workers they mess with our supermarket workers as well,” Nelthorpe adds.

Horticulture workers have also taken industrial action on a range of issues, often independently of the union. Nelthorpe explains how a recently recruited delegate was able to build a culture of strike actions around a health & safety issue: “Whenever those chemicals came in to be sprayed he walked into the middle of the packed shed and say ‘right: OUT!’ And the whole workforce would walk out. In a highly organised CFMEU [Australian construction worker’s union] site that’s probably not unusual, but in a new industry, it just shows you that it’s inherent in people, they just need a supportive structure and they can do the rest.”

Nelthorpe explains that the lawlessness of the industry can go both ways. “Think of it like the jungle. In the jungle where there’s no laws, people take industrial action, and employers take industrial action too, so employers will sack all workers and cash contractors in a day, the employers will call Immigration on their own workforce, but at the same time, workers in the most vulnerable part of the economy, the undocumented workers, they’re brave, they’ll walk off a job, they’ll do a go slow, they’ll rock up to their contractor’s house demanding money, because they have to.”

Through militant action, NUW members have won a number of victories. Firstly, the NUW managed to smash cash contracting in South-East Melbourne and Northern Adelaide. Workers on some sites have made an impressive leap from $12 an hour to $22 an hour. Delegate structures are consolidating. Nelthorpe says the NUW is on the cusp of winning casual over-time in the industry and is also focused on challenging piece rates.

Nelthorpe says there are three major factors that enable abuse in the horticulture industry. Firstly, the award system; while Australia has a system of industry awards setting minimum wages and conditions, horticulture has the worst award of any industry, for example not requiring overtime pay. Secondly and thirdly, the interlinked issues of cash contracting and insecure working visas. “Cash contractors in the most seasonal industries, say grapes, strawberries, asparagus, stone fruit citrus, they control the point of entry into the industry to the point that if you want to work in a lot of the sites you have to stay in the contractor’s house, you have to use the contractor’s transport, you have to use the contractor’s preferred unlicensed migration agent to get your visa made,” Nelthorpe explains. “That means that it’s very hard for people who feel bonded to break away from that without really taking serious risks.” In Aotearoa, the Regional Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme similarly keeps migrant workers insecure, along with other bonded working visas.

Nelthorpe is sharply critical of unionists who push a ‘local jobs for local workers’ line. Excluding migrants from the union movement is self-defeating, because “there’s 1.8 million temporary migrant workers in Australia, which is 10 percent of the workforce, and union density has gone through the floor.”

“Workers should be able to go where ever they want to go. Capital can flow so workers should be able to flow as well. And unions should be able to adapt to that and support any worker that wants to join a union.”

Crucially, standing for migrant worker rights allows unions to set minimum standards, rather than letting the abuse of a vulnerable workforce drive down conditions for all. “So there’s the self-interest element, but also these are the workers that are picking and packing the food that we eat. And every person has a responsibility to make sure people are treated with respect.”

Despite wages and conditions in the industry being dire by Australian standards, wages are still often better than in migrant workers’ origin countries. For that reason among others, wages matter, but aren’t the main issue driving organisation in the industry. “Respect is the deeper issue, and being able to have a voice at work.” explains Nelthorpe.

Organising in an industry with an international workforce also has distinct aspects. Organising must be multilingual, with materials in the first language of members, and a multilingual organising team. Members also bring the political concerns of their communities to the union.

Nelthorpe recalls a 2017 NUW mobilisation against genocide in Myanmar. “Our Rohingyan membership in Melbourne were looking to do something in solidarity with their community, and so they turned to the union cause they’ve got no-one else really, and we helped them organise a rally in Collins Street in the city, and to be honest it was the most powerful inspiring rally I’ve ever been to.”

“About 200 members of the community mobilised, you had NUW flags, the night before the rally we worked with the group at the Trades Hall studio, they made all their own banners, made their own blood-splattered or red paint splattered clothing, and it was just an outpouring of grief for the community. When you think about what a union can be, sometimes we get caught in this narrow wages and conditions prison, and we get caught in the workplace level, but a union’s much more than that, and for these workers, the union was the vehicle through which they could express their grief and anger at what’s happening to their people. That community will always love the union because of that experience, and when they’ve got nowhere else to turn, they turn to the union. So since that rally we’ve had a number of refugee rallies, at which members and organisers of the union have spoken, and they connect the struggle of the union with the struggle against Mandatory Detention, the struggle against a backward racist immigration system, there’s massive opportunities there to break the racial stereotypes, the racial language that’s used to denigrate refugees in this country.”

In Aotearoa, FIRST Union members and organisers also take action on international political issues. In 2007, current FIRST Union president Dennis Maga faced potential arrest in his home country of the Philippines for protesting against the president’s visit, a threat that was averted.[6] FIRST’s mobilisation against repression in the Philippines continues to this day,[7] alongside the more recent organisation of migrant farm workers.

FIRST in Aotearoa and NUW in Australia show that migrants’ issues are workers’ issues.

1http://www2.nzherald.co.nz/the-country/news/article.cfm?c_id=16&objectid=11907236
2https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/357040/exploitation-of-kiwifruit-workers-is-rife-union
3https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/90410800/nivanuatu-rse-workers-and-marlborough-vineyard-contractor-embroiled-in-contract-dispute
4https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11766210
5https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/four-corners-investigation-reveals-exploitation-and-slave-like-conditions-on-farms-supplying-aussie-supermarkets/news-story/e3264dc44240a65308c226c80e67bb7a
6http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0705/S00563.htm
7https://filipinosolidarity.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/auckland-philippines-solidarity-in-2017-a-retrospect/

Is Marxism just about factory workers?

This article is part of Fightback’s “What is Capitalism” series, to be collected in an upcoming magazine issue. To support our work, consider subscribing to our e-publication ($20 annually) or magazine ($60 annually). You can subscribe with PayPal or credit card here.

In short: no. Or, it shouldn’t be.

A Marxist analysis of capitalism highlights who owns the means of production: farms, factories and so on. Most people in capitalist society do not own factories. That includes the unemployed, white collar, blue collar, pink collar, public-sector workers, students, caregivers, most self-employed people,1 and peasants – although there aren’t many peasants around these days. Workers are those compelled to sell their labour to live, whether they currently do so or not.

Although most people share a common dispossession, we also have diverse experiences, and distinct social positions. Caregivers may do essential work, but it’s distinct in purpose and experience from factory work. Tithi Bhattarachaya outlines this relationship:

If workers’ labor produces all the wealth in society, who then produces the worker? Put another way: What kinds of processes enable the worker to arrive at the doors of her place of work every day so that she can produce the wealth of society? What role did breakfast play in her work-readiness? What about a good night’s sleep?2

These basic needs are often met or assisted by unpaid, or underpaid caregivers. Marxist feminists have focused on this work, often performed by women, terming it social reproduction. Caregiving work reproduces not just the person, but the whole social system (you can’t have capitalism without workers, workers without food, food without a cook – often cooking free of charge). While recent socio-economic shifts may have undermined the ‘traditional’ nuclear family, Time Use Surveys show that women still perform most unpaid work.

Various forms of wage labour, other than factory work, are also clearly necessary to capitalism. Sales, banking, translation, and various other jobs lubricate a complex social system. Capitalists would not pay workers if they were unnecessary. Public-sector workers maintain the state and social services, stabilising the social system (for better or worse).

Unemployed people are the most dispossessed, of course. Despite regular propaganda to the contrary, unemployment is a structural failing rather than a personal one. As a socialist friend of mine put it, did everyone just suddenly get lazier in the 1980s, when unemployment rose? In Alister Barry’s documentary In a Land of Plenty, Susan Snivelly, a member of the Reserve Bank Board of Directors during the crucial reform period of 1985-1992 states:

It was a manageable thing for the Reserve Bank to use unemployment as the way to get wages down. It was far easier than any other means of getting inflation down. So they used it.

Even though insiders admit that unemployment is a structural rather than personal matter, unemployed people face routine abuse and humiliation, from national television to WINZ offices. Auckland Action Against Poverty has blazed a trail in challenging this bullshit, supported financially by FIRST Union: the union movement as a whole must do more to connect the struggles of employed and unemployed workers.

Marx focuses on industrial workers not because they are somehow better than others, more heroic, or more oppressed. Rather, he focuses on industrial workers because they directly produce commodities, the fundamental basis of the profit system. Industrial workers are not the only people oppressed by capitalism, but they pump the heart of the machine. You couldn’t have finance without ore, sheepskin or steel; you could have these things without finance.

Direct disruption of industry interrupts capitalism in a way that other tactics do not – such as voting, or rallies at parliament. This is not to deny we should use other tactics, but to recognise their limitations. Collective, direct action can be powerful and liberating in a way that more symbolic, or isolated actions are not. If workers keep the heart of capitalism pumping, they can also stop the blood-flow. Classical Marxists therefore focus on the strike, the withdrawal of labour at the point of production.

Restructuring of the global economic system has also restructured these points of resistance. Now 10s of 1,000s of factory workers strike in China, whereas factories have largely retreated in relatively prosperous nations such as Australia and Aotearoa.

Yet global restructuring has also opened up new sites of struggle in the ‘deindustrialised’ nations. Although strikes are rare nowadays, and only around 10% of the private sector are unionised, workplace organisation is growing in unexpected areas. As the service sector has grown, it has also become increasingly militant, with fast food workers carrying out strike actions from Aotearoa to the USA. For decades union leaders saw fast food workers as impossible to organise.

In Aotearoa, most union members are now women,3 in contrast to the stereotype of the male breadwinner. The recent nurses’ struggle in Aotearoa, or the teachers’ strikes in the USA, both powerful struggles showing deep community roots, demonstrate a shift in the union movement towards feminised industries: care, service and public-sector work.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘logistics revolution’ – a move towards automated, rapid global circulation of goods – has opened up ‘chokepoints’ where circulation can be disrupted: “the containerization of bulk goods now allows a single dockworker to do what it took an army to accomplish in the past.”4 In automated ports, a small amount of people enable a large amount of goods to circulate. Ports remain strongly unionised, so blockades remain very disruptive.

Blockades may be led by workers, or by the wider community – but they are strengthened if community groups form links with unions. In the USA, blockades led by Occupy Oakland and the BDS movement have shut down ports, with the support of striking port workers. In Aotearoa, strikes against nuclear shipping played a role in winning the nuclear free policy. As these cases demonstrate, strikes need not be limited to the fight for better wages: they are also a tool in the wider transformation of society.

We cannot and should not return to the age of the Western male breadwinner. However, union and workplace organisation remains a key to broader liberation struggles. If you’re working, join your union! In the likely event your worksite is not unionised, you can find your union online:

  • Aotearoa: union.org.nz/find-your-union/

  • Australia: australianunions.org.au/affiliates

union

1Depending on the size and nature of their business – particularly whether they have employees.

2Tithi Bhattarachaya, Social Reproduction Theory

3Sue Ryall & Stephen Blumenfeld, Unions and Union Membership in New Zealand…, Victoria University of Wellington website https://www.victoria.ac.nz/som/clew/publications/new-zealand-union-membership-survey-report.pdf

4Charmaine Chua, Logistics, Capitalist Circulation, Chokepoints, The Disorder of Things

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2014/09/09/logistics-capitalist-circulation-chokepoints/

Migrants are welcome – Leftist xenophobia is not

refugees-migrants-welcome-here

By Daphne Lawless

When I was a young Alliance activist in Wellington in the 1990s, I knew Frank Macskasy well as a staunch colleague in the fight against the neoliberal assault on workers. It’s very sad to see him now promoting the xenophobic agenda of Martyn Bradbury’s The Daily Blog, known as the “Breitbart of the NZ Left”.

TDB is part of the current which I’ve called the “conservative left” – those activists who have taken a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude to the rise of Right-wing populism worldwide, including the Brexit movement in Britain and the Trump movement in the US. I’ve argued that many activists, having spent so long fighting neoliberal globalization, have ended up in a position where they think that anything neoliberals want must be bad. Most unfortunately – in the NZ context – this has turned into a belief that since neoliberals want more immigration, the Left should want less.

Frank’s TDB post harps on the idea that the National government is encouraging immigration as an easy way to “artificially stimulate the economy” (an argument heard recently out of the mouth of New Zealand’s master of xenophobic politics, Winston Peters). The first obvious question should be: if it were that simple to grow the economy, what would be wrong with it? What is wrong in principle to allow anyone willing to come here, work hard and be part of our community to do so? In particular, no Pākehā New Zealander should have the bald-faced cheek to suggest that migration to this country should be treated with suspicion.

Frank skates over the contradiction between the idea that immigration “stimulates the economy” and the idea that it’s problematic “at a time when unemployment was still high.” A stimulated economy means more work available… right? Leaving aside this little problem, Frank goes on:

“The downside to high immigration has been to put strain on critical services such as roading and housing, and reduce demand for locally trained workers to fill vacancies. There is a downward pressure on wages, as cheaper immigrant-labour is brought into the workforce.”

Both Frank’s links go to NZ Herald articles. The first is a column concerning the last Budget, which contains the comment:

“The rise in net migration, on top of natural increases, is putting pressure on the health system, schools, housing and transport.”

I’ve underlined the bit that Frank seems to have missed out. The issue is that population growth is putting pressure on our infrastructure. In Auckland in particular – despite the scare stories from the xenophobic Left and Right – “natural increase” (that is, people having babies and not dying) is a significantly greater contribution to population growth than migration. So where is Frank’s worry about that section of population growth? Why is he not calling for a Chinese-style one-child policy, if the issue is really just about “more people” – rather than the murkier issue of “more people not born here”?

Frank’s second link goes to a report on advice given by Treasury – not generally considered a reliable source of good economic advice by Leftists (except when it confirms their prejudices?) There is of course a real problem with cheap migrant labour. But it’s nothing to do with “New Zealanders being priced out of low-waged jobs”. Firstly, just like it’s always been in this country, migrants tend to do the low-status jobs that New Zealanders don’t want to do – fast food workers or security guards, who might be qualified professionals in their own country, can tell you about that. Secondly, the reason migrant labour is cheap is because of employers cheating the system. We’re talking about migrants having their passports confiscated, and forced either into virtual slave labour, or work of a kind they never wanted to do (such as sex work).

These are real problems. But they are not problems caused by migration. It is caused by migrant workers not getting a fair shake on the basis as all other workers in this country. Get rid of the incentive for human trafficking provided by the current immigration scheme – by giving all those who want to work here the legal right to do so, cracking down on unfair labour practices, and encouraging migrant workers to join unions and fight alongside all other workers for their rights.

Frank and his colleagues at TDB are irresponsibly stoking the forces of racism and xenophobia in this country. Some may be doing so out of nostalgia for a simpler, less culturally diverse New Zealand of the pre-neoliberal era. Some may be doing so out of cynical calculation that migrant-bashing is a way to defeat the hated National government. But it’s a slowly growing sickness on the Left in New Zealand. The Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign has been set up by socialists, unionists and migrant communities who want to stand up and say unashamedly that we are pro-immigration, and pro-worker, and we can’t allow the conservative left to speak for the rest of us.

Exclusive: Redundancies at Mystery Morrison’s latest company

morrison 2

Fightback previously reported on redundancies at council-funded Wellington company CallActive, managed by John Morrison.

This week, Morrison’s new company Plus64 Connect is reportedly undergoing a new series of redundancies. This mass shedding of staff particularly relates to TrustPower contracts. Plus64Connect hasn’t folded, however with limited contracts this is still a risk.

TrustPower is a NZ-owned company (like Plus64 Connect), however as with any business, money is the bottom line. No companies run for profit serve the interests of local workers.

A number of Plus64 employees were previously employed by Morrison’s CallActive. Staff are reportedly glum, applying for new jobs, some having only been employed very briefly.

This kind of insecurity is very common in call centre work. You’re only secure if you have competent management – which is really hard to come by in a call centre. The focus is on numbers of calls, rather than quality – as obviously this means more money for the company (in an outsourced setting anyway). If you are lucky enough to land a full time position, only the bare minimum of entitlements are offered. Therefore the only difference between fulltime work, and a zero hour contract is two weeks’ notice. As outsourced clients come and go, you are never secure in your position.

Call centre workers slave long hours, are expected to be available at the drop of a hat, and customers don’t treat you like a human being so much as a punching-bag.

There is no incentive for businesses to provide security, unless threatened by legal or collective action. If workers coordinate and organise across the sector, they can gain more control of their work conditions.

See also

Mystery Morrison: The face of capitalist ‘local ownership’

John Morrison (left) at the opening of CallActive.

John Morrison (left) at the opening of CallActive.

By Ani White (Fightback Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington)

Meet John Morrison, also known as ‘Mystery Morrison.’ With his moustache, strong eyebrows, and sports background, Morrison has the bona fides of a Pākehā, Kiwi bloke. He’s the sort of guy you could have a beer with, assuming you’re also the sort of person he would have a beer with (John Key, perhaps). In a word, he is ‘local’ – or, as ‘local’ as any non-indigenous person can be.

Morrison is also a capitalist, a business-owner. He began his career as a cricketer, earning the nickname ‘Mystery Morrison’ for his bowling style. While he was marginally successful at cricket, Morrison’s career since then – as a Wellington City Councillor, failed mayoral candidate, and now call-centre owner – has been more controversial. In an attempt to defend a comment that he’d like to join the women’s cricket team in the showers, Morrison reportedly commented at a candidate’s meeting:

“[I can’t] help it if the women’s team find me irresistible. After all, I’m a former international cricketer who’s so mysterious nobody, not even me, knows why I’m called ‘Mystery’ Morrison. I’m kind of a big deal.”

After his transparent sexism failed to win over Wellington’s voters, this man of mystery moved into the call-centre business. As reported on Stuff1, the timeline of Morrison’s involvement with CallActive is certainly mysterious:

TIMELINE

  • CallActive was incorporated in New Zealand on June 26, 2013 [with a $300,000 loan from the city council, approved by a board featuring none other than John Morrison.]
  • On November 13, 2013, it was announced that John Morrison had joined its business development team.
  • Morrison stopped working for the company [in 2015], before it shut down.
  • On November 12, 2015, the registrar of companies gave public notice of her intention to remove CallActive from the companies’ register.
  • On November 26, John Morrison and David Lloyd incorporated their own company, Plus64Connect, which was listed as a call-centre operation.
  • On November 27, CallActive staff say about 60 workers were left devastated when the Australian-owned call-centre operator folded.

Although many of these actions are strictly speaking legal, they also have a whiff of corruption. Morrison approved council funding for a business; worked as a manager for that business; left the business, and registered a new one a day before the first collapsed. Whatever happened at CallActive that triggered Morrison’s departure and the company’s collapse, it seems hard to avoid the convenience of Morrison’s decisions, and the lack of responsibility he took for their consequences. Morrison apparently knew what was coming months before most of the staff.

Morrison’s call-centres are in many respects typical of contemporary capitalism in the imperialist core. A growing service sector; precarious work conditions and declining real wages; networked communication, allowing greater flexibility. Call-centres contract to various industries, often internationally, with the workers often having little or nothing to do with the original company, and therefore facing abuse from weary customers.

Precarious work is often associated with dynamic, flexible arrangements that suit new information technology. However, precarity isn’t somehow necessary to the nature of any work – while construction workers lead precarious existences as contractors in Aotearoa / New Zealand, in Australia they are highly unionised with secure and well-paid work. Rather than being a function of technology, precarity is about power, specifically the power of bosses over workers.

John Morrison’s progression from CallActive to his new company typifies this side of precarity: the way economic insecurity fosters fear, division, coercing workers to compete, rather than struggling collectively. Morrison ‘allowed’ CallActive workers to apply for work at his new business. Considering the reduced staff, this amounts to forcing recently dispossessed workers to compete with each other for a shrinking pool of work. Morrison’s new company reportedly uses zero-hour contracts.

Some have characterised this strange sequence of events as a problem of ‘foreign ownership’, as CallActive was Australian owned. Yet while Morrison admittedly helped an Australian corporation take advantage of this country’s low wage economy, when that fell through he took advantage of the low wage economy for his own benefit. The shift from Australian to local ownership did nothing for the conditions of call-centre workers, only benefiting the owners, both Kiwis. Morrison demonstrates that local (capitalist) ownership is no guarantee of security or basic rights. Of course, not all capitalists fit Morrison’s exact profile, but that is precisely the point: capitalists must exploit for profit, regardless of gender, colour or nationality. Neoliberalism is not just an international system imposed on nation states: it is a project of the capitalist class, local and international.

Exploitation and oppression inevitably breed resistance. On hearing of their redundancy, CallActive staff reportedly walked out with laptops and company televisions. This is considered theft; however, it pales in comparison to the theft carried out by capitalist businesses. These atomised forms of resistance can change the world if fused collectively. In Auckland, Unite Union has made some inroads in organizing call-centre workers. Rather than local private ownership, we need collective self-organization, self-determination and socialism – which will mean taking power from people like John Morrison.

ANZ workers strike

secure hours ANZ courtenay place

ANZ workers across Aotearoa/NZ (members of FIRST Union) went on strike today, for secure hours and better wages.

ANZ rat frank kitts
ANZ indebts customers and undermines staff, while CEO David Hisco makes over $2000/hr.

ANZ Hisco rat

With more attacks on unions, workers and beneficiaries on the way, collective action like this is exactly what we need. Kia kaha!

See also