Industrial activity review for 2009

The following article by Mike Kay overviews industrial activity in New Zealand in 2009 and summarises some of the highlights.


 The Statistics NZ Survey of Working Life (March 2008) identified 30.1% of all employees as union members. Female employees were more likely to be union members than males (33.0% and 27.4%, respectively). Only 17.4% of casual employees were unionised. By industry, union membership was highest for those who worked in education (58.5%), health and community services (52.0%) and other services (42.8 %). Professionals (46.1%) and those who worked as plant and machine operators and assemblers in their main job (41.5%) had the highest level of union membership.

There has been a strong downward trend for work stoppages in the recent period, by every measure:

Source: Statistics NZ Work Stoppages: June 2009 quarter

 Although the year to June figures excludes a number of recent major disputes towards the end of 2009, they represent the lowest number of stoppages in 18 years. The transport, postal and warehousing industry was responsible for most stoppages, significantly ahead of the next most militant sector, manufacturing.  Undeniably, we are still in the midst of a protracted downturn in the class struggle, although some notable exceptions to the trend may point the way to a revival of militancy in the coming year. [Read more…]

Campaigning for living wage reform – ground reports

Unite union has launched a campaign in workplaces and communities for a national referendum on the issue of a $15 minimum wage. In this early stage of the campaign, Workers Party activists and other leftists are hitting the streets and public events to help gather the signatures to force the referendum. Here are some interesting comments, reports, and examples from the campaign on the ground.

[Read more…]

Sign the $15 petition

otara$15.jpgWorkers Party activists collected around 100 signatures for Unite’s campaign for a hike in the Minimum Wage at Auckland’s Otara Flea Market today.

Many of the signers remarked how they would personally benefit from raising the rate to $15 per hour – which would result in a pay increase for some 450,000 workers in New Zealand. It was an encouraging start to the year-long campaign to get the 300,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum on the issue.

Workers Party activists in Christchurch and Wellington have also been collecting hundreds of signatures at stalls and in workplaces.

New Zealand government’s RSE scheme: “Brutal racist oppression”

By Don Franks

In a press release on 4 June 2009 the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions deplored the Government’s removal of the minimum wage protection for workers on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

“There have been significant examples of unauthorised and unfair deductions from RSE workers’ pay even under the existing regulations,” said Wagstaff. “Relaxing the minimum wage rule will only result in more blatant exploitation of already vulnerable workers as unscrupulous employers shift costs onto them.”

“Allowing employers to make deductions which will reduce pay rates below the minimum of $12.50 per hour will significantly increase exploitation of RSE workers and undermine the credibility of the scheme”, said CTU Vice-President Richard Wagstaff.

Richard Wagstaff is dead right about the exploitation, but from a workers point of view, RSE has no credibility to be undermined.

The New Zealand Labour Department says:

“The RSE scheme facilitates the temporary entry of overseas workers, mainly from the Pacific, to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops in the horticulture and viticulture industries to meet labour shortages in order to remain competitive with the rest of the world.” [Read more…]

The holiday sell-out

Daphna Whitmore
The Spark May 2009

 Compared to most western countries, New Zealand workers have pretty meagre holidays. An international survey published April 2009 ( found that New Zealand workers have fewer holidays than many other Western countries. The gap is likely to widen with a new law proposed by the government. The Nats want workers to be able to cash up their fourth week’s holiday each year. Currently, holidays must be taken as time off work and cannot be swapped for money.  According to the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, “surveys show most workers only take three weeks’ leave each year, so if they want to trade in that fourth week and their employer agrees then it’s a win-win.”

Yeah right. [Read more…]

This is no alternative? Partnership or struggle

There Is No Alternative?

A Workers Response to the Financial Crisis

A teach-in organised by the Workers Rights Campaign

Saturday May 2nd


Canterbury WEA, 59 Gloucester Street

[Read more…]

Solidarity to support the locked out workers at Synovate

In solidarity with Auckland, Unite union Wellington members, volunteers and supporters will picket the Ministry of Social Development, who contract out their call centres to Synovate. Synovate have illegally locked out their workers in negotiations over pay.

The picket will take place at noon, Tuesday April 14th. Please support this worthwhile action if you can


Over 30 market research call centre workers in Auckland, who are members of the Unite Union have been illegally locked out on Easter Friday by their employer, British multi-national corporation, Synovate. image070The corporation’s New Zealand managers were instructed by their British senior managers to lock-out the New Zealand workforce after they turned down a pay offer of a measly 20 cents an hour. 

The company locked the workers out and padlocked the front entrance of the building. The managers put up a notice telling the non union workers to sneak in by the back door. In response to this  Union officials and members added their own locks to the front door and used cars and locks to block all other entrances to the building.

Locked in

Locked in

This effectively locked the bosses inside for two hours until the union allowed one car to be moved to allow delegates to enter the building to continue the negotiations

Almost all the employees are paid the minimum wage. Yet Synovate, pays their workers in Australia $22 an hour for the same work and increased their wages by 3.5% in January. After six months of negotiations their New Zealand workers are being told that they will stay locked out until they accept Synovate’s 20 cents an hour offer with possibly of another 15 cents an hour in 6 months. 

Like hundreds of other call centre workers the Synovate workers are part of the Unite Union’s Calling for Change campaign to improve wages and conditions in Auckland call centres. Synovate workers went on hunger strike in February to draw attention to their low wages and sweatshop conditions. 

Synovate is owned by the Aegis Group based in Britain which made £89.2 million in profit last year. In New Zealand Synovate undertakes market research for Ministry of Social Development and ASB Bank.

In solidarity with Auckland, Unite union Wellington members, volunteers and supporters will picket the Ministry of Social Development.    The picket will take place at noon, Tuesday April 14th Ministry of Social Development office, Bowen State Building, Bowen St, Wellington. Please support this worthwhile action if you can.

Shorter work-hours: They say less pay, we say more pay

Jared Phillips The Spark April 2009

Resulting from the Job Summit in February, the government has now announced the introduction of the Job Support Scheme. At the time of writing, between 20-30 companies have taken up the government’s offer. Who benefits from the 9-day working fortnight?

In the past socialists have successfully fought for a shorter working week for the same pay. This has happened in the construction industry in Australia and in the meat industry in New Zealand. We need to raise these arguments again and also raise them at a higher level. Continual productivity gains make it possible for us to move to a society in which workers can consciously organise and limit the amount of time spent working while increasing their leisure time. Oppositely, under the capitalist system, the lives of the working class are organised by the rhythms of production. This is clearly the case when we look at the way hours of work are currently being re-regulated. [Read more…]

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


Press Release: Workers Rights Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidarity for sacked workers – join the patrol

From March ’09 workers in small businesses will be able to be sacked for  no reason at all, in their first 90 days of employment. 

In Auckland Unite union and other groups, including the Workers Party, have been preparing  to defend workers sacked under the new law

You can expect to see Unite’s 6 meter high inflatable rat outside any workplace where people are sacked under the new law.

To prepare for solidarity pickets and build more support teams

Meet: Saturday, February 28, 12 noon, Aotea Square, CBD

Several hundred people have already registered at Workers Party stalls to give solidarity to any sacked workers.