Friday, October 30, 2009

Capitalism Sucks! Pictures from the Halloween March Against Low Pay

Bosses- Hear the Workers Rage-
Raise, raise, the minimum wage!

Vampire Boss burns in a fire!

What do we want? BRAINS!
When do we want it? BRAINS!
The Zombies United, will never be defeated!

Vampire Capitalism Sucks!

Working for Nothin', really SUCKS!
What do we want? 15 BUCKS!

Sue Bradford on her last night as a Green MP
rejoins the Parliament of the Streets.

Robin, Socialist Zombie Queen!

Who'll carry high the burning flame?


thanks to John Darroch for the fantastic pictures.
See them in full at Resistance Photography.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vampire Bosses, Beware! Zombie Workers, Rise Up! Halloween Posters

Click, Print, Copy and put up!

Two new posters going up round Auckland for the Halloween Trick or Treat Protest

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


By Mike Treen
Unite National Director

Official data on wage movements in New Zealand point to a real wage decline of around 25% between 1982 and the mid 90s that has never been recovered.

There have been two series measuring wages in the period – the Prevailing Weekly Wage Index (discontinued in June 1993) and its replacement the Labour Cost Index. I have created a continuous series based on the LCI series back to 1982 (by adjusting the PWWI numbers before December 1992 when PWWI at 1000 was equivalent to the LCI at 868). These numbers are in turn deflated by the CPI index covering the whole period.

What is revealed is that by the mid 90s real wages had declined at least 25%. There has been no recovery since then and real wages remain 25% below their 1982 peak. This result can be directly attributed to the combination of the massive de-unionisation as a result of the anti-union employment laws and the recession that accompanied it in the early 1990s.

The decline in real wages wasn’t offset by a decline in tax rates for middle to low income earners at that time. Between March 1982 and June 1991 the tax rate for the bottom 20% of wage and salary earners increased from 15.8% to 18.0%, the middle 20% went from 25.3% to 23.7% while the top 20% went from 38.5% to 28.4%. It seems clear that for the big majority of wage and salary earners the tax changes would have made them worse off (especially including GST).

The period from the mid 80s to mid 90s also saw a 10% drop in the share of GDP measured as “compensation of employees”. There was a corresponding rise in the proportion measured as “gross operating surplus”, that is profits and interest. In today’s dollars that equals $18 billion from the pockets of workers to the coffers of capital.

Of course we were also told that if the cake was grown we would all benefit. A little pain now for the riches to come. Productivity has increased by 80% between 1978 and 2008. So real wages are 25% lower but our output is 80% higher.

“Average wages” don’t capture the real position of the majority of wage and salary earners because the average has been dragged up by the inflated incomes of the very wealthy in society. Real ordinary time average hourly earnings have risen from $21.08 in September 1996 to $25.06 in June 1999 (measured in June 09 dollars). Even using LCI figures there has been a average of 1.3% difference between the median and mean changes every quarter between June 2000 and June 2009. The only quarter where the median exceeded the mean was the most recent one.

We know from experience in the industries we represent that real wages have declined further than that represented by the average ordinary time wage. These industries were hit by the removal of allowances, penal rates for overtime and weekend work, and casualisation of hours. We estimate the real income of housekeeping staff in major hotels is only 60% what was earned in the 1980s

Households made up for the loss in real wages by working more hours (principally more women and young people) and going into debt. A report by Simon Collins in the NZH 25/11/06 found that average family income in 2001 in constant dollars was the same as in 1981 despite the fact that the proportion of women working went from 47% to 61% and the percentage of families working 50+ hours a week went from half to two thirds. The proportion of households spending more than 30% of their income on housing has gone from 11% in the late 1980s to more than twice that today. 20% of NZ families with children live in severe or significant hardship according to the Ministry of Social development.

Across the globe as this system seems to produce more goods and services than can be marketed profitably.

Each time it runs into trouble it has sought to expand its sphere of operations. Trade barriers in poorer countries get knocked down while they are maintained in the rich. Industries are privatised. Controls on the movement of capital get lifted. Property rights are entrenched. Wages get cut in one country to get a competitive advantage over another.

Promises were made that if the rich got richer eventually it would trickle down to the rest of us. Greed became normalised as a necessary part of getting ahead. Grotesque salaries were paid no matter what the performance of the companies. Outright fraud became commonplace.

But it was never enough. New crises kept emerging – except now they had immediate international consequences as capitalism was tied together by a thousand threads in every country.

The world’s banks were given even more freedom to create debt on a colossal scale to keep everything ticking over. Personal, corporate and government debt kept on growing. In the US debt went from 163% of GDP in 1980 to 346% in 2007 (Rod Oram SST 5/10/08).

In New Zealand average household debt went from 60% of GDP 15 years ago to 160% today. This is the second most indebted in the OECD. This fuelled a housing price bubble as prices doubled since 2000 – as they did in the UK and Australia. We were told not to worry. We were encouraged to use our houses as an ATM machine. Average household expenditure exceeded average income on average about 6% but increasing to 15% in recent years. In the 3 decades before 1980 we saved about 10% of our income.

Throughout the world there was a housing bubble. But in New Zealand it was bigger than most. Writing in the Listener on October 18, 2008, economist Gareth Morgan noted that “average house prices used to be twice a graduates salary; nowadays it is eight times that and the median salary is less than the interest on the average mortgage.” He included a chart which showed that the housing affordability for a 25- year 80% mortgage went from 20% of average income for decades to 50% in a surge after 2000. Another chart revealed house prices were 45% above the 30-year trend line. “Median house prices rose from 3.5 times the median household income in 1991 to 4.6 times the median household income in 1997, leveled off until 2001, then rocketed to 6.3 times the average household income last year, roughly double the average in North America (Emphasis added). Prices have fallen slightly since then to 5.7 times the median household income last month.”

This was always going to end in tears. The government refused to do anything as it couldn’t “interfere” in the operations of the free market – that is the freedom of big business to rob us blind.

Now the banks worldwide are in trouble as the bloated financial merry go round comes to a halt and we discover their massive debt creation (which gave them billions in commissions and fees) ended up in the hands of households and businesses who could not repay.

As the bubble deflates in housing prices many working people will be left owing more on their houses than they are worth. A Canterbury University study by Professor Chris Eves reported in the Sunday Star Times (21/12/08) estimates that it is true for 20% of mortgages already.

Everyone will be cutting back on spending – households and businesses. Banks will be intensifying the cutbacks by radically reducing their lending in a desperate attempt to restore their balance sheets.

We are entering a downwards spiral and no one knows how far it will go. Will it be a simple recession with 10% unemployment like the 1990s? Or are we looking at 30% unemployment like the 1930s Depression? No one knows.

With the recession biting, unemployment rising and banks restricting lending – it seems households are cutting their expenditure and retail sales are falling rapidly. Big ticket items like motor vehicles are seeing their sales hit a brick wall. House sales are down 50%.

Household expenditure in NZ is about two-thirds of GDP. If average household expenditure were to drop in New Zealand from 115% of GDP to just not spending more than current income then that would equal at least a 10% decline in GDP. The 1990-91 GDP decline was about -2% and official unemployment rocketed to 10% (with official rates of 25-30% for Maori and Pacific people). The consequences would be terrifying.

Once the decline started it will be difficult to stop. Just like the seemingly virtuous circle of more debt = more production = more jobs then the reverse will be a vicious circle of debt reduction = production decline – job losses on a massive scale. As Rod Oram wote in the SST: “The danger, though, is that the economy will collapse. If the slowdown starts to bite deeper, we’re risking a vicious downward spiral. Business confidence will crumble then capital spending and employment will drop; a rise in unemployment will wreak havoc on highly indebted households; banks will sell off repossessed properties; and the housing market will tumble.”

The New Zealand economy was kept ticking over these last 15 years on debt. The combination of declining real wages, benefit cuts and overall government expenditure cuts produced a deep recession in the early 1990s driving official unemployment over 10%. We got out of it because the rest of the world started their debt fuelled growth path and we picked up the coat tails.

Going into this recession we are in a much worse situation than 1990. Real wages haven’t recovered and families are under pressure already. There can be no return to debt creation as a substitute to an expansion of real incomes for the big majority. The deep inequality that grew in New Zealand society and the absolute poverty that exists at the bottom of the income ladder must be addressed.

Raising the minimum wage to two thirds of the average wage is a vital first step giving everyone a fair share of the economic pie.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nationalise NZ Bus

Time to step up the pressure - Auckland needs fair pay for bus drivers

The past week has shown just how crucial our bus service is for the people of Auckland. For a week, NZ Bus not only locked out the drivers who had done no more than vote to follow the company's own safety rules, but also the 80,000 people who rely on buses to get to work and school. The bosses showed exactly how little they care about our community when they rejected the drivers' offer to take the school run for free on the first day back at school. NZ Bus is happy to take the subsidies paid for from Aucklanders' pockets, but they don't care what kind of service we get for our money.

There has been huge support for the bus drivers from the travelling public. The drivers' campaign has highlighted the low pay and terrible working conditions that bus drivers face every day. From the start it has been clear that the company is only interested in squeezing as much profit as it can from both passengers and bus drivers. It's a victory that NZ Bus has been forced to call off the lockout, but we should also be clear that mediation may not resolve all of the outstanding claims that are crucial for bus drivers. Pressure from drivers has forced NZ Bus back to the negotiating table, but the drivers were right to reject the paltry offers that have been made by NZ Bus so far. The rejection of the latest offer by 95% of union members shows that there is still a mood to fight. Trade union members from all unions and bus riders need to be ready to support the drivers in their campaign to force NZ Bus to meet demands for a living wage, realistic timetables, and payment of overtime rates. But we should go further and demand that our public transport system is run for the people of the city, not for corporate profit.

The chaos caused when the buses don't run shows exactly how important the bus drivers are to our city. Infratil, the company that owns NZ buses is clear about its goal: "Infratil’s primary goal is to provide its shareholders with a consistent return of 20% per annum over the long term." We should be clear about ours. It's time for bus drivers and bus riders to organise to demand affordable public transport under public control.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Zombie Workers fight Bloodsucking Vampire Bosses in Auckland CBD, Halloween

click on pic, print off, copy and poster

SHOCK! Zombified minimum wage workers awaken and achieve class consciousness, pouring out from the shopping malls to choke the bloodsucking vampire capitalists who exploit their surplus value as profit!

HORROR! Zombie workers march en masse on citadels of the elite vampire bosses in Auckland city centre- Massive vampire Boss staked in public and then burned in a bonfire!

All this and more,
From 7pm Friday October 30th in Auckland CBD.

Brought to you by the
Campaign for a Living Wage

Sunday, October 11, 2009

LOCKOUT Day 5- Auckland Has Had Enough!

Message to NZ Bus: Auckland has had enough

12 October 2009

ARC Chairman Mike Lee has delivered a simple and blunt message to NZ Bus, on day five of the NZ Bus lock-out of drivers.

“We have had enough. Auckland will not be held to ransom. If you can’t deliver the services that the people of Auckland rely on, then we will have to find someone else who can,” he said.

Today the industrial dispute again disrupted the travel plans of tens of thousands of Auckland commuters. The disruption was even worse with the start of the school term.

Despite meetings over the weekend and facilitation today, it appears that the company and the union have made no meaningful progress on settling the dispute.

“The Auckland travelling public have run out of any patience or sympathy for this on-going nonsense,” said Mr Lee.

“NZ Bus operates public transport services under contract to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA). NZ Bus is currently in breach of those contracts – it is not delivering the services. Like any commercial contract, NZ Bus contracts can be terminated for non-performance.

‘If this dispute is not settled, I will be calling on ARTA to start the process of terminating the existing contracts and finding someone else who will deliver the services that Auckland expects and pays for.

“Terminating NZ Bus contracts would be a drastic step. However, it is clear that the company is not responding to other normal commercial pressure, nor in my view does it take seriously its service obligations to the public.

“Perhaps the threat of NZ Bus’s entire Auckland business being terminated will sharpen the minds of the negotiators and deliver the break through that is required.”
Press Release: Wellington Tramways Union

Open Letter to Zane Fulljames, General Manager Operations, NZ Bus:

The New Zealand Tramways and Public Passenger Transport Employees Union [Inc.] Wellington Branch

11 October 2009

Dear Zane,

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Tramways Union condemns the NZ Bus lockout of Auckland bus drivers. Members of the Auckland Tramways Union and the three other unions that are involved with this dispute have negotiated in good faith with NZ Bus. By contrast NZ Bus has taken a hard line approach against Auckland Bus drivers.

The same bullying lockout tactics were used by your company against our members at Go Wellington in 2008. On that occasion NZ Bus were forced to withdraw their lockout notice after only a day, due to overwhelming public support for the Wellington bus drivers demands for a decent living wage.

This year Auckland drivers are asking for a modest increase to their hourly rate, and the restoration of time and a half for drivers who work over 8 hours in one day – the same as drivers are currently paid at Go Wellington. But instead of considering these reasonable claims by the Auckland Unions, NZ Bus has once again chosen to take an adversarial approach towards their workers.

Instead of negotiating, NZ Bus has locked out Auckland drivers with the intention of starving union members into accepting a bad deal. However your tactics will fail, just as they did in Wellington last year

The total disregard for the thousands of commuters in New Zealand’s biggest city by your company has been condemned by the Auckland Regional Council. It has also been criticised in the editorial pages of the NZ Herald. This dispute has given further weight to calls for public transport to be under public ownership and control, rather than having the service run into the ground by private companies like Infratil.

Last Thursday Wellington unions including the Wellington Tramways Union held a picket outside the Infratil office on The Terrace to show support and solidarity for the locked out Auckland drivers. If this lockout continues further pickets will be organised in Wellington outside the NZ Bus head office on Allen St.

It is time your negotiating team listened to union members and the general public. Auckland bus drivers deserve decent pay and conditions.

Yours Sincerely,

Nick Kelly
Wellington Branch President
New Zealand Tramways Union
12 October 2009
Locked out bus drivers are offering to do school bus runs without pay.

Combined bus union spokesperson Karl Andersen says the drivers remain committed to causing the least possible public disruption and are happy to turn up and do school bus runs on Monday without pay.

“Drivers do not want to see kids missing out on their education because of this lockout” he says. “The work to rule we gave notice of would not have stopped kids getting to school and we are still prepared to turn up on Monday to get them there.

“The employment authority made it quite clear yesterday that the proposed actions of the drivers would only have caused minor inconvenience to the public and it is the actions of Infratil/NZ Bus that has stopped Auckland’s bus services.

“If there is no bus service for school runs on Monday it will be because Infratil/NZ Bus has decided to use our kids as a bargaining chip and lock them out along with the rest of the public and the drivers.”
This offer was rejected by Infratil/NZ Bus meaning that over 9000 school kids had no bus to get them to school today

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Victory to the Busworkers of Auckland

For weeks now, the bosses have been going on the offensive in New Zealand. Emboldened by the election of a National-Act government, they are now declaring industrial war against the working class. They have used the Lockout weapon against Telecom Engineers, Open Country Cheese Dairy workers and now our Busdrivers. This attack now needs to be met by co ordinated action by the Union movement.

Ten of thousands of Auckland workers are also locked out by Infratil- the working poor who rely on Public Transport. Those of us who cannot afford expensive parking charges and high petrol prices must now attempt to find other ways to work. We will not be blaming the Locked out Busworkers. They are workers just like us- struggling to survive in a low wage economy that sees their pay scale go from $14 to $16 odd.

We will be blaming the Corporates in Infratil- a useless company that wastes the millions of dollars it receives in Public Subsidy in dodgy investment ventures overseas. The money they receive from us should be spent first and foremost on providing Auckland with a decent public transport system, and in paying our drivers a decent wage they can raise families on.

INfratil have lost all rights to run a business in Auckland- this lockout is living proof of their titanic failure. When their Lockout is defeated, we should settle the score with them and Nationalise the Bus fleet with zero compensation to them. Private profiteering has no place in a service as essential as public transport- and the idiots in Infratil should be run out of town.

It is time that the bosses of New Zealand got a taste of the anger that low paid workers feel. The Lockout is a double edged weapon- meant to smash our unions into submission, but capable of raising a righteous anger and indignation in every decent member of the working class. Once unleashed, this Genie is difficult to bottle again.

We'll be on the pickets outside the depots shoulder to shoulder with the drivers throughout this Lockout. We'll collect money in our workplaces and bring it with food and solidarity. We'll encourage other groups of workers in struggle to join together for the Halloween March against Poverty Wages on Friday October 30th at 7pm in Aotea Square. Now is the time for us to unite-

Joe Carolan, editor


Socialist Aotearoa calls for free and frequent public transport, this will cut CO2 emissions. On the day that the Corporate Infratil has locked out hundreds of Auckland's busdrivers, we will be initiating a BusRiders Union campaigning for
(1) Public Ownership of Public Transport
(2) Fare-Free and Frequent Transport
(3) Fair pay for Busdrivers
(4) an end to the lockout of both busdrivers and worker commuters

COme to the inaugral meeting tonight at 630pm in Clubspace, above the Quad in the University of Auckland.