Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taking On the Bosses Offensive

Across New Zealand, workers are beginning to see the effects of a crisis that they did not create.
Our busdrivers are threatened with lockout. Our firefighters who risk their lives for us have to strike for a pittance. Our Telecom engineers are forced to give up their sick pay and holidays and become private contractors at the very time we need a decent broadband system. And those who work the hardest and dirtiest jobs are paid the lowest- hundreds of thousands of workers try to make ends meet on a minimum wage of $12.50, or not much more.

In Waikato, Open Country Cheese locked out their workers for daring to think about striking, employed scabs to replace them and then had the cheek to accuse the workers of sabotage when waste was pumped into the rivers by people who didn't know how the plant worked.
In Manukau City, Bridgeman Concrete locked out their workers even though they hadn't taken any action, in order to enforce a pay freeze and break the collective agreement.

Across the media, the pundits are desperately beginning to chatter that the recession is coming to end – but for who? Sure, a few imaginary digits in New York, London and Berlin started to look as if maybe, perhaps, after all they might be thinking about going up rather than spiralling endlessly downwards. What use is that, however, for workers on poverty wages in this country?
More importantly, the employers know that the surefire way to increase their profits is to drive wages down. That's why the Director of Open Country Cheese, for example, tried to argue that dairy should be made an essential industry, denying workers the right to strike. Several other companies have been using lockouts in recent weeks in what we believe is a concerted attempt by employers to take advantage of the recession, drive down pay and weaken our unions.

But we didn't make a mess of the economy, so it's not up to us to pay. Politicians that have had their hands in the kitty for years fail to deliver on jobs, services and housing, send soldiers half way round the world to get blown up in the interest of American foreign policy and then turn round and talk about making sacrifices to get the economy back on track.

Where are our union leaders in all this? Telecom workers look as if they could well be starved into a defeat and yet EPMU leaders have lot released any part of the $2 million that is there as a 'welfare fund' in order to support strikers. Calling it a strike fund and matching strikers wages in an all out strike was the only way of winning this dispute and it has not been done. Open Country Cheese is part of a vicious anti-union group that will use any tactics to defeat workers and yet there have not even been mass pickets mobilised to physically stop scabs going into the plant. Relying on the courts will never work – a physical show of strength from the strikers and their many supporters will. Two weeks ago it looked as if there was the beginnings of a fightback that could have been spread across many sectors and which desperately needed to be united. A march in Auckland on a Saturday against attacks on workers and cuts in public services to bring all of these groups together to find inspiration and solidarity from each other could have been the first steps in doing this. Instead the CTU has been silent – preferring not to rock the boat in the hope of something small that might have been handed down from the table from the 'jobs summit' that seems to have died a death.

Where now? There are no magical solutions – but first steps can be made. First of all, we believe that as many people as possible should be joining Unite's campaign for $15 minimum wage - go to www.unite.org.nz to sign the petition for a Citizen's Initiated Referumdum on the topic and join the Halloween Trick or Treat action on October 31st.

Secondly, we believe that we the unions should be organising a march in Auckland on a Saturday to unite all of these disputes. At the moment, every dispute is isolated and fragmented – such a display of solidarity will give confidence to ourselves and inspire other workers to fightback – against the slashing of jobs and wages, the travesty of a business led Super City and the cuts in night classes.

Thirdly we believe that socialist and trade unionists and activists should begin fighting in earnest for the sorts of changes that we need in the unions – that means solidarity work on every dispute – wherever small – collections, workplace delegations, pickets where we can.
And for all of that we need links, politics and real leadership from the bottom – work with us and join us to build that again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Time for a United Front on the Left

Our busdrivers are threatened with lockout. Our firefighters who risk their lives for us have to strike for a pittance. Our Telecom engineers are forced to give up their sick pay and holidays and become private contractors at the very time we need a decent broadband system. And those who work the hardest and dirtiest jobs are paid the lowest- hundreds of thousands of workers try to make ends meet on a minimum wage of $12.50, or not much more.

The anger is building noticably in the last few weeks, and this time, it's not just socialists or revolutionaries or the usual suspects on the Left who are talking about it. There's a real mood in Auckland city to unite these struggles, and there's a lot of people talking to each other again about making something happen.

Socialist Aotearoa activists have been out talking to people in other unions and in other parties of the Left. Initatives such as the Campaign for a Living Wage are seeing the beginnings of a United Front effort to organise the working poor. Of course, in a United Front, the different political and social organisations will maintain their individual identities and viewpoints. But the need for the Left to unite and begin organising the fightback against this rotten government and its policies takes precedence.

  1. Socialist Aotearoa would like to see the Campaign for a Living Wage achieve its target of 300,000 plus signatures to initiate a Citizen's Referendum to increase the minimum wage.
  2. We would also like to see the struggles of the busdrivers, firefighters, telecom engineers, dairy workers and others unite in one union led mass protest on the streets- joint strike action would send the National led government an even stronger message.
  3. The need for the Left to overthrow John Banks and the right wing Supercity agenda in Auckland is also urgent.

We would welcome debate and discussion from others on the Left and in the Trade union movements about these three theatres of class struggle.

Joe Carolan- Socialist Aotearoa

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Workplace Fightback: Build it from Below

Head delegate Peter Kelly from the Telecom Engineers speaks at the Strike Benefit

The weather packed in as activists, unionists and socialists headed to a small fundraiser on a rainy Friday evening at Auckland Trades Hall. As well as netting a neat sum of cash ($450) for the Telecom workers facing redundancy and a new form of precarious employment through a dependent contractor model, the gathering also provided a forum for people to begin discussing what’s needed in order to gain or retain living wages and job security through the recession and the National government.

With bus workers overwhelmingly rejecting Infratil’s latest offer and changing into Strike gear, fire fighters prepared to confront their chiefs and John Key on picket lines and public service workers facing a round of 0% pay offers the stage is being set for a broader confrontation between employers keeping workers screwed down on poverty wages and fed-up workers prepared to try their luck with industrial action.

Apathy and disorganisation amongst union members and in the workplace and an increasingly parochial, unsophisticated, humourless and conservative union bureaucracy will remain the major toxins in the veins of the union movement.

Political leadership & Industrial leadership

The task for socialists is how to win over militant workers, delegates and sections of the union movement away from the language of partnership, the politics of the Labour Party and a conservative industrial strategy that sees union bosses baking cakes, trying to shame the Government and making tepid speeches on the need for militancy.This necessarily requires the rebuilding of the union movement from the bottom up. A co-ordinated rank and file network of active unionists &community activists united around building mass actions is necessary to rebuild the union movement.

This network should be established in support of the workplace struggles currently in fullswing. It should wherever possible co-ordinate mass direct action in solidarity with workers in dispute. The Telecom & bus drivers dispute affects us all. Privatised public services in the 1990s are having their working conditions fully eroded by an increasingly confident employer class. The Telecom and NZ Bus Head offices should be occupied in solidarity with/by the workers in struggle and the community should demand that these services be returned to public ownership and control. A break with the political and industrial leadership of the current trade union officialdom requires a workplace-community campaign for public ownership & control of public services waged by a rank and file network prepared to use direct action to win. -Omar Hamed, Socialist Aotearoa.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Racists go to Hell

Video of the protest outside Hell Pizza in Quay Street, Auckland, after their use of a racist advertising campaign. Omar and Joe explain why it's not a joke.

Class Cuts? Class War!

Marching against Education cuts earlier today in Central Auckland. With thanks to John from Resistance Photography for the excellent pics

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Massive Busworkers Stopwork Sends Strong Message to INfrat

Hundreds of Busworkers walked off the job and held a massive stopwork meeting in Alexander Park today, as they tore up the pathetic offer from a bullying management in a resounding 608 to 8 vote. The combative mood was high, as this low paid and multi ethnic workforce organised by the National Distribution Union, Akarana, Tramways Union and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union combined to fight poverty pay-
Socialist Aotearoa members collected 410 signatures for the Unite Union's Campaign for a Living Wage.

What happens next remains to be seen. There is massive support amongst the Busdrivers to fight a greedy company that gets over $88 million of taxpayers money to provide a public transport service, yet uses and loses this money overseas in dodgy investments. Socialist Aotearoa says use it to pay every busworker in Auckland $20 an hour- after all, they carry the most precious cargo of all- working people and their families. And give them their time and a half overtime rates back too!

Socialist Aotearoa will work building solidarity with the Busworkers until they win. Management threats of a lockout will awaken a huge tide of anger and support in Auckland amongst the low paid. Trade unionists should prepare for solidarity collections now.

Victory to the busdrivers!

Firefighters Protest at opening of Mt Roskill Fire Station to go ahead

“The protest by striking firefighters at the opening ceremony of the $4.9 millon Mt. Roskill fire station tomorrow (Friday), will go ahead”, says Jeff McCulloch, President of the Firefighters Union in Auckland.

He said “We were hoping that our concerns would have been given some sort of credence by the Fire Service and the government, but that has not happened, so our protest will proceed”

Jeff says “we are protesting not only in support of our contract negotiations, which have stalled, but also to bring to the attention of the Prime Minister and the wannabe Supercity Mayor John Banks, the extraordinary extravagance and inept management of the senior managers of the Fire Service who can spend $4.9 million on what is essentially a 5 bedroom house with a large garage to house 4 men, and waste $500,000 on consultants to advise on the refurbishment of the Central Auckland Fire Station, which the firefighters who work there have told them repeatedly, is not necessary. The list of extravagances and terrible decisions goes on and on, and the waste of public money continues with no-one being held accountable”

“If this protest causes John Key to at least ask a few of the right questions, then we will have succeeded, even more so if he asks us the questions” Jeff said.

“We are also very concerned at this government and the Fire Services’ continual reneging on promises over the manning of fire stations in the Auckland Area. In particular the proposal to remove a crew from Avondale station and relocate them to Te Atatu, when we had been promised additional staff for Te Atatu, and that the crew from Avondale would not be moved until such time as Ponsonby station was relocated , Te Atatu was built, and Mt. Roskill was relocated.

The Fire Service, to use an often used quote “are just moving the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

There are less firefighters on duty in Auckland now that the population is around 1.5 million than there were in the mid 1970s when the population was around 750,000 and we also have fewer aerial appliances.

The protest will commence at 11-30 am on Friday 11th September 2009, the eighth anniversary of the deaths of 343 FDNY firefighters in the World Trade Centre in New York.

Copenhagen climate summit: All targets, no action

Market priorities look set to shape the Copenhagen climate summit if we leave it to our leaders to save the planet, writes Sadie Robinson

The countdown to the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen has started. The December meeting will bring together environment ministers and world leaders to reach a new agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto climate change treaty.

But organisers are already laying the ground for disappointment. Helen Clark, the UN development chief, said recently, “Copenhagen has to be viewed as a very important step.

“Would it be over optimistic to say that it would be the final one? Of course. If there’s no deal as such, it won’t be a failure.”

She is wrong. The Kyoto treaty, which commits a number of countries to carbon emission cuts, expires in 2012. Meanwhile, report after report has shown that the climate is changing at a faster rate than previously expected.

We are running out of time to save the planet – and the Copenhagen summit looks set to disappoint everyone who wants to.

It is already dominated by wrangling about which countries should make the biggest emissions cuts. So the US is refusing to sign up to any deal until poorer nations such as India and China agree to cut emissions.

There is some conflict about how much investment should be made to deal with the effects of climate change – which will hit poorer countries the hardest.

Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, this week threatened to withdraw Africa’s delegations from the summit because of this issue.

There are two major problems with Copenhagen.

First, the size of the emissions cuts on the table is nowhere near what’s needed to stop climate change and the destruction of the planet.

Second, it is shaped by a market agenda. World leaders are desperate to find “solutions” that allow business to carry on polluting the planet.

Some of the main focuses of the summit will be carbon trading, carbon offsetting and the development of “clean coal”.

British Energy secretary Ed Miliband’s meeting with Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh last week shows how this neoliberal logic plays out.

Miliband says that India can make money out of developing solar energy and “clean coal” technologies, as well as profiting from the trade in carbon credits. The logical conclusion of this is that any measure that doesn’t make money shouldn’t be pursued.

An “ambitious” deal at Copenhagen is described as one that cuts carbon emissions by 80 percent and a limits global warming to a two degrees Celsius rise by 2050.

But research suggests that a rise of two degrees would destroy half the world’s rainforests – releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Cuts of at least 80 percent are required by 2030, not 2050. And the way that governments want to achieve these “cuts” – through carbon trading – is an environmental disaster.

Carbon trading is described as a way of promoting green investment. It does the opposite. Carbon trading means that the big polluters, such as oil and coal companies, can buy the rights to carry on emitting carbon.

It means that richer countries can buy up carbon credits from poorer ones to emit more carbon, pushing up the total carbon emitted by all countries.

What’s more, the idea that all the government can do is “promote” green investment – rather than actually undertake some – is a disgrace.

We need enormous social changes, not technical fixes, to have any chance of stopping catastrophic climate change.

The Kyoto treaty was the first time countries signed up to binding targets for reducing emissions. Some 37 industrialised countries made the pledge.

Yet emissions have continued to rise.

The treaty enshrined the disastrous practice of carbon trading – and the agenda for Copenhagen is no different.

Some hoped that Barack Obama’s election victory would mean that the US would play a more positive role in tackling climate change. But the change is not as big as many people want to see.

A new environment bill heading for the Senate commits the US to carbon emission cuts – but only of 13 percent on 1990 levels by 2020. It is not enough to stop a climate disaster.

Our rulers often say that they can’t make any fundamental changes because this would mean ordinary people making sacrifices.

But the changes we need to stop catastrophic climate change would not harm ordinary people. They are changes that would improve people’s quality of life and create millions of green jobs.

Our rulers are against these changes because they threaten the rule of business.

World leaders may be fiddling while Rome burns, but concern about climate change is growing among ordinary people. So is anger at those leaders for failing to commit to serious measures to tackle it.

It is among ordinary people that real solutions will be developed – and where the power to win these changes exists.

Our focus has to be on building that movement.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Video: AntiWar protest outside NZ SAS headquarters

Nicola Owen and Omar Hamed from Socialist Aotearoa join John Minto and Mike Treen from Global Peace and Justice Auckland speaking at the protest outside the NZ SAS headquarters in Papakura, as John Key sends troops into Afghanistan to support Obama's war.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tamil people's human rights shunned by NZ cricketers

Blackcap cricketers cowardly and duplicitous on humanitarian support

Global Peace and Justice Auckland is angry the Blackcaps cricket team has bailed out on humanitarian support for the 280,000 Tamil people incarcerated in military camps following the recent civil war.

Before the cricketers left they met with representatives of the New Zealand Tamil community, along with GPJA, where the team was requested to use its high public profile to help keep the international spotlight on the humanitarian crisis facing the Tamil population.

NZ Cricket and player reps agreed they would do what they could without getting involved in the politics (which they were never requested to do). With this in mind no protests were organised against the team leaving for Sri Lanka.

Subsequently agreement was reached between Fonterra, World Vision and representatives of the New Zealand Tamil community whereby the Blackcaps would publicly and symbolically facilitate the transfer of milk powder products from Fonterra in Sri Lanka to World Vision for the victims of war in the military camps where there is an on-going humanitarian catastrophe.

The Blackcaps then got cold feet with Dave Currie (NZ Cricket manager with the Blackcaps) refusing to allow the cricketers to take part. Currie says he fears for the safety of the players. If helping feed starving people with milk powder is going to compromise player safety then what are the Blackcaps doing in Sri Lanka in the first place?

The team has cowered in silence, complicit in the oppression of the Tamil population.

Amnesty International has a campaign “Unlock the Camps” which aims to put pressure of the Sri Lankan government to allow free access to the camps for humanitarian organisations and the international media. The Sri Lankan government refuses and the cruel oppression continues while the Blackcaps turn a blind eye.

The Blackcaps have lost on the field in Sri Lanka but their behaviour off the field has been far worse. It has been cowardly and duplicitous.

Unlock the camps – protest.

GPJA will be supporting the Tamil community in a protest this Sunday 6th September, Aotea Square at 12noon. A replica barbed-wire camp will be set up on Queen Street with cricketers (mouths taped shut) playing outside the camp.

John Minto – (09) 8463173 (H) or 8469496(W)

Strike Benefit for Telecom Workers- Print off this Poster and Put it Up

Click on the JPG above and print yourself off some posters to put up in your workplace, campus or community. Spread the word and bring some friends to stand in solidarity with the 800 Telecom workers facing redundancy whilst their CEO pays himself $5 million.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What's happening- Organising Meeting decisions

Socialist Aotearoa activist meeting minutes

We started with a general discussion and review of recent actions such as the SAS demo in Papakura, the Hell Pizza picket, the really good reception to stalls on Krd for $15 an hour campaign, SA "AntiCapitalist" bulletins at the Joe Strummer gig and the Black Panthers talk.

We then looked forward to the next month or two, with the tempo being turned up by the Tories in all sorts of areas such as the night school cuts, the Telecom strike and the Supercity ripoff.

We decided the following:


We decided that every Tuesday at 7pm at Unite office, 6a Western Springs Rd there will be an SA activists meeting. These are the best way to organise, mobilise and intervene in the struggle


Tom talked about the telecom technicians strike, the upcoming strike breaking and the need for concrete solidarity with this struggle. We then decided to go with a benefit on Friday September 11 at 8pm. The Strike Benefit will be at Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn. - Nicola's booking the room - Omar's working on leaflet/poster and contacting the EPMU to arrange speakers - Kathryn organising mark on DJ - Omar, Kathryn, Tom - spreading it around union networks

Decided: - Minimum of $10 koha to the struggle at the door, 5 bucks unwaged.

people turn up early to set up venue -Aim to fundraise $1000 for the strikers.


We need a biweekly enewsletter to keep activists and supporters in the loop. It needs to be:- biweekly-videos, photos, links to a few good articles- have reports on past actions and diary of future events- Joe will compile it and put it out - everyone has to put in

SA signup sheet- Omar will make one

STALLS for $15 min wage campaign -

12 noon till 3pm this Saturday 5th outside Kevins Arcade, K'road -signing $15 campaign, building 30 october poverty wages march and giving out SA's "anti-capitalist"- we also talked about eventually getting a stall going in South Auckland and in Hamilton.

Auckland Uni Forums

We had a go around where everyone mentioned a forum/disscusion they would like to see us do at uni. Topics: -

  • Is capitalism fucked? -

  • Climate camp, way forward for the enviromental movment? -

  • how to develop revolutionaries training course -

  • Tino Rangatiratanga -

  • History of the NZ left - debate -

  • Supercity, whats happening? -

  • Reformism VS revolution - debate Omar Hamed VS Chris Trotter -

  • What would a socialist society look like -

  • Sex, Race, And Class -

  • Politicising Unions and the CTU -

  • 20 years since the fall of Stalinism

We decided to have the first one on the 17th of september at 7pm in clubspace (above the auckland university quad) - Topic - Is capitalism Fucked? - Debate between SA and a right winger from act, nats on campus, or the libertarianz. - Derwin Speaking for SA - Derwin to organise opposite speaker and room


We talked about our upcoming conference and decided that the deadline for discussion paper submissions will be the end of September. We also agreed that the conference should be held on the weekend of November the 5th, 92 years after the October Revolution. Time, venue, and agenda yet to be discussed.

Minutes taken by Omar and written up by Derwin.