Tuesday, March 30, 2010

25 cents an April Fool's Joke

Low paid workers are set to protest tomorrow in Auckland’s Queen street against a “April Fool’s Joke” 25 cents increase on the minimum wage.
The Living Wage Campaign will gather outside JB Hi Fi’s flagship store tomorrow Thursday 1st at 4pm in Queen St. JB Hi Fi is one of the companies currently offering their Unite members a zero percent pay rise.

The 25 cent an hour increase in the minimum wage from April 1 has been called an April Fool’s joke on low paid New Zealanders by the Unite Union campaigns coordinator Joe Carolan.

Unite Union, organises thousands of NZ’s lowest paid workers in fastfoods, cinemas, hotels and other industries. They are the sponsors of the Campaign for a Living Wage, which has gathered over 150,000 signatures to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“This April 1st, we’re asking- Who’s Fooling Who? 25 cents won’t pay the rent, and it won’t make a dent on rising costs and inflation for 100,000 of the lowest paid workers. 9 cents of it will already be eaten up by additional tax and increased ACC levies, which means their net pay is 5 cents an hour less than it should be.”

The 25 cents was supposed to compensate for inflation since the last rise a year ago, but at 2% (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/Economics/Inflation-CPI.aspx?symbol=NZD) inflation has reduced their net purchasing power by 21 cents per hour. Combined with the 9 cent levy and tax increase minimum wage workers will actually be just over 5 cents an hour worse off (-$2.11 a
week) than they were a year ago.

Campaigners will wheel New Zealand’s largest 25 cent coin down the street, stopping at low pay stores, getting low paid workers to sign the quarter with a message for John Key, before it is delivered to his mansion in Parnell. The Campaign is also launching a “Download this Government” drive to spread its living wage petition virally on the internet, as it seeks to gather thousands more names for its petition on the web. Supporters are being asked to download and print one page of the petition and collect 10 names during April. The campaign already has the largest membership for a campaigning group in NZ on Facebook, with more than 3,000 members.

“If John Key thinks we’re fools this April 1st- he might be in for a rude surprise. 150,000 registered voters have signed our petition to raise the min wage to $15ph, and many of these wrote to us saying how shocked they were at the Prime Minister’s admission to us that he couldn’t personally survive on minimum wage at the Big Gay Out. If it isn’t good enough for him, why is it good enough for the poorest workers?”

“There are also 350,000 workers on less than $15ph in New Zealand. Many of these rely on the minimum wage increase to bump up their own rates, in the absence of a fighting union like ours. Most of these people will get nothing, because of the miniscule size of the raise. It should come as no surprise that workers are now taking matters into their own hands - if the government won’t legislate for living wages, there will be action, including strikes, in the stores and on the sites. Certain multinationals that have offered our workers 0% will be first in the firing line, as anger spills out.”

The Living Wage Campaign will gather outside JB Hi Fi’s flagship store tomorrow Thursday 1st at 4pm in Queen St. JB Hi Fi is one of the companies currently offering their Unite members a zero percent pay rise.

Contact Joe Carolan at 029 44 55 702, e: joseph@unite.org.nz


Someone working 40 hours at the minimum wage will get a gross increase of 25 cents an hour or $10 a week tomorrow (from $500 to $510).


Their ACC earners levy will increase 3.75 cents per hour from 1st April as well.

Their PAYE tax, including the ACC increase, will go from $2.27 an hour to $2.36 - 9 cents of the 25 gone already.

Figures from the online IRD paye tax calulator -



Support the Campaign for a Living Wage, and get your friends and family to sign the petition for a $15ph min wage NOW.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Champagne Before Children

Workers to join Beneficaries on Picket Line at Paula Bennetts

Unionised workers will join beneficaries on picket duty outside Paula Bennett's electoral office in Henderson today at 11am, as anger against her attacks on the unemployed and their children mounts.

"100,000 people are on minimum wage, nearly half a million workers earn less than $15 an hour. Add the quarter of a million who are jobless and the quarter of a million people on the DPB or Sickness, and that's one million people below $15 an hour in this country." said Joe Carolan, Unite Union Campaign Organiser.

"Bennett and the government are trying to scapegoat the unemployed and to divide the working class- they'd rather anger was directed at struggling beneficaries and their children rather than at the idle rich who fund their National party."

"National are failing the working people of West Auckland- thousands are losing their jobs every month, but the government's response is to victimise these people rather than support. The real failure here is an economic system that puts profit before people, and champagne before children. The real bludgers in Aotearoa today are the millionaires who indulge in lives of luxury, whilst other people struggle to raise their families on a pittance."

"Today we see a picket of the unemployed. Next Thursday, April 1st, we will have a picket of low paid workers on Queen St. Both events will see unity between beneficaries and workers, because we are both poor. The Campaign for a Living Wage supports better wages for workers, and better benefits for those who need support and help. 100,000 people are on minimum wage, nearly half a million workers earn less than $15 an hour. Add the quarter of a million who are jobless and the quarter of a million people on the DPB or Sickness, and that's one million people below $15 an hour in this country.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stop the Bashing- Protest at Paula Benefit's Office

Beneficiaries and workers unite against this rotten government

Stop National’s attacks on Benefits

Unite for a Living Income Now

Protest outside Paula Bennett’s office, 429 Great North Rd, Henderson Saturday 11 am , 27th March

The National Government plans to force all single mothers into part time work, once their children are six. Those on Unemployment benefit who fail work tests will have their benefits halved or stopped. Sickness benefits are to be re-assessed and hardship grants are to be tightened. All benefits are to be stopped after one year and must be re applied for.

These measures show a “disturbing lack of empathy” towards those who cannot work or who can only work part time while on a benefit” (Child Poverty Action Group). It is simply not appropriate for all mothers on the DPB to be forced into outside work when their child reaches a particular age. Mothering is work, and must be fully supported by society. Family needs vary and it must be the mother’s decision when she undertakes paid work.

The attacks upon benefits are part of the governments agenda make its capitalist friends rich at our expense. In a time of rising unemployment it is absurd to bring in measures that force beneficiaries to work in order to qualify for a benefit. It’s work for the dole by another name.
The government is trying to to whip up sexist ,racist , beneficiary -bashing sentiments; to get support for its greedy and heartless attacks upon our livelihoods. It tries to divide the “deserving” poor-eg widows, against the “undeserving “eg single mothers.

It is also trying to divide non beneficiaries (those who rely on paid work as their main income) against beneficiaries (those whose main source of income is a benefit). In fact our interests are the same: we all need living incomes-whether in the form of wages, benefits, accommodation supplements; student allowances, pensions, etc or any combination of these.

When benefits go up, so do wages. We need to support each other in our struggles. Most workers rely on some kinds of state support these days; and most beneficiaries work-whether paid or unpaid.

  • Workers and Beneficiaries Unite
  • for a Living Income for All
  • Raise the Minimum Wage to at least $15 per hour
  • Raise all Benefits to a living income
  • Say no to punitive Benefit Threats and Cuts
  • End Child poverty NOW
  • Say No to youth rates
  • We won’t pay for their crisis
  • Make the bosses pay

Janet Bogle Acting President Unite Waitemata Branch

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thailand: hundreds of thousands take to the streets to demand Democracy

by Thai Socialist
Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Hundreds of thousands of Thai Redshirt pro-Democracy demonstrators took to the streets of Bangkok and other cities over the weekend. This was a show of force to prove the strength of the movement and to dispel any lies by the royalist Government and the media that the Redshirts are not representative of the majority. The stated aims of the movement are to force the Military-installed Government of Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections. However, it is difficult to see how the Redshirt leadership is going to turn this massive show of popular anger into a force which can confront and overcome the army, which staged a coup back in 2006. This is because the Redshirt leaders are not yet prepared to launch an all out ideological attack on the Military and the Monarchy. Calling fresh elections will not solve this problem. However, the massive turn out of Redshirts from Bangkok and the provinces is an important step forward. The vast majority of Redshirts are poor people, both urban and rural, and the Redshirt leaders are at last talking openly about a “class struggle” between the people and the elites. They need to go further and agitate among the urban working class and the lower ranks of the army in order to build up the momentum for revolutionary change. Any compromise will retain the power of the royalist elites who have constantly frustrated Democracy.
The political crisis and unrest which we have seen in Thailand since the 19th September 2006 military coup against the elected Taksin Government, represents a serious class war between the rich conservative and the urban and rural poor. It is not a pure class war and those taking part have different aims and different concepts of Democracy. Due to a vacuum on the Left since the collapse of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), millionaire and populist politician, Taksin Shinawat and his Thai Rak Thai Party , managed to inspire millions of ordinary Thais.
Despite the fact that many commentators try to explain the present conflict as only an elite dispute between Taksin and the conservatives and that it is a dispute between “the old feudal order” fighting back against “the modern capitalist class”, this is not what the conflict is really about. The missing element in most analyses is the actions of millions of ordinary people. Taksin built an alliance with workers and peasants through his pro-poor policies such as the first ever Universal Health Care Scheme and local village funds to develop rural areas. The Redshirts like Taksin, but they are not just being used by him or fighting only for his return. They want real Democracy and social justice. Both Taksin and his conservative opponents are both royalists in modern terms, in that both sides seek to use the institution of the Monarchy in order to help support capitalist class rule. Feudalism was abolished in Thailand in the 1870s.
What gradually turned the conservatives against Taksin was their fear that they would lose their privileges in the face of Taksin’s widespread modernisation programme which had mass popular support. In the past the elites had used a combination of military power, royalist ideology and money politics in order to ignore the wishes of the population.
Neither Taksin nor the conservative royalists intended their dispute to turn into a class war. But the mass pro-Democracy movement is starting to question the entire elite structure, including the Monarchy. This is because of the arrogant attitude of the conservative royalists and the prolonged nature of the crisis, plus the self organisation and self-funding of millions of Red Shirts at grass roots level. This class war is bringing about changes in political attitudes and putting all sections of society to the test. But the real question facing the movement is how to seize state power.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist, currently in exile in the U.K. His latest book “Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy” will be published in April 2010.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Undemocracy Zones in Aotearoa- the Battle of MIT

For the last few months, socialists throughout Aotearoa have been playing a leading part in the Campaign for a Living Wage, gathering over 150,000 signatures at mass petitioning events and festivals throughout the land such as Pasifika, the Lantern Festival, the Big Day Out and Polyfest. Our reception from workers has been amazing- there is no doubt that if this campaign was successful and a referendum was held, it would result in a crushing defeat for John Key's government. Whether Labour and the Big Unions can help the small band of 80 or so activists who have collected the 150,000 first names still remains to be seen- but there are another six weeks to go and it's all to play for.

IN Auckland, our campaign has been relentless- on the campuses, in the weekend markets, and yes, even on the beaches! But such systematic and cumulative activism around the issues of wages, prices and profits has thrown up another subplot to this campaign- the right to democracy itself.

Nearly everywhere we go, we are approached and surrounded by bosses, bureaucrats, security or cops, who think they have a right to control or forbid democratic activity. We have to fight an unholy cabal of authority figures for the simple right to talk to fellow workers and ask them to sign a petition. In Auckland, we thought this had come to a head when we took on the City Council at the Lantern Festival a few weeks ago.

Here, our stall was surrounded by a dozen policemen and a dozen private security guards, who photographed and videoed people signing the petition in support for a living wage. A Council bureaucrat tried to serve us with a Hawkers notice, despite the fact we were not selling anything. Unite leader Matt McCarten prepared himself for a night in the cells, promising Auckland City Council resistance to such petty bureaucracy. In the stand off that ensued, 1500 people ignored the cordon and signed our petition, and the police backed off when we insisted on our rights.

However, our battle now moves to Manukau, and the sprawling suburbs of South Auckland. The pimps of the ASB thought they had more of a right to talk to the struggling Pasifika working class than the Living Wage crew, who were harassed and threatened with trespass at Polyfest on Thursday, before mass defiance and pressure from the Campaign and Mayor Len Brown saw our rights restored.

The next battle for democracy will be happening in Manukau Institute of Technology this Thursday. Here, the right of students to form a Unite Club on Campus to campaign and petition has been denied by University Officials. The feudal University Authorities at MIT don't even allow an independent Student Union.

IN the 1960s, American students spent their summer holidays helping Black people to register to vote in racist states such as Alabama and Mississippi. When they returned to campus, they tried to set up Civil Rights Clubs in their universities. Draconian College authorities cracked down hard, forbidding students to hold any political opinions or exercise their democratic rights. But the repression saw an explosion of resistance, and the Free Speech Movement was born. Within five years, American universities became centres of resistance to racism, capitalism and the Vietnam War.

And Mario Savio's famous speech still echoes throughout the decades...

Join us this Thursday for the Battle for Democracy at MIT. Students have the right to form their own clubs. Students have the right to campaign and petition about poverty, in a campus located slap bang in the centre of it in Otara. Students have the right to independent student unions and representatives elected by themselves, not appointed by anti-union college authorities.

12 noon.
This Thursday 25th March
MIT. Corner of Otara and East Tamaki Road, off the Southern Motorway.
Stand up for democracy.


The series of mass strikes rocking Greece should be an inspiration – and an example – to every trade unionist here in Aotearoa.

Greece’s government is calling for a range of savage cuts - a freeze on pensions, salary cuts for public sector workers, a hike in a GST-like sales tax increases – all of which will make already hard lives even harder. Europe’s rulers are demanding even more to come and their message is clear: it’s workers and the poor who should pay for the crisis.

But workers are fighting back and once again dis-proving the bosses’ mantra There Is No Alternative.

The articles provide useful eyewitness coverage, background and analysis.

The Waihopai Three: Standing up to war and terror

“Aiders, abetters and apologists for those nasty nutters dedicated to the overthrow of the West” (Michael Laws). “The same sort of confident certainty” as Bush and Blair (The Dominion Post): abuse and vilification like this from the right wing shows peace activists Adrian Leason, Father Peter Murnane and Sam Land have deflated more than a satellite dish. They’ve also struck at the shroud of secrecy surrounding the Waihopai Spy Base’s contribution to the US’s wars. They’ve frightened the rich and powerful by taking a stand and, through their trial, have taken the reality of war back into the media.

Their acquittal in Wellington last week should give heart to everyone opposed to war and state terror.

The Ploughshares campaigners, in the words of Adrian Leason, "broke a law protecting plastic to uphold a law to protect human life". They were right to do so. You can find out more about the Anti-Bases Campaign here.

The great US historian and activist Howard Zinn once wrote that the problem was civil obedience, not civil disobedience. As the US occupation of Afghanistan – and its NZ support – enters another year, his words are still relevant.

Socialist Aotearoa salutes Adrian Leason, Peter Murnane and Sam Land for their moral courage. The struggle against the war continues.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Women's Liberation Today

Women's Liberation Today- a Socialist Aotearoa forum

With Nicola Owen, Robin Taylor Lyons and Jane Ferguson

8pm, this Thursday March 4th
Tom Forde's Political Museum
122 Anzac Avenue, Auckland.

Monday is International Women’s Day. It’s a chance to assess the struggles in the past and those yet to come.

We are constantly bombarded with the message that women “have it all” and no longer need to fight for anything better.

The gains of the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s brought real progress.

Over 49 percent of women now go to university, compared with 37 percent of men.

Abortion rights are now seen as fundamental among the majority of people and women make up half of the workforce.

But politicians and the right wing keep on attacking women’s right to choose.

And women continue to be stereotyped and treated as if they are worth less than men.

After years of legislation on equal pay, women are still earning over 17 percent less than men.

We need to challenge every manifestation of women’s oppression.

Women are most powerful as workers. Thousands of women in the PCS union will be fighting for jobs and services next week.

And women have been at the forefront of the strike wave in Greece.

Fighting along these class—not gender—lines is essential if we are to achieve socialism and true women’s liberation.

Further reading-

Tony Cliff on Class Struggle and Women's Liberation

Sharon Smith on Can Identity Politics Liberate the Oppressed?

Lindsey German on Theories of Patriarchy and Womens Liberation Today

Alexandra Kollontai on the origins of International Womens Day HERE

Clara Zetkin
on organising working women HERE

Frederick Engels on the Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State