Sunday, October 31, 2010


Had the striking miners triumphed at Waihi in 1912, labour moderates like subsequent parliamentary leaders Harry Holland and Michael Savage might have been consigned to the dustbins of history.

And J. B. King, leader of New Zealand’s revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World, instead of fleeing New Zealand to avoid prosecution for preaching violence and sabotage, might have stayed to lead a militant Labour Party to power.

And the banks would have been nationalised and workers’ control of industry implemented and a republic declared and New Zealand begun working closely with revolutionary Russia on foreign policy.

But-- the miners were defeated.
And in the process a union member, Frederick George Evans, a member of the Waihi Miners’ Union, was murdered by rampaging scabs and police seizing the miners’ hall. With Waihi now occupied by police and scabs, Evans’ body was brought up to Auckland and buried at Waikaraka cemetery, Onehunga.
Above his grave rises a broken column, the symbol of a life cut short.
Every year the death of Frederick Evans is remembered in November, the month he died. This year the F. G. Evans Memorial Committee is calling on unionists and supporters to gather at the grave at Waikaraka cemetery, Onehunga, at 3pm on Friday Nov 12, the date Evans was murdered.

Following the ceremony, where a wreath will be laid, there will be refreshments at the offices of the National Distribution Union, Onehunga and discussions on how best to mark the centenary of the Waihi strike, coming up in two years’ time.

The killing of Fred Evans

On 'Black Tuesday', 12 November 1912, in the midst of a bitter six-month strike by miners in the small New Zealand goldmining town of Waihi, striker Fred Evans was killed - one of only two fatalities* in an industrial dispute in New Zealand's history.

The 'Red Feds'

An Australian-born stationary-engine driver, Evans belonged to the militant Waihi Trade Union of Workers. Led by Bill Parry, also Australian-born, this was affiliated to the New Zealand Federation of Labour ('Red Feds') and was implacably opposed to the Waihi Goldmining Company. In May 1912 the union went on strike in protest at the formation of a company-inspired breakaway union for engine-drivers.

The local police inspector initially adopted a low-key response to the dispute, but he was overruled by the tough Police Commissioner John Cullen, who ordered extra forces to be sent to the town. In July William Massey's conservative Reform Party came to power. Enthusiastically backed by Cullen, Massey was determined to crush the 'enemies of order'.

Eventually about 80 police - 10% of the New Zealand Police Force - were deployed in the town. Leading strikers, including Evans, were arrested, and more than 60 were gaoled. Parry was sentenced to four months in Mt Eden prison. The Red Fed leaders began to lose control of the strike as workers influenced by the radical American-based Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or 'Wobblies') demanded more militant action.

In October the company reopened the mines with non-union labour. Among the strike-breakers was Thomas Johnston, like Evans born in Victoria. Johnston was driven to seek work at Waihi by the failure of his Auckland market garden, which plunged his family into destitution. Travelling to and from work under police protection, he and his fellow 'scabs' were showered with stones and taunts by the striking miners and their wives, who took an increasingly prominent role.

Armed struggle

Escalating violence in Waihi culminated in the dramatic events of 'Black Tuesday', 12 November 1912. A crowd of strike-breakers and police stormed the miners' hall, at the time defended by Evans and just two or three other men. Both sides were armed. During a struggle at the door, Johnston was shot in the knee, probably by Evans. A police constable was shot in the stomach, but managed to fell Evans with his baton. Evans went down under a barrage of boots and blows.

Left for an hour and a half in police cells before being taken to hospital, Evans never regained consciousness and died the next day. Johnston's and the constable's injuries were slight. As the strike collapsed, strikers and their families were hunted through the streets by armed mobs. The violence was as vicious as any seen in a civil conflict in New Zealand, and hundreds of people fled Waihi over the following days.

The Red Feds gave Evans a massive political funeral in Auckland. If Evans had shot a policeman, Red Fed leader Bob Semple thundered, then he was 'doing his duty and should have shot more of them.' But despite their rhetoric, the Red Feds responded cautiously to the defeat at Waihi. Many moderate unionists, who had opposed the strike, had become increasingly alarmed at the government's harsh response. Aware of the opportunity this presented, the Red Feds began to seek unity with the moderates they had previously damned.

The final showdown

At two unity conferences in 1913 a tentative consensus was reached, and a new United Federation of Labour (UFL) was formed. In late 1913, however, separate disputes on the Wellington wharves and Huntly coalmines escalated into a nationwide watersiders' and miners' strike. This time Massey was determined to crush militant unionism once and for all.

Mounted 'special' police, derisively dubbed 'Massey's Cossacks', were soon involved in violent clashes with strikers on the streets of Wellington. When the wharves were reopened with non-union labour, under heavy police protection, the UFL called a general strike, but except in Auckland, where more than 5,000 workers responded, this fizzled out. Within days, many leading unionists had been arrested for 'sedition' or for inciting violence, and by the end of the year the strike had been crushed.

A labour martyr

Fred Evans's death transformed an obscure figure into a martyr of the labour movement. Each year a commemorative service is held at his grave in Auckland's Waikaraka Cemetery. As for Johnston, he was committed to a mental hospital, escaped, and later disappeared from view. Bill Parry fared better: he was elected to Parliament for the Labour Party in Auckland Central in 1919, and when Labour triumphed in 1935 he became Minister of Internal Affairs. A street in Waihi was even named after him.

*The other fatality was Christine Clark who died on New Year's eve 1999 from brain injuries she suffered when run over while on a picket line at the Port of Lyttelton.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Mana Matters

Commentary: Omar Hamed

As you may be aware the Labour Party MP for the Mana electorate in Wellington, Winnie Laban, has resigned from Parliament, and on Wednesday 27 October nominations closed for the byelection.

The byelection is due to be held on November 20 just before our first Unite conference. The electorate of Mana has been a traditionally safe Labour seat. It’s an extremely unequal area incorporating some of New Zealand’s most deprived areas like Cannons Creek and Porirua East and also some of New Zealand’s most affluent like Whitby and Plimmerton.

Labour is expected to win comfortably with party worker Kris Faafoi ghosting to victory. National’s Hekia Parata will also put in a show shoring up support for the Tories in the wealthy coastal suburbs.

Yet for many residents of Mana the core issues will be ignored. Wages and taxes. Poverty. Employment. Public transport.

A living wage and fair taxation.

Unite has fought tirelessly for the minimum wage to be set at a liveable level and we’ve opposed changes to make the tax system more unfair. Yet Labour and National will not lift real incomes to what they were before 1984 and before the destruction of working class incomes to bolster corporate profits.

Many Mana residents will only see a better tomorrow or higher wages if the minimum wage is moved to $15hr now and then set at two-thirds of the average wage. Raising wages also boosts benefit and family assistance levels to working folk who don't have a job. We need to ensure that raising the minimum wage remains one of the central political issues for the country.

Removing GST from fresh fruit and veges is a gimmick and the only way to improve New Zealand’s tax system is by overhauling the system and removing unfair, anti-productive taxes like GST and replacing them with new taxes on unproductive wealth- capital gains tax, death duties, luxury goods tax, a financial speculation tax and returning the company and upper income tax rates to their pre-crash levels.

We need,

  • $15hr minimum wage now and then set at two-thirds of the average wage
  • State arbitrated wages and conditions in industries through a body like Fair Work Australia.
  • Shift taxation of the working poor and onto the super-rich and the well off to make society more equal and fairer.

Poverty in Porirua

Porirua is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country. This is shown by child poverty statistics. The spread of third world diseases in Porirua is a black spot on our community.

Children living in Porirua have the highest preventable hospitalisation rate in the region. It is twice the rate of Kapiti and 73% higher than children in Wellington. 24% of children live in overcrowded houses. Serious infections (respiratory and skin) requiring admission for Porirua children is twice the rate of Wellington children.

Porirua East and Cannon’s Creek areas have the highest rates of rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever, "It is a third-world disease, a disease of overcrowding, inadequate housing and poor healthcare access." Hastings GP Liffey Rimmer has said.

Rheumatic fever starts as a sore throat and streptococcus A infection and can be quickly treated by anti-biotics. Untreated it can develop into a serious illness that lasts for life eventually destroying a victims joints and parts of their heart.

Nationally, rates of rheumatic fever are six in 100,000, but rocket to 106 in 100,000 in Porirua East. [1] Rheumatic fever hospitalisation costs are approximately $10 million per annum.

The Government could lift many in Porirua out of poverty and end the spread of third world diseases by,

  • Building more public housing and upgrading and insulating all the current stock.
  • Free doctor’s visits for all school aged children.
  • Raising the minimum wage and family assistance payments to liveable levels.


In 2006 there were 2,130 on the unemployment benefit in Mana in 2006. Porirua city has the highest unemployment levels in Wellington region.

Nationwide unemployment is 6.8% and rising. 68,200 youth aged 15-24 that were unemployed as of June 2010. That means there are 159,000 New Zealanders unemployed. Including those looking for work or available for work, jobless figures had risen to 255,700 in June. 102,400 part-timers want more hours. Long term unemployment is up 70.4 percent in the last year. These unemployment levels are a scandalous waste of human energy and talent.

The cost of providing jobs to the unemployed is comparatively small. The difference between the $180 per week the state provides in unemployment assistance to a single 20-24 youth and the $600 per week it could pay in return for community service, construction or any other form of employing an unemployed worker is just $21,840 per year.

To put that in perspective the $1.7 billion taxpayer bailout for South Canterbury Finance could pay the wages of 77,838 unemployed workers. Look at it another way and instead of providing tax cuts to the rich that will cost the Government $4 billion next year it could have created full employment.

Neither Labour or National have a serious short term plan to create jobs although they are happy give cash to failing financiers. Nor do they have a long term plan to rebuild and protect a productive economic base in New Zealand in the long term.

New Zealand needs to ensure that every person who wants a job can get one and that we need a long term plan to regrow our productive economy.

For 25 years until 1998 a Todd Motors employed up to 2000 workers making cars and trucks in Porirua in the “university on the hill”. Now because of the deregulation of our economy and the retreat of the state from economic development we have lost the ability to create good jobs. We need to have a long term plan to make the technology of the future in New Zealand- trains, low carbon energy alternatives and sustainable, good quality consumer goods.

Public transport

Public transport is another major issue for Mana that has national implications. Labour’s failure to adequately fund and develop new public transport options under public ownership and control is compounded by National’s move to shift the cost of public transport onto users and the ongoing threat of privatisation.

This move towards increased user pays will hurt students, low income workers and the elderly. Nineteen percent of Porirua residents use public transport every day or nearly every day

Already a trip using public transport from Porirua to Wellington CBD costs $4.40 (based on a ten trip fare) while the cost of the same trip by private car is only $4.05 (operating costs only). The Government want to increase fare price at 3% per year for 10 years. At 3% increases each year till 2020 it will cost $60.48 for a ten trip from Porirua to Wellington in 2020.

Public transport is better for the environment, reduces congestion and decreases reliance of unsecure global oil supplies. Fares should be frozen and eventually reduced for those who can’t afford them. Free public transport is affordable and is a common sense long term solution to carbon emissions and city congestion. We need to oppose any form of privatisation and move to create a publicly owned bus company to provide public transport services in our largest cities.

The left can deliver a strong intervention in the Mana by-election.

The neo-liberal right wing economic theory that has prevailed for the last twenty-five years is in crisis and falling apart. We have a chance in Mana to give our alternatives a national stage. Unite has always been a movement of the working poor, now we have a chance to politically articulate four key alternatives to neo-liberalism- living wage and fair taxes, healthy communities and eliminating child poverty, employment for everyone and rebuilding the economy and good, affordable public transport.

Mana matters and all lefties should be supporting it by whatever means necessary. National, Labour and politics as usual have failed Mana, only a serious left alternative to neo-liberalism can begin to repair the damage done to the people of this electorate.

$15hr minimum wage

Tax the idle rich, not the working poor

Jobs for all


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Matt for Mana! its time for a New Left.

Commentary- Joe Carolan

In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union, announced his candidacy in the Mana By Election in Wellington earlier today. Matt has had a quarter of century's experience fighting for New Zealand's poorest workers, and was a founding member of both the New Labour Party and the Alliance. Now standing as a member of the Independent Left, he would make an excellent champion for the thousands of low paid and unemployed workers in Mana.

Support for Matt has come in from many members of other trade unions, as well as most of the organisations of the socialist left, who worked hard together in last year's Campaign for a Living Wage Referendum push. That Campaign got over 200,000 signatures of support to raise the minimum wage in New Zealand to $15ph NOW, and then two thirds of the average industrial wage subsequently. It was also successful in getting the independent left out into the housing estates, markets and workplaces, co operating in struggle together.

Labour has had this seat since the 1930s and has done little to alleviate the poverty there. The escalating attacks on the working class in New Zealand requires the serious left to look for political as well as industrial solutions. The Labour Party just won't cut it. Under the leadership of Phil Goof, they'll be lucky to clear 35% in next years election. In the War of the Hobbit, they can't even decide which side they're on. They're a centrist, liberal party who lost the last election because they ignored their working class base- the kind of people who live in Mana.

Socialists will campaign hard for Matt and for the people of Mana in the next month- for decent state housing, for affordable public transport, for a living wage, full employment and a planned economy. The Free Market economics that people like Phil Goof unleashed inthe 1980s have failed New Zealand. It's time for a New Left. Matt for Mana!

Mana Campaign Introduction

-Matt McCarten

The Unite Union has announced its endorsement of its General Secretary Matt McCarten to contest the Mana by-Election. McCarten is required to contest the election as an independent.

The Unite Union has been at the forefront of campaigning for low income workers in New Zealand over several years.

This government over the last year has launched attacks on workers that include the right for any worker to be sacked without notice or reason on the whim of an employer. In addition they are restricting the rights of workers by restricting union access to their members. The sale of holiday entitlements is only the start of claw backs for vulnerable workers. The cravenness of John Key to the US owners of the Hobbit films to even change our employment laws says it all.

Unite launched a campaign over a year ago to win $15 an hour minimum for every worker. 200,000 New Zealanders have signed our petition. Unite intends to make raising wages a central issue for the by-Election and will seek the support of all the candidates.

This government has no economic plan and just hopes that somehow the international markets will come to our rescue. They won’t.

By-elections are democratic processes where not only will they elect a new MP but they have an opportunity to send a message to parliament. Unite intends to do that.

We have been supportive of Labour’s long overdue realisation that the new right agenda implemented by their party and carried on by National have been a disaster for New Zealand. But we have been disappointed at their timidity over what the alternatives could be.

My candidature will give the people of Mana strong alternatives that roll back the failed ideology of the past 25 years.

We intend to run on three main platforms and seek a mandate from the voters of Mana:

1#1 $15ph Min Wage NOW. Raising wages is central to the campaign. The practical way to close the wage gap with Australia is by legislating for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If I win we will see that as a mandate to have a Royal Commission set up to enquire into what income a worker on 40 hours would need to live with dignity. Once established then appropriate economic and employment policy would be needed to ensure this happens. During the next 3 weeks we will seek to have a majority of the people of Mana to sign our petition to raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately. The cabinet currently is reviewing the minimum wage and we want a strong message sent to them from the voters of Mana.

2. #2. Jobs. The free market won’t reduce unemployment. Government intervention is required to do that. Mana like every other electorate has about 3000 official unemployed. The dignity of meaningful work is an economic good in itself. To employ 3000 on $15 an hour in fulltime work costs less than $100m a year net. After giving over $1.6 billion of our money to South Canterbury Finance it’s clear it’s not about have we got the money, it’s about priorities. I want a strong message sent that no one gets the dole. The government will invest in jobs. In Mana we could put two teachers’ aides into very classrooms creating almost 1000 jobs. We could get the Wananga to train 500 young unemployed in basic building skills and set them up to repair and upgrade run down state houses. We can get another 500 into home help for senior citizens and the sick. It’s not science; it’s whether we have the will.

3. #3. Taxes. The burden of paying the bills has dramatically shifted to the from the asset wealthy and high incomes to the middle and low income New Zealanders. GST is one of those taxes. Labour weak response is disappointing. I will release an alternative tax policy in the campaign to start the discussion off. Frankly GST has to go and an alternative like the Financial Transaction Tax (now enjoying popular support overseas as the Robin Hood tax) is fairer and more efficient.

I will also release policy discussion papers during the campaign on economic planning that includes foreign investment and immigration; and workers’ rights to start a discussion for areas that are clearly failing.

I intend to run a strong aggressive campaign and put the two main candidates under some pressure to work for their votes and ask them to respond to the above three platforms. Whilst I will target National (as the villains of course) Labour also has to engage in meaningful debate rather than generalisations.

The Other Candidates: All the candidates are fine people and are to be congratulated for offering themselves. But this by election isn’t about them or me. It’s about the people of Mana and the rest of New Zealand. I intend to engage in serious debate and persuade the people of Mana to send a big message to parliament to elect me as their representative to parliament on the 20th of November.

Matt McCarten

Breaking news: John Key promises radical law changes to secure Hobbit

10.40pm UPDATE: Reports have just come through that Robyn Malcom has just been deported to Australia and stripped of her New Zealand citizenship. Journalists reported seeing her being dragged, chained by blue trolls through Auckland airport.


After secret closed door meetings between John Key, Gerry Brownlee and a delegation of Warner Brothers executives the Government have announced sweeping new law changes in exchange for the company keeping The Hobbit in New Zealand.

Speaking at a press conference late on Tuesday night the Prime Minister and Sir Peter Jackson outlined a new law that will be introduced under urgency in Parliament on Wednesday morning and is expected to pass into law by the end of the week.

In comments to media John Key said that the Hobbit Enabling Bill had been drafted to ensure industrial certainty and a profitable economic environment for Warner Brothers.

"The Hobbit Enabling Bill when passed into law will designate all workers' unions as terrorist organisations under the Terrorism Suppression Act and participation in collective bargaining a criminal offence punishable by hanging.

"The Hobbit Enabling Bill will also remove all workers' rights completely from the statute book. From now on no worker has a right to annual leave, sick leave, the right not to be unfairly dismissed or to a minimum wage.

"For some occupations we will require more certainty than ever before. To ensure the producers economic certainty all actors shall be required to work for a set naximum wage of $2 per hour with no additional benefits.

"We've also looked carefully at the tax system and will reduce the corporate tax rate to 0% for any international corporation. Of course this may impact our social services such as healthcare but we will make this shortfall up by slave labour provided by unemployed actors."

Sir Peter Jackson also present at the press conference told assembled journalists about new media laws.

"All old episodes of Cambell Live will be destroyed, especially those episodes where I gave any assurances that Warner Brothers are not just playing for tax breaks (We have never asked the Government for increased tax breaks and I don't believe that Warners will 7min50s)."

"New statues will be created around the country to honour the humble Weta technician who has proudly stood for the rights of multinational corporations to exploit New Zealand workers."

Summary of Hobbit Enabling Act:
  • Unions are illegal terrorist organisations.
  • Participation in collective bargaining is illegal and can be punished by hanging.
  • All workers rights will be deleted from the statute book.
  • Actors maximum pay is $2 per hour.
  • New corporate taxrate of 0% for international corporations.
  • Old episodes of Campbell Live to be destroyed.
  • New statues to be built to our heroic Weta technicians.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Labour Day 2010: In the midst of a working class upsurge

"I believe in workers' rights."

In the last week we've seen the country's biggest union rallies since 1991. We've also seen high profile workplace disputes dominate the headlines- teachers, health workers and dozens of other worker struggles.

The Hobbit dispute has turned from a massive global boycott by actors seeking a collective agreement into a capital strike against NZ by Warner Brothers. On the horizon is the RWC and the potential for significant unrest.

It's never an easy road and employers and John Key have been quick to villify Helen Kelly and Robyn Malcolm for their role in defending unionism. The principle underpinning the resolve shown by unionists from Parnell to Malcolm is summed up in typical Kiwi sentiment, "I really believe in this stuff. I believe in workers' rights."

Winning the 8 hour day

All this direct action would please the old man of the local labour movement, Samuel Parnell, if he was around to see it.

New Zealand is recognised as the one of the first places in the world where the eight hour working day was generally established. The struggle for the eight hour day began in early 1840 with the carpenter Samuel Parnell, recently arrived to Petone, declaring to a prospective employer that he would not be employed to work more than eight hours a day, “There are eight hours for sleep, eight hours for labour and men do require some little time for themselves”.

This stand gave some heart to the colony’s carpenters and at Petone a Carpenter’s Association was formed and at its formative meeting in October 1840, it declared eight hours to be the working day and that “anyone offending should be ducked in the harbour”. With this the eight hour day movement in New Zealand began and through its early days direct action has played a critical role in ensuring that employers engage men only at eight hours.

Where workers have had the industrial power, organisation and confidence, they were mostly able to win the eight hour day in the early years of this colony. New Zealand’s first strike was in 1841 when labourer’s constructing the road from Wellington to the Hutt Valley, successfully struck for an 8 hour day. In the province of Otago, the Otago Association had guaranteed the settlers an eight hour day. But on January 24 1849, Captain Cargill, the leader of the settlement issued a notice that ten hours would be a days work. This caused the settlers, led by Samuel Shaw, to hold a mass meeting where they pledged to uphold the eight hour day.

Still fighting
170 years later however the 8 hour day is under attack.
CTU secretary Peter Conway says there are nearly 260,000 people without jobs, while more than 100,000 others want more work so they can pay the bills.

He says the 2006 Census showed 416,641 people work more than 50 hours per week and the struggle to make ends meet is reflected in the current industrial unrest.

And as Matt McCarten of Unite has pointed out,
The historic struggles Labour Day marked were effectively still being fought, given workers today were more productive and put in longer hours while "real" wages went backwards.
Global upsurge
Some activists like to contend that we are in the midst of a global downturn in struggle. However this is far from the case. We are actually in the midst of a vast upsurge in working class activity and new forms of global labour solidarity are being built. As RadioNZ's recent programme on global unions showed, from the London Dockers Strike of 1889 to the current UnionAid project, NZ unionists have been at the forefront of global labour solidarity.

Last month 100 million workers struck in India against privatisation and rising prices. This is the largest strike ever in the history of the world.

In fact 7 out of 30 of the largest strikes in history have happened this year. India, South Africa, Turkey, Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

So as we remember our martyrs (Fred Evans, Ernie Abbott and Christine Clarke) let's keep an eye on the future and keep the strikes, picket lines and occupations steady as we fight to stop the Nats and the employing class attacking our wages and conditions. Not to mention the necessity of standing up to another round of neo-liberal restructuring that will destroy our public housing, social welfare and education.

Never cross a picket line!

NZ supporting torture in West Papua

New Zealand continues to train Indonesian police and military forces and McCully remains silent on new video showing horrific torture from West Papua.

The New Zealand-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee is again questioning New Zealand's training of Indonesian police in Papua following reports of a village burning earlier this month.

The reports allege Indonesia's mobile police brigade burnt at least 29 homes leaving about 150 Papuans homeless.

A spokesperson for New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully says the brigade is a separate entity from the Indonesian officers New Zealand police have been training in Papua.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee spokesperson Maire Leadbeater says she accepts New Zealand is not training paramilitary officers, but she says the latest incident raises greater concern about its role in Papua

"Is this is a police force with structural problems where brutality and violence against indigenous people is endemic and is this really the right way our aid should be directed. Would we not be better spending our aid dollar on something clearly useful like offering scholarships for English language training to indigenous people."

Maire Leadbeater says very few of the police New Zealand is training are indigenous Papuans.
This comes in the wake of the release of video showing Indonesian forces torturing West Papuans.
West Papuan human rights workers have obtained a series of mobile phone videos of brutal acts of torture on two West Papuan priests. Indonesian security forces, most likely troops from the Kostrad battalion 754 based at Nabire, filmed the torture March 17 2010 at a road bridge near Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya, in the midst of a still ongoing military operation. More at Pacific Scoop
The absolute silence in the media and from the Government is distrubing. The wikileaks release of Iraq war documents should be alerting all of us to to the danger of turning a blind eye to brutality. However the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The extent of our co-operation with Indonesian police forces is distrubing,
New Zealand has bilateral programmes under which training is offered to Indonesian military officers and training in community policing is offered to the police in West Papua. Given these ties we believe that New Zealand must pursue answers about this latest evidence of ongoing human rights violations in West Papua. This is no time for New Zealand to be offering military training to Indonesia and these ties should be ended.
Just as the New Zealand Government let genocide occur in our Pacific neighbour East Timor for 24 years, today our Government cosys up to Indonesia as the brutal occupation of West Papua continues.

As Rory MacKinnon of Scoop has written,

Yet there is hope: McCully and his prime minister can publicly insist on a genuinely independent investigation. They can join calls in the Pacific Islands Forum for a fact-finding mission into human rights violations in West Papua. They can withdraw their joint training exercises with Indonesian law enforcement until the law is actually enforced in the region. There are all sorts of things they can do to give Monday’s victims and the people of West Papua hope. But trusting the butchers in Indonesia’s military to sort it out amongst themselves is not one of them.

Never again can we be silent and indifferent to the plight of Pacific peoples struggling for self-determination.

Never again can we cosy up to Indonesia as it tortures and kills those who oppose its bloody occupation.

Papua Merdeka! Free Papua!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Matt McCarten - Neo-liberalism is a con job

In a wide ranging interview Unite leader Matt McCarten discusses atheism, socialism, neo-liberalism, the IWW, working class history and the need for a new left party.

Matt McCarten is the secretary and founding member of the Unite Union – one of the few unions anywhere in the world to have successfully unionised McDonald’s restaurants.

A founder of both the New Labour and Alliance parties, Matt McCarten is regularly used as a left wing pundit by the media. After a childhood spent in orphanages Matt McCarten’s union activism began at the age of 17 in a spontaneous occupation of a hotel he was working at in Queenstown.

Ideas producer Jeremy Rose talks to Matt McCarten about some of the individuals, writers and thinkers who have influenced his own ideas, a list which includes: Spartacus, psychoanalyst Victor Frankl, writer and activist Bruce Jesson, and Noam Chomsky.

Listen here | Download here (45 mins)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Key puts class struggle centre stage- Minto

thanks to John Darroch, Mike Treen begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting and Nicholas Maine for the pics above.

Commentary: John Minto

The well attended union meetings and rallies around the country yesterday were the most hopeful sign for New Zealand I've seen for a long time.

I went to the rally at TelstraClear stadium in Manukau but never got in. First we were stuck for half an hour in a traffic jam as we neared the venue (bigger than a normal Auckland jam) and when we got there the stadium was overflowing with as many people outside as inside.

Attending the meeting were mums and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers who represent all that is decent about New Zealand. Too often it is the big private capitalists who get feted by politicians but the real work is done by these wage and salary earners whose energy has built the country.

Union rally in WellingtonThese workers are in a campaign to fight back against Act/National/employer policies to make our low-wage economy even more difficult for working New Zealanders.

The last big attack on workers and their right to organise together in unions was from the 1991 Employment Contracts Act, which made the labour market more "flexible". For employers "flexible" means reducing workers' bargaining power, keeping pay low, removing penal rates, turning fulltime jobs into casualised employment and maintaining a sizable pool of unemployed to increase the vulnerability of workers.

As I've said before, this is the defining reason New Zealand wages and salaries stagnated while Australia surged ahead. Their union movement was not crippled and their business owners were forced to invest in improving technology and productivity while New Zealand business owners grew fat, not by increasing productivity but by creaming profits from stagnating wages and salaries.

Labour did little to stem the slide during its nine years in government and now National is back for another round of worker-bashing on behalf of too many lazy, incompetent capitalists.

This time, as CTU president Helen Kelly says, workers are assumed to be liars and skivers with employers to be given the power to demand a medical certificate after a single day's sickness. But at the heart of the attack is the "fire at will" provision whereby a worker may be fired without reason or appeal in the first 90 days of employment.

But workers are fighting back this time. They didn't in 1991 because they were sold out by a leadership which was gutless and politically corrupt.

(Ken Douglas, failed union leader in 1991, has spent his time since then as a bedfellow of those who gained the most from trashing workers' rights.)

Union membership in New Zealand remains low and Key is working with employers to keep it that way. He is worried there will be a backlash (as there is in other countries) from workers objecting to paying the price for the greed and stupidity of bankers who caused the financial crisis. Best to get in early and put in as many obstacles as possible to workers organising together.

But the spirit of yesterday's rallies means the fightback is alive and well.

John Key is bringing the class struggle to centre stage.

Photos in this post copyright to their respective owners and not to be reproduced.

Workers up the ante - another Aotearoa is possible

22,000 workers mobilised on October 20th to send a message to the Government - we are going to fight for our rights.

As one factory worker told 3News - "Workers rights? There's no workers rights. It's all about the money. It's all about the rich getting richer the poor getting poorer. No one wants to say it. I'll say it. Hell yeah."

The biggest mobilisation of union members since 1991. The action marks a turning point for the union movement. At union offices in Wellington Trades Hall, banners from the 1990s were being taken out of the cupboard. The old banners, slogans and activists of a fighting movement will be be given new polish.

As nurse and socialist activist Grant Brookes said, "The NZ Nurses Organisation has called stop work meetings in District Health Boards nationwide, for the first time since 2004. You can't imagine how long some of us have been waiting - and pushing - for this."

Most importantly the union leaders are promising further action, a stark contrast to 1991. The CTU are talking about organising futher mass outreach work and rallies next year.

Robert Reid, leader of the NDU thundered at the Auckland rally, "We will defeat this bill, nothing is surer! If not today, we will defeat it tomorrow; if not tomorrow, we will defeat it on the streets, we will defeat it in the workplaces, we will defeat it next year when we throw this anti-union Government out! We defeated John Banks and got Len Brown in ... We can win, we will win, we will throw this bill and this Government into the dustbin of history!"

There are lessons to be learnt from the rallies. The events centre was too small for the Auckland rally - thousands of workers left outside in the car park in the wind. Meeting finished and leaders left as busload after busload of workers continued to arrive, the motorway was jammed with union members trying to get there on time. Next time we need a massive rally on Queen Street, make sure no one is locked out or that the action finishes just as people arrive.

In Wellington some workers thought the Mayor's speech was bizarre and some people felt partronised by the tone of the speeches. The voices from the rank and file need to be on the platform.

However the union movement is under a concentrated and sustained attack from the right led by Peter Jackson and bolstered by The Dom Post. The actors dispute, education and health union fights over pay and quality are putting employers and the state under serious pressure.

Forced against the wall they've come out swinging. Unable to explain 1/4 million unemployed workers, wage stagnation and cuts to public services Key and co will be forced to turn the menace of union power into an election issue. For right wing voters at Australia's 2007 election, union militancy was their number one political concern.

As the recession continues to bite, as wages deteriotate and working conditions are attacked unions must continue to be staunch and intensify outreach to working people explaining the need for working people to make a stand whether they be doctors, teachers or actors. We can't backdown now.

With next year shaping up to be a showdown over wages for Rugby World Cup workers in hotels and hospitality it's vital that the demand for a living wage is heard as we head into the minimum wage review period and the Government makes its decision in December.

Mass strikes, direct action and public outreach should continue as we head into Summer. "Fair pay for Xmas" is a catchy slogan.

As Mike Tait of the ISO and an EPMU member has said, "The strike is our only real strength and organisation is the only way to build that strength. In the 70s and 80s when strikes were high, we had a much more equal society and the NZ economy was much more highly ranked than now."

In coming months socialists will have to focus on supporting and organising more and better industrial action. During this struggle the serious, committed working class fighters will prove themselves on their worksites, in their communities and on the streets. From these networks of struggle a new left movement will be forged. Let's keep upping the ante. No Christmas truce. Keep up the momentum and the resistance. Socialist Aotearoa will be at the heart of that resistance.

Keep the Government under pressure. Build unity around opposition to neo-liberalism and continue the struggle- stop the attacks on public services, no to mass unemployment, defend workers' rights, fight for a living wage and livable benefits. We also have to have a long term vision for a socialist society and explain that vision to people.

Another Aotearoa is possible. On October 20 you could see the hope for the future in the faces of the working men and women who make this country run. Let's keep fighting to make that future a reality. As someone shouted on one of the marches yesterday, "All power to the workers!"


Worker at rally: 'This 90 day bill is killing us'

Industrial rallies underway throughout the country – Video

CTU: Biggest worker protests in a decade reject laws

Thousands protest against new employment laws

Photos: Thousands rally against new employment laws

Unions' fight for workplace access takes to the streets

Scoop photos

France in revolt shows our power

by Charlie Kimber in Paris

The fightback in France against attacks on pensions has shown magnificent resistance.

Workers are fighting President Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempts to make them pay more for their pension and to work to 67 before they get a guaranteed full pension.

It is the main symbol of the rich trying to make workers pay for the crisis.

Mass strikes, demonstrations and student protests were in full flow on Tuesday.

Petrol shortages were spreading across the country as all 12 oil refineries had joined a continuous strike. Some 2,700 of France’s 12,600 petrol stations had completely run out of supplies.

Blockades of oil depots continued at Caen, Reichstett, Dunkirk, and Saint-Pierre-des Corps.

Lorry drivers were also on strike, launching go-slow “Operation Escargot” (snail) protests on many major roads.

Almost 1,000 of France’s 4,300 secondary schools were on strike, with 600 of them blockaded. In several areas school students had barricaded roads and fought back against police attacks.

This workers and students’ revolt has the power to break the austerity offensive—if it is used to its full potential.

Tuesday’s protests were the culmination of a tumultuous few days.

A week earlier 3.5 million people joined marches and strikes. On Wednesday all-out strikes began on the rail, in oil refineries and some other sections.

On Thursday thousands of school students and some university students joined the battle.

Under pressure from the strikes and protests, Sarkozy unleashed the police last week.

He sent riot squads to clear the roads outside refineries. Police fired flash-ball rounds—a “less lethal” alternative to live ammunition—seriously injuring students in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon.

But this did not stop the revolt. Striking workers piled up tyres in front of a refinery at Grandpuits, east of Paris, after authorities issued a legal order ordering them to reopen.

Other workers and residents formed a “human chain” to defend the refinery workers from the police. Meanwhile, school students continued the battle.

Last Saturday 310,000 demonstrated in Paris.

Isabelle, a school student- “Sarkozy’s attacks on pensions also matter for us. One day perhaps we will have a pension, if we don’t die first!

“But we are also here because we hate what he has done in attacking the Roma and by saying young people are criminals.

“Look at us here, we are united, we don’t hate people because they are from another country or another religion.

“The newspapers and some politicians say we are being used, but we can make up our own minds and can see what is happening.

“I would like all schools to stop, and the workers too.”

Yves, a rail worker, said, “I am on strike and so are many of my mates. But it is hard if you don’t feel wider support.

“Many workers are scared they will be sacked if they come out. I am proud of my union in supporting us, but we need clear calls everywhere for solidarity.

“I am fighting for my daughter as well as myself.”

Jean, a lorry driver- “I am on strike now because we want to stop the government moving oil to break the refinery strikes.

“We need a continuous general strike of all workers to make sure we win.”

Sarkozy, urged on by all of Europe’s bosses, has said he will stand firm. More action is needed to beat him.

‘I want to see our union leaders call out everyone’

When the protests over pensions began in France in May, nobody expected them to become such a serious revolt.

Most of the union leaders knew they had to respond to such a major attack.

But, says Patrice, a health worker, “It felt like they were doing it without much heart. They expected to have a few stage-managed protests and then it would end.

“But the enthusiasm and determination of the strikers surprised everyone. And then they had to call more serious action to catch up.”

Virginia, a teacher, adds, “The protests in June and on 7 September surprised us all. Suddenly everyone was on the streets! And it came days after big protests against Sarkozy’s attacks on the Roma.”

Activists used the opening provided by the union leaders’ support for action to take the struggle to new levels.

“They gave us the chance—and we took it,” says Patrice.

Union leaders knew they had to accelerate the resistance as the pensions bill was at its final parliamentary stages.

This meant sanctioning continuous strikes in some key industries.

But making them happen, and spreading the example, was largely up to rank and file activists.

Gael, a member of the CGT union federation’s oil sector, told Socialist Worker, “We are in the front line of the strikes and are proud to be there. We know everyone is watching us.

“But oil and rail strikers, and those elsewhere, need to see the movement spreading.

“That’s what we want to see the union leaders doing, and they have been slow. I hope they will call everyone out this week.”

One of the most popular slogans on last Saturday’s demonstrations was for a general strike of more than one day. But it will take immense pressure to get it.

Bernard Thibault, CGT general secretary, has said of the call, “It’s a slogan for me that is quite abstract. It does not match the practice by which we manage to increase our strength.”

But many workers disagree. They need to organise.

To beat Sarkozy, French workers need to extend the action by maintaining and widening the continuous strikes, pushing for an all-out general strike, and uniting students and workers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Defend our work rights - We are winning

On October 20th many thousands of unionists will take to the streets to defend employment laws from attack.

The Nat's plan to allow unfair dismissals during a 90 day "fire at will" no rights period, cut sick leave, remove the right to union access and chop up other work rights has been met by a furious response from the unions and the left.

As we hit the streets let's remember,

  • 80% of New Zealanders don't support employment law allowing unfair dismissal
  • The first 90 day case to go to the Employment Authority was won by the CTU.
  • The high profile Unite response to Burger Fuel sacking Joanne on her 89th day ended in compensation being paid and Burger Fuel agreeing not to use the 90 day clause.
  • Thousands of unionists and workers have already taken to the streets on August 21 in the four main centres to oppose these law changes.
  • Support for the National-Act coalition has dropped from 57%, just after the National Party conference when it announced these law changes, to 52.5%, the smallest lead since the election. Compared to this time last year, 10.5% less New Zealanders think the country is heading in the right direction.
  • Unions continue to surge in membership numbers as workers prepare for the coming storm. Unite has recorded a 10% jump in membership in the last 4 months. Unite is expecting dozens of workers to attend the rally in Wellington tomorrow, coming from Upper Hutt, Porirua, Johnsonville, Newtown and across Wellington.
  • For these workers, and many of us under 30 this will be the first time in our lifetimes that we have seen action that unites the entire union movement across the country. These are the biggest mobilisations of workers since the struggle against the ECA in 1991.
  • More and more workers are tackling their employers over low wages. Teachers, doctors and other public sector workers are engaged in industrial action. Strikes, pickets, blockades across the country. Mill workers in Whakatane, freezing workers in Wairoa, port workers in Auckland, recycling workers in Takanini, miners in the Waihi pit, linesmen in the Waikato, retail workers in Wellington all fighting the fight.

What does this all point to? These are the dying days of John Key's "brighter future". Unions are winning. The left is winning. We are winning.

The need now is to keep the pressure on. After October 20 we need to maintain the rage. We'll have to stay in the streets, stay in the headlines and stay in the workplaces.

Across all of Europe the spectre of socialism is rising again. The elite cannot offer a solution to the current crisis. The socialist alternatives to the current crisis are becoming increasingly popular and offer a way forward in the struggle.

As Alex Callinicos of King's College, London, has written, "Not paying the debt, nationalising the banks, introducing capital controls, programmes of public investment—all these are necessary in order to address the needs of the vast majority in economies wrecked by speculation and slump. But implementing them would involve a massive confrontation with the existing structures of economic and political power. It therefore points towards, not a reconstruction of capitalism, but a move beyond it."

In Aotearoa we now have 255,000 jobless and 37,600 long term unemployed. The Government will borrow a billion a year to provide tax cuts that will mostly go to the rich. 42% of the value of the tax cuts will go to the richest 10% of New Zealanders.

At the same time the Nats make cuts to home help for the elderly, support for the intellectually disabled, funding for early childhood and introduce worktesting for people with serious disabilities.

If you're not outraged you're not paying attention.Together we are strong and together we can defeat these attacks. Get organised now and maintain the resistance.

Enjoy October 20 and remember - We are winning!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

After Paul Henry - Rally against racism at Auckland University

The recent Paul Henry case has ignited a huge debate in New Zealand about race and what a real Kiwi is in the 21st Century. Unite on Campus hosts speakers from the many different communities that make up modern Aotearoa, asking the question: “After Paul Henry, how do we fight racism in New Zealand?”

John Minto, Global Peace and Justice Auckland
Mohsen al Attar, Lecturer in International Law, Auckland University and opponent of Islamphobia
Syd Keepa, NDU and Convenor of the CTU Runanga ( Maori workers affiliated to the Council of Trade Unions)
Lei Jin, Chinese Workers Association and Unite Union
Nicola Owen, anti racist activist and Socialist Aotearoa

Also representatives from the NZ Indian community, NZ Muslim community and others.

New Anti-capitalist - Paul Henry, European rebellion, Clicktavism and more

Take a look at our brand new Anti-Capitalist. This time it's double the content with 8 pages full of news, views and analysis straight from the streets and the workplaces. 200 copies were eagerly picked up in Aotea Square by rank'n'file Labour Party delegates over the weekend.

You can download the full PDF here. (15MB).

In this issue:

We take a look at Paul Henry's racist garbage and set out a socialist response.

Workers' revolts from Europe to Aotearoa are turning the table on the capitalist class. Neo-liberalism continues to fall apart. We ask, is this just the beginning of the resistance?

Austerity politics is making disabled people and beneficiaries the scapegoats that the bankers created. Let's unite the unemployed, disabled and the unions to fight the right.

Joe C. takes a good hard look at life in Ireland after the crisis and paints a vivid picture, "It’s like seeing an old friend again, and when they smile, seeing that they’ve had all their front teeth kicked out."

Plus we've got the latest on the Kwila campaign, protests against Search and Surveillance Bill, the American right and Clicktavism.

All articles written here in Aotearoa by Socialist Aotearoa activists fighting the fight for a better world in your community.