Modern society is plagued with workplace pressures unseen for many a year. The craving of wealth by the few at the expense of many comes at a huge cost to the average family. Capitalist greed and the inbred need to have a class system is out of control but consistently gets fed by legislation with laws that introduce work climates unseen since the early nineteen hundreds.
The average worker in this country should be paid a living wage but instead is working in excess of 60 hours a week simply to make ends meet because they are on minimum wage with no additional payments for extra effort. The ability to run a household on such an income is next to impossible because the cost of living out strips the money coming in. Wouldn’t it be an eye-opener to put our politicians on minimum wage just to see how quickly things would change?
Rights at work are being eroded by a government and a Labour spokesman who has no conscience and no real understanding of what it takes to survive in the real world. Bridges “The Tauranga Pup” is fixated on two words, flexibility and fairness and basically doesn’t give a toss or more likely doesn’t comprehend the impact or consequence of the law changes he is promoting and will push through. The attitude towards workers in this country by the National Government is summed up by Tau Henare’s statement on television when asked about the plight of the government cleaners. “If she doesn’t want the job, she should give it to someone else”.
The 8 hour day, the 40 hour working week, the weekend, annual leave, worker’s rights and safety in most quarters of the capitalist ideology are a thing of the past and irrelevant because they assume it stagnates the ability to accumulate wealth. These are union won conditions for all society to enjoy and should be protected at all costs. Too often we see large companies pushing the barrow of wealth; they call it productivity.
Increasingly at negotiations employers put forward claims for unfair hours of work so they have the right to impose and determine when employees work, none of which are recognised or rewarded with appropriate payments. Work-life balance in their mind is a myth and should be purely the domain of those that can afford it.
In New Zealand, apathy and the “she’ll be right mate” mentality is responsible for the position we find ourselves in. Kiwi would rather watch a bloody boat sail around in a foreign country manned by rich pricks than stand up and fight for fairness and decency. We hear every day the stories of poverty, starving children and people struggling to put a roof over the heads of their families. You would think in a modern western styled society none of the above would exist, sadly it is growing and until working-class stand-up make a stand and bring capitalism to heel there will be no balance in our society.
The union movement is changing to gain the required skillset to take on global corporates and right-wing governments at their own game when it comes to the preservation of workers’ rights. When your union calls on you to become part of any struggle that protects the working-class, take the time to look in the mirror and ask yourself am I doing my bit?
Don’t let the apathy I alluded to earlier be the driving factor you didn’t get involved. It is too easy to allow others to fight and win the gains. Don’t ride off the back of struggle enjoying the benefits you don’t deserve, be a part of the outcome.
This is where the presence of well-resourced militant unions comes into play. Organising, education and promoting activism to protect what belongs to us is a key to any future balance. Capitalism has a firm hold in modern society and is changing the world to suit the need to feed the greed.
This year celebrates the 100th year since the Great Strike of 1913 where 16000 workers took to the streets of New Zealand to fight for fairness and dignity. These weren’t workers backed by well-resourced unions but miners, water-siders and seafarers led by a small group termed agitators who were eventually defeated after almost bringing New Zealand to the brink of civil war.
Attacked by Police and the volunteer Massey’s Cossacks on horse-back, they fought heated battles on the streets. They faced machine gun postings and naval war ships. These were working men with a just cause but lacked leadership hence the uprising failed. Even in 1913 the capitalist knew he had a means to undermine workers for a few silver dollars, it’s the tools they continue to use today, the scab and propaganda. Even though it was lost we need to take a leaf out of the book of our forebears and fight for our rights even if it be by means of hard protest.
Contemplate the lot of the individual who attempts to go one on one with his or her employer. Worksites that don’t have union coverage are at the will of the employer. Fire at will with no rules of fairness and very limited work-place rights. Union presence is vital and a reliable defence in opposing government and capitalism . Globally unions are setting standards for all society and will always remain fundamentally opposed to the oppressive ideology of the greedy corporates.
by Dave Phillips, socialist and MUNZ Activist