Modern New Zealand unions – “fighting blindfold”?

Philip Ferguson

It’s not often that leading trade union officials in New Zealand speak openly about the exploitation of the working class, let alone about the surplus-value created by workers and expropriated by employers. Therefore, when such speeches are made, it’s useful to analyse what is being said, why, and what the political implications are for trade union activism.

Last November, Robert Reid, the national president of the National Distribution Union, one of the few left-leaning unions, made such a speech at a gathering organised by the Trade Union History Project to commemorate the life of the late Rona Bailey, a longtime New Zealand communist.

In the speech, Reid recalled being part of Marxist study groups with Rona Bailey and learning about surplus-value. Reid then rightly noted that “without an appreciation of Marxist economics or political economy, we have no understanding of how wealth is created and expropriated in the 21st century. This leaves, in many cases, the modern trade union movement fighting blindfolded.”

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Redundancy – how do unions measure up?

Don Franks

The article “Who moved my job?” in the April issue of The Spark eloquently voices a worker’s experience of redundancy threats. How can workers fight back against this blight on their lives?

Organised workers threatened with redundancy look to the union they belong to. It would make sense for all the unions in the country to have an agreed overall strategy against redundancy.

Such a document does exist. The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) policy book, copyright 2006, sets out an approach to redundancy for all unions.

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Who moved my job?

Rachel Tay

2007 did not get off to an auspicious start at Dynamic Controls. Fraud and subsequent law changes in America and the high Kiwi dollar led to low sales. This in turn led to low orders, leaving most of the factory staff in Christchurch with little to do for the first three months.

Staff that had been with the company for a while were aware that with all Invacare’s (the US-based parent company) competitors already in China, and Invacare having shifted respiratory production to China some two years previously, this state of affairs could not continue.

The first blow fell in early April with the announcement of five redundancies from the factory floor. Any job loss is painful, but we thought we’d got off lightly, until May 16.

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Upcoming Workers Party events in Christchurch

Iraq and Afghanistan

It is now five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq and over seven years since the invasion of Afghanistan, which included NZ troops. Iraq has been virtually destroyed thanks to the invasion and occupation, while Western forces in Afghanistan are under increasing pressure.

Come along to this month’s Workers Forum, hosted by the Workers Party, and hear what’s really happening in both these countries and why workers in NZ should oppose Western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

7pm, Monday, March 31, WEA, 59 Gloucester St

Documentary Screening; Chávez, Venezuela and the New Latin America

This documentary by Aleida Guevara (daughter of the revolutionary leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara) explores Venezuela’s explosive revolutionary terrain post-April 2002 – when Hugo Chávez survived a coup attempt instigated by the United States.

Featuring interviews with Hugo Chávez, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Jorge García Carneiro, newly appointed head of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, along with many others, this film affords a rare opportunity to glimpse through the blockade of information imposed by the United States and into a country rich with hope, dreams – and oil.

(2004, in Spanish with English subtitles)

5pm, Wednesday April 2 in the International Room, 1st floor UCSA Building, University of Canterbury

Workers Party announces its candidate for Wellington Central

The Workers Party candidate for the seat of Wellington Central in the 2008 parliamentary election is 59 year-old Rongotai factory hand Don Franks.

“I’m standing in this election because none of the established parties give a stuff about low paid workers” says Franks.

“In a land of plenty, basics like milk and cheese are becoming luxury items. If Labour wanted to implement tax cuts favouring workers, they’d whip the GST off food.

“They’re not likely to do that because they’re a capitalist party who inflicted GST on us in the first place.”

More WP candidates will be announced in the coming weeks. In addition to contesting electorate seats in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch at this election the Workers Party will also be contesting the nationwide party list vote for the first time ever.

For more information or to find out how you can help with our election campaign get in touch with the WP branch in your local area here.

Report on Venezuela forum at Canterbury University

Byron Clark

On March 17 Nelson Davila, Venezuela’s charge d’Affaires for Australia and the Pacific, spoke at a student forum at the University of Canterbury. Organised at short notice the meeting was attended by a small but highly interested group of people.

A day earlier Davila had also spoken at a public meeting in the inner city which some 20-25 socialist and trade union activists attended. Following on from that meeting a decision was made to establish a Venezuela solidarity group in Christchurch.

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Workers Party public forums in Auckland

Fortnightly Tuesdays 6pm @ Auckland Trades Hall 147 Great
North Road:

April 1 The global economy – how deep is the slump?

April 15: US elections: choosing the best face for

1968 + 40 series

April 29 1968 – the year that rocked the world

May 13 The French general strike

May 27 What is Situationism?

Download leaflet in pdf format here

Venezuelan diplomat to speak in Christchurch

Nelson Davila, Venezuelan charge d’affaires for Australasia, will be speaking at two public forums in Christchurch next week:

Sunday March 16
2pm, Workers Educational Association,
59 Gloucester St

Monday March 17
12 noon, University of Canterbury Students Association,
International Room

Organised by Venezuela Aotearoa Solidarity Team (VAST) and Socialist Worker

Supported by the Workers Party

For more info contact David: colyer(at) | 021 0462011

What future for Palestine?

UC Workers Party on Campus Public Forum

Wednesday 12 March 5pm

International Room, 1st floor UCSA building

University of Canterbury

Israel and Palestine are never far from the news and 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the dispossession of the Palestinian people. With the recent visit of George W. Bush to the region, a renewal of peace talks at Annapolis, the lock-down of the Gaza Strip and, most recently, the dramatic breaching of the border between Gaza and Egypt, what does the future hold for the people of the region and what approach is most likely to bring a lasting peace?

Workers Party leaflet against proposed Arts Cuts at Canterbury University

Once again, whole departments and their staff (academic and general) and students are under attack at Canterbury – and other universities. The attempt by Canterbury management to abolish American Studies and Film and Theatre Studies, while also wielding the axe against Classics and Art History is an attack on jobs, knowledge and students.

Universities in New Zealand are being turned increasingly into businesses. Just like a sausage factory produces and sells commodities called sausages, universities are being transformed into businesses which sell commodities called ‘degrees’.

The university as a business means charging students more in fees, crowding more students into classes, dumbing down courses for sale as commodities, increasing and intensifying the working hours of staff, holding down wages and eroding work conditions in general and cutting courses and departments which may be socially useful but don’t generate large amounts of money – all this in order to maximise profits.

The education system in universities is coming to more and more resemble factory-line production.

Why is this happening?

Click here to download leaflet