National Standards Bus Tour at Parliament

Next Wednesday (March 31st) at 12.30pm, the NEZI primary teachers’ union is holding a rally at Parliament to present its petition opposing the government’s imposition of “national standards”.

The government’s proposal means essentially exams for children as young as five, on a narrow range of subjects, to the detriment of their broader education and development. More info is available at:
http://www.handsupforlearning.org.nz/

The teachers are at the forefront of the union opposition to this government.
Come along and give them your support!

ACC Rally at Parliament

Tuesday saw a combined approach to the ACC Levy and legislation attack from National, by the unions and left-wing groups, as well as a large contingent of bike-riders, co-ordinated by the Kiwibiker organisation, who gathered at Parliament grounds around midday.
The CTU ran a spirited build-up to the rally, with a video on You-Tube, as well as campaign materials being collated by the ACC Futures Coalition here.

Green MP and Co-leader Metiria Turei spoke on the forecourt to the assembled protesters, and was followed by speakers from the NZ Counselling professional organisation, as well as Kiwibiker and some union representatives.

Minister for ACC, the Hon Nick Smith, was nowhere to be seen, despite entreaties from the crowd for his presence. Green MP’s Dave Clendon, Kevin Hague and Cath Delahunty stood up to support Meyt, along with a strong contingent of Labour MP’s, even including Opposition Leader Phil Goff for a while.

Union banners were fluttering all over the grounds, representing the NDU, PSA, CTU, EPMU, NZNO, RMTU, and were joined by banners from AWSM and the Worker’s Party. Green Party members and staffers carried pennants and made a brave showing amongst the black-clad bikers.

Green banners a-flutter

Green banners a-flutter

A Ministerial gaggle on the forecourt, the Hon Phil Goff heading off...

A Ministerial gaggle on the forecourt, the Hon Phil Goff heading off...

NZNO banners

NZNO banners

Unionist solidarity

Unionist solidarity

The Rally concluded with a serenade for the assembled protestors from Fatt Max, a Kiwibiker member, who had the crowd singing along to a chorus which suggested a probably anatomically impossible action for the Minister for ACC to accomplish with his new legislation.

Fatt Max from Kiwibiker

Fatt Max from Kiwibiker

Supersizemypay 2.0

On Friday, I went to a cheery Campaign launch in Wellington for the latest Unite! minimum wage increase call – to raise the minimum to $15/hour.

We gathered at the Southern Cross in Abel Smith St, to be welcomed by Don Franks MC-ing, and a warm-up performance by the Union Choir, who sang stirringly and melodically.

Union Choir at Unite! Campaign launch

Union Choir at Unite! Campaign launch

There were a few more speeches after the intro, then a time of social chitchat and networking was enjoyed by all.

Details of the new campaign can be found at Unite! website.

Students as workers Week Panel with Unionists at VUW

Despite the rainy night and the presence of a significant crowd in the Bar on campus, a good turnout showed to the panel discussion organised by Vuwsa and NZUSA on the topic of “The importance of students being collectively organised when the global economy carks it”.

Sue B, Peter Conway, Andrew Little speaking, Jordan King, MC.

Sue B, Peter Conway, Andrew Little speaking, Jordan King, MC.

The panel comprised Jordan King of NZUSA, MC-ing, with Sue Bradford MP, Green party spokesperson on employment and union issues; Andrew Little, President of the Labour Party and National Secretary of the EPMU; and Peter Conway, Secretary of the CTU.

Each speaker in turn gave some insights into their years as students – Sue in the 60’s & early 70’s at Auckland Uni, then again in the 80’s doing her MA, was involved in some of the great student activism efforts, against Vietnam War, Springbok Tours, and Anti-nuclear demos; Andrew and Peter were both at VUW, Andrew as President of Vuwsa for some of his time, Peter admitting to involvement in campus Folk Music and Communist clubs (…a heady combination!)

All three stressed the changes they’d seen, for the worse, in the amount of time students have to engage in clubs and politics on campus, due to the onerous requirements of work necessary to keep fed and housed, since the removal of universal student bursaries when the student loan scheme came into force in the early 90’s.

There was a lot of general discussion about the impact of the recession – which Sue B likened to a ‘phony war’ over the last 18 months to two years – which may this year begin to be felt by students, as job retrenchment begins to hit families who have been supporting their children at university, and as part-time positions dry up in the workplaces traditionally supplying casualised jobs to students.

Whereas factories and industrial sites have been gradually laying off workers as demand for consumption has eased over the past year, which has seen many unions negotiating better terms for staff, student jobs haven’t been as much affected yet; although the VC’s committees and TEC have been bracing for a roll-on effect as redundant employees register for tertiary education, to make the best of a shrinking job market by taking the opportunity to upskill during the downturn – a pattern of behaviour that is repeating the experiences of workers made redundant around the time of the ‘87 crash; to which there are many parallels in the current recessionary period.

All of the speakers stressed that the Government needs to be made accountable for the quality of the decisions that are being made around where ‘recession relief’ spending is to be done, and questioning whether big ticket projects such as roading or buildings should be balanced by investment in upskilling workers via tertiary institution funding, with suggestions that 2009 may be our “Winter of Discontent”.

A short but lively discussion concluded the evening, which carried on for about half an hour longer than the event had been advertised, resulting in some time-pressed individuals leaving during the question time.

Reflections on industrial action by Tramways Union

I’m a little tired, I walked to Kilbirnie to support the locked out drivers yesterday – I had to go, I haven’t seen a lockout since Muldoon’s era – and bring some supportive messages from union women in my union (VUWSA, since you’re asking … although that’ll be PGSA & VUWSA, soon-ish), since I’ve just been celebrating union solidarity on Suffrage Day.

Many pages have been written and e-mailed and posted since the lockout began yesterday, so I’m not going to add a whole lot – today, you get ‘linkylove‘, as defined by old campaigner Spanblather (she’s quit blogging, so I’m not linking to her page!)

and over at frogblog there is – Walking to Work

There are some collections taking place to support the low-paid workers, who just lost a day’s pay (think of it in groceries – enough to feed the kids for a week?), so keep your eyes open, and some of the pages above will have links to websites where donations can be made via paypal or credit card.

And if you’re taking a bus, tell the driver you support their action to gain a living wage!

More ways Key is like Obama

The Nation in it’s story Labor Day: Obama Returns to Union Heartlands quotes John Key lookalike, Barack Obama:

“It’s time you had a president who honors organized labor, who has walked on picket lines, who doesn’t choke on the word ‘union,’ who let’s our unions do what they do best and organize our workers and who will finally make the Employee Free Choice Act (legislation that would remove barriers to organizing) the law of the land.”

Hmm, Ok, maybe not.

Becoming a workers’ legend in my own lunchtime

I sacrificed my lunchbreak today to give out leaflets about the Greens’ Industrial Relations and other policies at the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Workers Union organised rally at North Harbour Stadium.

There was a good turnout:

The Green Party fully supports the EPMU’s wages drive, and the NZCTU’s call for a $15 an hour minimum wage.  We actually have more worker-friendly policy than Labour on Industrial Relations issues.

Of the EPMU’s key election campaign points, the Green Party scores better than Labour, and far better than any other political party in Parliament. 

The Standard listed the EPMU’s key election policy demands yesterday.  I have to say the Greens are the best option for workers on several of these, and as good an option as Labour on all the rest.

If you would like to download the leaflet we gave out to see why, and copy and distribute it in your own workplace, here it is.