People of Zimbabwe between a rock and a hard place

August 8, 2008

- John Edmundson

The disastrous election period in Zimbabwe has thrust that country back into the media spotlight over the last few months, with the latest big news being the veto in the UN Security Council of a package of sanctions being sponsored by the United States. Reports of voter intimidation have been added to the ongoing hostile media reports of land occupations by Mugabe cronies, financial mismanagement and economic collapse.

The story of Zimbabwe’s slide into poverty is, of course, more complex than the picture we tend to receive in the media, as is the perceived solution of Western-led international sanctions.

There can be no doubt that the election process in Zimbabwe was rigged by the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front) party led by independence war hero Robert Mugabe. The lead-up to the 29 March 2008 harmonised local government, parliamentary, senatorial and presidential elections saw widespread reports of intimidation, while the vote-counting was inexplicably delayed. Finally a narrow win to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was announced in the parliamentary poll, but in the presidential election it was declared that a runoff election would be required - a result that was immediately challenged by the MDC.

The new poll was set for 27 June but in the intervening period the MDC claimed that over a hundred of their activists had been killed and many more subjected to various forms of intimidation. MDC Presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, who had himself been beaten and arrested several times during the campaign, withdrew from the contest and took refuge in the Dutch Embassy for nine days.

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How to stop National’s threat

August 8, 2008

- Don Franks

Under the guise of “giving young, inexperienced people or new immigrants a better chance at a job”, National is proposing a new restriction on workers.

“We will introduce a 90-day trial period for new staff, by agreement between the employer and employee, in businesses with fewer than 20 people,” National party leader John Key announced in a 24 July press release.

During this 90-day trial period, either party may terminate the employment relationship for performance without a personal grievance claim being brought.

National’s proposal should be rejected by all workers and fair-minded people.

The personal grievance procedure is no fail-safe protection against unfair dismissal, but it does provide a narrow avenue for workers to contest injustice. National’s election promise to deny new staff access to their day in court would move the bar even further in the employer’s favour.

National’s industrial proposals have been roundly condemned by trade unionists. NZ Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says: “Cuts in workers’ rights and entitlements and privatisation are all this party has to offer to date.”

She says National’s industrial policy “really will clarify for workers and their families which parties have their interests at stake”, concluding that “instead of supporting the current approach balancing employer and employee interests, [National] is trying to drag us backwards”.

Helen Kelly is quite right to condemn National’s anti-worker 90-day trial. But she ignores the fact that National promises to retain significant current labour laws which she supports, and will:

*continue to allow union access to workplaces with an employer’s consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld

*continue to support the social partnership with Business NZ and the CTU to work together on issues of mutual interest

*retain the Mediation Service.

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The environment - what do Workers Party candidates say?

August 8, 2008

- Byron Clark, Workers Party candidate for Christchurch Central.

As a Workers Party candidate in this year’s election, I am often asked for my opinion on environmental issues. These are important to me as a socialist, as environmental issues are also class issues.

Those who are suffering (and will potentially suffer most) from environmental damage are the poor and oppressed, especially those in the third world. With the climate warming, you get tropical diseases like malaria spreading further north and south, and rising sea levels causing island nations to depopulate, creating refugees. Changes in ocean temperature mean changes in fish migration and breeding, affecting what is a food source for a lot of people; and people world-wide, including in the first world, are currently suffering from rising food prices and lack of decent drinking water caused by drought.

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Election economics: theirs and ours

August 8, 2008

Winston Peters has been caught out being “economical with the truth”. After months of denials from Peters that NZ First had received a donation from multi-millionaire Owen Glen, Peters finally admitted to accepting a $100,000 donation towards his legal fund for his failed case to overturn National MP Bob Clarkson’s win in Tauranga.

In all probability, this undeclared donation did not breach parliamentary rules, so why was Peters so anxious to make the story go away?

The fact is, NZ First likes to pose as a party of the people, and most voters would regard taking money from a filthy rich tycoon based in a Monaco tax haven as being rather sordid. Yet that is how the game of mainstream politics is played. Owen Glen also contributed $500,000 to the Labour Party before the last election.

We’re counting on you

By stark contrast, the Workers Party has no wealthy backers. Our funding comes entirely from our activist members and supporters. On a shoestring budget, we managed to run four candidates in the mayoral elections last year, winning a total of 4705 votes.

But democracy don’t come cheap! We are currently registering for the party list, which will enable workers across the whole of New Zealand to vote for a revolutionary socialist party for the first time in history. To make the most of this opportunity, we need money to print leaflets, money to upgrade our website, money to pay candidates’ deposits… you get the general idea.

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October 15 Solidarity: Letter to the Editorial Board

August 8, 2008

To the Spark editorial board:
In your July edition of The Spark, Alastair Reith writes in his article “Armed cops no solution” that “[t]o this day, no charges have been brought against the people that were arrested” in last year’s so-called “terror raids”.

We all wish this were true. However, 20 people are facing charges under the Arms Act! Charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act were never laid because the Solicitor-General did not grant the police permission to do so. The 16 people arrested on 15th October 2007 and the four who have been arrested since have faced Arms Act charges from the beginning.

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Drivers give it back to the boss

August 8, 2008

- Nick Kelly

Bruce Emson, CEO of NZ Bus, did his “travelling road show” at the Kilbirnie depot last Monday. His mission was to tell us drivers his vision for “our” company, but also to get feedback from the people who are on the ground.

So midway through his bullshit company presentation Bruce goes, “Look, I’m sick of talking, I want to know if this a good place to work at the moment.” To which the drivers and workshop workers replied with a resounding “NO!”.

A bit taken aback, Bruce then replied, “Oh, OK, well actually I knew that already. So guys, tell me what’s wrong with this job.”

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