Over 30 prominent academics, teachers and trade unionists have signed an open letter in support of suspended school teacher Paul Hopkinson, standing as the Workers Party candidate for Christchurch East in the upcoming election.
Despite campaigning only in his own time (weekends and school holidays), Mr Hopkinson was told that due to a provision of the 1993 Electoral Act concerning
the political activities of public servants he would have
to take unpaid leave for the three weeks leading up to
the 2008 general election.
Mr Hopkinson considered this an undemocratic restriction
on his participation in the political process, as having a
partner and two children to support and not having any
other financial resources to fall back on he simply cannot
afford to take unpaid leave. He also felt that it places
small minor parties like the Workers Party at a
disadvantage, as unlike the major parties Labour and
National they cannot afford to pay their candidates’
wages for the duration of the election campaign.
After refusing to take unpaid leave, Mr Hopkinson has
become the first teacher in New Zealand to be
suspended without pay by his employer.
Below is the open letter in support of Hopkinson and list
of signatories. This document is also available online
Open Letter and Sign-on Statement: No to restrictions on workers’ freedom of political speech and activity!
Schoolteacher and Workers Party Christchurch East candidate Paul Hopkinson has been suspended without pay by his employer until after the upcoming election for refusing to comply with the fundamentally anti-democratic provisions of the 1993 Electoral Act.
This Act stipulates that all public servants (including teachers) must take unpaid leave for the three weeks between nomination day and polling day, effectively ensuring that only those who are on senior management-level salaries or enjoy the backing of one of the major parties such as Labour or National can afford to stand in elections.
We the undersigned believe that this constitutes a violation of workers’ fundamental rights to freedom of political speech and activity and demand that this undemocratic law be scrapped.
John Minto, chairperson Quality Public Education Coalition*, newspaper columnist and organiser Unite Union*
Mike Treen, national director Unite Union*
Nick Kelly, president Wellington Tramways Union*
Andrew McKenzie, barrister and Alliance Party co-leader
Kay Murray, Alliance Party co-leader and Dunedin South candidate
Paul Piesse, Alliance Party president
Daphna Whitmore, organiser Unite Union* (Auckland) and Workers Party national secretary
Jasmine Freemantle, Victoria University of Wellington* and VUWSA* 2009 president-elect
Joel Cosgrove, president Victoria University Students Association* (Wellington)
Dr Bill Rosenberg, University of Canterbury* and former AUS* president
Prof Tim David, University of Canterbury*
Dr David Small, University of Canterbury*
Prof Jack Heineman, University of Canterbury*
Dr Philip Ferguson, University of Canterbury*
Dr Taffy Davies, University of Canterbury*
Dr Megan Clayton, University of Canterbury*
Dr Paul Broady, University of Canterbury*
Fiona O’Neill, University of Canterbury*
Margaret Ingram, University of Canterbury*
Nathan McCluskey, University of Canterbury*
Dr Bryce Edwards, University of Otago*
Mark Muller, organiser National Distribution Union* (Auckland)
Tom Buckley, organiser Unite Union* (Auckland)
Duncan Allan, organiser Unite Union* (Wellington)
Desmond Leota, Unite Union* (Auckland)
Richard Mitchell, Alliance Party tertiary education spokesperson and list candidate
Victor Billot, Alliance Party Dunedin North candidate
Quentin Findlay, Alliance Party list candidate (Christchurch)
John Moore, teacher and member NZEI* (Auckland)
Paula Henderson, secondary teacher (Wellsford)
Don Franks, member EPMU* and Workers Party Wellington Central candidate
Tim Bowron, member National Distribution Union* and Workers Party national organiser
Jen Isle, delegate EPMU* (Christchurch)
Nick Scullin, delegate Southern Local Government Officers Union* (Christchurch)
Nigel Hefford, member Wellington Tramways Union*
Bob van Ruyssevelt, delegate National Distribution Union* and Alliance Party Auckland branch chairperson
Kyle Webster, member NZNO* and RAM list candidate
Marvin Hubbard, Alliance Party Clutha Southland candidate
* educational institutions and trade unions listed for identification purposes only