(Harper Collins, London, 2004)
Continuing with the New Zealand employers’ labour-flexibilisation drive, Prime Minister John Key has announced the introduction of a 90-day probationary employment bill that will allow new workers to be sacked without appeal, and it will come into force in March 2009.
What it means for workers
Those whose conditions will be directly attacked are the employees who are or will be in their first 90 days of employment at firms employing less than 20 people.
Slightly more than 30% of employees are employed in firms with less than 20 employees. The Council of Trade Unions has observed that of all employees, approximately 100,000 are in the first 90 days of employment, with a small employer, at any one time.
Peter Boyle from the Australian radical paper Green Left Weekly spoke in Auckland 9 December on his impressions of the revolutionary transformation of Venezuela. The meeting was hosted by RAM.
Peter arrived in Auckland straight from Venezuela where he has spent the past three weeks.
National plans to introduce a sacking bill before Christmas. That would mean that employers with fewer than 20 staff could sack in the first 90 days of employment without legal recrimination.
National has its 90-day sacking bill on a list of legislation it wants passed in the next 100 days.
This bill is an overt attack on workers’ rights. Workers in small job sites currently enjoy few rights as they are mostly not unionised and the employers consequently have a great deal of power.
The CTU is responding with a petition and looking at putting adverts in the major newspapers. This falls well short of what is needed.
Direct action by workers is the way to respond to this attack.
Unite union is taking the lead by saying that any worker can join Unite for $2 a week and get phone advice and back up where needed. If workers are wrongly sacked in the 90 day period Unite will organise pickets in defence of these people. Any employer who sacks under this legislation could find themselves confronted by a rowdy picket line and Unite’s 20 foot rat.
Employers plainly want to put the pressure on workers; it’s time to push back.
The Spark December 2008 - January 2009
- Philip Ferguson
With National back in power, albeit as a minority government, what can workers expect? Is this going to be a repeat of the first term of the last National government (1990-1993), the one that produced the “mother of all budgets” (cutting the dole, the DPB and other benefits by around 25%) and the notorious Employment Contracts Act?
According to much of the left, it is going to be just as bad - or even worse! They think this is especially so because of ACT, and often insist on referring to the government as the National-ACT coalition. A number of important points are missed by that analysis, however.
The Spark December 2008 - January 2009
A new revolutionary political organisation has emerged in Ireland in the past two years to take on British occupation in the north and social inequality throughout the whole country. The organisation is called éirígí; its chairperson, Brian Leeson, was interviewed by Philip Ferguson late last year for The Spark.
Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us how you first got involved in political activity?
Brian Leeson: I suppose I first became politically active in the summer of 1989 when I attended a large protest in Dublin that was demanding a British withdrawal from occupied Ireland. It was called to mark the 20th anniversary of British troops being re-deployed onto Irish streets back in August 1969. For a few months before the demonstration I had been becoming more politically conscious, particularly with regard to the war that was then raging in the occupied Six Counties.
What struck me most about that day was the contrast between the sheer size of the protest and the tiny amount of media coverage it received. Despite the fact that more then 20,000 marched that day, it hardly registered on the political landscape at all. Of course, this was at a time when state censorship by both the London and Dublin governments excluded republican spokespeople from the airwaves.
Within a couple of weeks of that demonstration I had taken a decision to become politically active. I applied to join Sinn Féin, but at 15 years of age I was too young. Instead, I started to sell the An Phoblacht newspaper each Saturday morning outside of the General Post Office on Dublin’s O’Connell Street - a building which fittingly had served as the headquarters of the 1916 Rebellion.
From then on I became ever more involved in the republican struggle and the Provisional Movement, which I remained a part of until early 2006.
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Eighty years ago Tennessee school teacher John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution. He was duly found guilty, but the verdict was later overturned on a technicality. Anti-evolutionists in the United States are still at war with science. In November 2005 a court ruled in Kansas that science teachers must cast doubt on evolution and present “Intelligent Design” as an alternative theory. More significantly on 20 December 2005 a Pennsylvania court ruled that intelligent design could not be taught in public schools in that state. The ruling was a significant setback for ID and a victory for science and rational thought.
Even though Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published 150 years ago many people lack even a rudimentary understand of evolution. A Gallup poll a few yars ago in the United States found that over 40 per cent of people agreed with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” Only 12 per cent “agreed humans have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, and God had no part in this process”. 
Like clockwork, Treasury recently released a wishlist of attacks on the working class. These include increases in GST, a return to youth rates and a 90-day trial period for employment.
However, Finance Minister Bill English promptly shot them down, observing that these recommendations are nothing new. English stuck to the party line, stating, “We won’t be doing anything with GST. We are focused on personal tax rates.”
National’s tax cuts primarily benefit the rich, as with those of Labour. Introduced by the Fourth Labour government, GST is a tax on workers and consumers. Neither Labour nor National shows any inclination to increase it, or get rid of it. Despite the hopes of Treasury, and the fears of some on the left, National continues to maintain the centre ground; to pay for stable capitalist exploitation.
If the economy requires it, either party will attack.