Coup in Honduras

June 30, 2009

On Sunday June 28th, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was awoken by the sound of soldiers kicking in the door of the presidential residence. He was abducted, still dressed in his pyjamas, and bundled into a waiting vehicle. The soldiers took him and put him on a flight to Costa Rica. With Zelaya out of the way, his opponents set about justifying their actions and attempting to establish control over the country. 

Manuel Zelaya was a strange target for a rightist putsch. A wealthy banker and rancher, he was the preferred candidate of the Liberal Party which, along with the more conservative National Party, formed the political establishment in Honduras, a country which has been ruled by a mix of military dictatorships and right wing governments of the elite; what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would call the oligarchs. The ruling classes in Honduras was comfortable with his election. Throughout the 1980s, the country had been turned into an armed camp for Reagan’s war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Decades of death squad operations and a stifling political environment had ensured that the left in Honduras was extremely weak. But conditions in Honduras are extremely hard for the poor. It is one of the poorest countries in the Americas; like many Central American countries, its main source of income is income repatriated from workers overseas. The life expectancy is only 66.2 years and literacy languishes at 76.2%. Approximately seventy percent of the population live beneath the poverty line. 

After being elected, Zelaya began to shift away from traditional Honduran politics. He raised the ire of his own party by raising the minimum wage by sixty percent. He welcomed Cuban doctors into the country to work amongst the poor majority and applied to join, and was accepted into ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. This put him beyond the pale for the oligarchy in Honduras, including in his own party. Zelaya became an obstacle to business as usual.  Read the rest of this entry »

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Solidarity Campaign Launch

June 24, 2009


On Wednesday, July 1 at 7pm the Workers Party’s Christchurch branch will be hosting the local launch of our national campaign of material support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The event will be taking place at the WEA, 59 Gloucester St.

The film “Leila Khaled: hi-jacker”, about one of the leading figures of the PFLP, will be shown and there will be a couple of short speeches about the situation in Israel/Palestine and a message from the PFLP will be read.

This film about a Palestinian woman hijacker challenges our assumptions
about those who resort to violent means in response to oppression and gives us access to the politics of one of the most troubled regions of the twentieth century. It also complicates the current discourse on Islam and terrorism by its deliberation on the meanings of terms such as “terrorist”, interrogating and asking if one person’s terrorist could be another’s freedom fighter. Especially relevant in the context of today’s highly polarized conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine

Read the rest of this entry »

Overtime ban pays off

June 23, 2009

In April, we reported on vote for industrial action at VT Fitzroy Devonport, Auckland. Workers were adamant that they could do better than the company’s “best offer”, and put in place an overtime ban. (They are members of  the EPMU, PSA and Amalgamated Workers Union). After just two weeks, they recieved an improved offer which was acceptable to the majority of the union membership.

Although there was no change in the pay offer of the first year of the Collective Agreement (3.3%), the second year
offer was increased to 4%. The claim for reinstatement of the historic Confined Space allowance wasn’t won this time,
but there were gains in other areas, such as enhancements to the “Working on ships not along side” allowance.

The lesson is clear: A little bit of militancy gets us a little bit extra!

Presidential coup in Nepal

June 22, 2009

The Spark June 2009
Alastair Reith

 The last time The Spark carried news from Nepal, the story was positive. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had been elected to government with just under forty percent of the seats (more than the next two parties put together). Its leader Prachanda was Prime Minister. Previous to this, it had waged a decade long People’s War that liberated eighty percent of the countryside and radicalised the workers and peasants of the country in support of revolutionary change. Under the slogan of a new Nepal, the Maoist-led government attempted to bring about land reform, build national industry, empower and improve the lives of workers, and fight against the domination of foreign imperialism, and Indian expansionism. However, this article describes events of a much less positive nature.

Over the past months, the Maoist government has been almost completely unable to advance its revolutionary programme due to the resistance of its coalition partners. At every turn, it found its progressive efforts blocked by the non-revolutionary parties it had formed a government with. Read the rest of this entry »

Flight attendants fight Air NZ

June 22, 2009

The Spark June 2009

Air New Zealand flight attendants working for Zeal 320 Ltd took industrial action beginning in March. After months of unsuccessful negotiations between Zeal and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), the 240 union members employed as flight attendants decided they had had enough. The workers, most of whom are young women with no previous union experience, are employed by Zeal 320 Ltd but work for Air New Zealand. They wear the same uniforms, fly on the same aircraft and are in every respect exactly the same as flight attendants employed directly by Air New Zealand – except in their employment contracts.

Zeal 320 Ltd, a wholly Air New Zealand owned subsidiary, was set up to employ staff on the now defunct cut price Freedom Air. When Freedom Air was absorbed into its parent company, the staff were kept on their Zeal contracts, meaning that they earn thousands of dollars less every year than their co-workers employed directly by Air New Zealand. Zeal staff are employed on a lower base rate than Air New Zealand staff. They are denied many basic allowances such as dry cleaning and other clothing related compensation that people on Air New Zealand contracts receive. The allowances they do receive are generally lower than the Air New Zealand equivalents. Read the rest of this entry »

Sign the $15 petition

June 21, 2009

otara$15.jpgWorkers Party activists collected around 100 signatures for Unite’s campaign for a hike in the Minimum Wage at Auckland’s Otara Flea Market today.

Many of the signers remarked how they would personally benefit from raising the rate to $15 per hour – which would result in a pay increase for some 450,000 workers in New Zealand. It was an encouraging start to the year-long campaign to get the 300,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum on the issue.

Workers Party activists in Christchurch and Wellington have also been collecting hundreds of signatures at stalls and in workplaces.

Conference report: Workers Resistance 2009

June 17, 2009

Workers Resistance conference was held over Queens Birthday Weekend in Wellington. Over 65 people attended the public conference which, for the most part, was held at the Wellington City Library. Themes included both local and international workers’ struggles.

The three-day conference started off on the Friday evening with debate between Workers Party National Secretary Daphna Whitmore and Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway.

Saturday’s schedule started off with Don Franks presenting on the Unite-led campaign for a $15 minimum wage. The Workers Party then launched its campaign of solidarity with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Workers Party member Paul Hopkinson presented the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Mike Walker, also from the Christchurch branch, spoke of more recent developments before outlining the political and stategic position of the PFLP . Read the rest of this entry »

Redundant clothing workers – NDU fails to take a fighting position

June 16, 2009

Omar Hamed and Jared Phillips
The Spark June 2009

The National Distribution Union’s (NDU) main public response to the May 15 redundancy of 186 clothing manufacturing workers employed by Lane Walker Rudkin (LWR) has been to invite workers and supporters to hold cake stalls as a fundraising activity for the redundant workers. Of LWR’s 470 staff, 102 in Christchurch, 61 in Greytown, 19 in Pahiatua, and four in Auckland have been made redundant.

LWR is New Zealand’s oldest currently-unionised company, and has operated since 1904. In recent years the company has been managed incompetently as a result of the break up in the personal relationship of Ken and Patricia Anderson, who took over the company from a group of businessmen in 2001. The bank, Westpac, won’t even release the redundancy payments. Read the rest of this entry »

New Zealand government’s RSE scheme: “Brutal racist oppression”

June 14, 2009

By Don Franks

In a press release on 4 June 2009 the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions deplored the Government’s removal of the minimum wage protection for workers on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

“There have been significant examples of unauthorised and unfair deductions from RSE workers’ pay even under the existing regulations,” said Wagstaff. “Relaxing the minimum wage rule will only result in more blatant exploitation of already vulnerable workers as unscrupulous employers shift costs onto them.”

“Allowing employers to make deductions which will reduce pay rates below the minimum of $12.50 per hour will significantly increase exploitation of RSE workers and undermine the credibility of the scheme”, said CTU Vice-President Richard Wagstaff.

Richard Wagstaff is dead right about the exploitation, but from a workers point of view, RSE has no credibility to be undermined.

The New Zealand Labour Department says:

“The RSE scheme facilitates the temporary entry of overseas workers, mainly from the Pacific, to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops in the horticulture and viticulture industries to meet labour shortages in order to remain competitive with the rest of the world.” Read the rest of this entry »

Official Launch of Unite Campaign for a Living Wage

June 11, 2009

Download the petition here.


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