Social networking sites: Why are they censored?

February 28, 2011

Marika Pratley (Wellington branch of Workers Party)

Julie Tyler was threatened with serious misconduct by Burger King for posting the comment “Real jobs don’t underpay and overwork like BK does” on a friend’s Facebook page. This event highlighted the limitations of democracy on the internet and social networking sites. It also brings to question limitations on freedom of speech in general – for example – in the workplace.

This is not the first time that workers or activists have faced censorship on social networking sites. In 2010 individual profiles and groups were shutdown by Facebook for expressing support for organisations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In 2011 Egypt’s entire internet services were shut down by the government in an attempt to prevent communication between organisers and to stop democratic protests from taking place.
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Migrant workers scammed and starved in New Zealand

February 25, 2011

Byron Clark (member of Christchurch branch of WP and The Spark editorial committee)

Ni-Vanuatu migrant worker

Fijian migrant workers who paid up to $17,000 for visas to work in New Zealand ended up foraging maize from a paddock to feed themselves. Stacey Watson, of Piopio, Waikato, who sourced workers from recruitment company ‘Til Da Cows Come Home’ told Waikato Times journalist Nicola Boyes “We were noticing that the guys didn’t have anything to eat and they didn’t have any supplies and they were foraging for maize to eat.” Til Da Cows Come Home is one of two recruitment companies ran by Mike Neil Molan, who recently pleaded guilty to one charge of forgery and one charge of misleading an immigration officer after a sting at the offices of his company and other related Auckland-based immigration consultants. According to what the company told Stacy Watson, the workers wages were paid into a trust that they could access after they had completed their twelve weeks training and their work visas had been approved. In reality, the visa applications were forged and the dairy industry jobs that workers were promised would be waiting for them at the end of their training never existed. Molan’s ex-wife Nikkie, who was a director of the now defunct second company, Cow Tech, said she got wind of the scam in about November 2008 and confronted Molan. The scam had been going since June or July of that year “It was just a way of getting cash out of people.” she said.

Manju Pillay was employed as accounts and administration manager at Cow Tech for three months. She paid $6000 of Molan’s $12,736 bill for residency and a work permit before questioning its legitimacy and returning to Fiji. She was never paid for her work. Cow Tech went into liquidation three months after she started working for it and she contacted the Immigration Department. Molan worked with Auckland based IMAC Recruitment and Romy’s Immigration, which have since been struck off the company’s register. This is not the first case of its kind, last year four Hawkes Bay men were sentenced to three years in jail for running a multi-million dollar operation that employed hundreds of undocumented workers to pick fruit and vegetables at well below the minimum wage. Between 2007 and 2010 eighteen people in Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Marlborough were prosecuted as a result of Immigration New Zealand investigations. In 2007 it was estimated that there were 20,000 undocumented workers in New Zealand.

There has also been concern about migrant workers who have worked legally under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. Such workers have been left with little money in the hand after deductions are made from their wages and large sums are paid to unscrupulous accommodation providers- last year a 4-bedroomed house calling itself a “backpackers” housed eighteen Ni-Vanuatu workers and charged them $115 each per week. Lina Ericsson a Swedish political scientist who conducted field work among RSE workers in the rural areas near Tauranga in 2007 found many stories of mistreatment and violation of employment rights. The majority of farm workers (60%) are employed without contracts, almost a year ago the Council of Trade Unions highlighted the need for a farm workers union. At the moment such a project seems elusive when over 85 percent of private sector workers aren’t unionised.

Not only are the conditions of migrant farm workers morally
outrageous. It’s beneficial for all workers in New Zealand to support the cause of such workers because the employment standards set by these most immoral employers impact on the conditions of the whole working class.

Workers Party statement on Canterbury earthquake disaster Wednesday February 23, 2011

February 23, 2011

To local and international friends, supporters, and readers,

Yesterday, February 22, an immense earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand’s third largest city. Currently there are 55 confirmed dead, 20 unidentified bodies, and an estimated 300 missing. The quake occurred at 12.50pm and was followed shortly after by a major aftershock.

This is the second major earthquake to strike Christchurch in 5 months. This more recent quake – 6.3 – in magnitude was far more destructive than the last, as it occurred only 10 Km south of
Christchurch at the shallow depth of 5 Km. It happened during the lunch hour of a working week day which has compounded human suffering and trauma.

As well as injury and loss of life there has been major damage to buildings, houses, and infrastructure. Soil liquefaction has damaged roads and transport. Originally there was an estimated 80% loss of power, as of mid-day today the estimate is now 50%. Currently three quarters of the city has no water. Phone lines and signal towers have also been wrecked or severely damaged. The Canterbury television building completely collapsed and has been one of the focal points for rescue efforts. There is concern that the Hotel Grand Chancellor- the tallest building in Christchurch – may still collapse from extreme buckling. The township of Lyttleton was at the epicenter of the earthquake and was extensively damaged.
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Call centre workers strike to ‘make a point to all those out there struggling with the same thing’

February 22, 2011

Call centre staff who are members of Unite Union took strike action yesterday morning against their employer Salmat (also known as

Salesforce). Approximately 40 members took part in the action as part of the effort to achieve what will be their first pay rise in three

years. The worksite is located at the corporate complex on 666 Great South Road in Penrose, Auckland. With its objective of rebuilding amongst the vast unorganised sections of the working class, Unite has been present on the site for over two years.

Salmat is an outsource operation that holds contracts with major companies, one being Vodafone, for which Salmat has a contract for

handling both customer and business calls. In terms of the modern workplace it’s a success to have a strong union membership in an outsource operation.

Speaking from the picket line, Ross Asiata, one of Unite’s delegates at the workplace stated to media “Everything else around us increases, GST etc, but our pay rise (read ‘pay rate’) stays the same. As you can see behind me that’s the staff that are in the same boat as me, trying to make a point to management and to all those others that are out there struggling with the same thing”.

The implications of the Terrorism Suppression Act

February 20, 2011

Jared Phillips, Co-ordinating editor, The Spark

Public meetings have been held in New Zealand’s major centres to build opposition to increasing state power being used against activists and oppressed groups. Early this year the Workers Party and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Solidarity Campaign hosted one such forum in Christchurch with a focus on the implications of the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA). Five speakers – Michael Knowles, Valerie Morse, Murray Horton, Paul Piesse, and Michael Walker – explored the local and international dimensions.

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60 years since 1951 waterfront lockout

February 15, 2011

February 15, 1951 was the beginning of the waterfront lockout, followed by solidarity strikes in the rail, coal, drivers and hydro industries. Its effects are still with us.

The lockout was initiated by the New Zealand government and British ship owners to smash a militant working class willing to taking action for improved wages and conditions. However, the bureaucratic
Federation of Labour would not take the side of the locked out workers, and the watersiders’ union became increasingly isolated.

In April when the anti-worker legislation comes into effect the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) will hold the last of its rallies in response. This will take place under the ‘Fairness at Work’ slogan. Not only does the slogan sound conservative, the political problem with the slogan is that fairness in the workplace requires radical social change. Falling short of being able to achieve radical social change, appropriate working class slogans must be based on concrete claims that can advance the class struggle, such as freedom of association and action at work, specific wage formulations, and daring new mass demands. The use of soft phrases like ‘fairness’ can serve to limit workers’ expectations. Furthermore, ‘fairness’ is not measurable, meaning there is no political accountability for those who promote the use of the slogan.

Like the previous Fairness at Work marches, this April March will naturally be a bureaucratic affair because the working class has been disempowered by previous defeats, including the defeat in 1951. The
‘partnership and productivity’ approach to unionism, which the CTU has actively constructed and engaged in, has helped to further erode working class agency.

Another part of the problem is that at the top of the union movement, the central strategy has become the re-election of the Labour Party rather than the rebuilding of fighting unionism. But where was the
Labour Party for 151 days in 1951?-”Neither for nor against.”

Watch this award-winning documentary ‘1951’ and see how history repeats itself.

Also check out the March and April issues of The Spark which will carry a first-time published major two-part feature on the 1951 struggle.

Seventy percent of workers in New Zealand want new jobs

February 10, 2011

by Byron Clark

Job advertising website SEEK’s 2010 Employee Satisfaction and Motivation survey, which had about 3000 respondents, has found that 70% of New Zealand workers are wanting a new job this year with one in four planing on leaving their jobs in the next three months. The main reason was looking for ‘a challenge’ (28%) followed closely by feeling unappreciated at work (23%). Nearly half of those surveyed (49%) responded negatively to the question “How’s the current morale in your workplace” and a slightly higher number (52%) said they would not recommend their friends apply for jobs at the organisations employing them.

What would change that would be better management (49%) and more employee motivation (41%) about a quarter of respondents also said better pay and work environment would make a difference. This open ended question also drew responses such as “ Cut the amount of work required to increase the salary to bring it into line with the extra work done for no pay” and “stop breaching employment law”.

When asked what they liked about their jobs, the most common response was “people I work with” (19%) and when asked what they hated 24% said the stress levels and 23% said the overall quality of management. Those in ‘service and support’ industries appear to have it worst, feeling less happy and less secure, as well as more likely to hate aspects of their workplace. Most were planning on leaving their job in the next six months. While 30% of young “generation Y” workers cited boredom as a reason for seeking new jobs (compared to 15% for generation X and 12% for Baby Boomers) they “tend[ed] to be more upbeat, [and] confident about their future” according to the report.

Christchurch demonstration in support of the Egyptian revolution this weekend

February 9, 2011

Following on from last weekends demonstration another protest rally in solidarity with the uprising in Egypt has been organied for midday this Saturday (Febuary 12) in Cathedral Square. Come raise awareness and support the Millions of Egyptians taking to the streets!. [Facebook page]

The following video was taken at last weeks demonstration.

If you’re dissing the hookers you ain’t fighting the power

February 8, 2011

Reprinted from Not Afraid of Ruins blog.

The new Auckland Supercouncil has voted to support a submission in favour of the Regulation of Prostitution in Specific Places Bill. This law would let Supercouncil pass bylaws banning street workers in specific areas.

Arguments in favour of criminalizing street workers are usually about protecting families, and moral values, and community standards, and ‘won’t somebody think of the children?’

But sometimes these arguments are also about ‘won’t somebody think of the hookers?’ because, according to Sandra Coney, ‘she supported the bill because prostitution was harmful to women and led to violence and murder’.

Let me break this down for you:

Yes, being a street worker probably isn’t an ideal employment situation for most workers. It’s possible that some street workers work on the street because they truly prefer it. But I suspect most sex workers who work on the street are doing it because they don’t have other options, like working at a brothel, or for an escort agency, or hiring a flat to work from. Maybe brothels and agencies won’t hire them because of a drug dependency or maybe because they’re transgendered or maybe they just managed to piss off all the bosses and maybe they can’t afford to put an ad up on and hire a flat or a hotel room.

The point is that those sex workers who work on the street are usually the ones who are most marginalized, most disadvantaged, most discriminated against and most vulnerable to exploitation. Sandra Coney is right to worry about their safety. But she is living in an alternate universe if she thinks giving the police more power over street workers is going to protect them. Actually, all that’ll happen is that the police will have even more power to exploit and oppress street workers. This law will allow police to arrest anyone they think might be a sex worker. Who do you think police think might be a sex worker?[1] This law isn’t going to prevent sex workers from working on the street. Because it doesn’t actually address any of the reasons some sex workers end up working on the street. All this law will do is make street workers’ lives more difficult and more dangerous.

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Freedom of expression @ work – a short interview with Julie Tyler

February 8, 2011
Julie Tyler

Julie Tyler

Friday January 4, Burger King held a disciplinary meeting against Dunedin employee Julie Tyler. Her alleged misconduct was the posting of the following sentence on a friend’s Facebook wall, ‘Real jobs don’t underpay and overwork like BK does’. Julie’s union, Unite, her friends, and other workers successfully built up public opposition against BK before the initial disciplinary meeting took place.

At the initial meeting Burger King adjourned the case until today, saying they were seeking further legal advice. During the adjournment BK’s censorship of staff members became a national media issue. BK New Zealand’s own Facebook page was jammed by comments of protest. Other Facebook groups - which attracted heavy traffic - were created and used in Julie’s defence. An informational picket was put on at Julie’s store today during the second disciplinary meeting. As a result the company has threatened legal action against Unite Union but Unite has replied that it will not be silenced.

The case not only raises issues surrounding the use of social media, it has also drawn attention to very basic working class issues such as freedom of expression and the right of workers to take action. Later on today we had the opportunity to have a quick word with Julie about how the case has unfolded so far:

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