by Ian Anderson, originally published in Occupied Dominion Post Issue 5
On the 15th of October 2011, comrades in around 1500 cities rallied together on a global day of action inspired by Occupy Wall Street, resisting corporate greed. Four days later on the 19th of October, local corporation ANZCO locked out 111 union members at its CMP plant in Marton, demanding that they accept pay cuts of 20-30% before returning to work. The lockout and the occupation have each lasted nearly two months, and bonds of solidarity are forming.
ANZCO embodies the disparity in power and wealth which occupiers seek to redress. The company posts turnover of over $1.3bn. Sir Graeme Harrison, Chairman of the Board, was recently knighted and lives comfortably on Oriental Parade. All of this wealth is produced at plants such as CMP Rangitikei, by the workers currently under threat.
ANZCO is jointly owned by local capitalists and overseas investors. Its tactic of cutting wages to stay competitive is typical of recent trends; real wages in New Zealand have declined 25% over the past 3 decades. Many workers at CMP Rangitikei raise families, and can’t afford to have their wages cut by 30% in a period of rising prices.
However ANZCO is not just attempting to cut costs, they are also attempting to undermine our collective power. Before issuing the lockout notice, the company individually contacted many workers and offered them individual (rather than collective) contracts, in exchange for keeping their jobs. This is an attempt to smash the Meat Workers Union itself. However the dispute plays out, it will send an important signal to organized labour, to protest movements, and to the 1%. We cannot afford to let them take our collective power, to pick us off.