Defend workers, migrant, and union rights against Burger King

August 30, 2012

By writers for The Spark

Over the last month Unite Union has put the fast-food giant Burger King under the spotlight for exploitation and attempted union busting. The union is engaging in street actions, intensified industrial organising, and legal action until the company adheres to the law and industry standards.

Burger King was the last of the fast-food giants to sign a union deal after the SuperSizeMyPay campaign which took place in 2005-2006. In the years since then Burger King has kept paying below standard industry rates of pay paid by comparable companies. Conditions of work also lagged. For example, other companies agreed to 3-hour minimum shifts in 2006 but it wasn’t till years later that Burger King agreed to 2.5 hour minimum shifts.

Burger King has remained as the fast-food company paying the lowest wages. For those employed at KFC the union has negotiated for staff to move to 0.96 cents above minimum wage once the first level of training is completed. In McDonald’s the staff get 0.50 cents above minimum after basic training, and in Wendy’s most staff are able to get 0.50 cents above minimum wage after six months service. These increases are attained quite quickly by most employees. However, Burger King does not agree to relativity clauses and there are instances where staff who have been employed for ten years still struggle on minimum wage. The difference is even greater in relation to higher-graded work. In KFC the line supervisor rate has been negotiated up to $19.68, however the highest union rate at Burger King is well below that with product/service coordinators beings paid $14.25. Read the rest of this entry »

Barbara Sumner Burstyn and the war in Afghanistan

August 28, 2012

If you looked at the headlines last weekend you would have heard about an “outburst” that prompted a “fury” on social media. Terrible things had been said, apparently, and everyone was outraged.

These were the comments in question;

“Oh, so fallen soldier Jacinda Baker liked boxing and baking - did they forget she also liked invading countries we are not at war with, killing innocent people and had no moral compass”

“She 100 per cent does not deserve our respect for her flawed choices. We are not at war. We are helping America invade another country for their oil. No more than that.”

“Go to war, expect to be killed. You can’t have it both ways - oh nice little career with the military and shock horror when you get blown up.” Read the rest of this entry »

Rally for Marriage Equality

August 17, 2012

Reblogged from Beyond Marriage:

Click to visit the original post

Rally for Marriage Equality Meeting 12pm Civic Square Wednesday 29th, reaching parliament 1pm

Wellington event: Greece and the Eurozone Crisis

August 12, 2012

Greece has made headlines recently, with an earth-shaking anti-austerity movement apparently growing more organised. At the last elections, anti-austerity coalition Syriza gained substantially, while the two major pro-austerity parties lost votes.

Joel Cosgrove will lead a discussion on the implications of this development for Europe, and the world more generally.

6pm, Tuesday 21st of August
19 Tory St

Safer Spaces in Political Organising

August 10, 2012

“Safer spaces” began in forms such as consciousness-raising groups

Kassie Hartendorp is a Workers Party member, founding activist of the Queer Avengers, and works as a youth worker for a queer youth organisation. This article is adapted from a talk presented at the Workers Party annual conference.

What is a safe space?

As background, safe spaces began in forms such as consciousness-raising groups within the second wave feminist movement. These were spaces which allowed women to openly discuss the discrimination or abuse they were subjected to and strategise ways to fight against issues relating to sexism. The safety of these spaces was important as they provided an opportunity for women to come to terms with issues such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, within a supportive environment. They were also a space that addressed the issue of male domination within wider political groups and as such, often excluded men with the intention to minimise the chances of abuse or marginalization, so that those involved could move forward in their fight against oppression.

Nowadays, safe spaces are often associated with the women’s movement and the queer community. They were formed on the basis that women and queer people were often not physically safe within mainstream groups, and in these environments, people could feel confident expressing their identity or just existing without the threat of violence or verbal abuse. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Marriage

August 9, 2012

Originally printed on GayNZ.

The Queer Avengers have launched a new website highlighting the limitations of marriage and adoption law, and while supporting the call for marriage equality, it also underlines that it’s not the end of the line for LGBT struggles.

The site, tells stories of relationships, and family structures, excluded or oppressed by marriage law, including polyamory and whangai adoption.

It’s also underlining the continuing obstacles our community faces, including bullying, suicide and homelessness among LGBT youth, inadequate access to quality healthcare for trans people and common intimidation and violence in the streets.

Tertiary education for the rich, not the poor

August 7, 2012

While University funding has been trending downwards per student since the 70’s, cuts have started to ramp up since the election of the current National government in 2008. The recently unveiled budget contained an actual cut to the tertiary education budget, when recently the budget has seen below-inflation increases. Down from $4 billion to $3.9 billion. Funding is not expected to reach 2009 levels until 2016 and by then inflation will have undermined the value of that funding in real terms. Since 2008 the number of university students has increased by 5,000 but funding has decreased by $500 million after inflation. The Universities have survived to an extent by cutting programmes and applying wider cuts to funding levels. The point is being reached where the easier cuts to back-room funding, tutors etc. will not make the savings required at the lower funding levels, redundancies and harsher cuts as seen at Canterbury will become the norm across the country.

Alongside the cuts to general funding pools for the university. The government has been making loans and allowances harder to access. The 10% repayment rate on income over $19,084 has been increased to 12%, in Australia repayments start at 4% on and income of $44,912 and slowly rises to 8% for $83,408 and above. Read the rest of this entry »

Rest home workers strike

August 4, 2012

“When someone works for less pay than she can live on when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”

– Barbara Ehrenreich

It’s an indictment on our economic system that some of the most socially valuable work is also the lowest paid. Last month 70 members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota (SFWU) employed at Aranui Home and Hospital took three days of industrial action. The majority of Aranui rest home care staff are paid the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour and over the past 11 years have only had pay increases when required by law. The workers have been in negotiations with their employer since last October.

“The Human Rights Commission’s recently released report exposed the crisis of modern day slavery occurring in residential aged care.” Said NZNO Industrial Advisor Rob Haultain. “Aranui is a very good example of this slavery. These workers are shown little respect for the complex work they do or the fact that they are the core of the employer’s business.”

“If slavery means working hard in difficult situations with challenging residents for the minimum wage then there is no question that these workers face this experience daily.”

Aranui owner Ashton Parker has interests in early childhood facilities, gynaecology services as well as residential aged care. All of those sectors receive significant state funding. In times of austerity those services are cut back or allowed to stagnate such as with this years “zero budget”. The struggle of carers at Aranui is wider than just one employer or industry, but relates to the wider situation New Zealand finds itself in four years into the great recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Byron Clark

Quebec student leader tours Aotearoa/NZ

August 2, 2012

Guillaume Legault is a leading member of Quebec’s CLASSE — the Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity — a radical student organisation at the forefront of a months-long student strike against tuition fee hikes.

Quebec’s student movement is still locked in struggle with the ruling Liberal government over the new fees. The government has responded with police repression and harassment of students. It also passed a new law that bans protests of more than 50 people unless police have given prior approval.

Guillame Legault is participating in a speaking tour across Aotearoa, details below:


Date:    TONIGHT (Thursday 2nd of August)
Time:    6pm-8pm
Location:    19 Tory St


Date:    Saturday 5th of August
Time:    5pm
Location:    Canterbury WEA, 59 Gloucester St


Date:    Monday, 6th of August
Time:    2pm-5pm
Location:   OUSA - Clubs and Societies Centre

Mine safety under scrutiny

August 1, 2012

Flames coming out of a ventilation shaft at Pike River

Byron Clark

Questions about the safety of New Zealand mines are being asked after incidents last month. On July 25 a miner was nearly killed by falling coal while installing roof supports in a new tunnel at the Spring Creek mine on the West Coast, near the site of the infamous Pike River mine. Just over a week prior, twenty-eight miners became trapped by a truck engine fire at Newmont Waihi Gold’s Trio mine, in the northern Hauruki district. In that case all the miners were evacuated safely.

Solid Energy, the owners of the Spring Creek mine, have been criticised by mine safety consultant Dave Feickert, who told Radio New Zealand that company is complacent and, at times, arrogant. “I’ve come to the conclusion that they are a company that must raise their game. They claim to be best-practice, they claim to be introducing the Queensland model which is the world’s best - well, not all of it, because they don’t want to have check inspectors. They’ve made these claims and I’m afraid they have just not proven it.”

Back in February, the Department of Labour issued Spring Creek with a prohibition notice following three separate safety incidents related to system breakdowns in safety controls. The notice was lifted two weeks later after the department said it was happy with the company’s response to the incidents.

In the wake of the Wahi fire the union representing miners, the EPMU, also called for the implementation of the Queensland model “One of the key elements of the Queensland model is for workers to elect their own check inspectors to ensure there’s an independent and trusted safety representative on the job to signal the alarm as soon as potential safety hazards arise.” Said assistant national secretary Ged O’Connell.

“We understand the Government is waiting on the Pike River Royal Commission report, but it’s increasingly clear that unless our mine safety standards are brought up to international standards New Zealand’s miners will continue to be put at risk.”

The Huntly East underground coal mine, also owned by Solid Energy was also closed for several days in June. The state owned company is one which the government has earmarked for privatisation.


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