Interview: Right to sympathy strikes

September 11, 2012

In its platform, the Workers Party (NZ) calls for the unrestricted right to strike. Here Ian Anderson, a writer for The Spark, interviews socialist and union delegate Andrew Tait, on a recent resolution supporting the right to sympathy strikes.

The Spark: Can you talk a little about the Engineers, Printers and Manufacturers Union (EPMU) itself, and how you got involved?

AT: I’ve been keen on unions since I was a kid, back in 1991 when the Nats tried to smash unions. I love the idea that we can work together to make a better world. I’ve also been a socialist since I was a teenager. I joined the International Socialists Organisation in 1994, and have always joined the union at uni or at work. In about 2007 I joined Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union when I started work at the newspaper in Dunedin, and after about four years became a delegate for my floor. The EPMU is the biggest private-sector union and one of the most diverse. It covers posties, airline workers, and timber workers as well as engineers, printers and manufacturing workers. The EPMU is a major supporter of the Labour Party. It’s the biggest private sector union because in the 1990s it merged with a whole lot of unions but it has been hit pretty hard by redundancies, especially in manufacturing. The big loss in Dunedin recently was the closure of Fisher & Paykel.

The Spark: You had a resolution passed on the right to strike. What does this resolution mean?

AT: The resolution was that the union lobby for the introduction of the right to conduct secondary (sympathy) strikes. The immediate inspiration for it was the Ports of Auckland dispute, where Rail and Maritime Union workers were forced to supply the ports when they were run by scab labour. If this resolution became law, the RMTU workers could refuse to supply the port and not be penalised. It would massively increase the industrial effectiveness of strikes. Read the rest of this entry »


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