December 9, 2010
The Spark December 2010 - January 2011
General Strike Portugal 24 Nov 2010
In the aftermath of the Greek bailout there was a lot of talk about the other vulnerable European economies that could have followed the collapse into bankruptcy of the Greek economy. Top of the list of vulnerable Euro zone economies were Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain. Of these, the three Mediterranean economies had been controversial additions to the Euro zone, as their economies were seen as weak and problematic, bringing vulnerability to the entire Euro project. Ireland on the other hand was a small economy with a well educated English-speaking population, and of little concern to planners. Most recently though, some of the largest and most militant demonstrations have occurred in Britain, where the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition has implemented a harsh round of austerity measures, described as the most severe since the end of the Second World War. A common thread of the anti-government actions throughout Europe has been the demand the workers should not be forced to pay for a crisis that they did not cause. Read the rest of this entry »
November 25, 2010
The following report was drawn up by the Irish Marxist group, Socialist Democracy
10 November 2010
The Irish State is one of the most globalised in the world and for nearly two decades was held up as a model of economic development across Europe and further afield. Now it is in severe crisis and faces bankruptcy. The Irish Government has applauded its ‘first mover’ advantage in its efforts to enforce austerity – that it was taking the steps that sooner or later all other states would be forced to take. The small and weak character of the Irish State means that it often exaggerates trends that exist elsewhere. For all these reasons the Irish experience is an important one for others to study.
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November 25, 2010
The following article is by the Irish socialist-republican group, éirígí
ICTU Protest, Saturday November 27th, 12pm, Wood Quay, Dublin Budget Night Protest, March to Leinster House. Assemble 5.30pm, Tues December 7th, Wolfe Tone Monument, Stephen’s Green, Dublin Introducing the catastrophic €400 billion [£340 billion] blanket bank guarantee scheme in September 2008, Twenty-Six County finance minister Brian Lenihan was keen to offer reassurance to those genuinely fearful of the consequences of such economic recklessness.
Thousands demonstrate in Ireland against austerity measures
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February 20, 2010
On 8 February, over 100 students at Sussex University in South East England marched up to the top floor of the university’s prestigious Bramber House conference centre and staged a “‘flash occupation”. They marched out 30 hours later, promising more actions to come in the future.
The occupation was part of the Defend Sussex Campaign, an ongoing fight by students and staff at Sussex against savage cuts that the university is planning. The cuts amount to £3 million this academic year, and £5 million next year, meaning course closures, job losses and fee increases.
However at the same time as proposing these cuts, the university administration is planning to spend £112 million on new buildings and refurbishments on campus, as well as raising the salaries of the top 14 managers to a combined £2.1 million per year. Read the rest of this entry »
February 19, 2010
At present John Key and National are floating the idea of raising GST
GST a tax on the poor
(goods and services tax) from 12.5% to 15 percent, while lowering income tax for all and also reducing company taxes. Key and his pals present this approach - lowering direct taxation and increasing the tax on consumption - in a populist way, as if it would benefit workers. Key has added that the Working for Families package could be increased, along with some other measures, to help offset any losses for lower-waged workers and the minimum wage has been increased (minimally) by 25c an hour. Once again, there is nothing for beneficiaries.
The first thing to note about GST is how it affects people on lower incomes the most. Read the rest of this entry »
January 31, 2010
The 25 cent government increase in the minimum wage from 1st April was denounced by union leaders as “a cheap shot’ and “mean.”
The increase to $12.75 from April 1st, 2010 is an annual increase of only two per cent. The NZ Institute of Economic Research inflation forecast is 2.3 per cent for the year to March 2010 and the average wage rose 2.8 per cent in the six months to September 2009 alone. That suggests the lowest paid workers are going to be relatively worse off than they are already. Read the rest of this entry »
November 19, 2009
The Spark November 2009 Philip Ferguson
One of the issues that has arisen with the current recession is the responsibility of banks for the partial meltdown in the financial sphere. Sections of both the left and the right had traditionally targeted banks, a practice that has become more pronounced with the new recession. For instance, on January 19 this year the Financial Times in Britain even ran a headline saying “Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks.” In New Zealand, Federated Farmers has accused banks of “profit-gauging” – rather rich when you consider the amount of profit made by Fonterra! Traditionally, in New Zealand, right-wing nationalists such as Social Credit targeted the banks, a reaction to the fact that the social base of that movement – small farmers and small businessmen – were often squeezed by banks in terms of credit, mortgages, loans and so on. Read the rest of this entry »
October 11, 2009
The Spark October 2009
As the recession has bitten, redundancies have risen and unemployment figures have begun to climb, Labour’s Darien Fenton has had her Private Member’s Bill drawn from the ballot. The Bill would enforce a minimum redundancy payout on all employers, starting at four weeks pay after one year of employment. The Labour Party of course is the party that introduced the Employment Relations Act, which does not even provide a definition of the word redundancy, let alone provide significant protection for workers. New Zealand workers actually have no legal right to redundancy compensation and very few have provision for it in their contracts.
Workers at LWR’s Wairarapa sites who were made redundant earlier this year have been told that they are unlikely to receive any more than seventy percent of their entitlement in redundancy and holiday pay. Approximately eighty percent of staff with written employment agreements (contracts) have no redundancy provisions at all according to a Massey University survey commissioned for the Department of Labour’s Restructuring and Redundancy Public Advisory Group. Read the rest of this entry »
October 11, 2009
The Spark October 2009
The recession has been officially declared over, thanks to 0.1% economic growth in the last quarter. The government and various economic experts agree, however, that more jobs will be lost over the next year to 18 months.
In The Spark, we’ve consistently argued that the current global recession is nothing like on a par with the Great Depression of the 1930s nor is it the worst global downturn since then. Current trends suggest we made the right call, while many on the left vastly overplayed the degree of economic crisis. However, we’ve also pointed out that it is equally important to remember that this is actually about as good as it gets under capitalism these days - short mini-booms, often in the artificial economy, followed by recessions, with workers usually ending up worse off after each recovery than they were after the previous recovery. Read the rest of this entry »
August 5, 2009
The Spark August 2009
The government has made a deal with fast food giant McDonald’s in which young people receiving the unemployment benefit will be sent to jobs in McDonald’s restaurants, and have their ‘training’ subsidised by the state. Every beneficiary McDonald’s hires will get the company up to $16,000 which is the equivalent of about 8 months wages for a McDonalds worker. Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett is citing the relationship with the golden arches as an example of “the Government’s commitment to getting beneficiaries into jobs,” but while the growing number of unemployed certainly need jobs, McDonald’s needs workers a whole lot more, and this is what the scheme is really about.
Fast food is a growth industry during this recession, as people who would have previously eaten at more up-market restaurants lower their budgets. McDonald’s in New Zealand is continuing to build on its profits, enough to open a number of new outlets. They need to employ an estimated 6,000 workers over the next few years. The reason? Those workers are where their profit comes from. The company can provide an investment to build a new store with all the cooking and food preparing equipment that requires, but it can’t see a return on that investment until labour (ie, workers) is added. A McDonald’s worker doing an eight hour shift for minimum wage will be paid $100, but by turning raw materials (buns, meat patties, frozen Happy Meals, that worker could produce $200 for the company. Without the worker, McDonald’s couldn’t realise a profit. Read the rest of this entry »