The following article by Workers Party members Mike Kay and Byron Clark serves as a small summary of some of the recent industrial action. We note from the time of publication these struggles would have changed and we will provide fuller analysis in an upcoming issue of The Spark.
The mood on the picket line at the Ports of Auckland remained staunch and upbeat after the first week of a four week strike. Several of other unions were flying their flags in solidarity, and a steady stream of toots in support flowed from the passing cars, trucks and trains.
A number of wharfies described their disappointment and anger at the lack of backing they have received from Labour-aligned Auckland mayor Len Brown. The dispute has inevitably taken on a political dimension, as plans to eventually privatise the port become more evident. The workers pride themselves on the shipshape safety culture they have established over the years on the Auckland wharf. But management continually try to push the envelope: “Young workers are being pressurised to drive the straddle cranes round like stock cars.”
Last month workers on the picket line witnessed two ships in port being unloaded by scab labour. Although the sight was a somewhat demoralising, the universal comment from the guys was: “just wait till that ship gets to Melbourne.” A great source of strength for the wharfies is knowing that the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) has got their back. ITWF affiliated union members held a solidarity protest at the Port of Tauranga on March 3 despite torrential rain. Pickets also took place in Wellington where workers are refusing to move containers.
On March 7 Ports of Auckland announced it was making the 300 plus wharfies redundant and replacing them with casual labour. The Saturday after this thousands of workers and progressives turned out and demonstrated on the streets of Auckland.
Meanwhile, in the meat industry, over 700 meat workers at the Talleys-owned AFFCO plants in Horotiu, Feilding, Whanganui, Moerewai and Wairoa were locked out, with their remaining union workmates walking out in solidarity. Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told the Manawatu Standard that the port and meatworks were some of New Zealand’s most profitable businesses:
They are all trying to screw down the cost of labour in their workforce. The meatworks and the port are right in the centre of the productive sector and [these employers are] using the most vicious employment relations tactics, probably backed by a government which has done nothing but change the law against workers’ interests.
Horotiu site union president Don Arnold told Fairfax reporters that AFCO “want more work for the same money.” Under proposed changes workers would be expected to process more carcasses per hour for the same pay
Strikes have also taken place at 20 Oceania Group-owned rest homes. Aged care workers represented by the Service and Food Workers Union and the Nurses Organisation currently earn between $13.60 and $16.22 an hour. They are taking action for a 3.5% pay increase and adequate staffing levels. The employer has offered a 1% pay rise over three years, well below the increasing cost of living.
Workers in these industries have helped set work standards for everyone else for many decades. It is in the interests of all working people to support these workers in their struggles against flexibilisation and casualization.
This is an issue for all of us - casualisation is not good for workers or their families. This is a growing story of working in New Zealand - even when workers already offer a lot of flexibility, they are expected to give more, and often to give up any hope of a structured and healthy life.
Support the port workers, meet at Britomart at 4pm, Saturday 10th March. Entertainment and speeches at Teal Park to follow.
The mood on the picket line at the Ports of Auckland remains staunch and upbeat after the first week of a four week strike. Several of other unions were flying their flags in solidarity, and a steady stream of toots in support flowed from the passing cars, trucks and trains.
A number of wharfies I met described their disappointment and anger at the lack of backing they have received from Labour-aligned Auckland mayor Len Brown. The dispute has inevitably taken on a political dimension, as plans to eventually privatise the port become more evident.
The workers pride themselves on the shipshape safety culture they have established over the years on the Auckland wharf. But management continually try to push the envelope: “Young workers are being pressurised to drive the straddle cranes round like stock cars.”
Over the last two days, the workers on the picket line witnessed two ships in port being unloaded by scab labour. Although the sight was a somewhat demoralising, the universal comment from the guys was: “just wait till that ship gets to Melbourne.” A great source of strength for the wharfies is knowing that the International Transport Workers’ Federation has got their back.
This week has seen hundreds of AFFCO meat workers locked out, and their remaining union workmates walking out in solidarity, as well as Oceania aged care workers taking strike action. Most workers instinctively recognise that the Wharfies are currently on the front line of the class struggle in Aotearoa. More power to them!
Originally published here, reprinted in February Spark.
The Thorton family: “They want drones when we are actually parents”
Shaun Thorton, 43, drives a straddle at the Ports of Auckland where he has worked for 18 years. He met his wife Leah at the port where she worked before becoming a fulltime mum looking after their four kids: Ben (9), twins Max and Amy (5) and Nina (4).
“We want predictability so we can have a family life,” he says. “We only get one weekend off every third weekend meaning I work 35 weekends in the year. I’m striking for the kids.” Read the rest of this entry »
By editors of The Spark
In late October 2011 over one hundred workers belonging to the New Zealand Meat Workers Union and employed at the ANZCO-owned CMP mutton processing plant in Marton, in the Manawatu area, were locked out by the company. The company was demanding that the workers take between 20%-30% losses of renumeration. The workers and their site organisers were not prepared to sign on to individual agreements and accept the cuts. Locking-out was a highly aggressive action from the company as lockouts are usually used as a retaliation to strike action. The workers hadn’t taken strike action but the company used locking-out as an ultimatum against those not prepared to accept the cuts. The lockout continued until December 23 when the workers voted to go back to work even though - we understand - they still faced some lesser conditions to those that existed prior to the lockout. The workers and site organiser involved are among the staunchest in the workers movement in the country, however ultimately the company was unable to be defeated.
“MANA supports wholeheartedly the rights of the wharfies who work for the Port of Auckland,” states MANA leader Hone Harawira. Harawira says “Workers across the country need to wake up and smell the coffee - if the wharfies lose this fight then the casualisation of working hours will become a permanent feature of employment in this country. Everybody who earns a low to middle income job will have to wait by their phones for their boss to call to see if they are working or not, not knowing how many hours they will work and be paid for each week.”
“As a country we should be doing our utmost to back our wharfies. Despite the efforts of National and the country’s media to make this dispute about money, this is all about having reliable and stable employment. The workers want to know that they have a set number of hours per week. If it was about the money why would they only want to settle for a 2.5% pay rise when they are being offered 10%? What I don’t understand is why the workers are being held responsible for risks to the business. Tony Gibson will get his huge salary each week no matter what and the Council wants a 12% return on capital no matter what. It is the wharfies who are expected to pay the price each week if business is down. Under any other business regime, the owner is the one who takes the risk, not the workers!
“As for politicians saying that we should not get involved, what a load of crap. This dispute became political when Rodney Hide set up the appointments of the Board of Directors for the port…
“In 1951 there was a watershed strike involving wharfies. Today we are faced with another defining moment regarding employment rights in this country. Rest assured that if the wharfies lose then this right wing Government will see it as an endorsement to go ahead with the casualisation of hours and it will be another blow to the union movement, a movement that has for so long protected blue collar workers.”
There are significant labour struggles going on with firefighters and port workers. Firefighters have been taking industrial action since August 5th. “They are still carrying out emergency response work, firefighter safety work and public safety work but not general duties.” Auckland union president Mike McEnaney told Stuff.co.nz. The professional fire service is strongly unionised- with 99% of New Zealands paid firefighters.
While no ones saftey is put at risk by the industrial action being taken, it has had an impact. The Herald reported a “media black out on emergency news” as reports from the control room are not being sent to media organisaions. Reports are also not being supplied to insurance companies and bills related to fires are not being sent out. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally posted by the Socialist Party of Australia.
Workers at Baiada Poultry, Australia’s largest chicken supplier, have won their dispute with management after a 13 day strike. The workers stared down bullying, intimidation and police violence without any sign of wavering. It was this determination that forced this rouge employer to retreat and concede to the bulk of their demands.
Primarily the workers were fighting for a union agreement which included a decent pay rise, job security and improvements to health and safety – particularly they wanted an end to the constant bullying and harassment that takes place on a daily basis.