Fight layoffs with occupations and workers control!
For 30 hour week without loss of pay!
The government has come up with two direct attacks to make workers pay for the bosses’ crisis. The 90 day fire at will Act was introduced under urgency as the key measure to create a reserve pool of cheap labor to cut wages across the whole economy. Labor Minister Wilkinson says it’s ‘voluntary’. But will WINZ stand-down workers who refuse these jobs or are fired under this Act?
Unite Waitemata branch is organizing unemployed to fight the 90 day fire at will Act and to fight WINZ if it stands them down! And the Unite union Rat Patrol is taking the fight to defend workers to workplaces.
The other measure is the 9 day fortnight for workers facing layoffs. But it’s only for six months. It amounts to a cut in working hours and loss of at least half a day’s pay. It’s a creeping dole as the state will pay the minimum wage for only 5 hours on the 10th day. The boss has 6 months to get the workers to cut wages further or join the dole queue. The only answer to unemployment is workers occupations and control of those industries that close down or layoff lots of workers.
Making workers pay for the crisis
It looks like John Key is cosying up to the CTU. Or rather the other way around. Helen Kelly was pretty chuffed by the Jobs Summit. When Key came up with the 9 day (and 1 day training) fortnight, Kelly insisted that workers got paid for their training day. Key has agreed to a state subsidy around the minimum wage at $12.50 per hour but for only 5 hours! This is in effect a creeping dole and as production drops, so will the working days get cut back. So get ready for the 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 day fortnight with wages cut accordingly.
Here the partnership of the CTU and employers is working well. The CTU is proving its usefulness to a rightwing worker-bashing government. Workers fearing unemployment will be forced to accept this deal and get a wage cut around 5 to 10% to start and more as the working days are cutback. So the CTU and WINZ are in a partnership managing the reduction in wages so that workers will pay their share of the crisis!
The CTU is also offering support for workers against the 90 days hire and fire Act. It’s offering help to non-unionised workers too. They promise to leaflet workers and organize protests and pickets when workers are threatened by this law. But they are only doing this because the militant organizers in the unions are already organizing this fight. Unite union has already formed a Rat Patrol of union activists to educate and defend workers facing the sack within the 90 days.
And the Waitemata branch of Unite is actively recruiting unemployed in West Auckland to build support for unemployed who will be pressured to take the 90 day jobs, and when sacked possibly face a WINZ stand down (see Unite Waitemata Leaflet.) The fact that Unite union is actively campaigning against the 90 day Act will give some substance to the CTU offer of help.
Make the bosses pay for their crisis
The CTU bureaucracy in partnership with the bosses doesn’t want to fight redundancies unless it doesn’t cost the bosses anything. So the six-month 9 day fortnight is OK even if it is a cut in wages. It will put workers in the position of forcing them to accept further cuts or join the dole queue. We are against any cut in hours if it means a cut in pay. We are for shorter working hours on a living wage.
But workers can stop sackings and wage cuts before they happen. If the boss closes down, occupy the plant and keep it running. There are many examples of such opportunities lost. Feltex, CHH, Kaiapoi Woolen Mills etc. Instead of paying for their crisis we need to turn it into our opportunity. If John Key’s “iconic” F&P is bailed out then it must be nationalized without compensation under workers control.
No compensation for two reasons. First, at F&P like all companies it is workers who create the company income. Second, F&P like all companies in NZ has received public subsidies for years. It must be under workers control because, first, only workers have an interest in working and seeing the results of their hard work meeting the needs of the people and not profits. Second, workers have the knowledge and motivation to keep innovating new useful products whether the market says yes or no.
In the case of companies like Pacific Brands, Sealords and Izards who are making workers redundant because of the global crisis, we are for workers occupations to take control of the company, prevent the machinery from being stripped out (as Australian unions are doing with Pacific Brands), and continuing production under workers management. In the process workers will be able to make democratic decisions about whether they want to cut their wages and hours to compete on the capitalist market, or begin to trade with other worker- managed factories around the world like in Argentina or Venezuela.
If this fails and workers are isolated and sacked they should make sure that are still unionised and refuse to sign up to 90 day fire at will. Unionised unemployed are a force that can resist being forced to act as cheap, casualised labour to force down wages, or what is worse, strike-breakers when workers are on strike or locked out. If WINZ cuts off the benefit then the organised unemployed should occupy WINZ in protest. If that fails (they all get arrested) and are forced to do the 90 days or starve, then and only then should they ring the CTU hotline for advice. Because all that advice amounts to is how to put in a personal grievance which won’t win because the bosses’ law allows you to be turned into a cheap labor wage slave for 90 days and 90 days and 90 days and 90 days.
The only way to defeat the 90 days bosses’ weapon to create pool of cheap slave labor and the 9 day fortnight to cut wages is to organise and fight it as a working class movement.
• Make the bosses pay for their own crisis!
• No privatizations of ACC, the Cullen Fund, AHB etc!
• No Public Private Partnerships!
• Jobs for All on a living wage!
• Unite the employed and unemployed by reducing the working week until there are jobs for all with no loss of pay!
• If companies close or make mass redundancies, occupy, and continue production under workers’ management!
• For nationalization of all bailed out companies without compensation and under workers’ control!
• For workers’ defence committees and pickets to protect occupations!
• For a National Congress of Workers to work out a workers program to fight the crisis!