Saturday, October 03, 2009

Aotearoa/New Zealand: Make the Bosses’ Pay for Their Crisis!

Whose Recession?

World capitalism is a system that is now more destructive than it is useful. Destruction has been to the lives of the labouring class, and to the productive land, building, machinery; destroying the forces of production. The financial crisis coming out of the USA banking sector and rippling out through their finance institutions around the world is one aspect of this. Banks use interest rate increases to squeeze (with a death grip) profit from loans to industrial capitalists and that layer of workers who have taken loans (mortgages). Industry passes the bill onto its labourers through every-which-way; restructuring, plant closures, layoffs and wages cuts.

The other feature of capitalisms destruction is causing direct damage to the means of production. The biggest example is through the state of war that the USA has been in. They have to have the record for the most invasions in world history: flying around dropping bombs and sending invading troops into numerous countries, the most recent Afghanistan and Honduras, not to mention their clandestine methods by the CIA. Dropping death and destruction: Labourers of the towns and cities lose their work when whole buildings (and machinery) are destroyed. Labourers of the countryside lose livestock, tools, crops, and land itself to the US bombing, since unexploded bombs ruin the land – unusable.

This crisis is world capitalism in its death agony, yet in its convulsions it tightens its grip on the labourers to squeeze profit from our lives. They are having the crisis and putting it all onto the working class to pay for it: It is the working class through our human labour that is productive, and is the source of all value. Capitalism is so destructive it is strangling & killing the working class.

Around the world capitalist governments defend the capitalists and attack workers. Many states have said they will protect workers money in the banks by guaranteeing funds against banks/finance companies failing. This is protection for the finance capitalist as a bailout, and the working class will pay for it since we produce the wealth. The governments are really protecting the financial capitalist, and they try to sustain the illusion / delusion that some workers have, that the system is alright.

The government guarantee of the banks is essentially a loan from the working class (through taxes) to keep the finance capitalists afloat. Those same Finance capitalists who are squeezing profits from the working people: from labourers as waged slaves, or ‘self employed’ / (contract slaves) paid on piece rates (per finished job) or in a small business model where the banker (finance capitalist) is behind it all their owner / landlord, since the finance capitalist claims an ownership right on their means of their production.

The USA and other state have also used working class resources to provide a welfare for the industrial capitalists The bailout of General Motors to rebuild the company and attack the working class is all state funded (see article in Class Struggle 84)

The State has controlled the working class by dividing us against each other. But they can no longer afford to pay the same premium that they used to the state forces police / army and private mercenaries. There are less crumbs from the capitalist table given as rewards to those workers who control the working class and defend the capitalists interests.

Crisis of Capitalism in NZ

The outright pro-capitalist government of NZ tries to scare the working class by talking up the problem of the economic crisis, at every chance, it is their standard excuse for attacking the working class. However they are still scared of waking up working class fight back. They have been using reports from “experts” or “committees” which they set up, to throw recommendations of cuts into the media and test public opinion; how much fight would that provoke from the working class. As usual in any round of attacks they attack the single mothers, on the domestic purposes benefit among the first (WINZ training allowance). l

The government is selling bullshit to the working class. In Health, they tell the “public” that frontline services will not be cut. But they are cutting by telling every health board to live within their budget and therefore forcing restructuring and rounds of costs cutting: cutting back room staff means the frontline have more work to do. The Minister of Health is demanding to know what services can be contracted out (at cheaper rates – less quality services for the working class).

Minister of Local government wants to cut social services too. Rodney Hide wants to define the core business of councils.

All these cuts are attacks on the social wages, which are paid as subsidise the whole of NZ capitalist class relations. Social wages partly maintain the myth that we are all equal – because we can all get into the same library: the same swimming pool (in south Auckland anyway), or wait for free in the same queue for a state house, hip replacement, heart bypass, blood test...

Industrial capitalists; Telecom was built by the working class and possession taken by private capitalists. Telecom has made less profit this year: Now they are setting about attacking the wages and conditions of the workforce. Telecom through a system of three sub-contracters for network engineers, are using Visionstream, Downer and Transfield to cut costs. The way they do this is to attack the wages and job security of its workforce by making them redundant, stealing their jobs.

Visionstream want workers to buy their jobs back vans and tools and they will be 100% dependent contractors. The lines engineers would take an income hit of 50%+, with no guarantee of work. Vision stream are effectively offering a contract like back under the employment contracts act – type of industrial relations, only worse, no guarantee of work.

The other contractors, Downer and Transfield attacked their workers too. Downer is trying to force its workers onto piece rates while Transfield just made 154 staff redundant. Telecom aims increase profit at the expense of its workforce and the upkeep or maintenance of our telecoms infrastructure. Telecom will take the most profit they can from the working class, while we will have to pay for installing a whole network in new technology of broadband for faster better internet.

The overall effect of the bosses’ attacks is to create a larger reserve of workers, waiting for work, needing to work to survive. Marx called this the reserve army of labour. Unlike the seagulls that used to be seen waiting for potential work on the ports – the modern reserve army (unemployed, under-employed, casual labourers and increasingly contractors) all wait at their phones in the morning to hear what work / if any – there is for them, on a day-to-day basis. And they will get called in to the WINZ office if capitalist state decides its time to put more pressure on about taking any job.

Engineers union (EU) has been forced into strike action by the telecom workers (now employed by subcontractors). But actually the EU leads workers to accept the next deal offered by the employers – like the Air NZ engineers the EU didn’t take strike industrial action to ground the airplanes and stop Air NZs profits from rolling in. The EU wouldn’t let them – because strikes would have been illegal, and the EU is tamed by a legal whip. That sort of industrial action would have needed the unity of all the unions involved in Air NZ and breaking the bosses law, which kept unions on the leash. The EU just used lawyers and accountants to look at the Air NZ books and come up with an offer that was sold out the working classes - wages, conditions and jobs. The employment laws have always been capitalisms tool to keep organised workers tamed – and they have been effective in NZs recent history.

Unions tied to the employment laws have the teeth taken out of any fight back. Union officials are threatened by capitalism with seizure of their property, etc. if they lead workers into breaking the Employment Relations Act (ERA). That was a Labour Governments gift to the working class: yeah right. Union officials lead organised workers away from fighting the system, into playing losing legal games with lawyers. Union officials become capitalism’s police on the working class.

Organised workers need to prepare to go “underground” and act outside the ERA: otherwise we cannot fight for our needs, rights, or defend our interests. Union organisers caught in the tension between what the workers want to fight for (and how), and the limits they are held under. All union organisers need to be paid at the same rates as the union members. Genuine workers democracy in the unions would push/pull the union officials and break through the limits of the ERA leash.

ZEAL deal is not the REAL deal

Anything less than the conditions of Air NZ short haul crews, is a cut in jobs and conditions as an occupation of flight workers. The short haul crew is the benchmark and should be seen as the minimum wage (& conditions) for any flight crew. Instead the EU tries to up sell the deal as a step in the right direction: “substantial improvements”. The EU call this a victory “a 3.95% pay increase” (less than the cost of living), a 6.7% increase after 12 months, (a minimal salary step for experienced crew), an “$1000 up-front payment” (sugar to help swallow a bitter defeat).

“A working group to look at hours of work and rostering will also be established”: All talk and no useful action is the outcome of the dispute going to their lawyers (EU and Bosses). I can imagine the EU saying, ‘this will have to do this time, but we will have another go at them in 15 months’.

We say union workers take control of our unions and take control of our industrial action: make strikes hit the capitalist in their profits - real pickets have to stop the capitalist collecting any profit. Ground the aircraft, block the access, road, phone, fax, and internet, stop their business from functioning – workers run the place, when we strike then we shut it all down. This is even easier to do on the inside – so have a strike on site – no work, but occupying the plant.

Fight capitalisms sliding scale of redundancies and cuts to wages and conditions. Share the work by reducing hours with no loss in pay: increase the minimum wages against bosses’ cuts. For a 30hrs week with no loss of pay and unite the employed and unemployed in the same unions. Workers keep reducing the working week until there are jobs for all.

For independence of the unions from the capitalist state! Beware the labour laws and the union officials that are bound by them, the union officials are made to work for the capitalist by the ERA law – not for the workers that they are supposed to represent and who pay them (through union dues). Build fighting funds (off the ‘legal’ union records). Prepare to pay a strike wage: and elect ordinary (rank and file) union members (or supporters) to run this.

Organise local picket line defence committees, with telephone / txt communications set up, so that we can defend each other against attacks from the bosses – at short notice. Prepare to defend workers against redundancy, against mortgagee sales, against lockouts and against having to reapply or contract for our jobs on lower wages or conditions. For working class communities to build self-defence pickets to support any workers struggling against the bosses’ recession: support the telecom workers at any pickets.

Fight redundancy with occupations and workers control!

Build revolutionary cells in the unions and across unions in local communities.

We need to link all of these struggles and to fight the system as whole.

For a national congress of the ordinary workers (rank and file) to fight or a workers programme to make the bosses’ pay for their crisis.

We say that programme needs to be workers control through socialist revolution.

Join us in building a revolutionary party whose one purpose is to end this system.

From Class Struggle 85 August-September 2009

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