Monday, October 18, 2010

Smash the NACTs Attack on Unions

October 20... 
Defend Union Rights!
Defend workers: jobs, wages and conditions!
Defend the dole: access to unemployment benefit!

The strategy of the union officials (leaders) has not been to defeat this law, only to complain about it. Existing union members who have collective agreements can be protected against the 90day Act when negotiations for the new collective agreement come up to get agreements that bind employers to not use the 90day clause, the sick leave provision, and that allow union access. Unions officials have had their power to force employers to the bargaining table on these items weakened by employment contracts act and the employment relations act is little better. “Good faith” is a fluffy set of handcuffs that bind unions into endless negotiations when employers do not budge in negotiations. The ERA already binds union rights to stop strikes by making them illegal, and it bans political strikes – exactly what would be needed to stop the 90day law.

…the next step

  • Blacklist employers who use 90day Act!
  • Protect all workers, employed, unemployed and beneficiaries!
  • Picket WINZ offices if anyone sacked under the 90day, until they grant benefit!
  • No WINZ penalties for un(der)employed workers who refuse jobs without protection from 90 day Act!
  • Picket capitalists who use 90day Act until they stop!
  • Smash the 90 day Fire at Will!

Protect the most vulnerable

Benefits are so low that unemployed are forced to take any work in order to survive – lowering wages and conditions at the workplace. Unless unemployed are protected by employed workers, they are vulnerable to undermining wages and conditions and being brought in as scabs. An injury to one is an injury to all. Marx described unemployed workers as capitalism’s “reserve army of labour”; meaning capitalists will use the unemployed to fill any gaps in workforce as they want. The way for organised workers to protect against this is to unite employed and unemployed in the same union(s).

This is also sensible since any employed workers can become unemployed at the whim of restructure or a new employer using the 90 day law. For full union membership rights to unemployed workers: currently only the Unite union has specific unemployed workers rights to be in the union. Even this has been under threat. We are active in Unite union to protect unemployed workers as in the constitution and to maintain the participation of unemployed workers in Unite – against attempts by the leaders of the “Unite workers union” branch who moved to take unemployed workers out of the Unite constitution.

If workers are sacked or made redundant for any reason, they should have continued rights to full union membership of their union –at 0 or nominal dues. Unemployed workers need protection in the constitutions of all the unions: Maori, pacific, gay, women, youth and migrant workers should all have rights within the unions which empower participation at all levels of the union decision making, unemployed workers need similar rights. For rights as full members to access resources and participate, including the right to meet separately (caucus) and to raise agenda items & amendments. For unemployed workers representation on Union’s ruling councils.

For union dues to be scaled based on income: earn more and pay more; earn less and pay less from for example no dues below a wage of $10,000 pa graduating up to $40 a week plus for incomes over $100,000 pa. For the CTU Council of Trade Union redistribution of union’s income from the “rich” unions to the “poor” based on the average wages of the union’s membership for numbers of members; in order to fund organisers of unemployed workers.

Behind this governments offensive

This is an attack by the National-Act-Maori government on the working class. They have attacked the whole working class with the introduction of GST reducing the buying power of our wages and given tax cuts for the rich. They are attacking the quality of education at all levels. They have health services focussed on waiting times not on quality care, while cutting costs. They are beneficiary bashing and kneecapping unions’ power, with this 90day law. We need the whole working class to unite the fights that are occurring in many areas into one class struggle against the capitalist class. These many attacks on the working class need a class wide response – using pickets, strikes and occupations to stop profits & build class solidarity that meets the needs of workers.

Lessons of the Fight against the Employment Contracts Act:

The ECA which came in in 1991 severely weakened the unions. They lost ½ the membership from 600,000 union members it dropped to 300,000 and total number of employed has increased. Union leaders bureaucrats sold out the fight against the Act. In 1991 Ken Douglas (then CTU president) justified their sellout, saying unions will still be here to negotiate. Peter Harris for the CTU (1996) justified their mis-leadership again, and presented this to the 1997 CTU conference. That CTU balance sheet has been put online.

Unions have been pinned down under the capitalists’ labour law: there is tight control of the union officials.

The main lesson to take from the fight against the ECA was that it takes the fight of ordinary union members to put up a real fight, and force unions leaders to show their true colours either to do what the workers need or to openly sell out the workers interests. Ordinary union members put working class solidarity into the unions.

For a more in-depth analysis of the ECA see our “Smash the Act” pamphlet from 1991. 

Compare this to Don Franks reflections.  And anarchist review (published 2004).

The CTU (Council of Trade Unions)

The CTU leaders are a labour bureaucracy that provide life support for the Labour Party. So long as this leadership runs the unions, workers will be forced to keep voting for a parliament that continues to betray the working class. Failed union leaders who do not fight for the needs of workers, back the Labour Party, and argue for working people to support it as a “lesser evil” than the others. The CTU leadership is as rotten as the Labour Party leadership that they continue to support. Rotten since they both are parasites on the working class, giving as little to workers as they are forced to, while keeping their real role for the bosses – as the brakes on working class struggle. We say union resources should be accountable to the membership. Democratic unions must be based on maximum independence from the ruling class and its government.

Working class solidarity

  • We support Solidarity as a network of union members who take action to stop the employers who use the 90 day Fire at Will. Forced labour is what beneficiaries will be if this government cuts benefits of those who refuse ‘90day’ jobs. 
  • We call for PSA members (WINZ workers) to not force beneficiaries into jobs with 90 days of no rights and to grant benefits for anyone sacked under a 90 day Fire at Will: without stand-down and back dated to day of sacking. Take action based on the workers who can stop the flow of profits for the capitalist class.
  • For unemployed workers protection in solidarity with employed workers!
  • Form worker activist networks as a left wing within the unions!
  • Turn lockouts into strikes, and strikes into occupations of worksites, and set up workers control of each worksite, through elected (and recallable) worksite leaders!
  • For Workers Councils: local councils of workers to run the towns and cities, made up of representatives elected (and recallable) by the local worksites. For workers defence committees to defend the class. For rank and file committees in the armed forces.
Under capitalism the bosses’ labour law is a tool to attack workers – to make workers pay for capitalists falling profits. Only the complete replacement of capitalism through a socialist revolution can meet the needs of workers.

  • For an unlimited General Strike to defeat the bourgeois regime and win workers power.
  • For a Workers Government to plan a socialist economy.
  • For a Socialist Federation of the Pacific!

Communist Workers Group. October 20, 2010. Email
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