New Zealand: Unionist to stand in by-election

Matt McCarten.

“In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, general secretary of the Unite union, announced his candidacy in the November 20, Mana by-election in Wellington”, Unite campaigns organiser Joe Carolan said in an October 26 Socialist Aotearoa article.

Carolan said McCarten “has had a quarter of century experience fighting for New Zealand’s poorest workers … standing as a member of the independent left, he would make an excellent champion for the thousands of low-paid and unemployed workers in Mana”.

Unite has successfully organised many low-income workers in a range of industries, including in hotels, restaurants, casinos, cinemas, call centres, shopping malls and fast food outlets.

Support for McCarten has “come from many members of other trade unions, as well as most of the organisations of the socialist left, who worked hard together in last year's Campaign for a Living Wage Referendum push”, Carolan said.

“That campaign got over 200,000 signatures of support to immediately raise the minimum wage in New Zealand to [NZ]$15 an hour, and then to two-thirds of the average industrial wage subsequently.

“It was also successful in getting the independent left out into the housing estates, markets and workplaces, co-operating in struggle together.”

The opposition New Zealand Labour Party has held the seat since the 1930s, but Carolan said the party had done little to alleviate poverty in the area. He said: “The escalating attacks on the working class in New Zealand requires the serious left to look for political as well as industrial solutions.”

Carolan said Labour’s free market policies had failed and it was “time for a new left”.

Announcing his candidature, McCarten said the right-wing New Zealand National Party government “has no economic plan and just hopes that somehow the international markets will come to our rescue. They won’t.”

McCarten said his campaign would focus on three main platforms: raising the minimum wage to $15 immediately; government investment to create jobs; and shifting the tax burden from low- and middle-income earners to the rich.

McCarten said he hoped through his campaign to get most people in Mana to sign the minimum wage petition to send a strong message to the NZ government, which is currently reviewing the minimum wage.

McCarten detailed a plan of government investment to create enough jobs for the 3000 people in the electorate who are officially unemployed. He also called for the goods and services tax, which unfairly targets the poor, to be scrapped.

“I intend to run a strong aggressive campaign and put the two main candidates under some pressure to work for their votes and ask them to respond to the above three platforms”, McCarten said.