New Zealand

“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”.
In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union, announced his candidacy in the Mana By Election in Wellington earlier today. Matt has had a quarter of century's experience fighting for New Zealand's poorest workers, and was a founding member of both the New Labour Party and the Alliance. Now 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.
“History was made early today on the other side of the world”, said Grant Morgan, an Auckland-based organiser of the Kia Ora Gaza convoy bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s siege. Kia Ora is a six-person New Zealand team that has joined the Viva Palestina covoy. “The vicious Israeli siege of Gaza has been broken by an international aid convoy of 400 volunteers from 30 countries driving 150 vehicles carrying vital medical supplies worth NZ$7 million.”
During UN Disarmament Week (October 24-31), a bill to enact the UN Convention banning Cluster Munitions is to be tabled in the House of Representatives. However, it is unlikely to contain a provision prohibiting financial institutions from funding manufacturers of cluster bombs. It has been found that the ANZ bank has provided loans of $136.5 million to producers of cluster bombs.
About 15,000 New Zealand workers joined the “Fairness at Work” National Day of Action on October 20, highlighting growing opposition to the government's proposed employment law changes, said the country’s largest private sector union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU). At least 7000 people packed the TelstraClear Pacific Stadium in Auckland and 4000 rallied outside parliament in Wellington. Thousands turned out in regional centres including Hamilton, Hastings and Nelson.
Comparisons must be made between the impact of the September 5 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the quake that hit Haiti in January. In Haiti — with a population of about 9 million — about 250,000 people died in the earthquake. According to government figures, 200,000 were injured and 1 million were made homeless. Eight months later, disaster still grips people’s lives. Fortunately, but in staggering contrast, no lives were lost in New Zealand, although the earthquake was of a similar — but slightly more powerful — magnitude (7 on the Richter scale).
The call for action against New Zealand-owned Burger Fuel chain for anti-worker practices below is reprinted from Unityaotearoa.blogspot.com. Campaigners have called for international action targetting Burger Fuel, which has two Sydney stores in Newtown and Kings Cross. Campaigners have called for coordinated pickets of Burger Fuel stores on Saturday, September 4.
New Zealand’s National Party-led government announced on July 18 a law that would allow bosses to fire new workers at will, restrict access to unions, cut workers’ entitlements to sick leave and holidays, and remove the right to appeal against unfair sackings. On August 21, unions will respond with rallies across the country. The two most significant aspects of the government’s plans are the extension of 90-day “trial period” and a requirement for union organisers to gain permission from employers before visiting union members or potential recruits on the job.
Labour history was made as New Zealand had its first mall workers strike on May 25. Workers in JB Hi-Fi in Albany, organised with the Unite union, went on strike for better pay and against a culture of bullying and intimidation against union members. Unite had already organised the first strike at a JB Hi Fi store on April 16. Unite member Jack Lucas said: “Our manager told me that I would never get a pay rise if I stayed with the collective. There was a lot of pressure put on me to resign.
Labour history was made when New Zealand had its first shopping mall workers strike on May 25. Workers in JB Hi-Fi in Albany, organised by the militant Unite union, went on strike for better pay and against a culture of bullying and intimidation against union members. Workers at JB Hi-Fi haven't had a pay rise in 3 years, and now earn only 75c more than the new minimum wage. JB Hi-Fi is making record profits - up 29% this year to an estimated NZ$140 million.
The following joint statement of solidarity has been signed by a number of left and progressive organisations, in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. If your organisation would like to sign on, please email international@socialist-alliance.org * * * Support the struggle for democracy and social justice in Nepal May 6, 2010
JB Hi-Fi staff at the company’s Wellington store have engaged in a series of strikes and protests as part of a campaign by the Unite union to win higher wages for retail workers. The strikes are the first at one of the company's stores in either Australia or New Zealand in over 27 years of the company's history. The Unite Union has been negotiating with JB Hi-Fi management for over six months for a collective agreement but the Australian bosses are refusing to raise wages for staff this year.
A huge crowd of 50,000 people marched in Auckland on May 1 against the New Zealand government’s plans to allow mining in the country’s national parks. It was New Zealand’s biggest protest march in living memory. Greenpeace ambassador Robyn Malcolm said: “For nearly 50,000 Kiwis to turn out and be prepared to speak with one voice, must tell the government something ... Our land will always be more important to our identity than some extra dollars in the pockets of mining companies.”
The Residents’ Action Movement has been growing rapidly in the last month (with around 100-300 people joining per week) as a result of the popularity of their key campaign — to remove the 12.5% goods and services tax on food.
Below is a statement from the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Visit http://space4peace.org.
Green Left Weekly’s Bronwyn Jennings, spoke with Vaughan Gunson, an activist with Socialist Worker (Aotearoa), which actively participates in the Residents Action Movement, about RAM’s activities in defence of peoples’ rights and against corporate greed.

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