New Zealand

In what has been described as New Zealand's most high-profile and bitter industrial dispute since the early 1990s, waterside workers went back to work, after a four-week strike. Auckland's port company agreed to end its lockout of 235 workers on March 30, and pay workers a week's wages for being illegally locked out.

The New Zealand Herald reported that Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe told a huge workers' meeting: “You'll all go back to your jobs and until you go back you'll all get paid.

“Everything we have done has fallen into place, thanks to your solidarity.”

A number of high-profile industrial struggles are unfolding in New Zealand.

About 1500 aged care workers, members of the Service and Food Workers Union, are taking part in rolling strikes against a 1% pay rise offer. About 750 meat workers have been locked out by their employer AFFCO and about 1250 workers are involved in rolling stoppages in solidarity. Striking Auckland waterside workers are also into their fourth week on the picket line.

What links all these struggles are pay and conditions ― especially the fight against casualisation.

The Occupy Auckland general assembly released this “Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Australia” on October 24.

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From the General Assembly of Occupy Auckland, New Zealand
In session, the 24th day of October, 2011

Madam Prime Minister,

Respectfully, we the assembled citizens, residents and supporters of the Auckland Occupation wish to convey to you our deepest disappointment in the recent repression by Australian police of the peaceful demonstrators in Melbourne’s City Square and Sydney's Martin Place.

Hone Harawira, an elected member of New Zealand parliament for the newly formed Mana Party, caused a stir on July 14 when he refused to swear allegiance to the English queen in order to take his seat.

Instead, Harawiri swore allegiance, in Maori, to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the 1840 treaty between Maori tribes and Britain that recognised Maori ownership of their lands.)

Stuff.co.nz said that day that parliamentary speaker Lockwood Smith refused to swear Harawira in as an MP on the grounds his affirmation was not legal.

The path for Maori liberation, debates on left perspectives and the 30th anniversary since the 1981 Springbok tour were some of the discussions at “Workers Power”, the national conference of the Workers Party held in Hamilton over June 3 to 5.

The recent formation of the Mana Party was a focus of the discussions.

Prominent Maori leader and MP Hone Harawira initiated Mana after leaving the Maori Party, frustrated over its deals while in coalition with the right-wing National Party.

Harawira resigned his seat to force a by-election and stand again as a Mana candidate.

The formation of the Mana Party in April marked a “major step forward for a genuine working-class political voice” in New Zealand, the national director of the Unite Union and Mana party member Mike Treen told Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

The Mana Party was formed at a 500-strong conference on April 30. It was called by Hone Harawira, MP for the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau.

At the conference, Harawira announced his resignation from the Maori Party and his re-election campaign as a member of the Mana Party in a by-election.

New Zealand’s Unite union has made great progress in recent years in organising previously unorganised sectors of workers ― often young workers in fast food, hospitality and retail. Through organising workers, Unite has forced fast food giants, such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, to eradicate “youth wages”, which pay young workers less for the same work.

Matt McCarten is the secretary of New Zealand’s fastest growing union, Unite. The union organises fast-food workers, cleaners, hotel, casino, security and part-time staff. It has a financial membership of 8000 members.

The transient nature of these industries means Unite has an annual membership turnover of 66%. It recruits about 600 new members every month.

“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.

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