In an article in The Times, 17 February 2019, Martina comes out strongly for fairness in sports.

The current rules on trans athletes reward cheats and punish the innocent Letting men compete as women simply if they change their name and take hormones is unfair — no matter how those athletes may throw their weight around

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What might sex self-identification mean for the hard-won rights of women and girls?  Labour MP Louisa Wall will be joining the discussion 

 

 

 

Shortly before Christmas I inadvertently stumbled into the mother and father of a spat about gender and fair play in sport. It began with an instinctive reaction and a tweet that I wrote on a serious forum dealing with the subject. “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” I tweeted. “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”

Perhaps I could have phrased it more delicately and less dogmatically, but I was not prepared for the onslaught that followed, chiefly from a Canadian academic and transgender cyclist named Rachel McKinnon.

McKinnon won the Masters Track cycling world championship in Los Angeles last October in the 35-44 age category. It was a victory that gave rise to controversy — not least because the woman who came third, Jennifer Wagner-Assali, said it was “not fair”.

Read the rest of this entry »

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by Don Franks

The Vietnam war continued.  Muldoon was yet to dominate New Zealand’s parliament, there was no internet and the Waitangi Tribunal did not exist.

 1974 was a different world.

My main memory of ‘74 was being elected to represent my workmates on the Wellington Trades Council.  Getting elected wasn’t very difficult.  Although it was a time of active unionism, few workers liked attending evening meetings, the leftist car plant union was happy for me to be a council delegate.

The Wellington Trades Council was the local assembly for affiliates of the nation-wide Federation of Labour.  Forerunner of today’s Council of Trade Unions, the FoL connected most private-sector worker’ unions.  Once a month, accredited representatives gathered for an evening meeting at the Trades Hall in Vivian Street.

The hall was – and remains – a dingy grey edifice in Wellington’s red light area.

Only a small union presence remains in the now multipurpose building.  Previously, however, Trades Hall was the union movement’s business and social centre, a place affecting thousands of workers’ lives.

Once a month at 7pm thirty to fifty delegates streamed down the passage leading to the meeting hall, running a gauntlet of hopeful paper sellers: Socialist Action, Tribune, Unity, People’s Voice.  Wellington’s marxist left was Read the rest of this entry »

On February 11 the campaign group Speak Up for Women received notification from Phantom Billstickers that their poster campaign calling for public consultation on the controversial Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill would be removed from over 60 sites from Auckland to Invercargill, in a move that is being described as reactionary and anti-free speech.Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 1.29.37 PM

The media company allegedly received ‘four or five’ complaints from members of the public over the weekend, in response to the posters. Ani O’Brien, Speak Up For Women spokesperson, says: “Jamey’s email came out of the blue this morning, so I called him to discuss his concerns and clarify our position. Jamey Holloway, Managing Partner of Phantom Billstickers said “[your] campaign has been accepted in error and will be withdrawn as soon as logistically possible.” Mr Holloway decided to dump the women’s rights campaign to appease the  Read the rest of this entry »

Palestinian prisoner Fares Baroud, 51, from al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, died on Wednesday, 6 February only hours after being suddenly transferred to intensive care from Ramon prison. Baroud suffers from a number of health conditions, including a hernia and liver disease, and has repeatedly spoken about medical neglect and denial of needed health treatment to Palestinian prisoners.

Earlier, he had lost 80 percent of his sight due to a vision problem; treatment was delayed for four months by the prison administration for his condition. Palestinian prisoners’ associations said that Baroud has been subjected to deliberate medical neglect over the years and that he has been denied necessary medical care that could have sustained his life.

Baroud had been denied family visits for 18 years by the Israeli occupation, including with his mother, Rayya Baroud. Rayya suffered from the same vision condition, losing her sight and her life before seeing her son again. Before her death in 2018 at the age of 85, she Read the rest of this entry »

by Don Franks

Some things don’t change much over the years. A thousand union hours lobbying MPs is still worth less than five minutes organising on a job.

The reason for unions existing at all is to advance workers’ interests and at their own workplace is where workers are best able to do this.  I feel fortunate to have done my union apprenticeship at a time of relatively high workplace union activity.  When ordinary people routinely did extraordinary things.

For example, one such incident. The Wellington Trades Council had called an all-up support meeting of Hutt Valley workers at Randwick race course, to support
out-of-town unionists on strike. It might have been a Kinleith mill dispute, or the Mangare Bridge battle, I can’t recall. What I do recall clearly from that afternoon is seeing the mass of men and women from the Gracefield industrial area; from the oil stores, the bottling plant, the car plant and the little metal working
shops tucked away from the main road.  Together we all packed out the race course stadium

The officials made a report and there was a silence. Then a guy in the crowd stood up and doffed his grubby beanie. “I reckon those guys on strike are gonna need  some money. I’m gonna  put a dollar in this little purple hat and pass it along for the rest of yous to put in too.”

The hat bobbed along the rows, making its swelling way to the men at the microphone.  Whether that guy who set the tone of the meeting got his Read the rest of this entry »

( Third of a series, see also Unions need “much larger systemic change” and Three suggestions for the NZ Council of Trade Unions)

by Don Franks

A recent union survey found workers’ incomes falling behind the cost of living and workloads increasing. What might we do about this?

CTU President Richard Wagstaff concluded: “Last year’s employment law changes will have made a small difference to working people, but we need much larger systemic change to fix this problem. This needs to be a top priority for Government in 2019.”

Workers’ welfare isn’t Labour’s priority.

The government’s first year saw New Zealand billionaires rise to a record of 13 and 683,500 people below the poverty line; Labour’s budget remained capitalist business as usual.

Low-paid toilers’ fortunes keep falling, along with the relevance of the labour movement.

To avoid sinking further workers need to take stock of how we got down where we are and how we might rise.

In 1985 union membership reached an historic high, with half the workforce unionised. Over the 10 years that followed, total union membership fell by 320,000. March 2015 saw 137 registered unions in New Zealand with a total of 359,782 members.

Union activity has declined along with union density. Back in 1988, the number of days of work lost to industrial activity was 81,710. By 2014 this was down to just 1448. 

There have been bright spots. Last year workers’ struggles delivered some union resurgence. The Public Service Association union reached a 30-year membership high in 2018 after a year of large, drawn-out industrial disputes. The year also saw mass strikes of teachers and nurses. Both groups of workers shared similar interests, but they fought separately. In each case there was rank-and-file grumbling at the settlement’s quality. A campaign of the two unions together would most likely have won greater gains.

A united campaign of the whole union movement for better pay and working conditions would have had even better prospects and attracted attention from un-unionised employees. At present, united anti-establishment action is not core union culture.

Nurses

Nurses stood strong, but union head office has counselled giving up. Pic: Matthew Tso/Stuff

Unionists today have a choice. We can continue the familiar path of overall decline, appealing to the authorities from a weak position. Taking the inevitable consequences: lower real wages, less job security, fewer rights at our workplaces. Less fun out of life for us and our kids.

We can alternatively reorganise to  Read the rest of this entry »

RDA picket, Auckland Hospital; Pic by Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

by Peggy Stewart

Junior doctors who are members of the Residents Doctors Association (RDA) have been striking this week in defence of their working conditions and for their Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA). At the heart of this dispute sits bad faith negotiating by District Health Boards (DHBs), an attempt to undermine and expire the RDA MECA to impose an inferior MECA negotiated by a new rival union. This dispute is likely to continue for many months with further strikes on the cards. Read the rest of this entry »