Archive for the ‘Community organising’ Category

Below is a statement by Dr Swee Ang, who was the medical doctor on the al-Awda, the freedom flotilla ship delivering medical supplies to the besieged people of Gaza; among those assaulted and tasered was Mike Treen, the national director of Unite trade union in NZ and a veteran activist in progressive causes from opposition to the Vietnam War to anti-apartheid activities and support for the Palestinian cause.

The statement, made on August 4, has appeared in a number of places; we took it from the blog of veteran British anti-imperialist and socialist activist Tony Greenstein.  We’ve added subheads to break up the text a bit more.

by Dr Swee Ang

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with USD15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent 2 days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of 2 persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

The attack begins

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

Tasered

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away.  Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being (more…)

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The interview below was conducted with members of the rank-and-file Health Sector Workers Network who belong to the nurses’ union (the NZNO).

Philip Ferguson: What have been the key issues in the nurses’ dispute with the DHBs?

Health Sector Workers Network actvists: They really are two-fold.

There are the issues around safe staffing, which with chronic staff shortages, have seen Nurses, Midwives and HCAs working in dangerously unsafe working environments.  In many worksites, particularly the Emergency Departments and Mental Health facilities, there are daily incidents of verbal and physical abuse and assault of staff.

The ability to give excellent patient care without the need for care rationing will only be possible with more staff and clear patient-staff ratios.

Pay equity is the other important issue that members are passionate about.  The need to have remunerations that reflect skills and responsibilities is essential.  We need staff retention and the ability to attract new people to the profession.  If this doesn’t occur, Nurses, Midwives and HCAs will look elsewhere for better wages and conditions, like jumping the ditch to Australia.  Already nurses are leaving on an almost daily basis, resulting in chronic staff shortages and if these issues aren’t addressed it will only get worse.

PF: How successful has the industrial action been?

HSWN: There have been mixed feelings on the success of the strike action.  Due to this dispute being (more…)

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

by Don Franks

“It is clear to all parties that there is no further additional funding available for this MECA.  The Government has made this clear repeatedly to all parties and publicly. On this basis we believe further strike action is highly unlikely to deliver any further improvements for our members.”

That’s a recommendation to union members from the NZ Nurses Organisation, just posted on Facebook by a union member who has issues with the union head office stance, Al Dietschin of the Health Sector Workers Network.

Al notes, this amounts to “(t)rying to convince us to surrender because they’d rather help the Government keep the BRR/fiscal restraint policy intact” and suggests an alternative strategy:  “If we were to strike again, aligned it with other public service/sector unions actions, and if we organised cross union pickets of Labour Party offices, we could force the purse strings open.”

I have issues myself, partly because, as an older citizen, I’m increasingly likely to require the assistance of nurses.  I want them to be properly paid so they are concentrating on the job of looking after me and are not distracted by economic discomfort.  At the moment, nurses definitely have the (more…)

by Don Franks

A just-released Salvation Army-commissioned survey of over 1000 New Zealanders showed 45 per cent of them went without heating last year, due to cost. Doctors’ visits were not made by 44 per cent because they couldn’t afford it. 

Manager for the Salvation Army’s welfare services, Jono Bell, said his first response to the figures was disbelief. 

“But on reflection, I thought, actually the numbers are not too dissimilar from what we are seeing on the frontlines,” Bell said. 

“It’s not just beneficiaries but people in our community who are working are still not making ends meet and are being forced to choose. It is a widespread problem.”  Bell said it was wrong working families were being forced to choose between food, housing and heat. 

“Some of the numbers have serious implications,” he said.

“People can’t heat their homes, so they are getting sick more often, so they have to go to the doctor but can’t afford it.  More medicine is required so they are having to make a choice between medicine and food.  And then there’s the house prices on top of that.”

 In the same week as the Salvation Army survey, an alternative opinion was published in the New Zealand Herald, by one of the economy’s most  (more…)

PEDRO MERA / GETTY IMAGES Photo: Pedro Mera

by Jimena Vergara

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) crushed the other candidates in the July 1 Mexican presidential election, winning over 50% of the votes – twice as much as his nearest opponent.

The international press, with good reason, has described the election as historic because of the massive level of voter participation. In the last elections, 63% of the electorate voted, and in this one, 78% took to the polls.

The international and national press is filled with headlines about the “leftist” who won the presidency. AMLO is, in fact, a center-left politician whose election represents deep discontent with the political establishment. The masses invested their aspirations in his candidacy as a product of their deep resentment against the parties that have governed Mexico for the last century.

A historic election

AMLO, part of the political party MORENA (which stands for National Regeneration Movement in Spanish), won (more…)

Veteran social justice activist Maire Leadbeater’s latest book is a meticulously-researched work on the attitudes of successive New Zealand governments, both Labour and National, in relation to the independence struggle in West Papua.

In the 1950s, New Zealand supported independence for the former Dutch colony, but this changed in the early 1960s.  Since then governments here have pursued policies which have put their relationships with Indonesian regimes, including the vicious Suharto dictatorship, ahead of the right of the people of West Papua to freedom.

Maire has previously exposed NZ government collusion, by both Labour and National, with the Indonesian dictatorship’s murderous invasion and occupation of Timor Leste (formerly East Timor).  Her work around the cause of the people there led to her being awarded the Order of Timor Leste by the Timorese government last year.

Today, the ‘democratic’ regime in Jakarta pursues murderous policies in West Papua, policies about which we hear very little in New Zealand.

Maire’s new book See No Evil: New Zealand’s betrayal of the people of West Papua, published by Otago University Press, is an important breach in the wall of silence in this country around (more…)

Striking workers blockade a major road leading into centre of Buenos Aires, June 25. Photo: Jorge Saenz

 

by Robert Belano

A general strike across Argentina brought major industries and transportation to a halt on Monday. The major union bureaucracies — the CGT and the CTA — called for the strike but refused to mobilize workers in the streets. However, the far left parties and the most combative unions organized rallies and roadblocks in various cities. It is the third general strike that has been organized against the Macri government since the right-wing president assumed office in 2015.

Left organizations — in particular, those which compose the Left and Workers’ Front — blocked various bridges and access points to the capital city of Buenos Aires as well as cities in the interior of the country like Cordoba and Rosario. Throughout the capital, not a single bus, train or subway line was running. More than 600 flights in and out of the country were canceled. Schools, banks, ports and thousands of businesses were shuttered.

The workers’ primary demand is for an immediate increase in their salaries at least equal to the inflation rate. Inflation has surpassed 27 percent in the past year while the government is proposing salary increases of only between 15-20 percent for this year, meaning that even after the proposed increases, workers would experience a major decrease in real wages and their standard of living.

This skyrocketing inflation is compounded by the major hikes in utility bills that have been imposed since (more…)