Archive for the ‘New Zealand economy’ Category

The Health Sector Workers Network, a rank-and-file grouping of workers in the health sphere, has as one of its current projects the assembling of stories of resistance by workers in this sector.

HSWN are conducting interviews with people who have direct experience of taking industrial action – or engaging in any form of struggle or resistance – while working in the health sector.

Your story will be recorded and run on the HSWN site, but you can be anonymous if you wish.

So please get in touch with the Network’s project on struggle and resistance in the health sector.  You can email: 

The HSWN site, meanwhile, is here.

And HSWN on facebook is here.


By Don Franks

NZ Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff has just published an interesting piece : “New Zealand needs to change how it does business.”

Richard notes that over the last 30 years, “the share of the economy going to working people has fallen from over 50 per cent to just over 40 per cent, cutting $20 billion  a year from pay packets.”Income-Inequality

The union leader sees this having occurred because:

“… too many decisions about the work we do nowadays are made outside of employment law altogether.

“You see it for the people who are pushed to become dependent contractors and take all of the risk and little of the reward – that’s tens of thousands of drivers, utilities technicians, and construction workers over the last decade alone.

“You see it in the boardroom level decisions to re-tender whole workforces on lower terms and conditions by changing contractors (even though they end up largely employing the same people). (more…)

The third Labour government under Norman Kirk enabled employers to take out injunctions against workers withdrawing their labour; Northern Drivers Union leader Bill Andersen was jailed for his union’s defying an injunction; the jailing sparked massive workers’ protests

by Don Franks


Jacinda Ardern’s dead against it.

Today’s unions accept tight government constraints on it.

At some time in the future workers will recall this potent weapon, because it gets results. I wrote the history below when the previous Labour government was in power, our circumstances today remain essentially the same.

Strikes have brought workers suffering and death. They’ve also won money and righted wrongs. Striking involves risk, excitement and, dare I say it – (more…)

Resisting factory closure: Rixen factory occupation, Levin, 1981

by Don Franks

We call it an act of God. A natural calamity, outside human control, like an earthquake, forest fire or flood, for which no human can be held responsible.

In past times, acts of God covered much greater range; unexplained livestock deaths and crop failures for instance. When we knew no material explanation for a disaster, all we could do was wring our hands and pray. Hoping that if we showed contrition for our sin which must have caused the calamity, a stern parent-like deity might help us.

Today, because our understanding of the universe is better, fewer acts of God are accepted as such.

Acts of God are simply events that humans can’t control to their advantage yet.

Scientific leaps in recent years have been breathtakingly exciting and huge, but there are some areas where human behaviour remains in the dark ages.

A prime example is the field of industrial relations. Awful disasters for workers take place, quite regularly. Disasters like the loss of one’s job – one of the most punishing losses that can beset a person – and they are essentially accepted as acts of God. You can see an example below in this union media release from 18 January 2018. The words happen to be from the union E tū, however it’s a fairly  (more…)

But not an alternative to capitalism

by Don Franks

Jim Anderton’s death revives memories of recent political times that will not be repeated.

When the past president who’d revived Labour broke away from his party and formed NewLabour I was one of those lefties who became excited. Not since the resignation of Matt Rata had a major politician broken with the Labour Party and become active somewhere on its left. This time the rupture was very much wider and possibly a fine opportunity for becalmed kiwi socialists. Initially it looked like some new political space had opened up. We might move in from the margins and make some inroads.

So a huge proportion of the New Zealand left were bedazzled when Jim’s NewLabour Party was formed. No MPs but many left Labour activists decamped to go with Anderson. A notable exception was my mentor, Pat Kelly, trained in the old communist tradition that you stayed and fought in the existing organisation rather than joining spinoffs. In my recollection the only left group who definitely stood aside and criticised was the Communist Party of New Zealand. Those other of us who joined the gold rush saw it as an easier option than the hard slog of taking revolutionary politics out to workers who didn’t seem to be very interested in our message.

Soon Jim made it clear that NewLabour was not going to be a vehicle for revolutionary ideas. He cleaned out the obvious communists very early on, beginning with the Communist Left and then the Permanent Revolution Group. Ironically, Anderton was at one stage in a position of defending the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, mostly to support his allies in the union bureaucracy-dominated (pro-Moscow) Socialist Unity Party. Not publicly, but in a closed meeting, David Steele and I wound up in a very tense tussle with Anderton over this issue. As time went on, several of our Workers Communist League comrades, including David, finished up putting a lot of time and energy into the Alliance. Because, for a while, it still looked like some solid reforms at least could be achieved. But for all the hopes Jim’s party raised, it was (more…)

At the beginning of the NLP (NewLabour Party); vice-president Sue Bradford; president Matt McCarten; party MP and leader, Jim Anderton

by Philip Ferguson

Jim Anderton passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 7, just two weeks away from his 80th  birthday.  I have two sets of views about Anderton: a political assessment and also a personal view, as my parents were friends and strong political supporters and co-workers of Anderton’s for several decades.

First, the personal side.  This Anderton, I’ll call Jim.  I only met him once and this was when my mother was dying.  She had collapsed at home and been subsequently diagonised as riddled with cancer.  She went home for a fortnight before being transferred into a rest home with hospice facilities.  Jim showed up at my parents’ house with a load of food when my mother came out of hospital.  During the visit he gave me his personal cell-phone number and told me to call him at any time; also, that if he was in a meeting and couldn’t answer, he would get back to me straight afterwards.  He was particularly concerfned if we had any trouble with the public health bureaucracy – he told me to just let him know and he’d get onto them straight away.

Ferocious in dealing with petty bureaucrats

I knew from my mother that he was  ferocious in dealing with state bureaucrats who put any obstacles at all in the way of people receiving their just rights.  She had volunteered in Jim’s constituency office for years, both when he was a Labour MP and later, when he (and my parents) departed from Labour and founded the left social-democratic NewLabour Party and, subsequently, the Alliance.  I had heard stories from her of being in the office when Jim, outraged at one or other a tale of officious state mistreatment of one of his constituents (or anyone from across Christchurch who visited his office) would literally rip the jumped-up bureaucrat a new one.

My mother had also told me of his personal generosity.  The office was in a small block of shops in Selwyn Street in Spreydon and Jim and Carole Anderton’s home was up a driveway at the end of the row of shops.  This made it easy for him to dash back to the house and grab (more…)

by Phil Duncan

Last Friday (December 1) all the staff at Rotorua Aquatics, which is owned by the local council, were presented with redundancy notices.

The Council wants to bring in an outside management company, and is preparing the ground for this with the redundancy notices.  The Rotorua Lakes Council is so high-handed that it didn’t even bother with the usual employer pretence of “consultation”.

The mayor involved in this assault on workers’ rights is Steve Chadwick, a former four-term Labour MP

Not surprisingly, the mayor involved in this attack on workers’ rights is a former Labour MP, Steve Chadwick.

The Council’s over-riding motive is clear – (more…)