Archive for the ‘New Zealand history’ Category

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 (more…)

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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 Jamey Holloway, Managing Partner of Phantom Billstickers said “[your] campaign has been accepted in error and will be withdrawn as soon as logistically possible.”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  (more…)

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 (more…)

by Don Franks

It’s summer time, but the living’s not easy.

A New Zealand Council of trade unions cost of living and income survey done last week uncovered distress. Of the 1195 respondents, 70% reported their incomes weren’t keeping up with the cost of living. 

Increased workloads were reported by 55% of respondents. 

CTU President Richard Wagstaff said: “We’ve known for a long time that work in New Zealand and our employment law aren’t up to scratch but on every single metric we surveyed on we’ve found that many more people think it’s getting worse than better.  While Kiwis’ low incomes and their high cost of living are standout issues, people are also reporting concerning levels of workload increase, loss of work/life balance and low job satisfaction”.

He 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.” 

It’s time unions got real. This Government is not about making much large systematic change in favour of workers. Grant Robertson’s first budget made this clearly evident. (more…)

by Don Franks

Fellow workers may have a similar email from Richard Wagstaff, President NZ Council of Trade Unions:

 “Don – I just wanted to wish you a happy and rewarding New Year and to say thank you for being part of the CTU’s online campaigning arm… we want to hear your thoughts about what the year ahead means for you, for your pay-packet and how you’ll get by. 

“Don, together we can make 2019 a great year for working people. Let’s start by making it clear what we need to do to get there”. ( Then follow some questions; has my income and quality of working life has gone up or down, do I think workers conditions look better or worse in Australia?)  

And then “What other comments do you have about cost of living and incomes in New Zealand?”

Here are my comments.

Richard, thanks for the email. Just before we get into New Year, some workers are still reeling after Christmas. Not from over indulgence, from hunger.  (more…)

Material on Redline about the First Great Imperialist Slaughterhouse War, aka World War I, includes over 50 items.  Below are some of the main ones.

Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s The Great Wrong War: New Zealand society and World War I

Gallipoli Invasion: a dirty and bloody business

ANZAC Day, Gallipoli and NZ Imperialism

The absurdity and obscenity of Gallipoli: three NZ writers’ accounts

Field Punishment #1 Reviewed

Samoa: what New Zealand did

Opposing imperialist war abroad, fighting the class war at home: radical workers in New Zealand, 1905-1925

Empty Garden: Wellington’s National War Memorial Park

Reds and Wobblies: working class radicalism and the state, 1915-1925

After World War I: the horrors of peace at home (Australia)

Lenin on Imperialism and the split in Socialism

The relevance of Lenin’s Imperialism and the Split in Socialism today

Marxist Classics: An Appreciation of Zinoviev’s The War and the Crisis of Socialism

by Don Franks 

jail_5“New Zealand has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world, second only to the United States, with over 5000 people currently in our 17 prisons. We could be excused for thinking the problem is huge, too big too handle …”

Social reformer Celia Lashlie wrote that in 2002. Today, 10,645 inmates are crammed inside 18 overflowing jails.

Successive government policies paved the way for this massive increase. (more…)