Archive for the ‘Unions – general’ Category

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…)

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An important victory for workers at Ryanair has lessons for workers in this country, especially those employed by multinational companies. . .

Workers have won important victory by using militant tactics, but the war is far from over. . .

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary once declared once that Hell would freeze over before he would allow a trade union in to Ryanair.  The sight of him having to eat his words is indeed enough to bring a glow to the heart of any class conscious worker. At the company AGM just a few months ago O’Leary gloated that “I don’t even know how there would be industrial action in Ryanair. . . There isn’t a union!”  So how then was this victory achieved?

Solidarity

The pilots and crew’s struggle with Ryanair is a lesson in what constitutes effective trade unionism. On the ground activism, self-organisation and above all practical solidarity, in this case international solidarity.  It was this which put ‘the skids’ under the self professed “tough guy” of Irish industrial relations.

The workforce, welded together by the Europe-wide airline network, began to flex its considerable muscle on the back of (more…)

Marikana massacre of workers carried out by ANC government, August 16, 2012; the single most number killed by any Slouth African government in a single action since the 1960 apartheid regime massacre of black civil rights protesters at Sharpeville

Billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa has been made president of the ANC, although Jacob Zuma will continue as president of the country.

Ramaphosa says the ANC will spend 2018 reconnecting with the people and making up for its mistakes.

The idea of this super-rich capitalist reconnecting with the masses is a hoot.  Ramaphosa, who supported the massacring of mine workers just a couple of years ago, leveraged his time as a militant trade union leader to get into business and epitomises everything that went wrong with the ANC in the first place. 

by Peter Manson

Readers will know that president Jacob Zuma was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the African National Congress at the ANC’s elective conference in December.

Zuma will remain South African head of state, however, until a new president is elected by the national assembly following the 2019 general election – unless, of course, action is taken by the ANC and parliament to remove him earlier, which is a distinct possibility.

Just before the elective conference, commentator Peter Bruce pleaded to ANC delegates:

The fact is that policy uncertainty is crippling foreign investment … And try not to think of foreign investors as fat, white capitalists smoking cigars in a club somewhere and deciding which ideological friends to finance … They’re investing the savings and pensions of people like you … They need a return on those people’s money, just like you need a return on yours.1

Corruption

Such commentators wanted Zuma out – and were equally opposed to his replacement as ANC president by his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was seen as a mere continuation of the current corrupt regime. Zuma not only stands accused of using state funds to upgrade his private residence, and of allowing the Gupta family to exert huge influence over government appointments – so-called ‘state capture’ – but he still has no fewer than 783 charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering hanging over him. These are connected to the multi-billion-dollar arms deal finalised in 1999 just after Zuma became deputy president. His financial advisor at the time, Schabir Shaik, was jailed in 2005 for facilitating those bribes and, while Zuma faced charges too, they were conveniently dropped just after he became president in 2009.

During the pre-conference campaign Ramaphosa repeatedly insisted that all those implicated in ‘state capture’ and corruption must be (more…)

by Lutte Ouvriere

“I am not Santa Claus” was the first declaration that French president Macron made when he arrived in French Guiana in late October. In this part of the old French colonial empire, half the families live below the poverty line and one youth in two is out of work; some of the inhabitants have neither running water nor electricity.

Right next door to the population living in extreme poverty is the Kourou space center from where the Ariane rockets are launched. All the equipment in the space center is ultra-modern and there’s a medical center strictly for employees only. This shocking contrast is revolting! When the population demands that the state put an end to injustice, it’s not asking for gifts, it’s asking that the state respects, at long last, the population’s right to live decently!

Last spring, the Guianans mobilized during five weeks to make their rights heard. Guiana was paralyzed by a general strike and barricades where the (more…)

Below we’re running an article on a strike that took place in Detroit in 1987.  We’re running it because of what workers here in NZ, and readers around the world, can learn from this dispute.  It’s one where the workers said a resounding “No!” to the company’s demands that they sacrifice conditions and benefits and to the union leaders whose starting point was to make concessions to the employers – and get in the way of workers being able to fight!

This strike against health care giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went against the wider trend in the US workplace at the time, which was to make concessions and not resist, a trend which is very much dominant in the New Zealand workplace thirty years later.  It was also marked by a large degree of rank-and-file control over the struggle and a continuous battle for workers to maintain this control in the face of manoeuvres by the union bureaucracy to take it over – and bring it to an end.

The BCBSM strike also won support from other workers, most particularly auto workers and a number of local officials in the auto workers’ union. 

The Spark is an American Marxist workers’ group which was active in the strike, Detroit historically being one of their main centres of activity. 

by The Spark

Thirty years ago, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went on strike. Chants of “No contract, no work!” and “Don’t get sick tonight: Blue Cross is on strike!” filled the air in downtown Detroit and at other statewide locations. The strike of approximately 4,000 workers began in September 1987, immediately preceding Labor Day. The strike was not over until winter moved in, eighty-three days later, in November.

The healthcare giant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, dominated the Michigan health care industry and controlled around 70 percent of the industry statewide at that time. It was demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, taking advantage of the fact that the new 1987 contract would now cover all four local unions in offices around Michigan in a Master Labor Agreement. The company viewed it as an opportunity to impose the worst from all of the former agreements, and then some. They were a paternalistic employer; the majority of employees were women and, like public employees, were considered lucky to have decent benefits that included time off for taking care of family needs, and health care as well. Of course, the wages were not equivalent to wages earned by manufacturing workforces that were predominately male.

In the concessionary drive, earlier unspoken agreements regarding benefits as a trade-off for wages were forgotten, as the bosses came after all they could get. Benefits were at the front of their list. Always a company that believed in the stick before the carrot, BCBSM looked to impose drastic cuts in workers’ sick time off provisions and to eliminate policies that gave women workers some needed flexibility in work start times and in taking increments of time off to attend to personal and family needs. While wages were an issue in the strike, the elimination of time-off provisions and the flexibility to be able to avoid discipline and firing while still maintaining their second job, the family, was foremost in women workers’ minds.

The largest number of workers were housed in Detroit, with almost 3,000 unionized employees and almost as many more who were salaried workers, called “exempts,” meaning they couldn’t be in the union. While the union was comprised of clerical, office and professional employees, the majority of the professionals were non-union. Many of them were not particularly well paid. But they were (more…)

by Robert Belano

On Sunday (October 22), Argentinians went to the polls for the second and final round of mid-term elections. While the mainstream media celebrated the success of President Mauricio Macri’s right-wing Cambiemos coalition, a growing political polarization has strengthened the far left as well. Amid continued economic crisis, the anti-capitalist proposals of the Left and Workers’ Front have resonated strongly with increasing numbers of workers and youth.

A growing left alternative in Argentina

As perhaps the strongest recent electoral showing for an anti-capitalist coalition in the world, the Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores (FIT, Left and Workers’ Front) won five percent of the overall vote, earned two congressional seats and various municipal seats, and achieved close to 20 percent of the vote in the northern province of Jujuy.

The FIT had impressive results throughout the country and particularly in provinces and cities with higher concentrations of workers and poor people, such as Jujuy and the industrial center of Greater Buenos Aires. Sunday’s results represent an increase in votes of 30 percent for the FIT since the primaries, held only last August. The left coalition surpassed its 2015 totals by around 50 percent making this year’s election results, along with those in 2013, among its most successful yet.

Leaders of the FIT. Image by Juan Manuel Foglia

The FIT is an electoral coalition that was formed in 2011 and is composed primarily of three Trotskyist parties — the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS, Socialist Workers’ Party), Partido Obrero (PO, Workers’ Party), and Izquierda Socialista (IS, Socialist Left). Among the coalition’s demands are: the right to free and unrestricted abortion, an end to all layoffs and furloughs, a 6-hour work day without any reduction in wages, the non-payment of Argentina’s external debt, the nationalization of all foreign trade and large land holdings, a massive public works program, and the forging of a workers’ government.

More than 1.2 million people cast their ballots for the FIT, sending a strong message to the ruling class and the mainstream media that they can no longer ignore this phenomenon. It is clear that large numbers of Argentines, particularly workers and young people, are rejecting not only the austerity and repression associated with the capitalist parties but also the “lesser evil” argument that Peronism and the reformist candidates (more…)


In the early 2000s, in response to capitalist austerity, especially workplace closures, a wave of factory takeovers by their workers occured in Argentina.  Factory occupations in that country have continued and provide useful and practical examples how to fight redundancies and closures.  In the article below, Sonja Krieger, of US-based Left Voice, writes about a factory she visited as part of a Left Voice delegation to Argentina.

by Sonja Krieger

Many are familiar with the story of Zanon, the ceramic tile factory in Neuquén Province in Southern Argentina that was taken over by the workers in 2001/2002. The reason why Zanon – now FaSinPat, Fábrica Sin Patrones (Factory Without Bosses) – has become well-known all over the world is because of the 2004 documentary The Take by Naomi Klein, a film about the “recovery” of closed or abandoned factories in Argentina in the context of the 2001 economic crisis and its aftermath. The film is about the fábricas recuperadas (recuperated factories) movement in Argentina and shows the struggles of workers to save their workplaces by occupying them and continuing production under workers’ control. Many of these cooperatives continue to run and to be self-managed by the people who work in them, and they represent a significant social phenomenon that proves that the working class can not only effectively respond to the attacks and the failures of capital, it can also organize work collectively, democratically, and without bosses and managers.

The Take tells the story of the workers’ struggles at Zanon, as well as those at the Forja auto parts factory outside of Buenos Aires and the textile factory Brukman in the city, but there are many more workplaces that have been under worker self-management for as much as a decade and longer. There are also hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that are run as cooperatives, including in areas like media and education, construction and transportation, and even health care and trash collection.

Madygraf takeover

A more recent example of the Argentinian workers’ fight to “reclaim” their workplaces is the print shop Madygraf, which our delegation had a chance to visit on its three-year anniversary in August. The experience of listening to the workers there talk about how they fought for better working conditions, for their jobs, and ultimately for their plant was a powerful one.

Now in its fourth year as a cooperative, the (more…)