Archive for the ‘Unions – general’ Category

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

Belisario Betancur, the ex-president of Colombia (1982-1986) died in his bed on the 7th of December, 2018.  He corpse hadn’t even time to go cold before he received and avalanche of eulogies from politician, ns and the press.  El Espectador gave over various pages to him and the magazine Semana did likewise.  They are all in agreement, the man of peace has died, but unlike Salvador Allende, the real Man of Peace in Benedetti’s poem, he did not die under fire from the bullets, warplanes and tanks of the Empire, but rather he died in peace and will be buried in the midst of a wave of praise.

The eulogies from the press are not surprising.  Betancur was, after all, one of them and social etiquette is to speak well of the dead, especially if he happens to be a president of the country.  You only have to look at all the liberals praising the recently deceased president of the USA, George H.W. Bush, the man who brought new vigour to conventional warfare and also to the death squads in Central America.  Death pardons everything.  It would seem scientists can discuss whether we are born with a blank slate, but without a doubt the press and the powerful give a kind of blank slate to some when they die.  It is hardly surprising.  But, what has the reformist left in Colombia to say for itself?

Reformist view

There are two tweets that embody a certain vision of Betancur and the issue of (more…)

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The increasingly parasitical nature of capitalism today is reflected today in a number of ways.  One is the artificial nature of share ‘values’ and how workers’ jobs, pay and conitions are affected by this.  Below is a piece dealing with the latest round of massive layoffs by GM in the United States and how these layoffs reflect the increasingly parasitical forms of capital/ism today.  It is the editorial from the latest set of fortnightly workplace bulletins produced by The Spark, a US Marxist workers’ current.

General Motors is closing down five plants and laying off 14,500 workers.

That announcement – shocking because it comes in the midst of so-called “good times” – was justified by one lie after another.

No one wants cars, says GM. Not true. In 2018, six million cars will be sold. The problem isn’t car sales. The problem for GM and the other two “American” companies is that cars produce less profit than do trucks and SUV’s. GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have now decided to hand over the car market – except for the biggest, most profitable luxury models – to Japanese companies.

Remember, the three companies did this once before, when they ceded the market for small cars to Japanese and German automakers.

Ford, GM and FCA are now throwing away the whole car market. They don’t give dealers many choices, and they push consumers to “step up” to an SUV or even a truck – all the while counting out more profit.

GM expects these job cuts to provide it with 4.5 billion dollars (US) more profit by the end of 2020.  But, says GM, the auto industry is changing rapidly, and GM needs to accumulate more profit to invest in electric cars and self-driving vehicles.

Well, if that were the issue, GM already could have been investing – and many times that much. It had the money, but instead GM gave it away to Wall Street. Over the last three and a half years, GM bought back stock to the tune of 10.6 billion US dollars, and put in motion plans to buy back almost four billion more – 14.5 billion US dollars.

Stock buy-backs do nothing but (more…)

by Don Franks

protest

Concessions by Labour to its coalition partner New Zealand First have further reduced workers’ rights on the job. Legislation will be in the form of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, now a formality to become law. 

The two recent concessions to the bosses, via NZ First, concerned union access to the workplace and the multi-employer collective agreement, or Meca.

Employers have a responsibility to enter into Meca bargaining but will not be compelled to settle an agreement. (more…)

by Daphna Whitmore

Today, iwi-owned company Go Bus locked out close to 100 bus drivers in Hamilton. The drivers have been in negotiations since March 2017 and want a living wage of $20.55 an hour. Many of the drivers are paid less than $18 an hour, some as low as $17.30, and are struggling. They have rejected a 1.9% pay increase offered by the company.

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First Union members block buses leaving the depot

The drivers belong to First Union and announced a partial strike to start 19 November. It was to be a fare strike with free rides for passengers on Go Bus in Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Otorohanga and Katikati. The company have responded aggressively by locking out the union members hoping to force submission.This is the biggest lockout of First Union members since 2006 when 500 employees were locked out by the supermarket giant Progressive Enterprises.

Go Bus is owned by Tainui and Ngai Tahu iwi, and despite giving lip service to supporting a living wage their companies are hard-nosed profit-driven entities. Ngai Tahu is the wealthiest iwi and the largest corporate land-owner in the South Island. In 2017 their net worth increased by $89m to $1.36b.The second in wealth of the iwi is Waikato-Tainui which has assets of $1.22b. The lockout shows that today’s iwi are capitalist enterprises and bear little resemblance to the iwi of classical Maori society before colonisation. (more…)

Militant (and illegal) strikes by teachers and other school employees in the US won major gains earlier this year; it’s an example worth emulating. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

by Don Franks

“In 2018, we’ll be making the message loud and clear – It’s Time. Time to lead, teach and learn. This means freeing teachers to teach so every child receives the personal attention they need to learn and thrive. It means freeing principals to focus on leading and it means ensuring we have enough teachers by attracting more people to teaching, by respecting them as professionals and paying them properly.

“We currently have a growing teacher shortage crisis already showing itself in our schools, which looks set to worsen with growing student numbers and less (sic) people training to become teachers.

“Our students come to school to learn all the skills and abilities that they’ll need to grow up healthy, happy and productive in the 21st century. Our nation can afford to ensure every child receives the education they need to succeed in life, and for every educator to be trusted and resourced to make that a reality. It’s simply a matter of priorities.

“As we go through negotiations for the Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement this year, we’ll be standing together for our students and for an education system that values, attracts and retains the amazing teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children.”

So says the New Zealand Educational Institute, the union for primary school teachers.  It’s the NZEI union office lead piece on the teachers’ impending pay struggle. 

The  campaign title page carries no target figure, no specific claims argued, no bottom line. Payment is barely mentioned in passing.  NZEI’s “loud clear message” is an abstract empty slogan “Time to lead, teach and learn”.

The original claim of 16% over two years appears further down, inside the document, beside the government counter offer of 3% over three years .

The union office does not make any defence of the original offer. It says in relation to the counter offer:

“Do you think the increase offered is sufficient to address the recruitment and retention issues?”

“Do you think there is enough benefit in the current offer to accept a 3 year term?”

Reasonable negotiation or the thin end of a sell-out?

Does it matter if the NZEI choose to waffle like this? (more…)

Workers protesting in San Jose; pic: AP.

by Phil Duncan

The past few weeks have seen two nationwide strikes in Latin America, a region that in recent years has been playing a pivotal role in the resurgence of working class struggle and revolutionary left developments.

While workers in New Zealand usually shie away from even striking for just a day, workers in Costa Rica workers are now into the fourth week of an ‘Indefinite National Strike’.  The strike began on Monday, September 10 and on Sunday, September 30, workers’ assemblies across the country rejected the preliminary agreement reached by union leaders with the government.

The main issue is a (more…)

Every now and then we add a new site to our Links section.  We usually announce this and sometimes we even get around to saying something about the site/publication and why we’ve linked to it.

Today we are adding a link to Notes from Below, a new online journal.  Rather than saying something about it ourselves, here is the text of their ‘About’ section.  Do take a good look across their site, but a good place to start might be issue #3, “The Worker and the Union”, which contains articles examining how working class self-organisation is changing today, the possibilities for a revival of rank-and-file organising and struggle, and the need to advance anti-capitalist politics in the workplace and workplace organisation rather than merely trade union politics.

Anyway, here is their About section:

Notes from Below is a publication that is committed to socialism, by which we mean the self-emancipation of the working class from capitalism and the state. To this end we use the method of workers’ inquiry. We draw our methods and theory from the class composition tradition, which seeks to understand and change the world from the worker’s point of view. We want to ground revolutionary politics in the perspective of the working class, help circulate and develop struggles, and build workers’ confidence to take action by and for themselves.

We argue that an understanding of ‘class composition’, that is to say, how the classes within society are formed and operate, is an (more…)