Archive for the ‘Workers’ strikes’ Category

This year is the 50th anniversary of “the year of revolutions” – 1968.

One of the things that marked 1968 was that massive revolutionary upsurges took place in the Third, Second and First Worlds.

The Tet Offensive in (Third World) Vietnam, which began at the end of January, shook US imperialism to the core and made it clear that the western imperialists, including NZ, could never win in their massive armed intervention there.

In May-June the students and workers of (First World) France shook the French ruling class to their core, with the biggest general strike in history (in terms of percentage of the population involved), along with workplace and university occupations.

In (Second World) Czechoslovakia, the masses demanded socialist democracy against the privileged elite running the country and pretending to be communists.  It took the tanks of the Soviet Union and its minion states to crush the ‘Prague Spring’.

In Yugoslavia there were significant student protests against the privileges of the bureaucracy – the “red bourgeoisie” – and the concept of the Red University was born.

All over the world – from the examples above to the civil rights movement in the north-east of Ireland to the most significant trade union action in NZ since the defeat of 1951 to guerrilla movements in Latin America to the strike by women workers at Fords Dagenham in Britain for equal pay – massive numbers of people, especially young people, were in motion.

In the United States, a poll taken by Time magazine showed that among young people the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara was more popular than any of the candidates in that year’s presidential election.

At the Olympics, two black American athletes on the podium gave Black Power clenched fist salutes, and were supported by the white Australian athlete who shared the platform with them.

For some examples of the radicalism of 1968, see the following:

This article on Vietnam includes the Tet Offensive and this one is about the My Lai massacre and the horrendous nature of the imperialist war on Vietnam

This article covers the strike by women workers at Ford Dagenham

This is an appreciation of Che Guevara

This article covers the momentous ‘evenements’ in France in May-June

This article covers the student rebellion in Mexico and this one covers the 1968 Olympics

This article looks at NZ at that time

This article deals specifically with the protest over the nil wage order at parliament in Wellington in June 1968

The start of this interview contains material on the civil rights movement in Ireland in 1968

Future articles will look at the upsurges in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as more parts of the world, in 1968.


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…)

by Don Franks

“Still no sugar! We told you yesterday. You’re supposed to be our delegate.” 

My workmate had a case. The bag in the smoko room was empty and I hadn’t got onto the boss about it. Not taking sugar in my own tea, I’d been slack. 

“Ok Afi, I’ll see him right now.”

So instead of taking the usual time to butter the guy up I interrupted the boss in his office when he was busy and went straight to the point. (more…)

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?


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…)

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…)

by Don Franks

It was a stinking hot afternoon down at Fords Lower Hutt assembly plant when one of us deliberately smashed a new truck windscreen. The truck trim line was a small non-automated section where four or five painted cab shells got fitted out each day, their windows fixed in place by skilled use of a big rubber hammer.

A worker would tap around the edges of the glass, on this occasion whacking it hard in the middle so it shattered. This meant work in the area had to stop until a cleaner’s union guy was located, had made his dignified way across to us and methodically swept up all the pieces. That process took a good twenty minutes, during which we were able to enjoy a break.

Of course we didn’t pull that stunt too often or it would have looked suspicious. There were other, less dramatic ways to get a break.

This time as we sat watching (more…)

Being arrested for union organising, Minneapolis 1934

One of the most important battles fought by workers in the United States in the 1930s was waged by the Teamsters Union in Minneapolis.  Through a series of fights, Minneapolis was converted into a union town and the Teamsters were able to spread organising across the Mid-West.  At the heart of the working class struggle in Minneapolis were a group of teamsters who were union militants and Marxists.  One of the most prominent of these was Vincent Raymond Dunne (1889-1970).  Dunne later spent 16 months in jail for opposition to WW2.

Recently, long-time left-wing activist Howard Petrick, a former anti-Vietnam War GI, produced a play on Dunne and his life. 

by Barbara Gregorich

Howard Petrick’s one-man play, Fight for 52 Cents, is set in 1969, with Vincent Ray Dunne speaking to a meeting. With this as the framing device, Dunne tells his younger-generation audience about his life — the lessons he learned in helping lead the working class in its struggle for better living conditions and why he became a communist.

Howard Petrick as V.R. Dunne

As written and performed by Petrick, Fight for 52 Cents is a well-structured play that treats the audience to the story of Dunne’s life: what events were significant to him, and why; how these events helped shape him and allowed him to stand on a strong foundation.

Childhood experiences

The first event Dunne speaks about is that when he was five years old, his father, who was a street-car conductor in Kansas City, fell into a hole and broke both legs. Because of this accident, his father was not able to work. There was no such thing as workman’s compensation in 19th century United States. Dunne experienced this grave injustice first-hand: the five-year-old child saw that his father was injured and as a result the company he worked for dropped him from existence. The Dunne family was forced to (more…)