The article below first appeared in issue #7 of revolution magazine (August/Sept 1998), one of the precursors of this blog. Its original title was “Have you got protection?” The core arguments remain highly relevant as economic nationalism still dominates most of the NZ left and the vast bulk of the trade union movement.
May Day in New Zealand is not traditionally the focus of large demonstrations by workers. This year, however, was different. Textile workers in many centres were given time off work and provided with free bus transport to march alongside their employers in support of a campaign to freeze the tariff reduction programme. Both employers and workers in the industry are seriously concerned about the long-term viability of clothing manufacture in New Zealand in the face of competition from low-wage Asian economies.
The textile industry in New Zealand employs approximately 25,000 workers and is traditionally one of the lowest-paid sectors of the economy. The Trade Union Federation (TUF), a federation of left-leaning unions, supports the anti-tariff removal campaign in the interests of defending its members’ jobs.
So what is behind this unlikely alliance between sections of New Zealand capital and left labour – united in opposition to the freeing up of this section of the economy?
The election in 1984 of a Labour government dominated by Roger Douglas’ programme of deregulation and economic liberalism has changed the complexion of the New Zealand political and economic scene. Whereas in the past regulation was an accepted feature of economic management by both Labour and National in government, the post-1984 era has been marked by a strong aversion to Read the rest of this entry »