Archive | July, 2013

Bryan Gould: Key’s march toward inequality

30 Jul

By Bryan Gould
Reprinted from the New Zealand Herald

Moves that effectively remove the right to collective bargaining reinforce the Government’s assault on the wages of working Kiwis.


In his first term as Prime Minister, John Key made a determined effort to be all things to all men – and women. In his second term, however, he hasn’t bothered; he has clearly calculated he can still win an election while overtly tipping the balance of advantage further in favour of the better off and against those struggling.

The evidence for this can be seen, for example, in the alacrity and openness with which he meets the demands of big business; but nowhere is it more apparent than in the burdens he is increasingly ready to place on working people.

The ranks of the poor in New Zealand have been increased in recent years by the unemployed and their families. The Key Government’s indifference to their plight has been one of the least appealing aspects of its skewed order of priorities. But what has attracted less attention, perhaps, is the pressure now being put on families that depend on the earnings of those in work.

We have come a long way since the heady days of John Key’s commitment to close the wages (and living standards) gap with Australia. Far from trying to lift wages, the Government is engaged in an undeclared campaign to depress real wages still further.

And that is from a starting point where low wages were already the central element in the widening income gap in New Zealand. We suffered the fastest widening of inequality of any country in the last two decades of last century, and remain dishonourably in the top group.

The top 10 per cent of income earners enjoy today an income nine times greater than the income of the bottom 10 per cent, up from five times in the 1980s.

As Treasury research shows, New Zealand households in the lower half of the income range had no increase in real incomes between 1988 and 2010; all the increase in national income over that period went, in other words, to those who were already better off. Although labour productivity in the private sector rose by 48 per cent over a similar period (1989 to 2011), the average hourly wage rose in real terms by only 14 per cent.

The price we have paid for this intensification of inequality is not just financial. As workers’ rights at work have weakened, our shameful record on health and safety at work has worsened. In industries like forestry, where employees work long hours in a virtually deregulated workplace and labour costs as a proportion of total costs have fallen sharply, the rate of industrial accidents remains unacceptably high.

It is against this background that the Government has intensified its assault on the ability of ordinary people to protect their living standards and safety at work. That assault has taken the form of a whole range of measures, such as maintaining the minimum wage at a level that is inadequate to halt the increase in family and child poverty and introducing a young workers’ wage even lower than the minimum wage. Low-paid workers in industries such as aged care are still expected to accept minimal wage increases that mean a further fall in their living standards. The unemployed are forced by benefit cuts and tighter rules about eligibility to try their luck in a labour market where there are few new jobs so that they are forced to try to undercut those in jobs that are already low-paid.

These factors are not accidental. They seem part of a deliberate strategy to remove the floor under wages and force them lower as a means of restimulating the economy. It is an amazingly convenient coincidence, is it not, that our slow recovery from the recession apparently depends on sacrifices made by the poor while we can afford more goodies for the rich.

The Government is still at it. International research shows the most important factor in determining the rate of wage growth is workers’ ability to use collective bargaining to negotiate wage rates. This is not surprising; individual workers have little bargaining power in the face of powerful employers and in a labour market weakened by high unemployment. It is only by joining each other they have any hope of protecting their wage levels and working conditions.

It is easy for those whose economic fortunes do not depend on collective bargaining to underestimate its importance, not only to trade union members but also to a properly functioning economy. The right to organise in a trade union is recognised as fundamental in international conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is an essential element in ensuring that a market economy operates fairly and in everyone’s interest.

But our Government is pressing ahead with so-called “reforms” that, in effect, remove the right to collective bargaining and allow employers to refuse to engage with their workers other than on an individual basis. Sadly, this is just one more step in the campaign to reinforce the disadvantage suffered by ordinary people when faced with the overwhelming power of their employers in an unregulated marketplace.

It turns back the clock to a society disfigured by division and inequality and an economy that fails to fire because it serves an increasingly narrow interest.

(Bryan Gould is a former UK Labour MP and former vice-chancellor of Waikato University)

PM’s weakness good for Peters

29 Jul

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Three politicians had big wins this week.

What was in Prime Minister John Key’s head when he refused to rule out Winston Peters being his main man next year? Maybe all the grovelling to Peter Dunne to get his GCSB bill passed was stressing him out and he wasn’t thinking straight.

In the past two elections, Key promised he would never serve alongside Peters and if his party didn’t back him, he’d resign on principle. Since then his allies’ fortunes have imploded, and our Prime Minister’s steely principles have changed.

Key saying he’s now open to a coalition with NZ First gives Peters the relevance he seeks. Until now, NZ First has been lumped in with Labour and the Greens as a junior player. Can you imagine Peters coping with being junior to a Green, let alone Metiria Turei as deputy Prime Minister? Me neither.

Key’s capitulation means Peters holds the cards as to who will be Prime Minister after next year’s election. Peters also celebrated his party’s 20th birthday this week at his favourite cafe, the infamous Green Parrot.

Do parrots crow?

Hone Harawira didn’t crow but he certainly was strutting his stuff in court all week.

The political classes were spitting at his unparliamentary behaviour in getting arrested with Glen Innes protesters.

Harawira spent the week in the dock after shining his car headlights at women sitting atop local homes to prevent moving trucks dragging them away. Protesters asked Harawira to do that after locals claimed police had assaulted them in the dark during previous melees.

Many readers may doubt that. I believe it because months ago a carload of scared young people turned up one night when I was working late at my office. They claimed they had fled from the Glen Innes housing protests after police assaulted them. Others had been arrested. A young woman showed me bruises and I was shown their car with a smashed window.

Police turned up shortly after and parked outside, and the youngsters were scared to leave my office. When I went outside, the police car drove off. Knowing that, I’d want an MP shining a light on me when protesting house removals at night.

Even though he didn’t have to, the judge let 16 local women tell their story about the evictions. They spoke about losing their homes, where they’d lived for generations, to developers. It’s not ethnic cleansing, but what term should we use when poor brown people are expelled from their homes so mansions can be built for people who are not poor, nor brown?

The chattering classes rail against Harawira being a protester. Really? We forget our history. Almost every Cabinet minister in the first Labour government had served prison time for protesting. Arrests of prominent individuals such as Lucy Lawless, for exposing important issues, should be badges of honour.

Harawira got convicted as expected, and left the court to go straight to Thursday’s anti-GCSB bill rally – where he was treated like a rock star. He told me it was an honour to pay a $500 fine if it highlighted the struggle of the poor that was being ignored. Walking the talk, man.

The other winner this week was Kim Dotcom, who was the star speaker at the anti-GCSB meeting. Hundreds were present, and Bomber Bradbury of The Daily Blog streamed it live to 4500 others.

A TV3 poll released just as the meeting started showed 52 per cent said Dotcom was telling the truth when he said the Prime Minister knew about him earlier than he has been saying. Only 34 per cent believed Key. It’s telling that our clearly miffed Prime Minister sneered that Dotcom was only drawing attention to himself so he wouldn’t get extradited to the US.

Does Dotcom count as a politician, though? Joe Carolan, our premiere protest organiser, quipped that if Dotcom wanted to stay and overturn the GCSB bill he could fund his own Pirate Party. With all the computer geeks and nerds, he’d easily pass the 5 per cent threshold.

Imagine having to negotiate coalition options with parties led by Winston Peters, Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom. Pundits heads would explode. Remember, you read it here first.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

The Colbert Report: Minimum Wage & McDonald’s

24 Jul

Minimum Wage & McDonald’s Spending Journal: Bill O’Reilly blames poverty on personal choice, and McDonald’s creates a sample employee budget that excludes heat and health care.—mcdonald-s-spending-journal

Sir Edmund Thomas to chair Stop the GCSB Bill meeting

24 Jul

Stop the GCSB Coalition

24 July 2013

Media Release:

Sir Edmund Thomas to chair Stop the GCSB Bill meeting

The Stop the GCSB Bill coalition is pleased to announce that retired Supreme Court Judge Sir Edmund Thomas will chair the “Stop the GCSB Bill” public meeting to be held in Auckland tomorrow night (Thursday 25th July) at 7pm at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall.

The speakers at the meeting are –

· Dame Anne Salmond – anthropologist, author and New Zealander of the Year

· Dr Rodney Harrison QC – presented the Law Society submission on GCSB Bill

· Kim Dotcom – the most high profile victim of illegal GCSB spying

· Thomas Beagle – from Tech Liberty – concerned with civil liberties online

There is widespread concern about this bill and that concern is unabated by the “deal” done by Peter Dunne with the National government to secure support for the bill.

The bill which legalises mass surveillance of New Zealanders remains fundamentally unchanged.

Such has been the level of interest in the public meeting from people around the country that the public meeting will be streamed live on the internet across New Zealand and around the world.

The Stop the GCSB Coalition will also be organising a rally and march to oppose the bill this Saturday (27th July) gathering at Aotea Square at 2pm.

Mike Treen

Interim Spokesperson



Christchurch: Old McDonald’s had a strike e-i-e-i-o

23 Jul




Riccarton McDonalds Strike


Unite Union Organiser gets bullied


Boots Riley wants radical militant union movement

23 Jul

Exciting opportunities for Living Wage leaders

23 Jul
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Moliata makes a difference in Christchurch

Moliati Fataua is a cleaner at the airport on $13.85 – 10 cents above the minimum wage. Moli works from 12.30 am until 9 am, 40 hours a week, so she can be at home with her children during theIMGP4024.JPG day. At the end of the week the family live on rice or noodles because the money has run out. When asked about a Living Wage of $18.40 per hour, Moli said: ‘That would be marvellous. I can’t remember when we ever bought new clothes. I feel so sad for my kids.’

Moli shared the struggle of raising her four kids with the Spreydon-Heathcote Community. In her words: "A living wage would make a big difference. I’m speaking not just for our family, but for all families in this situation.” Living Wage Christchurch are holding conversations with the city Council, encouraging them to undertake a feasibility study into the costs and benefits of adopting the Living Wage.

Momentum continues to build in Christchurch with church leaders, the Shareholders Association and National Council of Women hosting presentations on the topic.

Pictured is Moliata (right) with Kate Day from the Anglican Social Justice Unit in Christchurch.

Poverty persists in Aotearoa

In 2012 between 500,000 and 750,000 people in NZ were living in households with incomes below the poverty line; up to 270,000 NZ children were estimated to be living in poverty – 1 in 10 Pakeha, and 1 in 5 Maori and Pacific; and 2 in 5 poor children come from families where at least one person is in full time work or self-employed. This is some of the latest information in the Ministry of Social Development’s Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012 prepared by Bryan Perry (

Living Wage Aotearoa’s convenor, Annie Newman, responded on Breakfast to Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett’s statement that incomes had risen and inequality had "flattened". You can watch this here.

Living Wage Movement growing in Dunedin

The Living Wage Movement is alive and well in Dunedin. On 3 July around 40 people attended a meeting at a local school to talk about the principles of the Living Wage and were addressed by John McKenzie, principal of North East Valley Normal School, which is the first New Zealand Living Wage school. All the school cleaners and school support staff are paid the Living Wage of $18.40.

Local Government Election

Auckland communities will be coming together in August and September to seek support from Auckland council election candidates for a Living Wage and a number of other issues. Each community forum will have a different series of questions, relevent to the communities hosting the meetings. The seven forums will bring together migrant, faith, youth, women, union, Maori, and pasifika communities. Candidates will be asked to support the Auckland Council adopting a Living Wage by paying a Living Wage to directly employed staff and workers employed by contractors delivering services on a regular and on-going basis. Hosting groups will also be asking questions critical for their communities such as:

  1. Do you support the Council funding and operating housing for the needy with adequate social support for residents?
  2. Do you promote opportunities for internships, apprenticeships and co-option of students of refugee background at Auckland Council?
  3. Do you support Auckland Council prioritising the safety of women and children in its collaborative work with the community to prevent and stop family, whānau and sexual violence?

Learn to be a leader in our Movement

The Living Wage Movement Aotearoa New Zealand has just been granted $30,000 from the JR McKenzie Trust to run residential training on building a broad-based community alliance. This is an exciting opportunity to grow our Movement and build capacity for your own organisation. The trainers are community leaders from the Industrial Areas Foundation in Canada and the United States. This will be held in November in Auckland and Wellington and include leaders from Christchurch and Hamilton. Priority will be given to Members that are active in the Movement. More information will be out soon. Have you joined the Living Wage Movement yet? Joining is the next step on from signing on to endorse the Living Wage statement. You can do this by filling out and return this form.

New endorsements

The Living Wage Movement has had a number of new endorsements:

  • Christian World Service
  • Father and Child
  • Project Esther
  • Pacific Island Evaluation Trust
  • Orkod Somali Youth
  • African Communities Forum Inc.
  • Pacific Island Evaluation Trust
Do you want to volunteer some time to help the Living Wage Movement for local council elections, contact us on info

Are you a photographer? Do you like to sketch? If you are keen to be part of a collaborative workshop to create Living Wage posters come to the next Auckland Living Wage network meeting and hear from the artist that has offered to facilitate this project.

Upcoming Auckland Local Government Forums

  • Unions and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ Papatoetoe Cosi Club – August 22, 4-6pm
  • Women’s organisations and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont St, Ponsonby – September 3, 5.30-7.00pm
  • Youth and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ Auckland University quad – Date and time: TBC
  • Migrant and Refugees and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ Mays Rd Memorial Hall – September 7, 4-6pm
  • Faith-based groups and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont St, Ponsonby – September 10, 7-9pm
  • West Auckland communities and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ Tuvalu Church, 15-17 Aetna Place, Henderson, September 18, 6-8pm
  • Pacific Communities and Living Wage Aotearoa NZ @ Pacific Island Church Otara – October 4, 5-7pm
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