(The following history was prepared as part of the contribution by Unite Union to the international fast food workers meeting in New York in early May. Unions officials and workers were fascinated by the story we were able to tell which in many ways was a prequel to the international campaign today.)
All four parts of this series can be downloaded as a single PDF file from here
Restaurant Brands delegates join Maritime Union picket, Auckland Wharf
By Mike Treen, Unite National Director
April 29, 2014
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, workers in New Zealand suffered a massive setback in their levels of union and social organisation and their living standards. A neo-liberal, Labour Government elected in 1984 began the assault and it was continued and deepened by a National Party government elected in 1990.
The “free trade”policies adopted by both Labour and the National Party led to massive factory closures. The entire car industry was eliminated and textile industries were closed. Other industries with traditionally strong union organisation such as the meat industry were restructured and thousands lost their jobs. Official unemployment reached 11.2% in the early 1990s. It was higher in real terms. Official unemployment for Maoris (who make up 14% of the population) was 30%, again higher in real terms. Working class communities were devastated.
The National Party government presided over a deep and long recession from 1990-1995 that was in part induced by its savage cuts to welfare spending and benefits. They also introduced a vicious anti-union law. When the Employment Contracts Act was made law on May Day 1990, every single worker covered by a collective agreement was put onto an individual employment agreement identical to the terms of their previous collective. In order for the union to continue to negotiate on your behalf, you had to sign an individual authorisation. It was very difficult for some unions to manage that. Many were eliminated overnight. Voluntary unionism was introduced and closed shops were outlawed. All of the legal wage protections which stipulated breaks, overtime rates, Sunday rates and so on, went. Minimum legal conditions were now very limited – three weeks holiday and five days sick leave was about the lot. Everything else had to be negotiated again. It was a stunning assault on working people. Union bargaining, where it continued, was mostly concessionary bargaining for the next decade.
LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN
Tapu Misa: Moral pressure drives fight for living wage http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10865952
Living Wage Campaign Launch 2012
Matt McCarten: Living wage a moral entitlement http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10865825
Helen Kelly: Working for a Living http://thestandard.org.nz/working-for-a-living/
Battle for a living wage: Campaigner says mindset shift needed to accompany monetary leap http://www.nzherald.co.nz/employment/news/article.cfm?c_id=11&objectid=10865279
Chris Trotter: Low-paid staff need solidarity http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/columnists/chris-trotter/8320836/Low-paid-staff-need-solidarity
Big job losses worry union bosses http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10867528%20
Women paid less than men need better law http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1302/S00316/women-paid-less-than-men-need-better-law.htm
Call for enquiry into forestry deaths http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/calls-inquiry-into-forestry-deaths-video-5344662
What killed Ken Callow http://onebigvoice.com/campaign/whatkilledkencallow
ANZ to cut jobs, outsource work to India http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10866669
Foreign vessels bill should have more for NZers http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbnat/798653682-foreign-vessels-bill-should-have-more-for-nzers
FIRST: Secure and safe jobs would help attract primary production workers http://firstunion.org.nz/content/secure-and-safe-jobs-would-help-attract-primary-production-workers
‘Les miserables’ fight for bigger payout http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10862224
Picket outside Event Cinemas
POVERTY AND WELFARE DEBATE
CPAG: Government deserves D for child poverty http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1302/S00137/government-deserves-d-for-child-poverty.htm
Gordon Campbell on the latest spasm of welfare bashing http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2013/02/21/gordon-campbell-on-the-latest-spasm-of-welfare-bashing/
Poor Kiwis left behind, says Salvation Army http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8295161/Poor-Kiwis-left-behind-says-Salvation-Army
Salvation Army Report http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/research-media/social-policy-and-parliamentary-unit/state-of-nation-reports/shell-be-right/
Persecuting the poor http://nzagainstthecurrent.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/persecuting-poor.html
A press release we will never see by Andrew Geddis http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/a-press-release-we-will-never-see%20
Gareth Morgan: Benefits system needs to evolve http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10866463%20
Beneficiaries treated as guilty, says advocacy group http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/128646/beneficiaries-treated-as-guilty,-says-advocacy-group
Ministers accused of downplaying income in measure of child poverty http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/14/child-poverty-ministers-downplaying-importance-income
Poverty strikes at home, children first victims http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/8306750/Poverty-strikes-at-home-children-first-victims
Guilty of being a beneficiary http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1302/S00199/guilty-of-being-a-beneficiary.htm
100 jobs cut at Datam http://www.epmu.org.nz/news/show/173449
Govt won’t let Solid Energy fail, looks to banks to wear their share http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/govt-wont-let-solid-energy-fail-looks-banks-wear-their-share-bd-136286
Nats’ fossil fuel bet & culture of excess bankrupted Solid Energy http://thestandard.org.nz/nats-fossil-fuel-bet-culture-of-excess-bankrupted-solid-energy/
Hero to zero in two years, and the kitty’s empty http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10866943
Think tanks & global-local networks http://thestandard.org.nz/think-tanks-global-local-networks/
Dame Anne Salmond: Separating free market wolves from the lambs http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10866154
TPPWatch Bulletin # 28 http://www.indymedia.org.nz/articles/687
TPP: a gateway to GE? http://www.idealog.co.nz/blog/2013/02/leaders-or-followers?c=168940
Housing: Watching the dream disappear http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8344246/Watching-the-dream-disappear%20
STATS OF THE WEEK
Incomes rose more than 11 percent for the top 1 percent of earners during the economic recovery, but not at all for everybody else, according to new data. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/business/economy/income-gains-after-recession-went-mostly-to-top-1.html
Facebook is getting a multi-billion-dollar tax cut for paying co-founders like Eduardo Saverin, who renounced his U.S. citizenship to avoid paying income taxes on his capital gains…income he made from stock options and dividends. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-02-15/facebook-gets-a-multi-billion-dollar-tax-break
The Workers of Event Cinemas in Highland Park picket their cinema. Some have worked there for 16 years, yet the company only offers them 2 weeks pay redundancy.
Les Miserables jumps off screen and comes to real life in an Auckland cinema.
The dozen or so workers at EVENT Cinemas Highland Park theatre in Auckland have been offered only two weeks redundancy pay offered by Australian owned chain. Most of the workers have been there for 5 to 6 years, with some having given 8, 12 and 16 years service. When head office was asked by the Union Union official representing them if they could reconsider, they offered some workers complimentary movie tickets.
"The workers at the Highland Park site have decided to fight, not only for themselves, but for all workers in New Zealand to be protected by redundancy laws." said Unite Union theatres organiser Joe Carolan. The union, says its time for a minimum four weeks redundancy, and 2 weeks for every additional year worked as recognition for length of service.
Today they will raise their red flag at the Highland Park site at 430pm. Further actions at EVENT Cinemas are planned for Saturday night, and the day of closure next Wednesday. A petition in solidarity is being circulated nationally in every unionised cinema, including the Hoyts and Readings chains.
Unite Union Cinemas organiser Joe Carolan talks to Angus on the reasons why action is needed on the lack of any statutory entitlement to redundancy pay in NZ.http://www.95bfm.com/default,209438.sm
PART TWO http://www.95bfm.com/default,209439.sm
Joe and the cinema workers can be contacted today at 029 44 55 702.
With the announcement of Fox Studios that they will stop the distribution of 35mm films, the Digital Rollout in Aotearoa has speeded up in both Hoyts and Events.
By the end of 2012, the share of 35mm will decline to 37 percent of global cinema screens, with digital accounting for the remaining 63 percent. This will accelerate, and as Universal and Warner Brothers wind down their 35mm operations, spells the end of an era in cinemas. Workers in Reading Cinemas should also prepare themselves.
I was at a poignant meeting of projectionists who received word of the restructure at the Queen Street site. High up, through the roof in the Glass Elevator, lies a darkened flickering cavern, where projectionists have played their reels as projectionists have done around the world for over a hundred years. All to be replaced by the USB from Hell. Movies are now huge digital files, too mega for Kim Dotcom to upload, which will be injested into an increasingly automated system, with the computerised TMS (Theatre Management System) replacing humans with an iTunes like playlist of films. And, as we know, from Hal in 2001 to the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, everything will go much more smoothly once machines replace us all. 🙂
Cinema workers strike against youth rates and low pay in the industry
Unite is there for all workers facing this Digital Rollout. We will argue for redeployment where possible, with workers at least keeping the payscale and hours that they had before. The working class principles of Last IN, First Out should apply to any remaining projectionist shifts. For those who do not want to move to Front of House and wish to move on, we will fight hard for the best exit package possible, to fit the workers length of service to the company.
For more information, please text Joe Carolan at 029 4455702