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A history of Unite Union (Part 1 of 4)

4 Jun

(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

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four


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.

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Digital Rollout spells end of an era in NZ cinemas

2 Oct

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

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