Friday, 4 September 2009

Suggestion to EPMU: Time for a fight-back?

The following letter was sent to the EPMU newsletter and the union’s Electro Coms Council by union activist Pat O’Dea. Kia ora Guys, I thought you might be interested in this report on the economy, just follow the link. [The article by the Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
 of the English newspaper The Telegraph predicts we will be paying the price of the economic crisis for the next 25 years. You can read it on UNITYblog, or the original]. Just like the Great Depression, after the initial crash there was a rally as the banksters tried to talk up a recovery. In fact in some ways the recession is over, for them anyway, (some bank profits have never been bigger) but this crisis is just starting for us, as the crisis is unloaded onto the working people and their families. It is in this desperate climate that the union movement must operate, from now on. I would like to suggest that we should start as we mean to go on. This puts the struggle at Telecom in the spotlight. This is just the sort of campaign that employers large and small and the government will be looking to, to unload the crisis onto the working people. In my opinion if this dispute is lost, it will be a body blow to the union movement in this country. Like the MUA [Maritime Union of Australia] defeat of contracting out of the Australian Ports this struggle needs to be made into a signature dispute, behind which the whole union movement in this country gives their maximum support. I would like to suggest a course of protest action that will neither deplete our union funds, or break the very stringent anti-strike provisions of the ERA: 1. Two monster rallies of whole union movement be planned. That the first of these rallies be called on a Saturday (which most workers will be able to attend.) 2. That this first rally should called around the final lay off of the 900 sacked Telco workforce. 3. The best date for the first monster rally would be the Saturday of October 3. This date will give time for activists and delegates from all unions to publicise and rally their members and families to attend. 4. That the tactic of this rally will be, using the overwhelming presence of numbers to lay siege to Telecom headquarters in each of the two main centres Auckland and Wellington. 5. If possible and volunteers are willing I would like to suggest that a peaceful occupation of these premises, (as has been so effective overseas in compelling employers to back down), be mounted. 6. If such a occupation is decided, it should be on the grounds that it is led and maintained by those most affected, probably a core of the best activists and volunteers from the 900 laid off workers who want to do something and are unwilling to bow to the new individual non-union contract model. (Union officials prepared to volunteer for this protest action should also be encouraged to do so.) 7. That the occupation of Telecom premises should be a carried out in a respectful and tidy and peaceful protest manner and should be for a period of 1 week (or until Telecom concede). 8. That a second monster rally be called for Saturday the 10th of October to welcome the end of the week long protest occupation of Telecom premises. 9. That Telecom then be invited to re-enter negotiations on the understanding that such disruption of their business may occur again, if they don't agree to negotiate for a better outcome for their employees, with union representatives. Pat O’Dea is a qualified electrical tradesman and longtime trade union and protest activist with experience of student occupations at Auckland University, Land occupations at Bastion Point and Raglan, state housing occupations against market rents and evictions. Pat also mounted a one man occupation of his worksite at New Zealand Steel protesting against his wrongful dismissal from his workplace which forced the management of BHP, one of the biggest companies in the Southern Hemisphere to back down. All these occupations and protests were carried out peacefully and respectfullly and ended in wins.

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