Wednesday 25 March 2009

Kosying up to Key: Workers of the World Kompete

by Auckland union activist 
25 March 2009 

Productivity = fewer workers, producing more, in less time, and always has done. That’s why it’s totally wrong for Helen Kelly to offer the union movement's support to Key and the employers for more productivity!! Doesn't she know that NZ workers have increased productivity by 60% since the 1970s, without hardly any increase in buying power?

It’s the bosses who’ve been the beneficiaries of increased productivity, as evidenced by their record-breaking profits. The only way many working people could buy the goods they produced was to use credit. But this could only go on for so long.

The contradiction at the heart of the current economic crisis: the falling buying power of workers vs massive increases in production, had to cause a big crunch sooner or later. Employers are busy cutting back production and laying workers off. Millions of workers globally are being laid off at the same time as there’s an over supply of manufactured goods (warehouses and wharves are overflowing).

The rich know that someone has to pay for this recession. Naturally, they’re going to make as sure as hell it’s not them. In opposition to workers interests, the employers’ tactic is to increase productivity in an effort to undercut their competition for the remaining shrinking markets. So I can understand why Key is calling for more productivity. But why has CTU head Helen Kelly also supported this demand of the employers? Can Kelly explain the benefit for workers?

I can remember a time in the mid-70s when the new technologies were taking off, newspaper editorials were predicting that this would increase leisure time for everyone. But the opposite happened the working week was actually increased.

In the past a comparable lifestyle could be afforded with only one partner in the family, working a 40 hour week. Now, only with overtime and both partners working, can many workers meet the basic cost of living. Yet the modern wage worker is on average 3 to 4 times more productive than their grandfathers.

Enough of productivity, to get some balance back a four day week without loss of pay is a common sense solution to the economic crisis. The alternative: mass unemployment.

I admit that employers and an employer friendly government will never agree to cuts in productivity matched with an increase in wages without a massive push. But does it help to have our union leader cheering employer demands for more productivity? I don't think so.

Instead, unions should be defending working people from being plunged into the poverty and powerlessness of unemployment (which is a wage cut for our class) and launch a nationwide campaign to seize some of the wealth back. A four day week without loss of pay could be part of that campaign.

Most unionists and workers realise that to join the employers in demanding even more productivity is the wrong call at this time. Even the usually conservative EPMU leadership have publicly criticised Helen Kelly for her support of Key's plan for a 9 day fortnight with only partial compensation.

My question: is Helen Kelly prepared to change her mind, and as head of the CTU call for a united union campaign for a shorter working week without loss of pay, to save jobs? Or will she stick with Key and the employers in calling for more productivity which will make matters worse for workers, but preserve profits. Let's hope she changes tack, as the need for a real united fight-back is growing everyday.

Venezuela: Mass organisation, unity increases as revolution deepens

by Federico Fuentes from Green Left Weekly 21 March 2009 “This government is here to protect the people, not the bourgeoisie or the rich”, proclaimed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on February 28, as he ordered soldiers to take over two rice-processing plants owned by Venezuelan food and drink giant Empresas Polar. The move was made in order to ensure that the company was producing products subjected to the government-imposed price controls that aim to protect the poor from the affects of global price rises and inflation. See also Venezuela Confronts Capitalism's Crisis with More Revolution

It’s Time for a New Monetary System

Press Release: Global Research 25 March 2009 The Obama administration is spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to persuade the banking system to restart lending. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke plans to create hundreds of billions more of new bank reserves by purchasing mortgage-related debt. With Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner working together, “the initiative will seek to entice private investors, including big hedge funds, to participate by offering billions of dollars in low-interest loans to finance the purchases. The government will share the risks if the assets fall further in price.” (Martin Crutsinger, AP) Finally, President Obama is taking over the distinction of being the biggest Keynesian in history with a fiscal year 2009 deficit of $1.75 trillion.

National government to borrow $40 billion over 3 years

TVNZ Press Release 22 March 2009 Prime Minister John Key has unveiled a new economic initiative to borrow $40 billion to help NZ through the recession and believes we will come out of it “reasonably aggressively” in a year’s time during an interview with Political Editor, Guyon Espiner this morning on TVNZ’s new political show Q+A. Points of interest: - PM said Govt would borrow $40 Billion over next 3 years - PM refused to commit to 2010 & 2011 tax cuts - PM believes NZ will be coming out of recession “reasonably aggressively” in year’s time after 2-3 quarters of negative growth - Treasury estimates tax cuts will mean a 5% reduction in Government revenue See transcription of full interview at See also It’s Time for a New Monetary System for another possibility to government debt.

Maritime Union: Nat's transport funding plan sends NZ backwards

Maritime Union of New Zealand media release 25 March 2009 The Maritime Union says the Government's transport funding plan is an environmental and economic travesty. The National Government has changed spending commitments of the previous Government and and released a statement on money it will put into developing land transport (including sea transport) for the next ten years. The new plan includes a three year commitment to spending over seven billion dollars on road related expenditure – and even includes $51 million for cycling and walkways. In comparison, it puts forward $1 million for "rail and sea freight" and $3 million for "domestic sea freight development." (Yes - the figure is million not billion.) That's about one cent on rail and sea freight development for every twenty dollars on roads. Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says that over 99% of New Zealand imports and exports arrive by sea yet this transport mode was receiving enough money to pay for a few lifeboats. Mr Hanson says the environmental and economic security outcomes of pouring all its resources into more and more roads were staggering. "Does anyone in this Government have their head around the fact that the world is on the brink of an unprecedented energy crisis?" He says that reliance on road transport made New Zealand completely dependent on secure supplies of cheap oil – something that will seem like a bad joke in ten years time. "The only people who will be celebrating this are the boy racers." Mr Hanson says around the world Government's are quickly moving to develop low impact, energy efficient infrastructure as the reality of climate change, peak oil and energy insecurity sinks in. "The world has changed, but here in New Zealand the new Government has invested a thousand times more in the most environmentally damaging, energy wasteful transport modes than the transport modes of the future, shipping and rail." Mr Hanson says the lack of training, infrastructure and investment in coastal shipping has left an island nation in a state of complete vulnerability. "The role of coastal shipping in the future of our ports has been a major discussion point in the transport industry, but seems to have been entirely missed by the Government." The Government says it wants to reduce road accidents, but is planning on increasing the amount of heavy transport and passenger cars on roads, which would obviously increase risks to motorists. "Building more roads means encouraging more traffic in a vicious cycle that will only end when the cost of petrol causes economic meltdown. We need to get heavy freight off the roads and onto coastal shipping or the 'blue highway' and its natural partner rail." Mr Hanson says the previous Government had finally acknowledged the role of shipping with its Sea Change strategy, but the National Government had dropped the ball and shown a mentality that was a generation out of date. He says he believes that road transport lobbyists had taken control of the Government's agenda due to their political connections and the plan amounted to a multi billion dollar subsidy to trucking operators. The statement that the Government wants to rebalance in favour of transport options 'realistically available to New Zealanders now' show this is a document without vision or forward thinking, says Mr Hanson. The only reason that road transport is a realistic option is that it has billions of dollars of taxpayers money poured into it, he says. The Maritime Union would be working to get changes to the plan.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Monbiot: We cannot afford to surrender

by George Monbiot 17 March 2009 from The Guardian It will be difficult and expensive to keep climate change to a minimum, but the alternative is unthinkable.Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it’s over. The years in which more than two degrees of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay. On current trajectories we’ll be lucky to get away with four degrees. Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed; now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can.
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Behind the popular victory in Pakistan

Demonstrators in Lahore, Pakistan, support the reinstatement of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry (Babar Shah PPI Photos)
Interview with Snehal Shingavi from US Socialist Worker 17 March 2009 A mass movement to restore Pakistan's ousted judiciary has ended in victory. After a huge protest in the streets of Lahore involving clashes with riot police, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced March 16 that Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, would be reinstated by the end of the month.
See also:

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Holocaust future denier, here in NZ?

by Auckland union activist 18 March 2009 The NZ Herald (17 March) published an opinion piece by Bryan Leyland, who is a Power Industry consultant and Secretary of the International Climate Science Coalition. (See Bryan Leyland: Climate adaption a safer option.) Leyland criticises the obvious short-comings of carbon trading, but then goes on to attack all efforts to stop carbon pollution. Leyland writes: "There is a large body of evidence - some of it very recent - telling us that climate change is natural." He argues, that because global warming is "natural", we should do nothing that might risk big business profits. Leyland: "If man-made global warming is a myth, then many investments are at risk. Last year, $125 billion was invested worldwide in carbon trading and $160 billion in heavily subsidised renewable energy schemes such as wind farms. If climate change is natural, these investments will crash.” “Under stock exchange rules, anyone who issues a prospectus is obliged to set out all the risks. I searched the internet and failed to find any evidence that anyone warned investors and others that they value of man-made global warming-driven investments would be at risk. If they crash, the promoters could be sued, many wind farms would lose their subsidies and wind turbines that break down could be abandoned." Leyland says that we should "adapt" to global warming and argues against cutting CO2 pollution: "All it will do is damage our economy and make it even more difficult to adapt. And humankind will adapt - as it has done through past ice ages and warmer periods." What would adapt to climate change mean? Leading climate scientists at NASA have looked into the pit of a warmer world and have determined that though the global north will get off lightly, there’s a possibility that up to 4 billion people, mostly in the equatorial regions, will face famine, drought, combined with flooding of the fertile coastal plains, where most agriculture is carried out in this part of the world. According to Brian Leyland, to protect the profits of his paymasters in the energy industry, we shouldn't try to avoid this future holocaust.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Upcoming talks by Canadian socialist

APRIL GPJA FORUM: HAITI TODAY: FIVE YEARS OF UN-SPONSORED MILITARY OCCUPATION BRINGS DISASTER Presentation by Roger Annis, coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network 7.30pm, Monday 6 April Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn In February, 2004, the elected president and government of Haiti were overthrown by a right-wing paramilitary rebellion backed by troops from the United States, France and Canada. A foreign-appointed, regime of human rights violations ruled Haiti for the two years that followed. An elected government has ruled Haiti since early 2006. But the real power is held by a 10,000-member, UN-sponsored military occupation regime. Poverty, human rights violations and environmental degradation are worsening dramatically in a country that was already the poorest in the Americas. MEETING AT AUCKLAND UNITE OFFICES: THE FINANCIAL CRISIS HITS HOME IN CANADA Presentation by Roger Annis, trade union activist and editor of Socialist Voice

6pm, Tuesday 7 April Unite Centre, 6a Western Springs Rd, Morningside During the October, 2008 federal election in Canada, all the parties represented in the federal Parliament peddled a myth that Canada would escape the worst of the U.S.-sparked financial collapse. This in a country where the U.S. market consumes 76% of all Canadian exports. The economic situation in Canada is deteriorating rapidly, presenting new difficulties and challenges for the country's trade unions and social movements. As well, renewed demands for political sovereignty are emerging among the French-speaking Quebecois nation that numbers 7 million and the one million Indigenous peoples.

Water Scarcity 'Now Bigger Threat Than Financial Crisis'

by Geoffrey Lean from The Independent UK 15 March 2009 By 2030, more than half the world's population will live in high-risk areas. Humanity is facing "water bankruptcy" as a result of a crisis even greater than the financial meltdown now destabilising the global economy, two authoritative new reports show. They add that it is already beginning to take effect, and there will be no way of bailing the earth out of water scarcity. The two reports - one by the world's foremost international economic forum and the other by 24 United Nations agencies - presage the opening tomorrow of the most important conference on the looming crisis for three years. The World Water Forum, which will be attended by 20,000 people in Istanbul, will hear stark warnings of how half the world's population will be affected by water shortages in just 20 years' time, with millions dying and increasing conflicts over dwindling resources.

Thursday 5 March 2009

'We need shock and awe policies to halt depression'

by Peter de Waal The key thing I got from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's article We need shock and awe policies to halt depression is that industrial production has collapsed at a rate 2-10 times faster than in 1929-1932! The credit bubble was largely based on worldwide property prices being pushed up with financial tricks over a 30-year period. In my opinion Capital has two ways out of this: 1) Allow house prices to collapse to the value at which ordinary working people can afford to buy them again i.e. 1-4 times the average yearly wage. This would of course bankrupt many insurance companies, pension funds and banks, ruining the rich. This would happen if the governments of the world stopped promising to bail out failed banks. The banks would then have to "mark-to-market" their loan portfolios, rather than hanging on to the notion that the book value of 18 months ago can be realised. Because of the bail-outs US Banks have been refusing reasonable offers for properties and their loan books, and have actually increased their exposure to toxic credit derivative products safe in the knowledge that they are "too big to be allowed to fail." 2) Print money like crazy and hope inflation catches up with those still wildly-inflated house prices. Option (2) is very dangerous, as it would capsize US efforts to get the world to buy it's debt in order to finance the bail-out of it's destitute banking system. Why would you buy a T-Bond when the value of the US$ is plummeting? Printing money or allowing inflation to rip would deal quite effectively to the US debt problem. There is always option (3) War. World War II began as a trade war, became a shooting war and ended as a nuclear war. We need option (4) make the bosses pay and end capitalism.