Monday, 27 April 2009

The growing rash of lockouts must be nipped in the bud

by Auckland Union Activist 27 April 2009 Only wide spread militant solidarity actions can beat a lockout. As the recession deepens, business and governments friendly to business will try to put the burden of their collapsing profits onto workers, rather than their rich stake-holders. Employers are using lockouts to intimidate workers and their unions to accept often arbitrary and unfair demands. Air New Zealand General Manager for short haul, Bruce Parton, announcing the lockout of Air NZ workers, alluded to the recession as the reason for locking out his staff. Referring to the offer tabled by Air NZ, Parton said: "Now is not the time to look a gift horse in the mouth." We must not be intimidated. The history of the 1873 and 1929 depressions showed that unions that lowered their expectations and accommodated employer’s demands went out of business. This is fact. The brutal truth is, if a union can't defend you, it’s then not in your interests to be in one. In a time of mass redundancies union members are often the first down the road, to be replaced with casual, or contract workers, who are generally not in unions. One result of the economic slumps of the past was a drop in union membership. Unions only recovered when in desperation grassroots movements sprung up that championed workers’ demands militantly and relentlessly. Using tactics of widespread solidarity, the biggest growth of unions in history occurred in the depths of the depression in the USA. Through these more militant tactics workers were able to keep more of the wealth they had created for themselves. This big increase in buying power at the bottom of the economy is one of the reasons that the depression started to lift. Only an injection of cash at the bottom of society can ease the recession, but the employers refuse to accept this fact because it will mean they must accept cuts in their profits. As every serious economist is saying, the rich are not prepared to invest their money because they are frightened of getting burned again. The main reason is their very real fear that the people they loan money too will not pay it back. Decades of real declining incomes have only been obscured by debt. US statistics have shown that despite falling real incomes over the last ten years, consumption had been going up. This was the so-called bubble economy. The only way we can possibly get out of this mess is increase workers’ expectations. Therefore: 1. We must not take part in the recession. 2. We must say this is your crisis we will not be part of it. 3. We must learn from history. 4. Employer lockouts must be immediately met with escalated solidarity actions from our side. Starting now, the CTU, as the overarching body of New Zealand unions, should take every lockout seriously and publicly call for the widest solidarity actions possible to smash them. Otherwise employers will increasingly use lockouts as a weapon to intimidate workers and ultimately drive unions from the workplace. See Lock-out Notice Issued to EPMU

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