Monday 28 September 2009

Rest home staff in struggle for better pay

Chants of "Union Power!", and toots of support from passing cars, rang out in the leafy Wellington suburb of Thorndon on September 26 as two hundred rest home staff protested outside the offices of Presbyterian Support Central (PSC).

Rallies were also held in Palmerston North, Levin, Wanganui and Masterton.

The carers, belonging to the NZ Nurses Organisation and Service & Food Workers Union, are paid much less than their counterparts in the public hospitals. They took a two hour stop-work to protest the miserable pay offer in their current negotiations.

PSC is the largest operator in the aged care sector in the region, owning 16 rest homes in the Lower North Island through its "Enliven" arm. It receives huge amounts of government funding.

Like the last Labour-led government, National is refusing to set any requirements on how this public money should be spent.

This is despite a recommendation last year from Parliament's Health Select Committee that funding should be focused on increasing wages up to the levels paid to similar workers in District Health Boards.

In 2009, Enliven is receiving a 4.9 percent increase in funding from government. It only wants to pass on 3.1 percent pay rises – except to a few nurses who, in a divisive move, are being offered much more.

A stumbling block in negotiations is that the employer representatives at the table don't have the authority to make any binding decisions. General Manager Nicola Turner is refusing to take part. The protesting workers chanted, "2, 4. 6, 8 – Nicola, it's time to negotiate".

PSC share their Wellington office block with a number of other NGOs. The NZ Council of Christian Social Services, an umbrella body which Presbyterian Support belongs to, has its headquarters there.

If Nicola wasn't shamed in front of her Christian peers, she should have been.

The National government's vision for the health system is for more and more services to be provided by the private sector and NGOs like Enliven.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Sue Bradford - NZ's Princess Di, or George Galloway?

by Pat O'Dea

Perhaps fearing her mana the NZ Herald has pressed upon Bradford not to go back to activism, but instead to devote her undoubted talent and energies to charity works. See NZ Herald Editorial: Bradford's departure reflects badly on Greens

The Herald seems to want to recast her as New Zealand's Princess Diana. Princess Di was also told to stick to charity work, and warned away from activism, by the establishment.

I don't know whether Sue should be flattered or just amused.

Somehow I don't think we will be seeing Sue Bradford in the society pages fronting charity works beside celebs and well meaning rich dowagers, any time soon. This part of the political spectrum is pretty crowded already.

Instead, I think that Bradford has the potential of being New Zealand's version of George Galloway. And like Galloway remain a thorn in the side of the establishment and a spur in her former colleagues conscience's.

And maybe even more, Sue could serve as a lightening rod for a genuine grassroots fightback.

All power to her elbow.

Friday 25 September 2009

Sue Bradford is ‘going back to the grassroots’

by David
UNITYblog editor I’m resisting the urge to write some sort of political obituary chronicling Bradford’s political career. After all, she’s resigning from parliament, not politics. “I’ll be going back to the grassroots,” she says. That at least is something to look forward to. However, unless Bradford leads a spectacular revival of grassroots campaigning by the Greens, her departure from Parliament will most likely accentuate the Green’s drift into accommodation with National, Labour and the exploitation of people and planet those parties uphold. Having said that, it’s doubtful Bradford could have done anything about this by staying inside parliament. In the Green Party's official statement Bradford admits that her defeat by Metiria Turei in the recent contest to for female co-leader of the party was an important part of her decision to resign: “The Party made a clear and democratic decision, but of course it was personally disappointing and I’m ready for a change.” I don’t know how Green Party members saw the choice they made. Turei is an excellent speaker and appears to be a capable politician, but for all I know the desire to present a younger face, may have been the biggest factor for Party members. Whatever the reasons Turei, despite her anarchist roots, and co-leader and former socialist Russel Norman seem happy to continue the Green’s transformation into parliament’s environmental lobby, an appendage rather than an alternative to National and Labour. Now, without the restrictions of parliament to hold her back, I hope Bradford will continue to resist her party’s rightwards trend.

Videos: Honduran people rise up, face repression

Residents of Hato de Enmedio, Tegucigalpa, take control of their barrio. September 22: Protests outside the Brazilian embassy, where legitimate President Manuel Zelaya is, being violently broken up by police From Green Left Weekly website

Honduras: Street battles rage, coup tries to repress pro-democracy uprising

Australia’s Green Left Weekly is running ongoing coverage on the dramatic developments in the struggle for democracy and justice in Honduras over the coming days. Four reports, from September 21 - 24, are published below. Updates will continue on the GLW website.
President Manuel Zelaya
Honduras: Zelaya returns — the people celebrate Federico Fuentezs, Caracas September 21 — “Telgucigalpa is one big party”, said Dirian Pereira, member of the international commission of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras, speaking to Green Left Weekly over the phone from the Honduran capital. President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, returned to Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Telgucigalpa. Thousands of people have gathered in the capital to welcome him back almost three months after the military kidnapped him at gunpoint in the early hours of the morning and flew him into exile in Costa Rica. Mass resistance on the streets from the poor majority, demanding “their” president return, has continued unabated since. From the Brazilian embassy, Zelaya called for the Honduran people to celebrate on the streets. The coup regime responded by announcing a curfew. “The people are totally ignoring the curfew”, Pereira said.

Thursday 24 September 2009

BAD BANKS: Targeting late capitalism’s exploitation of labour and nature

by GRANT MORGAN World capitalism’s boosters, led by US Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, are welcoming economic “green shoots” and proclaiming “the end of recession”. Nobody has a crystal ball, and yes, at some stage the global economy will start to recover, even if only partially and temporarily. But we need to look at the bigger picture if we are to have any idea of what might lie ahead. SHARE MARKET BUBBLE At present, the economic “recovery” is first and foremost a recovery in share market prices, while global unemployment continues to rise and real wages are being driven down. The levels of unemployment and wages are a much safer way to assess the real state of the real economy than share market fluctuations. What we are now seeing is a share market bubble disconnected from rising unemployment and falling real wages. Late capitalism increasingly depends on financial and asset bubbles which are disconnected from the real economy. PROFITABILITY CRISIS Obviously, that means financial and economic instability is going to be not only more endemic than during early or middle capitalism, but also more catastrophic in its effects. That we saw during the Great Implosion of September 2008 which came close to collapsing the world system’s financial structures. Late capitalism’s increasing dependency on financial and asset bubbles is a key symptom of something deeper. The world system is finding it much harder to translate the mega-accumulation of capital into the maximised profit margins which alone can sustain the global rule of ever fewer monopolists. Many analysts have pointed to the increasing disconnect between rising labour productivity and falling consumer demand, leaving the world economy awash with unwanted consumer goods and excess productive capacity. That is an obvious driver of the world system’s profitability crisis. REVENGE OF NATURE But there are other drivers as well. Hand-in-hand with the exploitation of labour, the exploitation of nature is creating an existential gulf between human sustainability and corporate profitability. Since its birth 500 years ago, capitalism has been dependent on the free lunches provided by labour and nature. Without the state-sanctioned looting of nature, the world system could not meet its profit needs, any more than it could without the state-sanctioned wage slavery of workers. Now we are seeing the revenge of nature, most notably in the rising tides of global warming, but also in the resource depletion and chain-reaction pollution which will intersect with climate change in dangerously unpredictable ways. TERMINAL CANCERS Unless checked by a global mobilisation, climate change will kill millions and perhaps billions of people on the planet, unleashing a mega-crisis which kills capitalism. Yet any such global mobilisation will fatally undermine corporate profitability and thus kill capitalism anyway, maybe even quicker. Late capitalism is being eaten away by terminal cancers. Yet we cannot simply stand by and wait for something better. The elites who run late capitalism will stop at nothing to transfer their power and privileges to a post-capitalist world which is almost certain to be even more barbaric. That is the road to a mass die-back of humanity and other life forms. MANY GOOD CAUSES So the question is: what can we do, right here and right now, to prepare the ground for a post-capitalist world which is more democratic, more equitable and more ecological than the present system. There is no single or simple answer to that question. The struggles of many leftists in many countries around many causes all help, cumulatively, to make the grassroots stronger and the elites weaker. Among the good causes that New Zealand leftists are currently promoting are the living wage, climate justice and pro-MMP campaigns. ASYMMETRIC WARFARE There exists a vital need to shape all such campaigns into a sharper challenge to the world system which creates the evils that necessitate the campaigns in the first place. Otherwise we are forever fighting the symptoms, leaving the system’s elites far too much leeway to perpetuate themselves. Yet any call to “fight capitalism” would lack mass appeal because it’s too distant from most people’s consciousness and capabilities. How then can we proceed? The fundamental principle of asymmetric warfare, where the weak confront the strong, is to strike wherever the enemy is most exposed and wherever the most damage can be inflicted. WIDESPREAD PUBLIC HOSTILITY The big banks, whose colossal investments shape the very structures of all economies and, therefore, their governing politics and ideologies, are already the object of widespread public hostility. If we direct our fire against the big banks, and get a good public response, then late capitalism will be weakened at an increasingly vulnerable yet important spot: the financialisation of the world system. That is the strategic objective of Socialist Worker’s Bad Banks campaign, launched in Auckland not long ago. It is an objective in harmony with the fundamental principle of asymmetric warfare. WIDESPREAD PUBLIC SUPPORT The Bad Banks campaign targets the key investment drivers who are responsible for rising unemployment, falling real wages, climate change and other evils flowing from capitalism’s exploitation of labour and nature. It is therefore a campaign which fingers the causes as well as the consequences of the evils of late capitalism. And going by early results at Bad Banks street stalls, there is widespread public support for the campaign. For more information on the Bad Banks campaign go to To help out at a Bad Banks stall, email

Sunday 20 September 2009

What's a “Fractional Reserve”?

by Daphne Lawless UNITY Journal Editor Simply put, “fractional reserve lending” is the reason why confidence is so important to banks. Banks don't have to have assets on hand to cover all the loans they issue. In New Zealand, they only need to hang on to 4% of the loans they make for housing – and 8% of other types of loan. Banks can't just make money up. If they want to lend out $100,000, say, they do need to have that money on their books to start with – from deposits, or from a central government monetary issue. But the “fractional reserve” rule mean that they don't have to hang on to those reserves when they make loans. If a bank lends $100,000 to a business, they only need to hang on to $8,000 in their own vaults. And only $4,000 if it's for a mortgage. One benefit of this is that money goes further, and faster. Because that $100,000 that has been lent out will end up as deposits in that same bank, or in other banks. And then it can be loaned out again – except for the $4,000 or $8,000 reserve. So that's another $92,000 or even $96,000 back into circulation! This is where we get what is called the “multiplier” effect. Because any initial deposit, or central bank issue, can be loaned out again and again and again, its actual effect on the economy will be much, much bigger than the initial input. So $100,000 which is made available to business, because it gets loaned out again and again, actually means something like $1,250,000 gets added to the economy. And with housing loans, that becomes a massive $2,500,000! The flaw in all of this, however, is that it means the system is all down to confidence. Capitalism needs a constantly growing and expanding economy. Anyone making a loan needs to be pretty sure that they will make enough money to pay it back, and the interest, in the future. So all this massive creation of credit - $1 million or more, or even $2 million or more – relies on the lenders' confidence in their ability to get it all back, once it's invested. It also relies on the confidence of the depositors – the people who paid in the $100,000 in the first place – that they too will get their money back, with interest. But what happens when that confidence disappears? It's called a run on the banks. If depositors have reason to believe that their deposits aren't safe, they run directly to the banks to ask for their deposits back. And of course the banks don't have those deposits – apart from the 4% or 8% that the law required them to keep back. In some cases, the money in those deposits will have been loaned out, then redeposited by someone else, then loaned out again, then redeposited, over and over and over. That's fine when economic growth means everyone wins. But that can't be guaranteed to happen all the time. So the bank goes bust – or the government bails them out. The financial house of cards collapses, and a million or two million dollars of wealth disappears overnight. The banking system is unsustainable because it's based on the presumption of eternal economic growth – or, in other words, on the ability of bosses to screw profits out of workers indefinitely. Isn't it time we had a system where credit and growth were supplied for need, not for greed? Daphne Lawless is one of the speakers at the Socialist Worker Forum on Bad Banks, along with Sue Bradford, Green Party MP. The forum is at 7.30pm, Thursday 1st October, @ Socialist Centre, 86 Princes Street, Onehunga, Auckland. Contact Bronwen i_c_red(at)

Obama’s health plan - Better than nothing or worse than nothing?

President Obama speaks on health care reform to a joint session of Congress (Larry Downing | Reuters)
by Lance Selfa from Socialist Worker newspaper (US) Judging from Barack Obama’s speech, the final version of health care “reform” could be so compromised by concessions that it would amount to nothing more than a grand exercise in corporate welfare for the insurance industry.

Friday 18 September 2009

All-party support for pollution market is the real ETS outrage

by David UNITYblog editor
Outrage has greeted the deal reached between the National and Maori Parties over the pollution market policy (emissions trading scheme or ETS). But the really terrible thing is not the Maori Party’s sell out, or the details of the deal -- and both these are horrible -- it’s the fact that a pollution market is only response to climate change any party in parliament can come up with. Just as bad (or even worse) is that the major environmental groups campaigning for action on climate change -- Greenpeace and 350 -- are also putting their faith in the pollution market approach. They should be blowing the lid on the world-wide pollution market con-job. Because, although the details of the National-Maori Party version may be worse than the Labour-Green version, which ever way you look at it, emissions trading stinks. It won’t do a thing to reduce pollution or prevent climate change. All pollution markets are based around giving corporate polluters the right to pollute, the right to profit from buying and selling pollution credits and the right to pass any costs they do incur on to their customers. All assume that rather than actually cutting emissions, or fundamentally changing they way they do things (this would hurt profits too much) polluting industries will be able to buy “off set” credits from somewhere else (who knows where?). All these schemes ignore the fact that to transition to a low carbon economy will require a massive transformation of how we do just about everything. And this will require planning and co-ordination and should require democratic participation, not rising prices and blind faith in the market. Recognising the reality of pollution market politics, begs the question: is the Maori Party’s support for National’s ETS any worse than the Green’s support for Labour’s ETS? After all, climate change is the issue the Greens should be making a stand and giving leadership. In my view, neither Labour nor the Greens have any right to criticise the Maori Party until they themselves oppose pollution market madness.

John Minto: Politicians fiddle while climate collapses

From Stuff 15/09/2009 National and the the Maori Party traded their way closer to environmental catastrophe yesterday with a deal agreed to amend the Emissions Trading Scheme passed in the last term of the Labour government. It’s a deal with no winners and the environment, which in the end means all of us, the big loser. The previous Labour proposals had too little regard for the environment but this one has even less. Politicians are by the nature of their employment short-term thinkers. The three-year electoral cycle dominates decision-making. For National it’s simply delivering the review of the ETS which Act demanded as part of its election agreement, while future generations will regard the Maori Party role as simply trading opportunities for future generations for temporary baubles as in some of the land transactions of the past. There is simply no mechanism for climate change to be prevented under capitalism. For its very survival capitalism depends on growth. It’s like a pyramid selling scheme where confidence in the system relies on the belief we can always move forward with more and more consumers into an infinite future. Each individual is encouraged to believe we need a bigger cake rather than sharing the cake more evenly. Growth is the mantra of the marketeers while the environment is crying out -- enough! Many would say, and I include myself here, that capitalism has been going head to head with humanity for the past 300 years. Now climate change is where capitalism goes head to head with the life-support systems of the planet itself. I read recently a quote to the effect that asking capitalism to voluntarily stop growing is like asking a person to voluntarily stop breathing. The capitalist response to climate change has predictably been to create a market for carbon -- a so-called “cap and trade” arrangement whereby the levels of carbon would be capped and permits to pollute traded in a market. It’s one of those schemes which sounds plausible on paper but which will be quite impossible to work globally. It would set in concrete the injustices faced by developing countries that have seen their resources exploited to drive up living standards elsewhere in the world while delivering so little local benefit. It allows the worst polluters to purchase the right to keep polluting. There's an old proverb among the indigenous Indian population of North America which says a tribe would look seven generations into the past and seven into the future before major decisions related to the environment were made. Those people were in tune with their world. Maori in New Zealand were not here long enough to reach such a profoundly sustainable view of this land and its resources and Pakeha arriving here saw only resources to exploit. The combined efforts of National and the Maori Party have created an agreement with less than a generation in foresight. New Zealand is taking to Copenhagen the equivalent of a damp piece of paper to fight a bushfire.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Response to Socialist Aotearoa

Joe Carolan at Socialist Aotearoa has called for a “United Front on the Left” in response to recent attacks on unions and the threat of John Banks ruling the Auckland supercity.
1. Socialist Aotearoa would like to see the Campaign for a Living Wage achieve its target of 300,000 plus signatures to initiate a Citizen's Referendum to increase the minimum wage. 2. We would also like to see the struggles of the busdrivers, firefighters, telecom engineers, dairy workers and others unite in one union led mass protest on the streets -- joint strike action would send the National led government an even stronger message. 3. The need for the Left to overthrow John Banks and the right wing Supercity agenda in Auckland is also urgent. We would welcome debate and discussion from others on the Left and in the Trade union movements about these three theatres of class struggle.
I posted the following response on their blog, and encourage UNIYTblog readers to post your thoughts on both blogs.
Joe’s three points for unity are good ones, although they are not the end of the list. Here’s three more: * Socialist Worker’s Auckland branch has initiated a Bad Banks campaign, but is inviting others on the Left to join in. * Climate change threatens all who live on this planet, and a pollution market(whether the National-Maori Party version or the Labour-Green version) is a completely inadequate response. We need an eco-socialist alternative. * The Government is considering increasing GST, while Maori Party MP Rahui Katene is has put forward a Bill to remove GST from food. These events have RAM considering a revival of its popular campaign on the issue. It’s probably a bit optimistic to imagine that everyone on the “left” or even every socialist would unite around all these issues, but it should be possible to form broad coalitions around each issue. One thing that you would hope everyone who considers themselves “on the left” would be able to agree on would be supporting the various groups of workers currently under attack. The next question is how can socialists work together to promote a millitant response, such as united mass protest and strike action by unions, which may not necissarily be the prefered option of the union leaders involved?

Time for a United Front on the Left says Socialist Aotearoa

Joe Carolan, Socialist Aotearoa
See original post at the Socialist Aotearoa blog Our busdrivers are threatened with lockout. Our firefighters who risk their lives for us have to strike for a pittance. Our Telecom engineers are forced to give up their sick pay and holidays and become private contractors at the very time we need a decent broadband system. And those who work the hardest and dirtiest jobs are paid the lowest- hundreds of thousands of workers try to make ends meet on a minimum wage of $12.50, or not much more. The anger is building noticably in the last few weeks, and this time, it's not just socialists or revolutionaries or the usual suspects on the Left who are talking about it. There's a real mood in Auckland city to unite these struggles, and there's a lot of people talking to each other again about making something happen. Socialist Aotearoa activists have been out talking to people in other unions and in other parties of the Left. Initatives such as the Campaign for a Living Wage are seeing the beginnings of a United Front effort to organise the working poor. Of course, in a United Front, the different political and social organisations will maintain their individual identities and viewpoints. But the need for the Left to unite and begin organising the fightback against this rotten government and its policies takes precedence. 1. Socialist Aotearoa would like to see the Campaign for a Living Wage achieve its target of 300,000 plus signatures to initiate a Citizen’s Referendum to increase the minimum wage. 2. We would also like to see the struggles of the busdrivers, firefighters, telecom engineers, dairy workers and others unite in one union led mass protest on the streets- joint strike action would send the National led government an even stronger message. 3. The need for the Left to overthrow John Banks and the right wing Supercity agenda in Auckland is also urgent. We would welcome debate and discussion from others on the Left and in the Trade union movements about these three theatres of class struggle. Solidarity Joe Carolan, Socialist Aotearoa

Lockout flu spreads unchecked - CTU campaign needed

by Pat O'Dea

Earlier this year, when the swine flu dominated the headlines, though dangerous I predicted that it would blow over, especially if the authorities took proper safeguards.

At the same time I also predicted that like a contagious disease, the spreading use of lockouts would get worse if left unchecked. I felt then and still do that the growing readiness of employers to use lockouts needed to be addressed by the Combined Trade Union movement.

As I predicted then the rash of lockouts would grow unless the CTU decided to act against them with a campaign for militant union wide solidarity actions.

As I said then, any employer who reaches for the lockout weapon needed to be smacked down hard to discourage others.

Employers have just announced twice in one day, their preparedness to use of this once rare tactic against dairy workers and concrete workers. See

Added to these two new lockouts, the threatened lockout against the bus drivers, and the Telecom campaign to dismiss and starve out of their network engineers, till they agree to take jobs at much reduced wages and conditions (a lockout in all but name). The Telecom campaign gathered pace last week, when their subcontractors closed the gates on another 200 engineers. See

Individual worksites and unions are almost powerless in the face of lock outs, As the progressive dispute showed, only a CTU wide call for wide solidarity from all affiliated unions blunted this attack...

I think that a mass union campaign against lockouts needs to be mounted again.

Further, I think we need to deal with this growing emergency before it becomes an epidemic.

I would like to suggest a mass rally of all trade unionists be called outside one of the guilty employers on a Saturday, to reopen the gates, and get the workers back inside.

I would like to suggest that with the agreement of the NDU, that Bridgeman Concrete be the first target for such a Combined Trade Union campaign.

Because: A. The Bridgeman lockout was completely unprovoked. B. The Bridgeman lockout is the one that is presently ongoing now.

Employer militancy grows says NDU

“An indefinite lock-out of workers by Bridgeman Concrete in Manukau City shows increasing employer militancy taking advantage of the recession and growing unemployment,” says Robert Reid, General Secretary of the National Distribution Union. 

“This lock-out, of workers who have not taken any industrial action, will only be lifted by the employer if the workers agree to a wage freeze and no changes to their collective agreement for 2 years,” Robert Reid says. 

“This brutal employer action follows hard on the heels of a lock-out threat of NZ Bus drivers and cleaners in Auckland for ‘working to rule’ and a proposed lock-out of dairy workers near Matamata who are trying to achieve their first Collective Agreement. 

“Employers are the first to attack unions for taking advantage of tight labour market conditions, but seem far more ready to use the lock-out tactic than unions use the strike when the boot is on the other foot. 

“While some employer leaders preach co-operation and industrial peace, many actual employers seem over eager to reignite the ‘class war’. 

“The Bridgeman lock-out is an appalling example of an employer paying under industry rates with inferior redundancy agreements and trying to starve its workers into submission. These workers are key for Auckland infrastructure projects and start work early every day while the rest of the country is asleep. These guys are the battlers. They are the unsung heroes who help build a better life for us all. Yet they are shown no respect by an employer who will not even front up to the workers and hides behind his hired gun,” says Robert Reid. 

Note: Picket is currently underway at the Bridgeman Plant, 55 Crooks Road, East Tamaki Contact: Robert Reid
NDU National Secretary (021) 535 933

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Caracas to host world meeting of left parties

by Federico Fuentes, Caracas from Green Left Weekly 9 September 2009 Caracas will play host to one of the most important international gatherings of left parties in years, when delegates from across the world meet for the First International Meeting of Left Parties in November this year. The meeting has been called by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), a mass revolutionary party headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The gathering was agreed upon at the recent Sao Paulo Forum (FSP) held in Mexico City over August 20-22. There, the PSUV delegation presented the proposal to organise an international meeting of left parties. The FSP was first established in 1990 at the initiative of the Workers’ Party (PT) of Brazil. At the time, the PT had a good reputation on the international left. It was forged out of the workers’ struggles against the Brazilian dictatorship and had developed into a mass workers’ party that spoke of the need to break with capitalism. Since then, the FSP has evolved in a reformist direction, although several important revolutionary parties such as the Cuban Communist Party continue to be involved. Some of the member parties — like the PT — are now in government in Latin America and are carrying out policies they once strongly denounced. The new call by the PSUV for an international gathering of left parties comes in a different context. In August 2007, Chavez said it was necessary to convene ``a meeting of left parties of Latin America and organise a type of international, an organisation of parties and movements of the left in Latin American and the Caribbean”. He added that “there is a resurgence of the consciousness of the peoples; the movements, leaders and leaderships of this new left, of this new project, this need to continue to grow”. There is a revival of socialist ideas that, at least in Venezuela, has become embodied in the actions of millions who are fighting to create “socialism of the 21st century”. Millions more people worldwide look to Venezuela as proof that revolutionary change is possible. The challenge is to see how this force can be organised, in each country and internationally, into a powerful force capable of defeating capitalism. See also Message from Socialist Worker-New Zealand to PSUV founding conference (12.2.08)

Contents of latest UNITY Journal

Bad Banks, & how to beat them
September 2009


5 Bank on a massive campaign
Daphne lawless, editor of UNITY

11 Why we need to battle the banks
VAUGHAN GUNSON, national chair of Socialist Worker NZ

17 The banks and the Great Implosion

30 New Zealand’s recession - is the worst over?
ANTHONY Main, Socialist Party (Australia)

34 Are the banks helping?
BILL ROSENBERG, NZ Council of Trade Unions economist

38 A Green response to global market failure

43 International banks exploit the crisis
STEFAN STEINBERG, World Socialist Web Site

47 Are the banks to blame?
Anindya Bhattacharyya and Sadie Robinson, Socialist Worker (Britain)

52 Banks go back to bubble bonuses
ALEX CALLINICOS, Socialist Worker (Britain)

54 The recovery is here! (for Wall Street)
Adam Turl and Alan Maass, Socialist Worker (USA)

60 How the bankers bought Congress
PETRINO DILEO, Socialist Worker (USA)

65 Iceland - what happened?
JACK SMART, Socialist Appeal (Britain)

69 Iceland: devastated by global crisis
Per-Åke Westerlund, Committee for a Workers’ International

72 Can the Left-Greens rescue Iceland?
DEREK WALL, Green Left Network (Britain)

75 Australia: Banks are bastards
PETER ROBSON, Green Left Weekly (Australia)

77 Mexico: Protests target banks
RACHEL EVANS, Green Left Weekly (Australia)

78 Communal banks of Venezuela receive big boost

80 Venezuela will take over private banks that fail

81 Feedback: Letters from Peter de Waal, Bronwen Beechey and Pat O’Dea

To purchase a copy contact Len, email or phone (09)634 3984.

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Friday 11 September 2009

Blogging for a Fare-Free New Zealand

New Zealand has a new blogsite promoting free and frequent public transport, it's called Fare-Free New Zealand. Go to

The editors welcome any NZ or international stories related to the campaign for fare-free public transport. Send to farefreenz(at) 

The call for free public transport is being made internationally by environmentalists, campaigners against climate change, Green parties, and eco-socialists. It's a campaign focus that makes lots of ecological, economic and political sense. And it's a grassroots response to the threat of climate change that challenges the pro-market illogic of the pollution market (otherwise known as carbon or emissions trading).

Free and frequent public transport is one of the Ten Commandments promoted by RAM-Residents Action Movements. To read more about RAM's thinking on ecology and combating climate change read The RAM Plan.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

GST increase would be unfair for low and middle income earners

Alliance Party media release
4 September 2009

The Alliance Party says an increase in GST would hurt low and middle income earners.

Alliance Economic Development spokesperson Quentin Findlay says suggestions from the Taxation Review Group to increase GST to subsidize corporate tax cuts would increase the pressure on many New Zealanders.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders spend a lot of their money on food. There has been a major increase in food prices in the past years due to a range of factors. An increase in GST would push food prices even higher and in some cases out of the reach of ordinary people.”

A rise in GST would cancel the effect of the recent tax cuts on middle income earners. However, for lower income workers, beneficiaries, students and superannuitants, who didn’t get a tax cut, an increase in GST would mean real hardship as basic living costs rose even more.

“The main focus for this tax review is to push the right wing agenda as far as possible in the shortest time possible. A rise in GST would be another move backwards.”

Mr Findlay says that the Alliance was committed to removing GST and was particularly committed to removing it off food in the first instance. The Alliance advocated a Financial Transaction Tax to replace GST.

“At the moment, lower and middle income earners subsidize the rich and businesses through the tax system. The Alliance’s Financial Transaction Tax would go someway toward correcting that imbalance by being levied at a progressive rate, ensuring that those who could well afford it paid more.”

The Alliance is also opposed to placing more people on the benefit when they did not need to be. The solution to that was obvious, Mr Findlay said.

“What is needed is more jobs at award rates with their conditions guaranteed. People should not have to get a benefit merely to buy bread and the Alliance will ensure that they don’t.”

See NZ Herald article on the proposal made by the Taxation Review Group to increase GST to 15% GST hike should not be written off.

See also

Monday 7 September 2009

Distribution workers picket supermarkets

by David

Distribution workers from the South Island branch of supermarket giant Foodstuffs were on strike last Thursday. They held pickets at Christchurch and Dunedin supermarkets owned by Foodstuffs board members. Foodstuffs is a “co-oprative” of owner-operated supermarkets, superettes, dairies and liquor stores (Pak’nSave, New World, Four Square, On the Spot, Liquorland and Henry’s) and is divided into Northern, Central and South Island companies. 

I spoke briefly to workers at outside Papanui Pak’nSave in Christchurch. Low pay was the main grievance. One worker who had been at Foodstuffs for 10 years, is still paid a measly $13.80 an hour. Even the best paid only got around $15. 

The workers believed the starting rate for distribution workers at rival supermarket chain, Progressive (Countdown Foodtown and Woolworths) was $16.60 an hour and, and that in general workers there were around $5 an hour better off. 

In 2006 Progressive locked out distribution workers, but with the help of an impressive out-poring of solidarity campaign, the workers stood strong. They forced Progressive to back down and meet union demands for a rise and equal pay workers in different parts of the country. 

During that dispute much was made of the fact that Progressive is Australian-owned. The assumption was that as an Australian company, it didn’t give a toss about it’s Kiwi workers. This may have been true, but it’s also clear that the Kiwi capitalists at Foodstuff don’t give a stuff either, and for one reason or another they’ve been able to get away with paying even less.

South Island Foodstuffs workers strike over low pay

Media Release: National Distribution Union Thursday September 3 2009. Christchurch and Dunedin supermarkets owned by board members of Foodstuffs South Island are being targeted for protest action today by distribution centre workers who are walking off the job in protest over no progress in their negotiations. The workers say that the company, whose profits continue to rise each year and pays its CEO nearly $1 million a year, should come to the table with a decent wage offer. “The recession is being used to hold back workers from earning a liveable weekly wage,” Paul Watson, Southern Region Secretary for the National Distribution Union said today. “This is despite the South Island cooperative making record profits ($227 million in 2009 up from $222 million in 2008), and NZ Foodstuffs chief executive Tony Carter saying that New Zealand’s supermarket sector trumps any other industry in any other country right now in sales growth and expansion opportunities.” “With South Island Foodstuffs CEO Streve Anderson earning close to a million dollars a year ($910,000-$920,000 the last time salary bands were published) it is time that this prosperous company shared more of its wealth with its workers.” “Foodstuffs distribution centre workers’ low weekly wage is totally unjustified given the company’s dominance and profitability in the supermarket industry – of which they control 57%. Foodstuffs’ main competitor Progressive Enterprises pays a start rate of $5 more per hour for distribution centre workers doing the same work.” “Whilst the company may pay a discretionary bonus each year, they are one offs and the pay increase last year did nothing to bridge the pay gap with Progressive Enterprises workers.” Members at the Foodstuffs DCs in the South Island have this year been in drawn out negotiations because Foodstuffs has refused to increase wages and merit pay steps and make any offer to improve working conditions, Paul Watson said. “It’s time Foodstuffs came back to the table with a respectable offer, and that’s the message their workers will be taking to the public in Christchurch and Dunedin today,” Paul Watson said. Ends. For further comment: Paul Watson, on (021) 618-395. Dunedin contact: Ken Young, on (021) 994-998.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Banking operations pushing us towards trans-Tasman integration

by Vaughan Gunson Bernard Hickey's blog post Single currency gaining speed (6 Sept) on the NZ Herald website links the operations of the Aussie-owned banks with moves towards increased trans-Tasman economic and political integration, specifically one dollar and common banking regulations. As the Aussie parent banks are only interested in making as much profit as possible, and the role of the Australian state is to facilitate the making of those profits, the dominant position of the Aussie-owned banks in the NZ economy is resulting in ever greater political dominance of Australia over NZ. The Rudd government and the Aussie parent banks are making much of the claim that they've been propping up the NZ economy post-financial crisis, through the Australian government's credit guarantee scheme and the parent banks loaning across the Tasman to support the operations of the Big Four in NZ. The reality of mega-profits been sucked out of NZ, chiefly through mortgage lending, over the preceding decade is of course disregarded. And today the Big Four banks operating in NZ are continuing their profit run at the expense of grassroots Kiwi homeowners. What's clear is that the operations of the Aussie-owned banks in NZ is propelling forward increased integration of the Australian and NZ economies, to the benefit of the former. The question of NZ's eroding political sovereignty is one that many people will be interested in. The Bad Banks campaign has the potential to tap into a number of economic and political issues of popular concern, and which go to the heart of 21st century finance capitalism.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Vanguard Films 30 years: A better world is possible

 2nd – 12th SEPTEMBER 2009
 $8 / $6 
 Corner Taranaki & Ghuznee Streets
, Wellington 

The Film Archive is proud to present a special two-week anniversary season dedicated to the Wellington-based independent production company Vanguard Films. The company celebrates 30 years this month. Each session will be introduced by a member of Vanguard Films. Vanguard Films have made some of the most important and difficult documentaries about modern New Zealand life. Tackling subject matter that is largely ignored by the mainstream – workers’ struggles, anti-war activism, the neo-liberal economic agenda, and health care – Vanguard members have sought to illuminate the margins of society, the challenges of ordinary people, and the deeply traumatic social changes of the past 30 years. These works are required viewing for anyone who seeks a real understanding of modern New Zealand society. Saturday 5 September, 7pm Kasama, 1988, 90 minutes | Green Guerillas, 1995, 30 mins A documentary on the underground revolutionary movement in the Philippines Kasama was shot over eight months while Rod Prosser was living with the guerillas of the New People's Army (NPA) in the Bicol region. The Green Guerillas was made for German television focusing on the armed struggle of a local clan of indigenous people, the Mandaya, together with the national-democratic movement, to save a tract of ancient rain forest on the island of Mindanao. Wednesday 9 September, 7pm Rebels in Retrospect, 1991, M, 74 minutes | The Terrorist, 1993, M, 28 mins Prominent members of the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) reflect on their involvement with the group during the era of the Holyoake government and Vietnam war in Rebels in Retrospect while The Terrorist is a short film dedicated to Rachel Bennett (1967-1991).

 Thursday 10 September, 7pm 
Someone Else’s Country, NZ, 1996, 100 minutes This feature documentary tells the story of how the new right elite took power and exercised it relentlessly to turn New Zealand into their version of the model free-market state during the 1980s.

 Friday 11 September, 7pm 
 Primary Health Care, 1990, 28 mins | Backroom Troubles, 1997, 50 mins A short documentary looking at the struggle of the townships and suburbs, Eketahuna, Newtown (Wellington) and Urenui (North Taranaki) to gain primary health care for their population in Primary Health Care - the Experience of Four Communities. Backroom Troubles frames the stories of several New Zealand women who had abortions when it was illegal, between 1930 and 1979.

 Saturday 12 September, 4:30pm
 Sedition, NZ, 2005, 140 mins
 This hard-hitting documentary tells the story of conscientious objectors and anti-war campaigners fined and imprisoned in New Zealand for the duration of World War II. 

Saturday 12 September, 7:30pm
 The Intruder, 1999, PG, 16 mins / Taking the Waewae Express, 2008, M-Drug use & offensive language, 93 mins Two dramas - When the habit of loving becomes all habit and no love, it is time for the intruder (NZ, 1999, PG, 16 mins) to enter their midst. Taking the Waewae Express (NZ, 2008, M-drug use & offensive lang, 93 mins) follows the blame, bitterness, love and loyalty when Wiremu's younger brother dies in a car accident. 

More information available at: Short previews and trailers can be viewed at:

Patrick Bond on South African protests

Rhodes University workers protest on August 7
More on the Service delivery protests in South Africa, this time from Patrick Bond, from the Centre for Civil Society at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban. When and why did these protests start? My starting point is 1997 for ‘service delivery protests’ in their contemporary form... as neoliberalism [free market policies] descended. Who is protesting and what are they protesting for? Varied! See some coverage at Centre for Civil Society. What has been the government’s reaction? Mainly repression and half-hearted cooptation. What is the next step for the protest movement? To form a ‘movement’ out of a large number of discrete disconnected revolts. Some in the media are saying the protesters are “xenophobic”. Is this true? There is an element there, yes; but mainly it's a critique of retail capital which is often dominated by foreign nationals in buying syndicates. Very complicated. This may help: Xenophobia tears apart SA’s working class (May, 27 2008). What has changed, and what has not changed since the end of Apartheid? Phew, big question... see my latest summary, from the current New Left Review. [Re-published on UNIYTblog here]

Friday 4 September 2009

Telecom and the logic of capitalism

There’s nothing like a Tory Government in power and a monopolistic corporate flexing its muscle to remind you that capitalism is all about serving the bosses and screwing the workers.
So says a recent post on the Labour Party aligned blog The Standard. And it seems there’s nothing like an industrial dispute against a big corporation to stir up the centre-left “blogosphere”. Also worth reading are the strongly worded posts attacking Telecom on Joe Hendren’s blog, “Greedy hypocrisy of Telecom bosses” and the Green Party’s Frog Blog “Telecom’s great wealth transfer”. Given there’s a broad left consensus in support of the unions and against Telecom, the question is, what can we do? In the previous post, EPMU activist pat O’Dea makes some suggestions. Telecom and the logic of capitalism Published by Zetetic on The Standard September 1, 2009 There’s nothing like a Tory Government in power and a monopolistic corporate flexing its muscle to remind you that capitalism is all about serving the bosses and screwing the workers. This Telecom dispute. The engineers are being made redundant from their current roles already in batches. On October 1, all the jobs will be gone and the contract for servicing the network goes over to Visionstream. As the workers are being made redundant, Visionstream is trying to get them to sign up as contractors on worse rates than they get now and forcing them to buy all their own equipment. Cost of that is up to $60K. The catch? Visionstream is only offering 70% of the jobs that exist currently (they think they’ll be able to work fewer workers harder for less. Don’t expect to be getting prompt repairs if you have a phone or internet fault if Visionstream wins). Of course the workers don’t want to take worse conditions for less money. That’s why Telecom and Visionstream’s strategy is so devious. By making them redundant in batches quite a way out from the changeover they’re really putting the screws on financially in they hope they’ll buckle. And each redundant engineer who breaks and signs up with Visionstream leaves a worse jobs to jokers ratio for the ones who are standing strong. Forget the fairy stories you’ve been told about capitalism, in disputes like this bosses’ basic strategy is to sew fear in the hope it will lead to division. Make people fear they won’t be able to meet their mortgage and feed their kids, make them fear they’ll be left jobless in the middle of a recession, then try to divide them against each other by making them compete against their workmates for the few shitty jobs that are left. As long as most of the engineers stay staunch, Visionstream are stuffed. But the bosses are counting on hunger and fear to do their work for them. So far, the workers are winning. Few of the engineers have been buckled and signed up with Visionstream. Most of them are unionised and they know that together they can force Visionstream to break. Visionstream is desperate enough that they are lying, making claims to have signed up hundreds of engineers and threatening workers who won’t sign up, but the workers know it’s a crock. As long as they stand together, they have the power. It’s a matter of holding the line until the bosses back down, which is why the donation of $10,000 from the Maritime Workers was so fantastic, and why you should get behind them by donating too. If the bosses break these workers, you could be next. See also: Capitalism is not a love in

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.

Thursday 3 September 2009

“We need a full public inquiry into banking operations,” say Bad Banks campaigners

Bad Banks media release
2 September 2009

The operations of the Big Four Aussie-owned banks are harmful to the lives of ordinary Kiwis,” says Vaughan Gunson, publicity coordinator for Bad Banks, a recently initiated grassroots campaign against banking power.

ANZ National Bank, BNZ, Westpac and ASB have been making mega-profits from interest gouging grassroots Kiwis. In 2008, their combined income from loan interest went up $4.6 billion. Last year the profits of the Big Four totaled over $3 billion.

“And now, in a recession, these Bad Banks are king-hitting people who have lost their jobs or had their incomes cut,” says Gunson. “They’re inflicting penalties on people who can’t meet their mortgage payments and forcing mortgagee sales in increasing numbers.”

“They’re looking after their own equity position and chucking people out of their homes. It’s disgusting. These Bad Banks are part of a corporate culture of greed that’s sucking the life out of this country,” says Gunson.

While it's good that the Green, Labour and Progressive parties have gone ahead with their banking inquiry, the time frame for submissions was very short. That means there are only 11 oral submissions.

“11 oral submissions does not do justice to the devastating impact banking power is having on the lives of grassroots Kiwis,” says Gunson. “We need a full public inquiry, properly resourced and promoted, so that grassroots people can have their say and the Aussie-owned banks be held to account.”

“Any full public inquiry should allow for public meetings up and down the country, so that grassroots people can tell their stories.”

“We hope that MPs in the Green, Labour and Progressive parties are going to be part of an ongoing campaign against the banks,” says Gunson. “We need to confront corporate power full-on.”

The first goal of the Bad Banks campaign is to educate people about the operations of the banks. Bad Banks activists will be out on the streets in Auckland and other cities handing out leaflets and talking to people over the coming weeks and months.

“People can find out more about Bad Banks by going to our webpage We welcome any stories or comments on the banks,” says Gunson. “We’re looking to reach out to other groups, organisations and individuals to help build this campaign.”