Wednesday 2 December 2009

Let the debate begin: Does saving the planet require class collaboration or class struggle?

by Pat O’Dea

The EPMU in their rightful anger on the recommendations of the 2025 taskforce, (commonly known as the Brash Report), have asked for a counter debate to be held.

The good news is that as well as slamming this report for what it is, – a right wing attack on working people and their families; The EPMU have accepted that the planet is being endangered, and are calling for a debate on how this could be avoided.

“We need a serious debate on how we create wealth, how we do so without endangering the planet, and how the wealth is fairly shared to achieve the aim of lifting incomes for everyone.”

However while calling for this debate the EPMU wants to limit this discussion to what they call “sustainable productivity growth” in collaboration with the employers.

To my mind “serious debate” on the, “endangering [of] the planet, and how the wealth is fairly shared” limited to debating how we can work with the employers to achieve these ends. May be putting the cart before the horse.

I think the first question for discussion in a serious debate on saving the planet and sharing the wealth in which collaboration with the employers, is a suggested course of action, should be; Do the employers really have an interest in saving the planet or sharing the wealth?

Of course as human beings whose own families lives and health may one day also be at risk from global climate change and social disparity, they can’t help but be aware of these threats.

But is this the full story of what motivates them?

Socialists would like to debate the point that the iron laws of capitalist competition and market forces prevent even the best intentioned of employers making these things a priority, or even a secondary concern, above out producing their rivals, and that by going into collaboration with your employer risks joining a mad and reckless race to the bottom.

And in fact it is this logic of the market, to maximise profits and increase productivity (and consumption) at all costs, that has got us into this position in the first place.

In my opinion for most employers, market forces prevent climate justice and social justice being of much concern at all for them. Further that trying to fight for these things in collaboration with the employers will be doomed to failure. For unions if they are really determined to fight to save the planet and fairly distribute the wealth the question is should this be done in collaboration with the employers interests or in independent opposition to them.

Task-force rehashes dangerous and discredited policies 

EPMU media release
30 November, 2009

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says the first report from the 2025 Taskforce should be recognised for what it is – a rehash of the discredited economic dogma that led to the widening of the Trans-Tasman income gap in the eighties and nineties.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says the real question is why the taskforce was stacked with fringe ideologues in the first place.

“Given the decision to put this review in the hands of the likes of Don Brash and Bryce Wilkinson, it’s hardly surprising that they have trotted out the same old discredited ideology that got the country into so much trouble in the first place.

“If you put lunatics in charge of the project, don’t be surprised when they design a mad house.

“From stripping superannuation to removing work rights to user pays, to privatisation, every single recommendation made is about transferring wealth from the many to the few and any shift the government makes in this direction will only hurt working Kiwis and their families.

“We need a serious debate on how we create wealth, how we do so without endangering the planet, and how the wealth is fairly shared to achieve the aim of lifting incomes for everyone.

“The Brash report fails to bring anything fresh or new to this debate and just massages the old right-wing tender spots.

“If there had been broad-based input into this taskforce we might have seen some sensible ideas about sustainable productivity growth but I suspect that would not have served the government’s political purposes.”

The EPMU has a longstanding interest in productivity growth, and last year set up the Centre for High Performance Work in conjunction with the Dairy Workers Union to get workers and their employers working together to improve workplace productivity.

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