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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reply to comment on SFWU, EPMU, Air NZ dispute

Thanks for putting the EPMU position James. The point is that outsourcing and the deal cooked up in response to this threat by the EPMU and Air NZ both had the same outcome for the workers involved - wage cuts of several thousand dollars per year on average.
The SFWU position was to reject outsourcing (resulting in wage cuts), AND also reject making concessions to Air NZ (resulting in wage cuts).
The EPMU position was that it was better for the union leadership to engineer (excuse the pun) the wage cuts than let Swissport do it. The result was similar for the workers.
EPMU members and non-union workers on IEAs now face taking significant cuts in take-home pay while SFWU members' conditions are protected by their existing CEA up until it expires at the end of June, and for twelve months after that date or until a settlement on a renegotiated CEA is reached.
The point about the publicity campaign is that there wasn't one - not against outsourcing as such - because the EPMU stepped in and offered to negotiate a "competitive in-house solution" to achieve the same or similar labour-cost savings, so outsourcing was removed from the agenda (except as a background threat).
The SFWU opted out of this "in-house" process in January. At this point the EPMU could have done likewise, called the company's bluff on outsourcing and mounted a robust legal, public and political campaign against the company's attacks. After all Air NZ is a publicly-owned company and, despite company law, is vulnerable to public and political pressure. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain from such an approach. The jobs were not able to be outsourced off-shore; they were not under threat of disappearing altogether.
It seems the EPMU's greatest worry (listen to Little on Checkpoint radio) was that many of the members wanted to take redundancy. Even in this respect the negotiated deal lets workers down. If the jobs were outsourced to Swissport every single Air NZ worker leaving the job OR transferred over to the new employer (at least those covered by CEAs) would have stood to gain a redundancy pay-out. Under the EPMU/Air NZ deal only those leaving the job will get the full pay-out. The $3000 (or $4000) incentive payment will not make up for that loss of redundancy pay for many workers who want to stay on.
This is not to say that I am arguing for outsourcing. An inspection of Air NZ board minutes from 18 months ago revealed that the outsourcing bogey was raised precisely and only to extract concessions from workers - one way or another. There was, I believe, an illegal breach of good faith involved in this whole process of deliberately setting out to break an existing CEA. Air NZ should be before the courts on this account, not just on the grounds that they did not provide adequate information etc.
My contention is that the combined legal, political and industrial muscle of the SFWU and EPMU should have been brought to bear on the management. Back room deals with the employer by one union can only undermine workers strength.
Don't forget there are important issues for all unionised workers involved here - not the least the sanctity and value of a negotiated and signed-off CEA.
"An injury to one, is an injury to all", the old Wobblies' slogan, comes to mind.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What's new pussycat?


Bogus polls oppose anti-child-bashing bill

Bogus polls of the "have you stopped beating you wife?" variety have been rolled in a last gasp deperate bid to stop Sue Bradford's anti-child-bashing bill being passed into law. The question asked in these polls was: "Do you think people should be able to lightly smack their children?" (or words to that effect). This question has next to nothing to do with the effect and intent of the anti-bashing bill.
It is not an anti-smacking bill, although it is repeatedly referred to as such. This is disinformation spread by those who want to have the legal right to use on their kids whatever force they deem necessary.
If the question asked in the polls had been: "Do you think the law should give parents (or presumably, guardians) a legal defence for heavily hitting/ bashing/ whipping their kids?" You would have got 80% saying it shouldn't.
The effect of Sue Bradford's (now the Labour Party's?) bill merely removes the 'section 59' defence of allowable corrective punishment that often prevents successful prosecutions of child-beaters. I am with Helen Clark on this one.
Surely we do not believe in mob-rule led by bible-bashing bigots and reinforced by their "hollow" opinion-creating polls.
A valid point could be made about the violence done by capitalist society to people as a matter of course. The lack of action on the increased levels of severe hardship affecting many thousands of children at the poverty-stricken (and stranded) end of society is inconsistent with the concern shown by the chattering classes and the government over this bill, but still, the change in the law will help create a culture of non-violence towards kids, and that can only be a good thing.

SFWU claims victory over Air NZ outsourcing and cuts

The Service and Food Workers' Union (SFWU) is claiming victory in its battle with Air NZ . The company has conceded that the 250 SFWU check-in and services workers must remain on their existing contract (and conditions). Despite intense pressure from many quarters, Air NZ has failed to force these workers to accept cuts in their pay and conditiions under threat of outsourcing (which would have meant cuts to their pay and conditions). These workers decided neither option was acceptable, and were willing to fight outsourcing.
Meanwhile the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) is putting to the vote a deal they have negotiated to voluntarily give back conditions of the 1500 Air NZ baggage handlers and frontline staff they represent. If they had stood firm with the SFWU they could have stopped outsourcing (with a public campaign to put pressure on the majority owner, the Government, and the Board) AND held onto their existing Collectve Employment Agreement.
It would be good to see the EPMU members reject the Air NZ/EPMU deal that cuts take-home pay by several thousand dollars per worker (on average) - probably too much to hope for although the SFWU stand has won support from EPMU members.
SFWU northern region secretary, Jill Ovens, and EPMU general secretary, Andrew Little, aired their views on the Checkpoint National Radio programme last Monday. This is the link to the radio broadcast:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Outrage at result of police-rape trial

The outrage over the police-rape case is palpable and almost universal. In one (admittedly unscientific) poll carried out by the Stuff website, 80% do not believe Rickards should get his job back - that is because 80% think he is guilty. The juries were clearly misled and manipulated in the two trials Rickards faced.
Louise Nicholas testified that as a teenager she was forced to have sex with Rickards and his two former associates. The most horrific act she described occurred in a Rotorua flat where the three men serially raped her and then a police baton was forcibly inserted into her vagina and her anus by one of the policemen (Shipton) while Rickards and the other policeman (Schollum) cheered him on from the sidelines.
Rickards admitted having so-called 'group-sex' with the 18 year-old Nicholas. The story the three accused rapists tell is that the the sex was consensual and the baton incident never took place despite two other policemen testifying that such an abhorrent event was boasted about at the time.
She says she was raped, they say she wasn't - it was down to whose word you could take as true, and New Zealand juries, faced with such a choice, will more often than not believe the police.
EXCEPT that two of the accused (Shipton and Schollum) had already been found guilty of a chillingly similar rape and were in jail serving eight-year sentences for that. The rape which Shipton and Schollum were convicted on also involved the use of a police baton to sexually assault their victim. This was legally-suppressed information. How could any jury accept their denials in the Louise Nicholas case, or in the most recent case involving an unnamed women, if the jury members had been made aware of this extremely pertinent fact?
Our rage is due to our perfectly reasonable belief that justice was not done, nor seen to be done, in these trials. The accused got away with, not murder, but a crime equally repugnant - and the people committing the crime were the ones we turn to for help when a crime is committed against us.
Not only women are outraged; all men who have any sense of justice are equally appalled at the actions of these policemen and the "not guilty" verdicts.
The other great concern is that such a man as Rickards could rise so high in the police hierarchy. Police culture needs to change, and change rapidly and thoroughly. Lets hope the current police leadership, the ones who rightly prosecuted Rickards and his mates, clean out the stables with a large broom and a high pressure hose.
The thought of Rickards returning to his job in charge of the Auckland Police District is too deplorable to contemplate. He should be drummed out of the police completely.