Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Dunedin: It's Bitter with the King

On Saturday the 26th of August along George Street, Dunedin, a rather important protest took place. This protest was regarding the sub-standard way that Burger King is treating its hard-working staff, something that must be analysed seriously by the citizens of any democratic nation. This includes, but is not limited to: paying Burger King staff minimum wage for years and years, regardless of if they're a supervisor, or sometimes even manager (in one case about 15 years!), paying under minimum wage under the guise of "training modules", and trying to push their workers away from Trade Unions. Every worker has the right to join a union. 
Unite Union and ISO organised and performed this as Burger King staff did not want to protest personally for fear of retribution. The protest started organising itself around the Robbie Burns Statue, we jokingly placed a Unite Union flag in Robbie Burn's hand, and then we descended into George Street, finishing at the Meridian Shopping Mall, which has a Burger King on the bottom floor, making the chants and general protest very well heard by the staff, and hopefully management.  
The protest was generally considered to be quite well done, as we gained a lot of public attention, spread awareness, and hopefully gained support among Dunedin workers and shoppers. People from the street even started protesting alongside us! From the Robbie Burns' statue to the Meridian shopping mall, we marched and chanted "Burger King, get stuffed! Minimum wage is not enough!" "Grill your burgers, not your workers!" "When workers' rights are under attack! STAND UP! FIGHT BACK!" "When I say Union, you say power! Union! POWER! Union! POWER!" All of this was performed in the hope that Burger King staff knows that they deserve to be treated better, and so the bosses know they can't treat their workers like punching bags full of cash. 

Find out more about the campaign at Unite Union news

Jasper Auld

[Image credit: Unite Union flickr stream.

Marching for Marriage Equality

At least a thousand people showed out today to support a bill being introduced to parliament today, which would amend the Marriage Act to allow marriage between same sex couples. While many would argue that marriage is an institution best avoided, that doesn't change the fact that it is a right, with many associated legal benefits, denied to many couples simply because they are of the same gender. 

But there are no fundamental rights - only what we win in struggle. Equal marriage is the right to marry who you want. It matters in a million petty bureaucratic ways to the couples and it matters to everyone who is hates injustice. When bigots are beaten, everyone wins.

The thousand who turned out today was composed not only of those who are directly affected - queer individuals and couples - but also a great many straight supporters. The message was clear - you don't need to be queer to support equal rights, and this is borne out in every poll on the issue in NZ over the last few years. Marriage equality is but the first step in a long struggle for equal rights for queer individuals, but unlike 30 years ago, when the very right to legally exist had to be fought for, tooth and nail, today the pressure is on parliament to get with the times. But that's not to say there won't be resistance. 

The social conservatives and the religious right would have us return to the days when it was illegal to be gay, and marriage was when a wife was a chattel sold by her father to the highest bidder. No way!

This bill needs to pass, and we need to build organisations which will not only ensure that Marriage Equality becomes a reality, but also be prepared to tackle not just the next struggle for queer rights but to fight, arm in arm, straight and queer, for equality for all.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Massacre at Marikana Mine - Solidarity with Labour in South Africa!

Amandla! Ngawethu!

I, and most people in the anti-apartheid movement in New Zealand, took part in the boycott campaigns not to simply change the colour of the faces of those who ruled South Africa. We didn’t face batons and barbed wire to replace race-based apartheid with economic apartheid. Our intention wasn’t to stop the apartheid gravy train for the wealthy just long enough for a tiny number of the black elite to jump on.

John Minto recently made public his correspondence with the organisers of a conference happening in Wellington this weekend celebrating NZ’s role in the struggle against apartheid. How tragically immediate these words are!

Police in South Africa have massacred over 30 striking miners in the Marikana platinum mine, one of the most violent attacks on labour since the end of apartheid, and a horrific act reminiscent of the Apartheid state’s brutalities at the 1960 Sharpville massacre in the Gauteng (Transvaal).

Amandla, a radical magazine in South Africa, call this "a brutal tragedy that should never have happened," and editoralise:

No event since the end of Apartheid sums up the shallowness of the transformation in this country like the Marikana massacre. What occurred will be debated for years. It is already clear the mineworkers will be blamed for being violent. The mineworkers will be painted as savages. Yet, the fact is that heavily armed police with live ammunition brutally shot and killed over 35 mineworkers. Many more are injured. Some will die of their wounds. Another 10 workers had been killed just prior to this massacre.
This was not the action of rogue cops. This massacre was a result of decisions taken at the top of the police structures. The police had promised to respond with force and came armed with live ammunition. They behaved no better than the Apartheid police when facing the Sharpeville, 1976 Soweto uprisings and 1980s protests where many of our people were killed.
The aggressive and violent response to community service delivery protests by the police have their echo and reverberation in this massacre.
This represents a blood-stain on the new South Africa.

Media coverage has stressed the complexity of the inter-union rivalries, but the involvement of the police – and the shooting down of striking workers – makes it clear what is involved. “The Marikana action is a strike by the poor against the state and the haves, argues Justice Malala.

The old slogans from the anti-apartheid struggle have a new relevance. Once again, we say “Solidarity with South African labour!”

Amandla! Ngawethu!

Striking South African mineworkers were gunned down by police on Thursday. Charlie Kimber looks at events leading up to the massacre—and the business interests behind it

Police in South Africa have opened fire at striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg, leaving at least 18 people dead. Ten people have died over the last few days in other clashes.

This disgusting slaughter evoked memories of how the police acted during apartheid. All the hope at the end of that vile racist regime has come to this.

The recently appointed police chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega visited the mine a few days ago and she is believed to have coordinated Thursday’s action.

But the decision by the heavily armed police to use live rounds must have been endorsed at the highest level—perhaps even by the ANC’s President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma said he regretted the killings. But disgracefully he made no reference to the handling of the situation by the police.

There must be justice for the strikers killed at Marikana—and those who ordered the deaths must pay for them...

[Read the full background story and analysis from Charlie Kimber at Socialist Worker]

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Honouring Past Struggles: Whangamata Protest 2008

In July 2008, Hauraki Māori and other community members of Whangamata occupied the proposed car park area of the Whangamata marina. What led them to this point?

Te Matatuhi (the marina site) is the ancestral name of tangata whenua for the specific lands subject to the proposed marina. Te Matatuhi is land of particular significance to Ngāti Whānaunga. ‘Mata’ in both Whangamata and Matatuhi refers to the black volcanic rock obsidian. Mata has long been a principle reason for why Maori live in Whangamata, as the rock was widely sought after for its fine cutting edge. The harbour facilitated trade and many battles were fought in the area.
Various Pākehā business figures had eyed up the Te Matatuhi as a place to build a marina from the mid-twentieth century, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the Whangamata Marina Society was formed and approved the district council to buy the land. In 1996 hearings began on the Whangamata Marina Proposal. Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Whānaunga, Te Kupenga o Ngāti Hako, the Whangamata Maori Komiti and other iwi groups consistent in their opposition to the marina proposal from the start and made many submissions and appeals.

The reasons for the iwi groups’ opposition to the marina were extensive, and included the following concerns: that the marina would destroy traditional fishing grounds due to significant and ongoing dredging of the channel where their kaimoana grounds are, a lack of respect of the ancestral ties to Moanaanuanu Estuary and Whangamata Harbour, destruction of wetlands which are important to bird life and the endangered moko skink, and removal of public access to the beach.

The next milestone of the marina was March 2006, when the then Minister of Conservation refused consent. His decision was judicially reviewed by the marina developers and sent back to him, then passed on to the then Environment Minister in the interests of transparency. He allowed the marina to go ahead in December 2006 provided that strict conditions were met regarding containment of dredged materials during construction and monitoring of the world famous surf break at the estuary's entrance. In the first half of 2008, there were several changes to the proposal.
Approximately 30 Hauraki Maori and community members occupied the proposed car park area of the marina for 18 days in July 2008 until they received assurance from Environment Minister Trevor Mallard that he would review the consent process. One of the reasons they felt occupation as necessary was to raise awareness about the changes to the marina development over recent months that the community had not been privy to because they were all processed on a non-notified basis. Spokesperson Nathan Kennedy [Ngāti Whānaunga] was quoted as asking, “what happened to access for all under the Foreshore and Seabed legislation?”
When the marina was built, Waitangi Tribunal Claim Wai 262 had not yet been completed. This is a wide-ranging claim about the management, use, and commercialisation of indigenous flora and fauna, and thus may have had impact on what happened in Whangamata.
Sadly, the outcome of the occupation was that in September of 2008 the marina society began construction without all obligations being met. Several rare species were displaced or exterminated for the development, including the rare Oligosoma moco skink. The marina opened in November 2009.

Juliet Thomberson