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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wellington-Picket of Mana Coach Services Drivers 31.8.2010



The Wellington Tramways union as part of on-going industrial action at Mana Coach services will be holding a picket at the Paraparaumu Railway Station at Midday Tuesday August 31st.

Negotiations for a Collective at Mana have stalled due to the intransigence of Mana management who are unwilling to make the most basic concessions to reach an agreement. The issues are drivers having certainty over their hours of work, and the payment of overtime rates for working a 6th day – clauses that already exist in the collective agreements of recently settled NZ Bus collective agreements.

The picket is also likely to move to across the road to National MP Nathan Guy's electorate office, as government proposed amendments to the Employment Relations and Holidays Act's will make life even harder for drivers, particularly drivers at Mana.

The Tramways union encourages members of the public to come down and give their support and solidarity to Mana bus drivers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time changed for action at Burger Fuel

Joanne Bartlett was fired on day 89 of her 90 day trial period at Mission Bay Burger Fuel. She was fired just after asking for more than one 10 minute break during her eight hour shift. Joanne received high grades in the company's training program, has culinary school qualifications and regularly worked extra shifts when asked. No reason was given for her
dismissal.

Activists picketed her store last Friday. During the picket company chief executive Josef Roberts told TV3 that Burger Fuel franchises would use the 90 day bill again in the future. When the cameras stopped rolling, Roberts pleaded with the picketers to stop as the store had lost their entire lunch trade which would significantly impact on their tight margins.

This CEO told Unite that he would make an agreement with them if they stopped taking action...Burger fuel has since reneged on its agreement.

It's time to send Burger Fuel a clear message. We need to picket as many stores as we can on the same day at the same time and drive the message home.

It is important for the workers movement that we get a concrete win at Burger Fuel. Not only do we need to send a strong message to other employers that we won't stop until we win, we need to show activists that there is action that they can be involved in that works and is fun.

That's why we are organising another round of protests on Saturday 4th of September from 12 noon - 2pm during Burger Fuels busiest lunch break. The first action in Auckland was successful and Wellington activists were successful the following day. It will work again, but this time it will hurt them more.

We need unions and activist groups to commit to adopting/organising a store and to appoint a contact person to help organise others to attend.

Already Australian unionists have agreed to picket the two Sydney Burger Fuels.

We are currently developing flyers and other materials for the picket and we will get them to you before the action.

Below you will find a list of stores. Please email me back at simon.oosterman@ndu.org.nz or contact me at 021 922 551 and let me know if:

a) You can join a picket,

b) The store you can picket and

c) If you (or someone from your organisation) can commit to being a contact person and help organise the picket at that store.

In the areas with multiple stores we may meet up at a single store before the picket to see what numbers we have on the day to make sure we’ve got enough for each store. (It will also make a better photo oppourtunity!)

Burger Fuel

Auckland - Albany - 94152315 - Albany- 7 Mercari Way Albany North North Shore
Auckland - Takapuna - 94894889 - Takapuna- 22 Anzac St Takapuna Auckland 0622
Auckland - Glenfield - 94440118 - 407 Glenfield Rd, Glenfield, Auckland, Next to Glenfield Mall
Auckland - Windsor Park - 94784366 - Unit 3 Windsor Park 544 East Coast Rd Mairangi Bay Auckland
Auckland - Mission Bay - 95210400 - 61 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay
Auckland - Ponsonby - 93786466 - Ponsonby- 114 Ponsonby Rd Ponsonby Auckland 1011
Auckland - Parnell - 93773345 - Parnell- 187 Parnell Rd Parnell Auckland 1052
Auckland - CBD - 93090660 - Queen Street- 291 Queen St Auckland Central Auckland
Auckland - Mt Eden - 96300290 - Mt Eden- 214 Dominion Rd Mt Eden Auckland 1024
Auckland - Lincoln Rd - 98387746 - Henderson- 155 Lincoln Rd Henderson Auckland 0610
Auckland - Syvlia Park - 95730100 - Shop 73 286 Mt Wellington Hwy, Slyvia Park Shopping Complex
Auckland - Ellerslie - 95257752 - Ellerslie- 2 Robert St Ellerslie Auckland 1051
Auckland - New Lynn - 98276009 - New Lynn- 3074 Great North Rd New Lynn Auckland 0600
Auckland - Manukau - 92777705 - Manukau- 597 Great South Rd Manukau Auckland 2104
Auckland - Botany Downs - 92722499 - Botany Downs- 451 Ti Rakau Dve Botany Downs Auckland 2013
Tauranga - Cameron Rd - 75718677 - Cnr Cameron Rd & 12th Ave Tauranga 3112
Hamilton - Victoria Street - 78382400 - 213 Victoria Street Hamilton 3204
Hamilton - Five Cross Roads - 78550088 - Five Cross Roads 230 Peachgrove Rd Hamilton
Rotorua - Rotorua - 73484860 - 223 Fenton St Rotorua
Taupo - Taupo - 73780002 - 2 Roberts St Taupo 3330
Auckland - New Plymouth - 67699102 - 66 Eliot St New Plymouth 4310
Napier - Napier - 68354445 - 70 Carlyle St Napier 4110
Palmerston North - Palmerston North - 63547778 - 84 Fitzherbert Ave Palmerston North 4410
Wellington - Johnsonville - 44774008 - 103 Johnsonville Rd Johnsonville Wellington 6037
Wellington - Lower Hutt - 45861243 - 529 High St Lower Hutt Wellington
Wellington - Courtenay Place - 48019222 - 101 Courtenay Place, Under Saatchi & Saatchi

Unions are illegal in Dubai and Saudi Arabia and it is too dangerous to organise pickets there.


In Solidarity,
Simon Oosterman
Pak 'n Save and New World Organiser (Auckland)
National Distribution Union
m. +64 (0)21 922 551
dd. +64 (0)9 622 8433
f. +64 (0) 9 622 8353
e. simon.oosterman@ndu.org.nz
skype. simonoosterman

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Solidarity (Australia)- Labour Slumps but no mandate for Abbott

24 August 2010

As she lost the seat of Bennelong, Maxine McKew summed up Labor’s crisis: compared to 2007, she said, Labor stood for nothing.

Kevin Rudd was removed as Labor’s poll rating crashed. But Julia Gillard dragged Labor even further to the right – capitulating to the mining bosses and lowering company tax, delaying action on climate change, and, most shamefully, competing with Abbott about which party would more effectively stop the asylum boats. It will take a deliberate effort to undo the damage done by Liberal and Labor’s race to the bottom.

While Abbott tried to cover up the worst elements of Liberal policy, nobody believes that WorkChoices is “dead, buried and cremated.” Abbott’s rise and the extra Liberal seats in parliament have increased the confidence of the right wing.

However, there were two bright spots to an otherwise disastrous federal election. One is the end of Wilson Tuckey, the racist Western Australian National Party bovver boy. The other is the increased vote for the Greens. The Greens have their first member in the House of Representatives and will have around nine Senators and the balance of power in the Senate after June 2011.

The election was not a vote for Tony Abbott – the Coalition received only 1.8 per cent of the 5.4 per cent swing against the Labor government.

The election was a massive protest against the record of the Federal, and in the case of Queensland and NSW, state Labor governments.

It is still too early to say which party will actually form government, but the hope must be – despite the pathetic do-nothing (and worse) policies of Gillard - that Labor will form a minority government with the support of the one Green member and other independents.

There is a danger that the Labor leadership will draw even more right wing conclusions from its disastrous election showing.

But Abbott has no mandate for his refugee bashing, climate change denial, or his anti-union policies. A majority of people voted for Labor and the Greens. If by some quirk of the parliamentary negotiations Abbott becomes Prime Minister, we will have to fight him even harder than we fought John Howard.

Labor’s policies to blame

One thing should be obvious – it has been Labor’s policies that have opened the door to Abbott. Having declared climate change to be the greatest moral challenge of our times and there being massive popular support for radical action by Labor – first Rudd then Gillard showed they did not have the courage of their convictions. A million people walked away from Labor in the space of two weeks.

On refugees, Rudd’s “tough but humane” attitude was in fact code for being tough on asylum seekers. Instead of junking all of Howard’s anti-refugee policies, Labor kept Christmas Island detention and off-shore processing. Instead of countering Abbott’s racist scaremongering about boat arrivals, Rudd gave in.

In October 2009, Rudd pushed for an Indonesian Solution in which the Indonesian navy would “stop the boats” and the Indonesian government would detain asylum seekers in Australia-built detention centres. Then Labor froze the visa applications of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers, and re-opened Curtin detention centre.

The anti-refugee agenda has been driven from the top, not by concerns in the wider community.

Gillard dragged Labor even further to the right. She gave into the mining bosses. She pushed even harder against refugees. She continued to stall on taking action to stop climate change. Many Labor members and supporters were even more disgusted.

Some Greens have been carried away by their relative success – and while that success is welcome, the overall election result is nothing to cheer about. Some people have celebrated a hung parliament as a blow to two-party control– but there is nothing progressive about extra Liberal MPs in Parliament.

Not all Green preferences went to Labor, and Tony Abbott may yet form a government. The election results are a warning. Real change is not going to come through Parliament.

The Greens’ balance of power in the Senate will only mean anything if Labor and Liberal are unable or unwilling to do a deal. It would be a mistake to think that one Greens MP is going to dictate policy to a Labor government that will likely be even more conservative that the last one.

Australia may not have gone into recession, but the global financial crisis has left workers and their families worse off. Wages have fallen behind the cost of living. Australia will not be immune to another round of global instability. Abbott has promised to make savage cuts to government spending to cut the deficit, while Labor is also determined to manage capitalism and put the Budget back in surplus by 2013.

Don’t wait for Labor
There is another lesson from the election results – we can’t rely, and we shouldn’t wait, for Labor. With its mass demonstrations and the campaign against WorkChoices, the union movement played a major role in ousting Howard. But then the union leaders waited for the Labor government to change the laws.

But Labor left Howard’s anti-union Building Task Force in place. Unions have faced record fines for taking industrial action, and union members have faced the threat of jail for defying the dictatorial powers of the Task Force. Fair Work Australia laws still maintain enterprise bargaining, deny the right to strike and limit the right of entry.

Ark Tribe, a South Australian unionist, is back in court in September. The construction unions have said that they will launch a national strike if Ark is jailed. Let’s hope so. It will take an industrial campaign, not just to keep Ark out of jail but to defeat the anti-union laws.

The climate movement put its hopes in Labor introducing a market –driven Emissions Trading Scheme or some form of a price on carbon. When Labor reneged, the climate movement was left paralysed. Gillard’s “Cash for Clunkers” scheme is not going to stop climate change, any more than her “citizens’ assembly”. It is an insult to the movement. To force real action, we need to build a movement that looks to the streets and workplaces to win direct government funding for renewable energy and public transport.

The refugee movement faces a real fight against off-shore processing – whether that’s Nauru, East Timor or Christmas Island. A grassroots campaign forced major changes to detention even under Howard – we will need to mobilise to do that again. Hundreds of Afghan asylum seekers are still affected by Labor’s visa freeze and women and children are back behind barbed wire and locked gates.

Thousands of people rallied and marched for refugees in the lead up to the election. There is a solid base to build the campaign for refugee rights.

The racist Northern Territory Intervention remains in place with plans to extend welfare quarantining and to destroy the jobs and lives of even more Aboriginal people. The No Intervention Greens campaign won a clear majority in remote Aboriginal communities, while the grassroots campaign of the Intervention Rollback Action Group has won more supporters.

The election has not settled any of the issues that really matter. The future of climate action, refugee rights and union rights is going to be settled in the parliament of the streets. We can’t wait for Labor and we can’t wait another three years.

Australian Socialist Alliance-‘Greenslide’ a shift to left

‘Greenslide’ a shift to left — neither major party wins majority mandate

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

By Peter Boyle



By denying both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the the Liberal-National coalition an outright majority in primary votes and in House of Representatives seats, Australian electors voted “neither of the above” for the traditional parties of government.

This followed an election campaign in which the major parties conducted an ugly race to the right, most notoriously by scapegoating the few thousand desperate refugees who attempt to get to Australia on boats.

The effect of this race to the right was to promote racism, further breakdown community solidarity, and a bolster a range of other conservative prejudices on issues ranging from climate change to the economy to same-sex marriage rights. Important issues like Indigenous rights and Australia's participation in the imperialist war of occupation in Afghanistan were totally screened out.

However, there was also a reaction to this push to the right. The Greens, a party with a record of taking positions well left of the major parties on many critical issues enjoyed a 3.8% swing, taking most of its votes away from the ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had obtained 1,187,881 (11.4%) of the first preference votes for House of Representatives. Yet under the undemocratic system for lower house elections, the Greens only got one of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, that of Melbourne. There were a string of other once-safe ALP seats that came close to being taken by the Greens.

The contradiction between the size of the Green vote and their small representation in Parliament grows, suggests the need for a grassroots campaign for democratic reform of the electoral system. It is not democratic that the Nationals, who won a third the number of votes as the Greens, should get seven times their representation in parliament!

The power of corporate Australia to buy elections with massive donations and their domination of the media also has to be confronted.

The Greens won the seat of Melbourne with the open assistance of the Victorian Electrical Trade Union and many other militant trade unionists. This was an important break from the total domination of the labour movement by the pro-capitalist ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had won 1,266,521 first preference votes in the Senate election and socialist candidates, including the Socialist Alliance, a further 39,186 votes. The Greens look like raising their number of Senators from five to nine — giving them the balance of power in the Senate.

The progressive social movements, including the trade unions will be looking to these Greens Senators to offer strong support in the struggles ahead, no matter which major party eventually forms government.

The result after election night on August 21 was a hung parliament. The major parties are now desperately trying to negotiate agreements with three or four independents and the Greens MP to form a minority government, while the outcome in a number of seats remains uncertain. If a deal to form government cannot be made, the Governor-General has the power to call another election.

While the three independent MPs certain of a seat, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, are former members of the conservative rural-based National Party, all broke over strong objections to particular aspects of the neoliberal agenda that has been pursued by both Liberal-National coalition and ALP governments since the 1980s.

Further, they have consolidated the hold on their seats by taking “community-first” positions on issues directly affecting their electorates. So neither major party can be certain of their support.

Newly elected Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, indicated earlier in the campaign that he would support a hypothetical ALP minority government but since August 21, he's been reluctant to be so specific. He told ABC TV's 7.30 Report on August 22 that the Greens were entering discussions with various parties and independents and “there's nothing on or off the table”.

Progressive independent Andrew Wilkie, a former Greens candidate, has a chance of winning the Tasmanian seat of Denison away from the ALP. He laid out a position, on the August 22 7.30 Report on how he would be prepared to support a minority government:

“If I'm elected, the party I support will only be assured that I won't block supply, and that I won't support any reckless no confidence motion.

“Beyond that, it's all up for grabs. I will look at every piece of legislation, every issue and assess them on its merits. I think it's self evident what is reasonable ethical behaviour and what isn't. And any acts of lying and so on, I won't accept that and I won't support legislation in that regard.”

The Greens should make an offer to support a minority ALP government along similar lines because clearly a Liberal-National government would be a greater evil. However, entering or making any further commitments to a possible ALP government would trap the Greens in a conservative government that will be bad for the majority of people, bad for Indigenous communities, bad for refugees and bad for the environment.


Peter Boyle is national convener of the Socialist Alliance.

Fightback Rally- workers and unions speak out

Fight Back Rally Auckland University 28 JUL 2010 from Billy Hania on Vimeo.


Karl Andersen from the NDU, bullied workers from Risotech Foods, Sue Bradford, Matt McCarten from Unite and Bill Newsum from the EPMU speak out at Unite on Campus's Fightback Rally. Video HERE

Monday, August 23, 2010

Australian Socialist Alternative-"Labor's Right-Wing Policies Opened the Door for Abbott"

"Labor's Right-Wing Policies Opened the Door for Abbott"
http://www.sa.org.au/australian-politics/2874-editorial

Labor's right-wing policies opened the door for Abbott .
Mick Armstrong 22 August 2010

It has to be said bluntly and clearly that the key reason that Labor
has done so badly in these elections and that the reactionary
ideologue Tony Abbott stands every chance of becoming Prime Minister
is because Labor’s appalling right-wing policies offered nothing to
its working-class supporters.

The media have talked interminably about the Rudd factor and racist
rednecks in Queensland and Sydney’s western suburbs being to blame.
But that is all rubbish.

Labor swept into power in 2007 on the back of a concerted trade union
campaign against Howard’s hated WorkChoices laws. After eleven years
of Howard’s assault on working-class living standards and trade union
organisation, eleven years of warmongering and racist scapegoating,
millions of workers were hoping from some relief under Labor.

But Rudd just as much as Howard was committed to ruling for the big
end of town. Committed to boosting profits rather than improving the
lives of workers and the poor. Committed to balanced budgets and
cutting company taxes rather than vitally needed increases in spending
on health, education, public housing, improved public transport and
other essential infrastructure.

So for all their talk of abolishing WorkChoices Labor kept the bulk of
the anti-worker provisions of the Liberals’ industrial relations laws,
including the Gestapo-like powers of the Australian Building and
Construction Commission (ABCC), the end result of which has been even
more deaths of building sites.

Labor stepped up Australia’s involvement in the dirty imperialist war
in Afghanistan.

Rudd made a symbolic apology to Aboriginal people but continued to
implement Howard’s racist, authoritarian Northern Territory
intervention that inflicted even more misery and dispossession on
Australia’s most downtrodden people – all in the interests of mining
companies, tourism operators and multi-millionaire pastoralists.

Labor’s failed climate change legislation was all about outrageous
handouts to polluting companies while the mass of people were forced
to pay steeply rising electricity prices.

To further consolidate its conservative credentials, Labor maintained
Howard’s ban on same-sex marriage and handed out tens of millions of
dollars to wealthy private schools.

Then, when support for Rudd plunged in the polls, Labor’s response was
to shift even further to the right. Gillard’s first action on taking
over the leadership was to cut a deal that delivered billions of
dollars to the super-rich mining bosses to spend on their private
planes, luxury yachts and multi-million dollar mansions.

Then followed an obscene race to the bottom as Gillard tried to
out-compete Abbott to become Australia’s leading refugee basher. The
low point was reached when Gillard defended John Howard – declaring
that the man who had championed all of Pauline Hanson’s vile racist
policies was not a racist.

Gillard’s whole reactionary approach was epitomised in the televised
election debate with Tony Abbott, when she proclaimed that the most
courageous stand she had made in her political career was standing up
to teachers fighting to defend public education. This was on par with
her previous condemnation of building workers as thugs.

Gillard aped the Liberals’ mantra about balanced budgets and cutting
government debt – all of which is code for vicious austerity measures
to cut working-class living standards. In other words, we are to go
down the road of Europe and North America, where workers are facing
cutback after cutback to pay for the financial crisis, while profits
soar to record levels and the banks make a killing.

Labor strategists justified this right-wing orientation on the basis
that it was the only way to shore up their crumbling support amongst
working class voters. But there is no evidence of a concerted swing to
the right among workers.

All the evidence points to the fact that the mass of people want
better services, not more cutbacks. More spending on health,
especially on mental health and dental care. More spending on public
education. More spending on public transport. More spending on public
housing.

Labor was on the nose in NSW and Queensland because of the right-wing
privatisation policies of the state Labor governments and their
failure to deliver better public transport and services, especially in
the outer suburbs.

It was a similar pattern on social issues. While Labor beefed up its
commitment to the war in Afghanistan the polls showed increasing
support for troop withdrawal.

While the unmarried atheist Julia Gillard and the open lesbian cabinet
minister Penny Wong maintained their relentless opposition to same-sex
marriage, there was a tremendous groundswell of support for getting
rid of the homophobic marriage laws. Indeed one of the most positive
aspects of the election campaign was the way in which gay marriage,
the issue which neither Labor nor the Liberals wanted to talk about,
kept constantly intruding into the campaign and putting both Abbott
and Gillard on the back foot.

On the question of refugees, where clearly many people do hold
reactionary attitudes, Labor’s appalling aping of Abbott’s mantra
about stopping the boats simply served to shore up and make
respectable the vilest forms of racism. Whereas if Labor had made a
clear defence of the rights of refugees and migrants large numbers of
Labor voters could have been won to a more progressive standpoint.

As it was there is little evidence that any significant number of
working-class Labor voters were going to desert the party to vote
Liberal over the issue of refugees. But Labor did lose left-wing
voters, disgusted by Labor’s vile refugee bashing, to the Greens.

The voting pattern confirms that there has been no significant shift
to the right. Most of the 5.5 per cent fall in Labor’s primary vote
went to the left – to the Greens whose national vote rose 3.7 per cent
to 11.5 per cent. The Coalition’s primary vote was only up 1.8 per
cent to 44.0 per cent.

The fact that over 1.2 million people voted Green for the House of
Representatives, and even more did so for the Senate, is a very
positive sign. It indicates that increasing numbers of people,
especially young people, are looking for a more progressive way
forward.

Disillusionment with both major parties was also reflected in the
informal vote, which was the highest since 1984 and as much as 10 per
cent in some working-class electorates in Sydney.

So despite Labor’s appalling “me too” campaign, this election has not
been a right-wing rout. Tony Abbott may well scrape into office with
the support of the conservative independents, but he will have no
mandate to impose savage austerity measures or attacks on workers’
rights – measures he and his backers in the Murdoch press and his
other ruling class mates clearly want to push through.

This is important. It will be potentially much easier to resist the
attacks of a minority government with no clear mandate than a
triumphant Liberal party with a decisive majority.

So there is no basis for gloom and despair. The task for every trade
union activist and left-winger will be to resist the Abbott
government, all down the line.

We need to be out there defending refugee rights, demonstrating for
gay marriage and fighting in our workplaces and university campuses to
stop every cutback or sacking. That also means putting pressure on the
trade union leaders to make a determined stand.

The reason that Labor was able to get away with its anti-worker
policies was that the ACTU leaders wound up the mass campaign of
strikes and demonstrations against WorkChoices a year before the 2007
elections and fell into line behind Rudd. The unions got nothing in
return. Instead workers and their unions were treated with utter
contempt by Labor.

If this election has proven anything, it has demonstrated that we
won’t get anywhere by relying on politicians to deliver for us. We
have to rely on our own actions, our own strength and organisation.

The plain fact is that even if by some miracle Labor does scrape back
into office we will still be living in a system where profits come
first. A system dominated by the big end of town – the super-rich mine
owners, the bankers, the heads of David Jones, Coles and all the other
CEOs with their multi-million dollar salary packages. Whether it’s
Abbott or Gillard as PM, the bosses will still call the shots.

They only way that workers and the oppressed have got anywhere against
the rich and powerful is when we have stood up and fought for our
rights. But to do that effectively we need to build a socialist
alternative to Labor which champions every fightback and is prepared
to stand up to racism and homophobia and all that divides us.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

UTU- tactics for the movement






UTU Fight back rally at University of Auckland Campus-
Socialist Aotearoa's Joe C speaks on tactics for the movement

video HERE


Tramways workers win 11.5% pay increase at NZ Bus, but vow to fight on at Mana

Tramways Union accepts 11.5% pay increase from NZ Bus, Mana Coach Services Face further industrial action.


The Wellington Branch of the Tramways union voted to accept the NZ Bus Pay offer of 11.5% at a stopwork meeting of bus drivers yesterday. Mana Coach Services still haven't improved their offer to drivers and face industrial action by the Tramways Union unless this changes.

At a stop work meeting of Go Wellington and Valley Flyer drivers on Thursday, drivers voted to accept the pay offer from NZ Bus. For Go Wellington this was an increase of 11.5% on all printed rates, and at Valley Flyer an increase of 11% and gaining a number of conditions from the Go Wellington Collective Agreement such as time and a half for weekend work.


In 2008 Go Wellington had a day long lockout during contract negotiations and in 2009 Auckland Tramways members were locked out for a week by NZ Bus.


“We have seen a significant improvement in the way NZ Bus management negotiated with our union during these negotiations” says Wellington Tramways secretary Kevin O'Sullivan. “Unfortunately we have not seen any improvement in the attitude at Mana Coach Services who continue to have an arrogant and bullying attitude towards union members”.


At Mana Coach Services however the company offer has not improved. The major contentious issue is Mana's attempt to remove the 8 hour day from the collective and force drivers to work up to 14 hours. Mana also refuse to pay penal rates for weekend work, unlike the other major players in the Wellington Bus market Go Wellington and Valley Flyer.


There have also been a number of complaints from Tramways members at Mana of bullying and being pressured to quit the union.

There is likely to be increased strike action and disruption at Mana Coach Services this coming week, unless the company improve its offer and attitude towards its drivers.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wellington Stands for Union Rights

Walking into Civic Square, the sea of different banners and flags were an inspiring picture of our diversity, and our unity. Everyone was there: Maori, Pakeha, Pacific Islander and Asian workers, men and women, nurses with the NZNO, banking workers with FINSEC, Unite’s crew of striking JB Hi Fi workers, teachers from the NZEI and PPTA, Service and Food Workers, public servants with the PSA, tertiary sector unionists, maritime workers, and many others more. We were all united against the 90 Day Bill and its attack on our rights and, in our numbers, we showed the power of the union movement and the face of the modern working class.

Today’s rally was a good first step. We mobilized in impressive numbers, and the crowd responded well to calls for more action and determination. That many hundreds came to Civic Square showed again that, when unions issue a call to mobilize, there’s a response.

So we should take inspiration from a day of unity and action.

But today also showed the challenges facing our side. Talk from the leadership and from the stage didn’t suggest a way forward for now. It won’t be enough to rely on Labour and, if we hope to defeat this bill, it’s not going to be enough to talk of another rally in a few months’ time. We need to be planning for action, self-activity, strikes, and ‘naming and shaming’ employers who use the 90 day provision, like the snap picket which happened after the rally in Wellington today against Burger Fuel and their unfair dismissal.

Let’s take heart from the numbers and the mood from today’s inspiring rally, and turn that energy and anger to organising.
-Dougal McNeill, SA Wellington

Anticapitalist 21 August - Fight for your rights

Download the latest Anti-capitalist here. Articles on the workplace fightback, climate chaos, Greece and Afghanistan.

UTU squad hits Mission Bay Burger Fuel


from 3 News website- view HERE
Photos by John Darroch- view HERE
NZ Herald article HERE

By Melissa Davies
The fat was in the fire when trade unionists turned up at an Auckland Burger Fuel outlet to support a sacked employee.
Joanne Bartlett was fired on the 89th day of her 90-day probationary period.
“They said they just didn't consider me to be someone who would be in the fast food industry for a long time,” says Bartlett.
Her former boss says she never said that.
“I didn't have to give her a reason and I'm not going to discuss that now,” Linda Garibobic, Burger Fuel Franchisee told 3 News.
But union members did want to discuss it and turned up outside the Mission Bay store.
Burger Fuel's Chief Executive, Joseph Roberts, was there to meet them.
“The first thing is .we employ hundreds of people through the burger fuel system - 700 or so, alright,” Mr Roberts told picketers. “It is our right as an employer to trial people, to test people.”
Bartlett says she may've been fired because she asked for a second paid ten minute break, but Burger Fuel denies this.
The Unite union has set up what's called the utu squad. They say their aim is to name and shame companies they deem to be bad employers.
This is their first outing but they promise there will be many more.
And Burger Fuel says there are likely to be more dismissals within the ninety day probationary period for as long as they're entitled to by law.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Utu Squad" Names And Shames Burger Fuel For 89th Day Sacking



–Unite takes up John Key’s challenge to name and shame bad employers.

Recently the Prime Minister requested unions to directly name and shame bad employers who act badly against their employees. Unite and the rest of the trade union movement is taking up the challenge. A special direct action group called the UTU Squad is picketing the Mission Bay Burger Fuel store on Friday from 12-2pm to protest the sacking of a worker on the 89th day of her employment.

Joanne Bartlett’s dismissal came a few days after she had asked for more than a single 10 minute lunch break each day she had been receiving for an 8 hour shift. Ms Bartlett had consistently received the highest grades inBurger Fuel’s training programme and had culinary school qualifications. She had also worked extra shifts when requested. No reason was given for the dismissal.

The UTU Squad has been formed by Unite because they believe justice for workers needs a group willing to take direct action against bad employers to uphold workers rights. "If the government takes away workers’ rights to use legal means to protect themselves from unjust actions like this then workers have to go back to the tradition of direct action as the only way left to support workers like Joanne", says Mike Treen Unite National Director.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Florence Coen- dismissed without reason on her 85th day.



Florence Coen tells the CTU's Helen Kelly the story of how she was unfairly dismissed under John Key's new 90 day law.

www.fairness.org.nz

RALLY 21 & 22 August
Auckland * Wellington * Christchurch * Dunedin

Auckland
1pm, Saturday 21st August
QE2 Square (bottom of Queen St, opposite Britomart)

Wellington
1pm, Saturday 21st August
Civic Square

Christchurch
1pm, Saturday 21st August
Cathedral Square

Dunedin
11am, Sunday 22nd August
Assemble at Dental School, Great King Street
March to rally at the Octagon

Saturday, August 14, 2010

BP: Dossier on an Eco-Catastophe

The Deepwater Horizon spill, and the environmental disaster unfolding as a result of it, symbolizes the moral and ecological bankruptcy of capitalism. It’s all there: corporate power, state collusion in ensuring profits at whatever cost, a planet under threat, ordinary people losing their lives and livelihoods at the dictates of our rulers’ need for profit and power.

Here’s a dossier of articles from ‘unembedded’ journalists, activists and scholars analyzing the disaster, and drawing conclusions for activists.

Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of Books provides eyewitness reportage from the Gulf region, and dissects the connections between Big Oil, the area’s history, race, class, ecology,
and oppression.

Dahr Jamail has a damning account of current efforts to minimize the scale of the damage, and to make it “out of sight, out of mind”, while this speech from veteran radical journalist Jeffrey St Clair outlines the connections and collusion between corporate criminality and the state.

Deepwater Horizon didn’t come out of nowhere, of course, and Ellen Cantarow’s article on Big Oil’s war on the world and this backgrounder on the making of this eco-catastrophe provide vital background and context.

Finally, we need to understand the links between capitalism and climate change, and between the profit system and the way the planet is being wrecked: Liz Ross’ review of a recent book on ecology and socialism offers some starting points.

-Dougal McNeill, Socialist Aotearoa Wellington

FREE GAZA- Seeking support for ISM volunteer


Commentary- Janfrie Wakim on behalf of PHRC

In May 2010, nine aid workers were shot dead by Israeli commandos when a humanitarian flotilla destined for Gaza was intercepted in international waters by the Israeli Navy which is charged with enforcing the illegal and inhumane Siege of the Gaza Strip. Another flotilla, dubbed Freedom Flotilla Two, is to set sail in October 2010. Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa/New Zealand (PHRC) is raising money to enable a New Zealander to join the upcoming flotilla in the hope of breaking the Siege. If successful, the volunteer will stay on in the Gaza Strip to work for International Solidarity Movement (ISM), www.palsolidarity.org.

ISM supports the non-violent movement resisting Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land, which includes documenting and publicising human rights violations. The Palestinian-led organisation came to international prominence in 2003 when ISM volunteers Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall were killed by Israeli forces. Human rights defenders, particularly ISM volunteers, are routinely denied entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel and Egypt.

Freedom Flotilla Two is being coordinated by Free Gaza, www.freegaza.org. Free Gaza was formed to challenge directly the Israeli-Egyptian blockade by sailing ships carrying humanitarian aid and human rights defenders to Gaza. Since August 2008, Free Gaza has made eight solo voyages; most recently, it took part in the fateful May 2010 flotilla as a member of a six-partner coalition. Free Gaza has several endorsers, including notable individuals such as Desmond Tutu and Noam Chomsky, and groups with which PHRC has had some association such as Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, www.pchrgaza.org, and the Palestine Medical Relief Society, www.pmrs.ps.

Our fundraising target is $5000 ($3000 for the airfare, $2000 for living expenses including the estimate of support in the Gaza Strip, with Free Gaza raising the money to purchase the boats and cargo, and cover the cost of sailing). If, for any reason, PHRC is unable to send a New Zealander to Gaza, the money will be returned in full. Thank you.



Please make donations by direct credit PHRC 0145 0045138 00 or by sending a cheque to PHRC, Box 56150, Mt Eden, Auckland.
All donations will be receipted.
Advice on internet deposits must be emailed to jwakim@xtra.co.nz so that receipts can be provided.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rally for your rights next Saturday!


-Somi Yun, Socialist Aotearoa Wellington

From making it easier for our bosses to fire us to making sick days that bit harder to have, it’s clear that National’s attacks on our rights at work pose a huge threat. But they also present us with an opportunity. The huge march in Auckland in May against mining in conservation land forced a back down, and showed that the Nats, whatever their popularity in the polls, are not unstoppable. A mass campaign against this new bill can make workers’ rights a political issue again, and could rally opposition to all the government’s attacks.

Unions are the largest group of voluntary organizations in the country: even after all the attacks of the last decades they’re still a mass force, and one to be reckoned with. And it is workers, when we’re organised and when we fight, who can stop attacks on our rights. We can hit the bosses where it hurts, in their profits.

That’s why the rallies the CTU have called next week are so important, and why we all need to be building them. In our workplaces, on the campuses, amongst our friends, family and whānau, we need to ensure that these rallies are as big as possible. They’re a fist step in getting this campaign going. On their own they won’t be enough, and we need to start talking about more rallies, marches, strikes and actions, but getting on the streets next Saturday is a vital first step.

Let’s get stories of how the current 90 day laws have been used (like this horrifying tale the CTU is publicizing) circulating and get the message out there. We know from Don Brash’s report – and from the climate of recession and cuts internationally – that this is just the first in whole series of cuts and attacks they’re dreaming about.

All of us need to be there: these laws will hurt all workers, whether you’re organised in a union or not. And a fightback on this can build confidence to fight on other fronts, too, so everyone who opposes the Nats’ anti-beneficiary; anti-worker, anti-environment agenda should be marching.

Rally details:

Auckland: 
1pm, Saturday 21st August,
QE2 Square (bottom of Queen St, opposite Britomart)

Wellington
: 1pm, Saturday 21st August, Civic Square

Christchurch
: 1pm, Saturday 21st August, Cathedral Square

Dunedin: 
11am, Sunday 22nd August, Assemble at Dental School, Great King Street
March to rally at the Octagon

The campaign website is here.
Photo credit: John Darroch

Thursday, August 12, 2010

1 in 5 workers fired under the 90 Day Fire at Will law.

The CTU's Helen Kelly talks to Heather Smith, one of the many workers fired under the 90 Days Fire at Will law. TVNZ news story HERE

Rock Enrol-Dunedin Socialists on elections and movements.

A sppech given by the ISO's Andrew Tait to Rock Enrol meeting


Ki te whare e tu nei, tena koeKi te marae takoto nei, tena koeKi te tangata whenua, Kai Tahu, tena koutouKi te tangata nei inaianei, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoaThank you for the invititation to speak here tonight on behalf of the International Socialists, to Jess and Olive and Sam and his team and everyone else who has helped organise this night – and to you all for coming out to Rock Enrol.

Who are we?

We are socialists – we stand for the rights of working people, students and the oppressed. We have been active in this city for 17 years – supporting strikes, campaigning for a living wage, fighting fees, and opposing racism, sexism and homophobia. We are internationalist. Many times we have organised demos that give Dunedin people a chance to speak out against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and modern-day apartheid in Israel/Palestine.

But we aren't just a protest organisation. We aim to represent the real interests of the working class majority of Dunedin, and New Zealand. Because although we have the right to vote – which was won by workers struggles – we are ruled by a kleptocracy, by a handful of wealthy families, by an old boys' club. No-one stands over us with a whip, but who steers the ship of state? Why do our young people have to emigrate to get decent work? Why do our wages stagnate, while rent, taxes and rates escalate?

Because we, the working class majority, have been defenceless in the face of a savage class war waged by the rich for the last thirty years. Some of you'll be wondering by now what planet I am on, what city I am describing. I'm telling a tale of two cities, one which owns the newspapers and runs the radio stations, the other which works, day in, day out, or sits alone at home, stuck without work on a starvation dole, with never a chance to speak for themselves.

A scant two years ago, the newspapers said the country was booming on the back of a real estate bubble. Times were good we were told, and then the house of cards folded and the same newspapers blamed us for living on tick, for spending beyond our means. But most working people, most people, made jack from the real estate boom, were shut out of the bubble or forced to buy a house at inflated prices.

These are the facts: In the 1980s, Labour privatised our national and municipal assets – providing windfall profits for speculators and redundancies and service cuts for us. In the 1990s, National smashed the unions and real wages took a hit of something like 25% from which they have never recovered. The Helen Clark government, which supposedly represents workers, enjoyed a decade-long economic boom. The wealth of the Rich List doubled. Worse, they had to raise the bar for entry from $25million to $50million. We got the crumbs once the rich had feasted.

Three decades of deceit from our politicians takes its toll on the electoral roll. Voter turnout has dropped as people tune out. Students have seen their fees rise year on year since 1989. Has the quality of education increased, are class sizes smaller? I know the Vice Chancellor's salary is bigger, over half a million now, so maybe some good has come of it.The average rental has gone up by more than 30% in the last decade alone, and probably doubled in the last 2. Are flats warmer and drier now though?The DCC, the University, the landlords and the liquor stores are an unholy alliance that leaches off the student population – something like 20,000 people – without any consultation, without any representation.

For working people, especially in South D, the situation is if anything worse. Even compared to our pathetic national average, wages in Otago are depressed. Labour MP Clare Curran has a nerve. She says she's angry. She revealed in Wednesday's D-Scene that she had discovered that people are doing it hard in the south. Lady, that's nothing new. What's more its only two years since your government was in power. Its good you're talking about this now but don't pretend you never knew.

To understand the contempt which our city bosses have for the south look at the sewage situation. For years, the beaches were regularly awash with a filthy brown tide. Beaches right beside some of the most highly populated suburbs in New Zealand, in Australasia. Beautiful beaches that enrich the lives of tens of thousands of people were smeared with shit for years, even while plans were laid for that monument to civic stupidity, a colossal memorial to the kleptocracy – the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

There's little more that can be said about this. We've got it now so we have to deal with it. But there's a warning here. When the majority are disenfranchised, are shut out of power by a few, don't except sensible decisions, expect idiocy.

Rock, enrol, and vote if you can peel through the candidates spin to find a good heart within but don't expect any positive changes until we can build a movement, many movements, to demand them and implement them.

For all of our troubles there is much that can be done. I'd like to tautoko the work of the Transition Towns in Port Chalmers, which is working to improve public transport to Port and in the NEV on insulation. I'd like to tautoko the work of Chris Matahaere, of Unite trade union, and all other unionists who work to improve our wages and conditions.

Because our vision of Dunedin is a grand one but it starts from grassroots work. Small steps to win free buses, free broadband, to defend our hospital and jobs and improve our wages and conditions will add together into a mighty movement that can reclaim democratic control of this city, this country, and the world from the control of the wealthy few.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All power to the pre-schools!

The Nats are rats. They keep wages low, raise GST, cut our social welfare, squeeze our health and education systems. They won't give compensation to the victims of police sex abuse, they won't sort out our polluted rivers or runaway climate change, and they attack our work rights.

Yet one attack stands out as one of their most despicable acts of pro-corporate, anti-working class wrecking - slashing funding for trained teachers early childhood centres.

According to the NZEI union, "The cuts will affect 93,000 children enrolled in 2000 early childhood services".

Early childcare centres will be forced to either raise fees or cut the number of trained teachers. It's about cutting public services so John Key can give his rich mates and the big corporates a tax cut.

These attacks will hurt the children of the working poor the most, the nearly 1 in 4 children growing up under the poverty line. It is essential we stand in solidarity with parents, educators and children fighting for good quality education. A line in the sand should be drawn over this issue. Everyone should stand up and fight this Government now. They have attacked the future generations opportunities just so they can give big business lower taxes.

NZ is a rich nation and can afford to ensure that all children recieve the best start in life possible. The links between education and human achievement is well documented and the website for the Australian Radio programme Health Report, contains a series of interviews by Norman Swan with public health professionals who describe in detail the link between education and health outcomes. They detail the extraordinary impact of early childhood education on people.

One interview is with Professor Len Syme, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley
Len Syme: In the 1960s in a little town called Ypsilante, Michigan, they did an amazing study by inviting three-and-four-year-old children, (they were all poor, all black) inviting them to come to an early education program. The idea would be for three-and-four-year-olds to come to a year or two of early education. This was the program that preceded Headstart, in fact it was the reason for Headstart starting.

Norman Swan: Headstart being an extra educational activity for underprivileged children.

Len Syme: Yes, and three-and-four-year-olds, now in the United States a national program that's been remarkably successful. It had begun because of this Ypsilante study. They were overwhelmed when they invited these children. So they randomly allocated kids to either have the program or not have the program. And these children were in the program for a year or two, and then they followed them at age 19, still poor, still black, and they got almost 100% follow-up with these kids. And they couldn't believe the results, and nor could I. Double the high school graduation, double the college admission, half the welfare, half the crime rate; for girls, half the teenage pregnancies. And this dramatic difference in their lives. In fact the book they wrote about that is called 'Changed Lives'. They then followed these kids up at age 28. Again, very high response, and their lives are still different, really dramatically changed. What did they do in that one or two years?

And I've done a lot of work interviewing teachers in the program saying, 'What is the key issue here?' And it's very hard to tell, because all the teachers have different stories, but I can tell you one that I learned about from a teacher in Oxford in England. And she said, 'Well, the common theme is the children come to the school and they're asked, 'What do you want to do today?' Typically the new kids say they don't know, so they get assigned to work with children who do know. Eventually they do choose something, and then all the resources of the school are brought to bear to help them do what it is they said they'd like to do. This woman in Oxford said 'Yesterday a kid came in and said, "I want to do aeroplanes", and all the other kids said, "Me too". So they all got together and they made paper aeroplanes and they flew them and the planes crashed. Then they sat around and talked about what happened, and they re-designed the planes and they flew them again, and the planes crashed. Then they got together and discussed it again and they flew them and the planes crashed. She said, 'That's all we do all day, and that's basically all we do all year.'

Now to me, what this is about is teaching children about failure and about success and about being creative and hanging in, learning how to succeed; learning how to succeed to me is a critical issue. What happens is they then go to Grade I with a different view of life and that persists throughout their careers. Now interestingly, when you take this program to children in middle and upper-middle class groups, the children are bored. So my sense is that somehow from the earliest days of life, certain kids get this kind of challenge and experience and other kids don't. And there's something you can do about it.
Read the full interview here.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Kia Ora Gaza - Donate now and help break the siege of Gaza

Support the Kiwi contingent trying to break the siege of Gaza, donate here.

"Gaza’s 1.5 million people are imprisoned by the state of Israel in a giant concentration camp. The Israeli military enforces a blockade of essential supplies. There is terrible suffering, especially among the children. The citizens of Gaza face collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. On 31 May 2010, a Gaza aid flotilla was hijacked on the open sea by Israel’s military. Nine civilian aid workers were shot to death. To break the siege of Gaza, on 12th September mass aid convoys will set off from London by sea and land. We want to see Kiwi volunteers and aid go with them. Kia Ora Gaza is raising funds to make this possible."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Wellington forum - BP: Capitalism killing the planet

Time
Thursday 12 August · 18:00 - 20:00

Location Meeting Room 2, Student Union Building, Victoria University


How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be "restored and made whole" as Obama's interior secretary has pledged to do?
...
We do know this. Far from being "made whole," the Gulf coast, more than likely, will be diminished. Its rich waters and crowded skies will be less alive than they are today. The physical space many communities occupy on the map will also shrink, thanks to erosion. And the coast's legendary culture will contract and wither. The fishing families up and down the coast do not just gather food, after all. They hold up an intricate network that includes family tradition, cuisine, music, art and endangered languages – much like the roots of grass holding up the land in the marsh. Without fishing, these unique cultures lose their root system, the very ground on which they stand.


Read more:
Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world, by Naomi Klien

Friday, August 06, 2010

"We want freedom" - Chinese workers' uprising

And the most inspiring good news story of the year is...
Johann Hari for the Independent

At first, this isn't going to sound like a good news story, never mind one of the most inspiring stories in the world today. But trust me: it is.

Yan Li spent his life tweaking tiny bolts, on a production line, for the gadgets that make our lives zing and bling. He might have pushed a crucial component of the laptop I am writing this article on, or the mobile phone that will interrupt your reading of it. He was a typical 27-year old worker at the gigantic Foxconn factory in Shenzen, Southern China, which manufactures i-Pads and Playstations and mobile phone batteries.

Li was known to the company by his ID number: F3839667. He stood at a whirring line all day, every day, making the same tiny mechanical motion with his wrist, for 20 pence an hour. According to his family, sometimes his shifts lasted for 24 hours; sometimes they stretched to 35. If he had tried to form a free trade union to change these practices, he would have been imprisoned for twelve years. On the night of May 27th, after yet another marathon-shift, Li dropped dead.

Deaths from overwork are so common in Chinese factories they have a word for it: guolaosi. China Daily estimates 600,000 people are killed this way every year, mostly making goods for us. Li had never experienced any health problems, his family says, until he started this work schedule; Foxconn say he died of asthma and his death had nothing to do with them. The night Li died, yet another Foxconn worker committed suicide - the tenth this year.

For two decades now, you and I have shopped until Chinese workers dropped. Business has bragged about the joys of the China Price. They have been less keen for us to see the Human Price. KYE Systems Corp run a typical factory in Donguan in southern mainland China, and one of their biggest clients is Microsoft - so in 2009 the US National Labour Committee sent Chinese investigators undercover there. On the first day a teenage worker whispered to them: "We are like prisoners here."

The staff work and live in giant factory-cities that they almost never leave. Each room sleeps ten workers, and each dorm houses 5000. There are no showers; they are given a sponge to clean themselves with. A typical shift begins at 7.45am and ends at 10.55pm. Workers must report to their stations fifteen minutes ahead of schedule for a military-style drill: "Everybody, attention! Face left! Face right!" Once they begin, they are strictly forbidden from talking, listening to music, or going to the toilet. Anybody who breaks this rule is screamed at and made to clean the toilets as punishment. Then it's back to the dorm.

It's the human equivalent to battery farming. One worker said: "My job is to put rubber pads on the base of each computer mouse... This is a mind-numbing job. I am basically repeating the same motion over and over for over twelve hours a day." At a nearby Meitai factory, which made keyboards for Microsoft, a worker said: "We're really livestock and shouldn't be called workers." They are even banned from making their own food, or having sex. They live off the gruel and slop they are required to buy from the canteen, except on Fridays, when they are given a small chicken leg and foot, "to symbolize their improving life."

Even as their work has propelled China towards being a super-power, these workers got less and less. Wages as a proportion of GDP fell in China every single year from 1983 to 2005.

They can be treated this way because of a very specific kind of politics that has prevailed in China for two decades now. Very rich people are allowed to form into organizations - corporations - to ruthlessly advance their interests, but the rest of the population is forbidden by the secret police from banding together to create organizations to protect theirs. The political practices of Maoism were neatly transferred from communism to corporations: both regard human beings as dispensable instruments only there to serve economic ends.

We'll never know the names of all the people who paid with their limbs, their lungs, or their lives for the goodies in my home and yours. Here's just one: think of him as the Unknown Worker, standing for them all. Liu Pan was a 17 year old operating a machine that made cards and cardboard that were sold on to big name Western corporations, including Disney. When he tried to clear its jammed machinery, he got pulled into it. His sister said: "When we got his body, his whole head was crushed. We couldn't even see his eyes."

So you might be thinking - was it a cruel joke to bill this as a good news story? Not at all. An epic rebellion has now begun in China against this abuse - and it is beginning to succeed. Across 126,000 Chinese factories, workers have refused to live like this any more. Wildcat unions have sprung up, organized by text message, demanding higher wages, a humane work environment, and the right to organize freely. Millions of young workers across the country are blockading their factories and chanting "there are no human rights here!" and "we want freedom!" The suicides were a rebellion of despair; this is a rebellion of hope.

Last year, the Chinese dictatorship was so panicked by the widespread uprisings that they prepared an extraordinary step forward. They drafted a new labor law that would allow workers to form and elect their own trade unions. It would plant seeds of democracy across China's workplaces. Western corporations lobbied very hard against it, saying it would create a "negative investment environment" - by which they mean smaller profits. Western governments obediently backed the corporations and opposed freedom and democracy for Chinese workers. So the law was whittled down and democracy stripped out.

It wasn't enough. This year Chinese workers have risen even harder to demand a fair share of the prosperity they create. Now company after company is making massive concessions: pay rises of over 60 percent are being conceded. Even more crucially, officials in Guandong province, the manufacturing heartland of the country, have announced they are seriously considering allowing workers to elect their own representatives to carry out collective bargaining after all.

Just like last time, Western corporations and governments are lobbying frantically against this - and to keep the millions of Yan Lis stuck at their assembly lines into the 35th hour.

This isn't a distant struggle: you are at its heart, whether you like it or not. There is an electrical extension cord running from your laptop and mobile and games console to the people like Yan Li and Liu Pan dying to make them. So you have to make a choice. You can passively let the corporations and governments speak for you in trying to beat these people back into semi-servitude - or you can side with the organizations here that support their cry for freedom, like No Sweat in Britain, or the National Labour Committee in the US, by donating to them, or volunteering for their campaigns.

Yes, if this struggle succeeds, it will mean that we will have to pay a little more for some products, in exchange for the freedom and the lives of people like Yan Li and Liu Pan. But previous generations have made that choice. After slavery was abolished in 1833, Britain's GDP fell by 10 percent - but they knew that cheap goods and fat profits made from flogging people until they broke were not worth having. Do we?

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent. To read more of his articles, click here or here.

You can follow Johann at www.twitter.com/johannhari101 or email him at j.hari [at] independent.co.uk