Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Changes to the Employment Relation Act: what they are and how they will impact you

The changes, set out in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, are designed to push down wages and undermine hard-won conditions. 
Employers will be able to walk away from bargaining
Employers can walk away from negotiations for collective agreements without a genuine reason to do so. In the recent Ports of Auckland dispute this is what stopped the company's plan to sack all its workers during bargaining.

This change will let employers say they have had enough of bargaining at any point and there will be nothing workers can do. Equally employers will be able threaten to give workers' jobs to someone else while they are bargaining to force them to agree. This tips the balance of power in negotiations towards employers.
New staff will be employed on less pay and worse conditions
Right now, new employees are covered by the collective agreement in their workplace for the first 30 days. This means employers are not allowed to pay less that what is in place. Employees are at their most vulnerable when they are new to the job as they have little bargaining power. This protection is to be stripped away so they can be paid less and open to instant dismissal. Over time this will reduce everyone’s pay and conditions: the Cabinet paper recommending these changes, signed by the Minister of Labour, actually says they, “will enable employers to offer individual terms and conditions that are less than those in the collective agreement”.
Meal and rest breaks
The Bill removes the guaranteed minimum break times, allowing employers to decide how long breaks will be. It also allows employers to decide that breaks can be at the very beginning or end of the working day, and that they can be paid out rather than being taken.
All industrial action will require notice
Unions will have to give notice of all strikes. This will make it more difficult for members to take industrial action for better pay and conditions.
Fines for partial strikes and working-to-rule
Your employer will be able to deduct a portion of your pay for a partial strike, such as not answering the phone or working-to-rule (only doing what is in your contract or job description).
Job protection will be stripped away
At present, the law protects the jobs and conditions of low-paid workers, such as in home care, when a contract changes hands. The government plans to strip away this protection for workplaces with fewer than 20 employees. These workers will have no job security when a contract changes to a new employer.
Employers able to opt out of MECA bargaining
Employers will be able to withdraw from bargaining for multi-employercollective agreements (MECAs) by giving 10 days’ notice at the start of negotiations – this could dismantle MECAs that have brought steady improvements in pay and conditions for union members.
No access to your employment information
If your job is under threat, your employer will be able to withhold information from you if, for example, it refers to another person. This could make it impossible to defend yourself in a disciplinary situation or to challenge a redundancy.
Speak with your co-workers about these changes and what you can do about them. Suggest stop-work meetings to your delegates. Least of all, submissions against the Bill can be made here (closes 25 July):

Dominion Post: Anarchy stitched into Wellington's streets

jared Davidson - author of anarchism book
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ ORIGINS: Jared Davidson, who has written a book on the birth of Kiwi anarchism, outside 4 Willis St, Wellington.

From the Dominion Post: Anarchy came to New Zealand a century ago this week. The movement arrived via Latvia and Scotland - to a tailoring shop upstairs in Wellington's Willis St.
One hundred years later, the building still has a link to tailoring. You can pick up a man's shirt for $29.99.

But it is probably fair to say there is little anarchism left in lower Willis St today (unless jaywalking counts).

Philip Josephs, a Jewish tailor, started organised anarchism in New Zealand, says Jared Davidson, who has just published Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism and Early New Zealand Anarchism.

Anarchists believe in a society without a publicly enforced government.

There are many moments to which the birth of anarchism in New Zealand could be pinned, such as the trade union strikes of 1913, Josephs' arrival in 1904, and the 1908 Blackball strike on the West Coast.

But a meeting called by Josephs on July 9, 1913 in his first-floor tailor's shop at 4 Willis St, and the formation of the "specifically organised anarchy group" The Freedom Group, are probably the most important moment, Davidson says.

It is thought Josephs, who fled Latvia to Glasgow to avoid persecution, became radicalised as part of the large Jewish working class in Glasgow.

There are large holes in what is known about Josephs, Davidson says.

"These guys, they never kept records. They never thought about being documented in the future."

Even Josephs' own grandchildren, many still alive, "knew he was kind of a leftie but they didn't know much else", Davidson says.

His arrival in New Zealand on March 7, 1904 is known, as is the fact he was ordering and distributing anarchist literature from Britain within three months of arrival. Various addresses - Aro St, Taranaki St, Johnsonville, Willis St, Cuba St - are documented.

Also known is that there was a growing militancy among the New Zealand trade union movement, which would lead to the Great Strike in 1913.

It led to Josephs calling a meeting on July 9, 1913 in his shop to form the Freedom Group.

Socialist publication the Maoriland Worker previewed the event thus: "A matter that should have an effect in clearing the somewhat misty atmosphere in this city is the movement to form an Anarchist Group in Wellington . . . we understand that this will be our first Anarchist group formed in the history of New Zealand."

A week later it was reported that weekly meetings would be held at 8pm each Wednesday at Josephs' Willis St shop.

"Those interested will always find a warm welcome, and visitors are invited to take part in the discussions," the paper said.

Billed as "where one is equal to another, where no criminals, no officials, and no authority exists", the meetings grew to attract about 120 people and moved to the Socialist Hall in Manners St.
Meetings had "real anarchist style", it was reported.

There was "dancing and ditties", Davidson says. People sat down to decorated tables arranged, in true anarchic style, with no chairperson. There were readings, speeches, and musical entertainment.
But most importantly, there was talk.

Topics included: "Has political action been beneficial to the working class?", "Is religion a barrier to progress?" and "Does woman recognise her independence?"

By the time the Great Strike began in October 1913, the Freedom Group was well established.

The strike, which started with waterside workers in Wellington but ended up with 16,000 unionists on strike nationwide, ended after a militia of farmers on horseback - known as Massey's Cossacks - rode into town to violently break the strike.

During the strike Josephs would discuss his anarchistic beliefs near Queens Wharf in Wellington. The Freedom Group reputedly fought the "Cossacks".

"The activism of Josephs and others like him, whether from the soapbox or through the mailbox, played a key role in the establishment of a distinct anarchist identity and culture in New Zealand and abroad," Davidson says.

Barry Thomas, a modern-day anarchist who spent years living just around the corner from Josephs' former Aro St home, reckons anarchy is still alive.

The "artist-provocateur" and Aro Valley Community Council secretary is trying to introduce a "revolutionary decision-making software" to the council that will mean all can have their say.

The technology, which grew from the recent Occupy movement, is, he says, essentially the great-grandchild of what Philip Josephs started a century ago.
- © Fairfax NZ News

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

100 years of anarchism in New Zealand celebrated today

A Jewish tailor and fox terrier owner; a Wellington carpenter and staunch family-man—not your typical anarchist-cum-bomber stereotypes. Yet one hundred years ago today, Philip Josephs and Carl Mumme were two founding members of the Freedom Group—one of New Zealand's first anarchist collectives.

"Although the image of a cloak-and-dagger figure dressed in black springs to mind" notes Jared Davidson, author of Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism, "anarchists such as Josephs and Mumme were everyday people. They were active in their trade unions, on the street corners, and in their communities." What set them apart, says Davidson, was "their critique of coercive relations, wage slavery, and a vision of a more equitable and humane world."

The Freedom Group was formed on 9 July 1913 at Philip Josephs' tailor shop, on the first floor of 4 Willis Street, Wellington. “A matter that should have an effect in clearing the somewhat misty atmosphere in this city is the movement to form an Anarchist Group in Wellington,” wrote the radical labour newspaper, the Maoriland Worker, “for it will provide those who accept the Anarchist philosophy with the place where they belong… we understand that this will be the first Anarchist group formed in the history of New Zealand.”

Little material exists on the Freedom Group and its members, but as Davidson argues, "the emergence of the Freedom Group in 1913 signified a real advance in New Zealand anarchist praxis." As well as importing popular pamphlets from the around the globe, the Freedom Group held regular discussion nights on a range of radical topics.

"So popular were these talks" writes Davidson, "they were soon moved from Willis Street to the larger Socialist Hall at Manners Street."

On one night in September 1913, 120 people attended an anarchist social event the likes of which had never been seen in New Zealand. Billed in the “form of an Anarchist-Communist society, where one is equal to another, where no criminals, no officials, and no authority exists,” attendees could enjoy short speeches, readings of prominent authors, recitations and musical entertainment, “enjoying for at least one evening the benefits of a perfectly free society.”

Freedom Group co-founder Josephs was also involved in the Great Strike of 1913—another centennial marked this year—by expressing "his views publicly from a platform in the vicinity of the Queen’s wharf.” Rumour has it that the Freedom Group also engaged in running scraps with special constables during the strike.

Josephs had been in constant contact with notable international figures such as Emma Goldman since 1904. Later, during the First World War, it was letters to Goldman and the distribution of anti-war literature that saw the home and office of Josephs raided by Police.

Carl Mumme, a German naturalised in 1896, also felt the wrath of the National Coalition Government. In May 1916 he was taken from his workplace and interned on Somes Island due to his anti-militarist views. The ex-Freedom Group speaker was finally released back to his wife and five children in October 1919—11 months after the war had ended.

According to Davidson, this and other anarchist activity shows that "the activism of Josephs and others like him, whether from the soapbox or through the mailbox, played a key role in the establishment of a distinct anarchist identity and culture in New Zealand and abroad—a culture that emerged and enveloped simultaneously around the globe." Not only did anarchist exist in New Zealand; they were a part of some of our most tumultuous industrial disputes, and conveyed a uniquely radical message to workers across the country.

"At the very least, the Freedom Group was obviously a visible and vibrant feature of Wellington’s working class counter-culture, and the facilitator of thought-provoking (maybe even politically changing) conversation."

The Freedom Group's struggle for social change—for a society based on people before profit—linked New Zealand to the global anarchist movement of the day. It also signaled the first of many anarchist collectives to play a vibrant part in the history of the New Zealand left.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pantomime posters, censorship & archives

This rare photograph shows a poster advertising the pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' in Christchurch, 1920. "So impressed was I with its vulgarity and indecency" wrote Christchurch Tramways Board member Frank Thompson, "I had in photographed." He then mailed it to the Department of Internal Affairs, who, after the Cinematograph Film Censorship Act was passed in 1916, resumed responsibility for film censorship.

Although the full-colour poster was not advertising a moving picture, Thompson objected that "from the waist upwards the woman is naked save for two small plates over the two breasts," and hoped the DIA could take action. G. Anderson from the DIA replied on 15 July that "the Government is at present considering the question of introducing legislation to enable some form of censorship to be exercised over cinematograph picture posters."

The photograph itself is from a larger series of records dealing with objectionable film posters; some of which actually contain the posters themselves. As well as being visually interesting, the series highlights the increasing importance of film in New Zealand culture, and early attempts to control their content. It also captures a rare glimpse of historic Christchurch that - due to the earthquake of February 2011 - no longer exists.

Archives Reference: IA1 Box 1313 13/11/16