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Monday, February 13, 2006

Supersize success

The "Supersize my pay" rally/stopwork meeting held at the Auckland Town Hall yesterday would have to be described as a resounding success. The NZ Herald said 300 attended, but closer to 500 eventually turned up. There were quite big contingents of Maori Party and Green Party supporters: Pita Sharples spoke, as did Sue Bradford. Most of the activist left turned up and of course quite a few (50 -100??) actual fast food workers who were the ones the rally was supporting. Matt McCarten spoke, providing a couple of good quotes for the Herald - "serfs in our own country" and - "There comes a time in everyone’s lives, when we have to make a stand for justice. This is one of those times." The CTU was represented by its vice president, Carol Beaumont. The CTU gave the campaign to raise the wages of the low-paid its full support. Laila Harre spoke from the NDU. She had a delegate with her who told how they organised a supermarket chain. Other unions like the SFWU and AUS had banners or spoke giving support. Child Poverty Action Group had a speaker as well.
The reggae rapper band pumped out the sounds. Rosita Vai of NZ Idol fame (former KFC worker) sang two songs. Michele A'Court and another comedian did their turns and there were some excellent video and slide presentations about the pay campaign.
Sharples spoke strongly against poverty and in support of the low paid and beneficiaries but Sue Bradford said only United Future had so far decided to support her bill to abolish youth rates for 16 and 17 year-olds. She said she hoped Sharples' speech meant the Maori Party would vote for the bill going to the select committee. The word is that Labour will probably support it going to select committee as well. Some Labour MPs and the CTU are backing the bill.
Workers' Charter were distributing their new tabloid newspaper. I congratulated John Minto, its editor, on the quality - 12 pages in colour. Jill Ovens' article about the SFWU pay equity campaign for low-paid hospital workers, with a picture of her on a picket line, was prominent (on page 3). The big question is how the paper will be able to sustain itself, and how frequently they can get it out. Dean Parker wrote a piece in this first edition about the Wharfies Transport Worker paper that was published in the run-up to the 1951 stoush. It was a true worker's paper. It had the social base of an important section of workers.
Workers' Charter might struggle to emulate the popularity of the wharfies' paper; one edition of that paper had a run of 100,000 copies (the union only had 7000 members).
The Workers Charter (draft) features prominently in poster form as the centre-fold. The charter is starting to sound more and more like the Alliance manifesto as it is amended (by whom?) with each new public appearance. It talks of the battle for democracy and human dignity. It calls for a complete transformation of society, with democracy extended into every sphere of the economy and the state. The demands include "The right to public control of assets vital to community well-being" and "The right to organise for the transfer of wealth and power from the haves to the have-nots".

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