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Fair Pay Agreements: The Workers’ Most Dangerous Choice this Century

Today, Marama Davidson and Jan Logie announced the NZ Greens’ three point plan to support workers through the COVID-19 recovery. One, finally pass legislation enabling fair pay agreements for workers in the private sector. These agreements would set out occupation and sector-specific minimum employment standards, such as for wages, redundancies and overtime, and would be negotiated through bargaining between workers and employers. Once decided, they would become legal requirements for the sector. 

Two, the Greens are calling for pay increases for public sector workers up to the living wage. Notable about this is the scope of their proposal, going beyond the traditional civil service to community organisations funded by the government and contractors.

Lastly, the Greens want to convene a hospitality sector working group composed of unions, hospo bosses and the Government to “get the industry on a more sustainable footing going forward”. The Hospo Workers Union has already come out in support of this working group being formed. 

The most significant policy raised by the Greens here is definitely a renewed hope for Fair Pay Agreements (FPA), which had seemingly died on somebody’s desk in the aftermath of a 2018 working group. Not only are the Greens openly calling for them in some sectors, but it is likely that some form of FPA would be the end agreement of the tripartite negotiations within hospitality, whether a formal tripartite agreement or an informal agreement which leads to a de facto FPA through legislative changes to hospitality employment law.

The prospect of these FPAs is an interesting one and definitely one of the most significant proposed changes to the NZ employment relations framework since the Employment Relations Act 2000. What makes FPAs such a complicated thing for workers to consider is that FPAs could be excellent for providing opportunities to advance the workers’ movement and the class struggle, or could be one of the biggest blows to workers’ rights since the Employment Contracts Act back in 1991 which removed all trade union rights and protections .

The fact that Jim Bolger, the National Party Prime Minister who saw the introduction of the ECA, was picked by the Labour Government (!) to lead the FPA Working Group should be an immediate sign that the FPA framework was not going to be a significant win for the working class movement. 

The report presented by this working group presented a new, crippling form of social partnership unionism that would, if implemented, kill any significant legal opportunity for workers to take industrial action. FPA bargaining, which would cover whole sectors (i.e. not just on a union-employer basis) would ban all industrial action during bargaining. Furthermore, these FPAs would be covered by a “public interest” trigger, meaning that the government could (assuming weak trade unions) abolish workers’ rights to organise and take action by stroke of a pen, assuming that FPAs replace MECAs and enterprise-level collective bargaining as primary. Given the “essential worker” nature of many of the most recent high profile strikes: resident doctors, nurses, teachers, bus drivers, etc, what government wouldn’t pass up this opportunity to minimise disruption? It would also be a huge blow to private sector unionism. With the right donations and backroom deals, AFFCO and other big NZ capitalists could ensure a compliant workforce with no legal alternative. 

It is not clear from current FPA plans whether employers would be required to participate in enterprise-level bargaining when an FPA is in force. If that is not the case, this would be even more of a blow.

Why would this be so terrible? Because it would sharply shift the balance of class forces in favour of the monopoly capitalists by removing workers’ democratic rights. As anyone who has ever stood on a picket line knows, the strength of a collective agreement isn’t determined primarily by what goes on in the boardroom but the strength and solidarity of the working class.

As János Kádár, 20th century Hungarian trade-unionist and General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party said in 1962:

“[The trade unions] have to argue, for instance, with the so-called “shopping-bag politicians” and convince them that it is incorrect to evaluate our achievements solely on the basis of what the shopping bag does or does not contain. The full shopping bag is of no avail when there is no stable power, because there is no certainty that it will continue to be full. As long as there is working-class power, continued supplies are ensured, and the shopping bag will never be empty.”

János Kádár, On the Road to Socialism, 1965, Budapest: Corvina Press, p. 23

Contemporary traitors to the working class are our “shopping-bag unionists” who will happily and gladly sell out the lifeblood of the working class provided they can backroom deal and politically wrangle favours from the capitalists and claim workers’ shopping bags are slightly more full because of it; when in fact the working class can win significantly more through genuine struggle.

Furthermore, these FPAs could kill any chance of legal class-oriented unionism. If the puffy, fat fingers of the right-wing pet trade unions grabbed hold of a sector and ‘won’ a FPA, the legal route to collective bargaining by a class-oriented, rank-and-file union could be almost entirely eliminated depending on the exact legal and customary arrangements of the FPA bargaining framework. The monopolists would have a hold over the future of the workers’ movement like never before.

A different model of FPAs, however, allows for significant expansion in workers’ rights. Any significant remodelling of employment relations gives the class-oriented workers’ movement and the NCPA opportunity to push for an expansion of trade union rights such as removal of restrictions on union entry into workplaces or workers’ democratic rights to organise and strike. 

It could also give opportunities for trade unions to strengthen the lot of the working class through militant struggle, provided that sector-level FPA were not employment agreements in a contractual sense but rather an increase in minimum industry standards that the workers’ movement could fight for that would simply provide a higher floor for traditional union bargaining and boost the balance of class forces slightly in favour of the proletariat. 

Therefore, the workers’ movement and indeed the parliamentary left (in the Green Party) stands at a crossroads. As Marama Davidson correctly identified, the fundamental role of the working class and public support for higher pay, etc is in the spotlight more than recent history. This however, conceals a fork in the road the workers’ movement travels bigger than any faced so far this millennium. Either we strengthen the fight and make new inroads in the fight against monopoly capitalism, or we capitulate into “shopping-bag unionism” and sell out the workers’ movement to new lows unprecedented in recent history.

Where does the Green Party stand? The Greens are not a social-democratic party, nor do they have any connection to the workers movement and trade unions in the sense that the Labour Party or the Socialist Unity Party did in the 20th century. They are rather a post-New Left party driven by abstract notions of “social justice”, which makes the direction of their response even murkier. They should clarify their conception of Fair Pay Agreements urgently to make sure they do not lead the Left into blind consent for the far-right crushing of the trade union movement and workers’ democratic rights.

The New Communist Party of Aotearoa alongside the class-oriented trade unions continues to hold the red flag high and fight for increased workers’ rights and the growth of the working class movement. Our response to this, and whatever else surfaces post-Coronavirus, is still developing, but we will never betray our Marxist-Leninist principles and the working class.

Political Committee
New Communist Party of Aotearoa

6/05/2020

Joint Statement of Communist and Workers’ Parties: In the name of freedom, peace and truth — against fascism and war

The victory over Nazi-fascism in the Second World War is a major event in History, the memory of which must be preserved and defended in the face of repeated attempts at historical falsification aimed at making us forget the decisive role played by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, by the communists and by anti-fascists from around the world.

Generated by capitalism, Nazi-fascism was the most violent and terroristic manifestation of monopoly capital. It was responsible for the outbreak of this war of aggression and plunder that caused close to 75 million deaths, of which approximately 27 million were Soviet citizens, and for the immeasurable suffering and horror of the Nazi concentration camps. The peoples can also not forget dark pages, such as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA, without any military justification, which represented a display of power and of their world-wide hegemonistic ambitions.

The Second World War (1939-1945) was the result of increasingly acute inter-imperialist contradictions and, at the same time, of the intention to destroy the first Socialist State, the USSR, which was namely expressed in the support and connivance of the United Kingdom, France and the United States with the rearmament and expansionist ambition of Nazi Germany.

In commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic Victory on  May 9, 1945, the undersigned communist and workers’ parties, certain in the knowledge that they portray the feelings and aspirations of workers and peoples from all over the world:

– Pay tribute to all those who gave their lives on the battlefields against the Nazi-fascist hordes and in particular to the heroism of the resistance movements and anti-fascist fighters and to the heroic Soviet people and Red Army, led by the Communist Party, whose contribution, written in heroic pages such as the battles of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, was decisive for the Victory over barbarism;

– Consider that the Victory over Nazi Germany and its allies in the Anti-Comintern Pact was achieved thanks to the decisive contribution of the USSR, to the class nature of the Soviet power with the participation of the masses of the people, to the leading role of the Communist Party, to the superiority which was displayed by the Socialist system. That victory is an enormous historical legacy of the revolutionary movement;

– Value the outstanding advances in the social and national emancipation of the workers and peoples that the Victory and the resulting advancement of the forces of social progress and peace made possible, extending the sphere of socialism within the countries of Europe, Asia and Latin America, creating the conditions for the advance of the labour movement in capitalist countries, the sweeping development of the national liberation movement and the resulting liquidation of colonial empires;

– Denounce and condemn the campaigns that aim to belittle, distort and even deny, the role of the USSR and of the communists in the defeat of Nazi-fascism and also to unjustly and falsely blame the Soviet Union for starting the Second World War, to expunge the responsibilities of big capital and the governments at its service in the promotion and rise of fascism and in unleashing the war, and whitewash and rehabilitate fascism, while destroying the monuments and memory of the liberating Soviet army, promoting anti-communism and criminalizing communists and other anti-fascists;

– Denounce and condemn the EU’s anti-communist resolutions and the slanderous historical falsification which attempts to equate socialism with the fascist monster;

– Warn that the most reactionary and aggressive sectors of imperialism are increasingly viewing  fascism and war as a “way out” of the deepening crisis of the capitalist system, whose inhuman character becomes particularly obvious when, even in the face of the very serious epidemic outbreak of Covid-19, imperialism, the USA, NATO, the EU and its allies capitalist powers, continue a criminal policy of blockades and aggressions against countries and peoples;

–  Consider that the struggle for peace, social progress and socialism are inseparable; and make a commitment  to seek a stronger common action of the working class, of the workers and peoples of the world, of the political forces engaged in blocking the path to fascism and in the struggle against imperialism, imperialist aggressions and a new war of tragic proportions.

The situation with which the workers and peoples of the world are confronted underlines the importance of strengthening the struggle against imperialism, for the sovereignty of the peoples and the independence of States, for the rights of the workers and peoples, as leading forward to the revolutionary overcoming of the capitalist system, a system which breeds fascism, war, the injustices, dangers and contradictions of the present. As it was 75 years ago, it is today the struggle of the communists and all those facing capitalist exploitation and oppression that will open the way for the future for Humanity.

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1 May 2020: A Day for the Workers of the World

The First of May has long been celebrated by the workers of the world as International Workers Day, commemorating the struggle of the working class for freedom from wage slavery and for a socialist society run by and for workers. All around the world for over a century, Communists and trade unions have rallied together on May 1 – but this year, that could not take place. Even in Havana, famous for millions-strong May Day parades, the Workers Central Union of Cuba asked all Cubans to celebrate in their own houses this year. As this shows, the social effects of the novel Coronavirus reach far beyond the realm of public health. COVID-19 provides significant new challenges to the working-class movement, but also provides new opportunities for advances.

Ubiquitous throughout the COVID-19 response has been the words “essential worker”. It has become more clear that is not the bankers and the politicians that are essential for the functioning of our society, but members of the working class. Bus drivers, supermarket workers, nurses, cleaners, teachers, and so on all have pushed themselves harder than normal, and often put themselves at risk (thanks to lack of PPE supplies), to ensure that we could get through Level Four with minimal strife. The return to Level Three has created more de facto essential workers who are putting themselves at risk, such as the hospo workers making sure we all have the takeout options we want each night.

The working-class movement, in particular the trade unions, have played an incredibly important role in ensuring that all workers are given the best pay and working conditions during this difficult time. The Hospo Workers Union has issued a call for the government to provide all hospo businesses with PPE supplies where small owner-operators cannot provide adequate gear. The NCPA was proud to donate a small supply of PPE to the Hospo Workers Union to help with this problem on a small level. FIRST Union, which represents supermarket workers, has also been fighting against physical abuse directed at these workers, up 6x from pre-Coronavirus levels. FIRST has also begun a “Show Some Heart” campaign against the removal of the bonuses given to supermarket workers during the lockdown. Many other unions and the Council of Trade Unions as a whole have been incredibly busy supporting the working class in defence of their rights at work during this exceptional time.

The recent strife within the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and the resignation of its president, Comrade Grant Brookes, along with a significant fraction of its Board, is a worrying development, however, and highlights the ongoing division between those genuinely committed to building workers’ power and the “social partnership” stooges. The widespread indignation within the rank-and-file of the NZNO highlight the creative and powerful political force of the working masses that drives the working class movement forwards from the bottom up.

We must also look beyond this short-term response to the Coronavirus lockdown and begin charting a new, alternative vision for Aotearoa away from the Rodger/Ruth neoliberal dogma that has been hegemonic within NZ politics for nearly forty years. In our joint statement with the Communist Party of Australia, the NCPA established the basics of what a worker-focused recovery programme could look like, including sweeping nationalisations, benefit system overhauls and a public digital infrastructure to reduce our reliance on US tech monopolies. In coming weeks, we will expound more on what this could look like.

Today marks the 1st anniversary of the beginning of public NCPA work. It has been an incredible year of hard but productive work regrouping Communist forces in Aotearoa and beginning to collectively rebuild the NZ Communist movement.

This day is a good one to meditate on, as we approach 100 years since the founding of New Zealand’s first communist party – the CPNZ. While many mistakes have been made in the history of our movement, there are just as many lessons that we can learn from. We are increasingly aware of our own place in history, increasingly carrying on the legacy of our predecessor groups. As our Chair of the Central Committee, Kat Buissink, said in her speech at our founding congress “We are not born from the void, but as a result of the workers’ struggle both internationally and at home in New Zealand.” In this, our second year, we look forward to continuing our activity within the workers’ movement and joint struggle with trade and community unions and working to grow a grassroots movement towards a socialist Aotearoa. The increased participation in the NCPA of former members of the SUP, CPNZ and WCL is a good indication of our growth. We send our comradely well-wishes to all workers and proletarian activists on this day commemorating the struggle of the proletariat.

Long live the working class!

Long live socialism!

Happy May Day!

Joint Statement of the CPA and NCPA on the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

The New Communist Party of Aotearoa, NCPA and the Communist Party of Australia, CPA jointly commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution and founder of the first socialist state.

Lenin and the Bolshevik Party developed and extended Marxism into the modern era against the revisionism and social-chauvinism of the Second International with new thought on imperialism, colonialism, the state, dialectical materialism, socialist revolution and construction.

Lenin’s contribution to Marxism and the advent of the Great October Socialist Revolution brought Marxism to the Asia-Pacific for the first time and inspired progressive forces all over the Asia-Pacific from Chinese youth to Vietnamese patriots, Australian workers and New Zealand miners to hold the red banner of socialism high in their own struggles.

Despite the tragic disappearance of the Land of Soviets nearly three decades ago, the theoretical legacy of Lenin still guides the Communist and Workers Parties of the Asia-Pacific region. Guided by Leninism and analysis of the specific national conditions, our Parties construct a better, socialist future for the working people of our countries, and collectively, the region as a whole and in both Australia and New Zealand.

At the beginning of the new decade facing both new challenges and new opportunities, and during one of the greatest public health challenges the world has faced in living memory, it is important that we Communist and Workers’ Parties of the Asia-Pacific region take the time to commemorate the impact of Lenin on both Marxism and the development of our region.

Our both Parties stand for socialism in our respective countries and the region..

Long Live Vladimir Illyich Lenin!

Long Live Socialism!

 Signatories:

  • New Communist Party of Aotearoa
  • Communist Party of Australia

Walking and Running in Housing Activism

In the Bakuninist programme a general strike is the lever employed by which the social revolution is started. One fine morning all the workers in all the industries of a country, or even of the whole world, stop work, thus forcing the propertied classes either humbly to submit within four weeks at the most, or to attack the workers, who would then have the right to defend themselves and use this opportunity to pull down the entire old society. ENGELS

The response to the Coronavirus in New Zealand has made both the systemic inequalities in our society, and how far the furthest Left government we’ve had in at least forty years will go to address them, a lot more transparent. In particular, the disparity in privileges and care given to landlords and tenants has been highlighted. A common judgment that went around social media was that rental property is the only form of investment that’s seemingly protected from making a loss. 

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Capitalism and the Coronavirus Downunder

Joint Statement of the New Communist Party of Aotearoa and the Communist Party of Australia

The workers of Aotearoa and Australia, like those of other capitalist countries around the world, are facing serious health, social, and economic crises being likened to the beginning of the Great Depression. Certainly, COVID-19 is like little else in living memory.

The Australian Government greatly bungled in its actions to contain the spread of the virus, putting workers, especially port workers and healthcare workers at great risk. Despite early indications of the global spread of the disease, proper protective equipment and health checks were not made a priority for our frontline workers. Testing is restricted and inadequate and is not being extended to all people presenting with symptoms.

The New Zealand Government took more decisive action at an earlier stage of the spread of COVID-19 and has, at least at time of writing, prevented a large-scale outbreak and community transmission from occurring. Yet issues still remain around supply of proper protective equipment to essential workers, both in hospitals and other essential businesses such as supermarkets.

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Fighting COVID-19 in Cuba, China and the United States

The following article by W T Whitney Jr is reproduced from Monthly Review to highlight the difference in response to COVID-19 between capitalist and socialist countries. Whitney is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician.

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Working Women’s Day and the Marxist View on Women’s Liberation

To commemorate International Working Women’s Day, we decided to share a speech by Clara Zetkin entitled ‘Only in conjunction with the proletarian woman will socialism be victorious‘.

Zetkin was a great German Marxist-Leninist, leader of the Communist International, and a founder of Working Women’s Day, who for the first time thoroughly established the connection between working women’s liberation and socialism.

The whole speech can be found at the above link, but the key paragraph is reproduced below:

Therefore the liberation struggle of the proletarian woman cannot be similar to the struggle that the bourgeois woman wages against the male of her class. On the contrary, it must be a joint struggle with the male of her class against the entire class of capitalists. She does not need to fight against the men of her class in order to tear down the barriers which have been raised against her participation in the free competition of the market place. Capitalism’s need to exploit and the development of the modern mode of production totally relieves her of having to fight such a struggle. On the contrary, new barriers need to be erected against the exploitation of the proletarian woman. Her rights as wife and mother need to be restored and permanently secured. Her final aim is not the free competition with the man, but the achievement of the political rule of the proletariat. The proletarian woman fights hand in hand with the man of her class against capitalist society. To be sure, she also agrees with the demands of the bourgeois women’s movement, but she regards the fulfillment of these demands simply as a means to enable that movement to enter the battle, equipped with the same weapons, alongside the proletariat.

Coronavirus Precautions Must Not Promote Racism or Cold-War Mentality

Over the last few weeks, the world has watched the spread of the ‘2019 novel Coronavirus’ (2019-nCoV) both within the People’s Republic of China and around the world.

The efficient response to the outbreak within China has been well-documented by both Chinese and foreign media as well as groups such as the World Health Organisation. In his visit to China, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation praised the “seriousness”, “commitment” and “transparency” of the Chinese response. We too are impressed by the speed in which Chinese workers are building dedicated hospitals, an ability that our government definitely lacks in New Zealand!

As workers in the NZ healthcare system, we are naturally concerned with the response that the New Zealand Government and DHBs will give to the possibility of a small-scale spread of 2019-nCoV within Aotearoa.

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Statement on the Urgent Need for Unity against Imperialist War

Anti-imperialist forces around the world were shocked within the last hour when the news broke that two of the Middle East and the world’s most significant fighters against US imperialism, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were killed in a joint strike by the US Air Force and their Zionist lackeys. These two martys dedicated and ultimately sacrificed their lives for a Middle East and a world that is independent and free of imperialist domination.

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