PROTEST AT THE TALKFEST




Here's a couple of photos from the protest outside the 'Job Summit' yesterday. They are taken from the Socialist Aotearoa blog and more photos can be seen on the blog.

A LITTLE DOWNSIZING WITH ROB FYFE!


Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe will be making his views very clear at John Key's little get-together. Indeed he has already started to make his views known, opining that Prime Minister Key should scrap his proposed tax cuts.

Rob Fyfe knows very little about protecting jobs - he's more in the business of getting rid of them.

In November last year Fyfe announced that 200 Air New Zealand jobs would be going - in an effort to save the company some $20 million.

He added; 'I am not saying this is the end because I don't know where the end of this recession cycle is.'

Fyfe's creed is to 'cut, simplify, layoff, shrink.' - but its doubtful Fyfe will be so candid about his simple philosophy at the Johnny Key's talkfest. As his good mate Andrew Little might say 'it would not be a good look'.

Fyfe first tried his simple philosophy at ITV Digital in Britain where he was managing director. The consequences were disastrous.

1500 ITV Digital workers lost their jobs when they were forced to accept an across-the-board wages freeze.

Fyfe was also made redundant and joined former colleagues (who had been paid-out) in an unsuccessful bid to buy ITV Digital, which was in liquidation.

Fyfe has imposed the same philosophy at Air New Zealand

In 2007 Fyfe announced that it would not outsource jobs after Andrew Little and his Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union predictably refused to fight and meekly surrendered to Fyfe's demands - this included 300 “voluntary” redundancies, a more flexible rostering system and cuts to pay and conditions amounting to more than $7,000 per worker a year.

Andrew Little, a union chief who has consistently betrayed his members , claimed that the EPMU were 'just making the best of a bad situation.' He had earlier told Fyfe that '..you have a workforce that is supporting an agenda for change.'

Little does a lot of 'making the best of a bad situation' - its just a smokescreen to hide the ugly reality that Little and the EMPU are working in hand in glove with the company to impose the company agenda on unfortunate workers.

Little and the EPMU also resorted to bribery.

The EPMU recommended workers accept Rob Fyfe's offer of $1,000 each to agree to the settlement. But there was a catch - the one-off taxable payment and an offer of targeted “voluntary” redundancy and severance packages only applied if all the conditions of the deal were accepted by EPMU members. The payment was available only to those who agreed to stay on with Air NZ under the new pay and conditions. To get the blatant bribe, workers had to be an EPMU member or agree to an individual employment agreement.

The EPMU were exploiting the situation to go on a membership drive!

A year earlier, in 2006, Air New Zealand announced the imminent sacking of 917 engineers, eight percent of the company's workforce, with the newly-installed Rob Fyfe warning that the 'tough decisions' had not ended.

The engineers initially rejected a union-management agreement, which included cuts to pay and conditions as well as jobs. However, the EPMU and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association organised a re-vote and strong-armed dissident workers into agreeing. The final agreement provided for the elimination of more than 200 jobs as well as more flexible shifts and hours, matching "labour requirements to workloads" and less overtime. The company then shed 470 jobs at the Auckland head office and outsourced aircraft cleaning with the loss of 114 jobs.

Little claimed it was the best outcome that could be reasonably expected!

Rob Fyfe has done just fine out of all this - he's now on a million dollar salary package and is one of the top twenty earners among New Zealand CEO's.

Maybe he'll be shouting his mate Andrew Little a few drinks tonight...

HYPOCRITICAL MEDIA INDIGNATION


Lt Gen Jerry Mateparae, the Defence chief, is probably feeling a little cheesed off right now.

The mainstream media have made it sound like it was the New Zealand Army who cancelled the clothing contract with Levin's Swazi Apparel, a contract worth some $1.9 million.

The small print though says no such thing. The army contract is actually held by the Australian firm Yakka, which subcontracted it to Swazi. They now have subcontracted it out to a cheaper Chinese outfit.

Yakka, of course, make on the deal - and the army had nothing to do with it.

But the moral indignation from the mainstream media has been particularly hypocritical. This is the same media that constantly champions the 'free market' - but surely this is just their much-loved 'free market' in operation?

Ah yes, the mainstream media wants its cake and eat it too.

Television One's Mark Sainsbury was all righteous indignation on Close Up and demanded to know from the Defence Minister Wayne Mapp what he was going to do about protecting the Swazi workers jobs.

Mapp rightly pointed out that he can do stuff all about the contract - it's a commercial matter that he has no authority to interfere with.

Sainsbury, of course, has been yet another cheerleader for the free market - although he's been less strident than his mate Paul Henry.

A few short months ago Sainsbury was uncritically hailing the free trade agreement with China because, apparently, it would be 'good' for New Zealand.

Yet under the terms of CER with Australia and the free trade agreement with China, companies must have equal access to each other's markets - and that includes government contracts.

This is exactly what John Key said when he commented that Kiwi companies should always get a 'full and fair opportunity' to compete for government contracts, but departments were also bound by longstanding procurement policies.

He went on to say that these had to be in keeping with trade agreements which meant preference could not be given to Kiwi firms, and companies bidding for tenders could not be ruled out simply because they were foreign.

So which is it, Mr Sainsbury? Are you a supporter of the 'free market' or are you not? Or have you suddenly become a neo-keynesian?

Jerry Mateparae may also like to consider why he and the army are feeling the media heat, when major corporates like Telecom and the ANZ have been busy exporting to jobs to low wage countries with little or no concern being expressed by the mainstream media.

Certainly I haven't, for example, seen either Mark Sainsbury or John Campbell beating their chests about it.

Indeed one New Zealand company that has shipped over 400 jobs overseas, namely Fisher and Paykel, has been given a sympathetic treatment by the corporate media with some commentators supporting the company getting bailed out by the government.

And, remember, the Swazi workers haven't actually lost their jobs yet.

Jerry Mateparae is attending the job summit tomorrow. Mateparae actually hasn't sacked anyone -which will make him somewhat of an exception at this 'summit'.

GRAHAM HODGES - HE'S A REAL BANKER!


The ANZ made a profit of nearly one billion dollars last year. The country's biggest bank reported a $990 million net profit after tax in the year to September 30 2008, down a little from $1.039 billion in 2007.

Despite the massive profits the ANZ still wants more - so it's time to send those jobs to countries where the wage levels are much lower.

In January the ANZ anounced that one hundred jobs were going offshore, namely Bangalore, India.

Last year the bank said that it planned to move about "one per cent of our New Zealand work to ANZ Bangalore this calendar year, and up to five per cent by the end of 2009". This translates to approximately 500 jobs.

ANZ's chief executive is Graham Hodges. He'll be attending Fridays 'Job Summit' where, no doubt, the hypocritical Hodges will have plenty to say about how to keep New Zealanders in work.

Not working for the ANZ would be a good suggestion.

Last month Hodges said 'outsourcing' jobs would give would give his bank 'a competitive advantage.'

Of course any advantage will prove shortlived because the other banks will simply follow the ANZ's example, leading to even more job losses.

Banker. It rhymes with...

WAYNE BOYD HAS A JOB FOR YOU - IT'S IN MANILA!


Telecom chairman Wayne Boyd will be sharing his thoughts on employment at John Key's 'Job Summit.'

Boyd might have to deftly sidestep around the difficult issue of the growing unemployment figures since his company have shunted many an unfortunate Telecom worker down to the local offices of Work and Income.

Earlier this month 250 Telecom call centre workers lost their jobs when Telecom announced it was transferring said jobs to Manila in the Phillippines where the wages are much lower.

And it is likely that more Telecom call centre jobs will be Manila-bound in the future. This was revealed in an internal Telecom memo leaked to the media last year that indicated that 1500 call centre jobs could eventually be ' outsourced'.

Telecom denied this and said that 'only' 140 jobs were being 'trialed'.

But another tale of worker woe would not be complete without the appearance of the ubiquitous Andrew Little, national secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union. This is the union that employers say is 'a pleasure to work with'.

Little, taking time off from whatever he does all day, said that he had heard mixed stories about working conditions in the Philippines and thought it was "dodgy" for Telecom to take advantage of the workers.

Dodgy? We're talking a major loss of jobs and Little thinks its just, er 'dodgy'? It's 'dodgy' when someone farts in a crowded elevator - but its kind of a lot more serious when 250 workers get shown the door.

Andy Pandy went on to say "It is a low-income country with a poor economy. It's not a good look for a big corporate to take advantage of that.'

It's 'not a good look'? Apparently we're now at a fashion show..

So what was Andrew Little going to do about it? Well, he did what he always does - absolutely nothing.

JOAN WITHERS IS CONCERNED ABOUT KIWI JOBS! SERIOUSLY, SHE REALLY IS!


Another business big wig who'll be expressing concern about jobs at the 'Jobs Summit' is Joan Withers, the chief executive of Fairfax Media in New Zealand.

Last year under her stewardship, 160 jobs were axed within Fairfax New Zealand - part of 550 jobs that were axed within Fairfax on both sides of the Tasman. Withers has described this as 'head count reduction'.

However it hasn't been all gloom and doom at Fairfax. Some people have done alright - namely the top executives.

Between 2006 and 2007 the top Fairfax executives were rewarded with a 45 percent increase in bonuses alone. The total in bonuses for the top eight executives went from $A1.5 million to $A2.2 million, on top of a 7.7 percent total increase in salaries for the top executives.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little appeared on the scene briefly when the redundancies were announced last year.

"Fairfax's proposed redundancies will be a huge blow to already strained newsrooms and to New Zealanders' democratic right to be properly informed about their country's major issues," warned our man Little, the Mr Blobby of the New Zealand union movment

No doubt the axed workers would also of been worried about the little matter of no regular pay packet as well.

Little, a man unfamiliar with the concept of 'industrial action', promptly retired into the background leaving Withers to get on with the job of sacking the Fairfax workers with the minimum of fuss.

The sackings don't appear to have helped the Fairfax owners though with the media group yesterday reporting a net loss of $A365 million for the six months to December 28.

Withers is staying silent about any further cuts only to say '"we are always looking to utilise the infrastructure we have got."

Ms Withers would not confirm media speculation that the company is considering sharing sub editing between its Australia and New Zealand arms - which would probably mean further job losses.

JOHN BONGARD WANTS TO SAVE KIWI JOBS! BELIEVE IT OR NOT!


Another one of the business big wigs attending John Key's 'Jobs Summit, is Fisher & Paykel chief executive John Bongard.

He'll no doubt be expressing his concern about keeping New Zealanders in jobs despite the fact that his company laid off some 430 workers in 2007 when it shifted most of his operations offshore to Mexico and Thailand - where wage levels are a whole lot lower.

Fisher and Paykel closed down its Mosgiel plant, showing little gratitude for the millions of dollars it had received from the good folk of the south in the way of generous rates relief.

Engineering, Printers and Manufacturing Union chief Andrew Little (yes, him again) once again travelled down the road signposted 'Least Resistance'.

Little's lacklustre response was to shrug his shoulders and observe that, well, 'that most exporting manufacturers in New Zealand are struggling with a high US-NZ dollar.' Perhaps realising he was making excuses for Fisher and Paykel, he went on to add that he did 'expect companies the size of Fisher and Paykel to work hard to keep jobs here.'

Stirring stuff indeed.

Little then went on to complain that he and the EPMU had not been been properly 'consulted' about the redundancies

Not that it would have made a blind bit of difference anyway, given Little's dismal track record. He was, for example, 'consulted' every step of the way by Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe when he was busy firing staff.

But the hopeless Little had more to say.

He warned Fisher and Paykel that he might just have to look to 'the international trades union movement for info and advice about conditions in Mexico and measuring conditions there against conditions here.'

What this was supposed to prove is anyone's guess but that's Little for you - why say anything real when you can just bullshit?

Of course there's now a possibility that John Key will help out his old mate John Bongard and bailout what remains of Fisher and Paykel in New Zealand with a truckload of taxpayer money.

John Bongard is on an annual salary of $1.2 mllion.

WE WON'T PAY FOR YOUR CRISIS!

This Friday night there will be a protest outside the Pacific Events Centre in Manukau, the venue for John Key's 'Crisis Summit'.

It is here that 250 selected participants will try to work out a way to steer New Zeaalnd capitalism through some very threatening waters.

It will be promoted as a conference of 'national purpose'. 'Where all in this boat, together' will be the common theme from self-serving politicians, business people and docile union 'leaders' - but we all know this conference is about seeking ways to make ordinary people bear the brunt of a crisis they didn't create.

This is a crisis that has been provoked by the mad ideology of neoliberalism - but this summit will not seek to renounce this discredited ideology. Indeed this summit will continue to defend the 'free market', leaving its assumptions and policies compltely unexamined. There will be a consensus at this summit, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that neoliberalism does actually work!

Only the socialist left is putting up any real opposition to John Key's little capitalist get-together.

The protest on Friday is being organised by Socialist Aotearoa, but it is being supported by other socialist groups and activists and by some unionists. Leading the charge is Unite - the only union, as far as I'm aware, to condemn this summit.

Unite's Matt McCarten got it right when he wrote in his NZ Herald column:

'Does anyone think that the solutions proposed by the business community (after they ask for Government cash) will offer anything except an insistence that business taxes be cut; wages not be increased; workers' legal rights repealed; and cheaper labour be imported? This summit is solely about safeguarding private profits.'

I suspect our political opponents will paint our protest as puny and futile.

What they choose to ignore is that we are joining opposition all around the world to government and business attempts to make ordinary people pay for the mess that the fat cats created in the first place.

From Italy to Latvia to Britain to Iceland to Argentina the cry is the same: 'We will not pay for your crisis.'

This is an issue that has exposed the so called 'progressive' Labour Party and its supporters as the politically bankrupt charlatans that they really are.

Where is the opposition to this summit? Where are the press releases? Where are the angry blog posts? What have Labour-leaning The Standard or Tumeke! blogs got to say? Nothing. The writers on these blogs are truly hollow men (and women).

Labour leader Phil Goff is just annoyed that he and his colleagues have not been invited. The Green Party have nothing to say either - yet one of its MP's was active in the unemployment rights movement for many years . What a disgrace.

Labour's political allies, the CTU top brass, will be attending though. Instead of joining the protest against this summit, the likes of EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little will be cooking up unpleasant proposals with the likes of Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe.

But as Socialist Aotearoa blog edior Joe Carolan has commented :

'We're warning the union bosses to sell out and compromise at their peril. We're raising a red flag of anger outside this talkfest to show that we're sick of low pay, job losses and a morally discredited economic system that puts profits before people. We won't pay for their crisis!'

Well said.

THE FYFE AND LITTLE SHOW - IT'S A SELLOUT!


As Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe and Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union National Secretary Andrew Little will both have major roles to play in the 'jobs group' during the 'Jobs Summit' on February 27th, its instructive to examine how both men have approached the issue of employment in the past.

Let's take what happened at Fyfe's own Air New Zealand beginning in 2006.

Little and the EMPU, with the full backing of the Labour Government, sold out nearly 1700 workers who faced having their jobs outsourced by Air New Zealand - despite the fact that Air New Zealand is eighty percent owned by the government.

Rather than take a stand in defence of the workers it supposedly represented, Little and EPMU sold out the Air New Zealand workers by agreeing to big cuts in pay and conditions - despite the fact that the company had just posted a $96 million profit.

Faced with Fyfe's demands for “competitive pay rates and competitive costs for servicing aircraft”, Little simply asked: “How high do you want us to jump?” Little assured Fyfe that he had “a workforce that is supporting an agenda for change”.

Fyfe, who is on a million dollar salary package, wanted to cut back the wages of 1700 ground by almost $7,000.

The Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU), which represented 260 of the Air NZ workers, vowed to fight both the outsourcing and the cuts in pay and conditions.

This was met by hostility from Labour MP's who harassed SFWU secretary Jill Ovens to accept the lousy deal Andrew Little and Rob Fyfe had cooked up.

EPMU organisers were caught ripping down the posters of the SFWU.

When a strike was needed to protect the interests of Air New Zealand workers, the dismal Andrew Little and his EPMU took the path of least resistance and betrayed their members - and kept Rob Fyfe happy.The whole approach of Little and the EPMU is to sacrifice the interests of workers in order to protect 'New Zealand employers' - they call this promoting the 'national interest'.

Now Andrew Little and Rob Fyfe will be back together again at the 'Jobs Summit' - what nasty little surprises will they have in store for workers this time?

LITTLE STANDARD


Columnist Chris Trotter was recently urging the socialist left to stop wasting its time and get in behind the Labour Party and, more specifically, those great new 'socialist hopes' MP's Clare Curran and Phil Twyford.

The socialist left has basically told Trotter 'thanks, but no thanks.'

However I was interested to see that The Standard, which claims it isn't a mouthpiece for the Labour Party, has introduced Clare Curran as a 'guest columnist'.

Of course there's nothing wrong with that but it does indicate that The Standard's thinking mirrors that of Mr Trotter.

While I'm on the topic of The Standard its also interesting to note that it has been generally supportive of the upcoming 'Jobs Summit' - this is unusual as normally it lambasts anything to do with the National-led Government.

Indeed one of The Standard's more prolific writers 'Steve Pierson' - aka Clinton Smith - grudgingly remarks that the conference is 'better than nothing' (Feb 4). Smith was the organiser of a demonstration outside the National Party conference last year. He is a Labour Party supporter.

Meanwhile, good old 'Tane' has pretty much kept his mouth shut on the 'Jobs Summit'.

This may well be because his boss Andrew Little, the dismal President of the Engineering, Printers and Manufacturing Union, (EPMU) is participating in the discussions on how to prop up the New Zealand business class.

Little has consistently sold workers down the river so we should all be worried about what he might be tempted to offer at the 'summit' - especially since he is chairing the Jobs summit 'sub-group'.

The main group will be chaired by CTU president Helen Kelly and Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe.

NZ Management magazine said this of Fyfe back in September 2006:

'Ever since he took over as Air New Zealand CEO at the end of last year, he's waved the company axe over pretty much everyone and everything -engineers, marketing, human resources, finance, cleaners and ground staff.'

With the help of Andrew Little, Fyfe was able to force Air New Zealand engineers to 'agree' to reduced pay and conditions . Fyfe's ultimatum? Accept the new conditions or you're jobs will be outsourced.

In December last year Fyfe announced that a further 200 Air New Zealand workers would be losing their jobs and, again, Little and the EPMU did nothing. Oh, they released a press statement - possibly 'Tane' wrote it.

I'm sure 'Tane' will find something positive to say about the 'Jobs Summit', especially when it comes to Little's role in it all.

'Tane' is Neale Jones and Jones is the EPMU's 'Communications Advisor', otherwise known as a spin doctor.

HANOVER TRY TO RECOVER MONEY


Hanover Finance have put up for sale Dave Henderson's Five Mile Village project near Queenstown. More accurately, they have put up for sale a large area of land, home to a big excavated hole.

Hanover lent Hendo some $70 million for his totally ludicrous village project and, in these darkening economic times, its highy unlikely that Hanover will get all their investors money back - that's if they can find any buyers that is.

One of the more notable visitors to 'Hendo's Hole', back in the day when Henderson's credit lines hadn't dried up, was his old mate and fellow free marketeer Rodney Hide, now the Minister of Local Government.

The Five Mile village continues to be featured on the website of Henderson's company Property Ventures.

A POOR STANDARD OF POLITICS


The Standard is another pro-Labour Party blog. It claims to be a voice for workers: 'The New Zealand labour movement used to have its own newspaper. A group of us thought that now might be a good time for it to be digitally reborn'

Yeah, well, most of the time its been a voice for the Labour Party which long ago sacrificed workers on the altar of neoliberalism

The Standard has pretty much followed the Labour line and was generally supportive of Labour's neoliberal economic policies. Apparently it saw no contradiction in supporting economic policies that were screwing the labour movement while, at the same time claiming to be a voice of the labour movement.

But now with the New Zeaalnd economy disintegrating before our very eyes, The Standard, like all pro-Labour blogs, is proving to be the fair weather friend of the labour movement that it always has been.

Having largely supported the neoliberal policies that have provoked the capitalist meltdown (I simplify here) it can't credibly attack the National led government for its neo-liberal policies

The National-led government - just like the Labour government - is an implacable defender of capitalism and its package of business welfare and infrastructural spending is a desperate attempt to prop up New Zealand capitalism.

As I've said before in other posts, Labour and its supporters support this approach. Where they disagree is in the content - Labour thinks that National isn't doing enough to help the New Zealand business class. 'We would give our business mates, MORE!' declares Labour. MORE money! MORE tax breaks! MORE everything!

What do ordinary New Zealanders get? THE BILL!

Ideological flag carriers for Labour like The Standard have taken this argument further by arguing that Prime Minister Key's 'stimulus package' (nonsensical phrase) is merely a juggling of figures and it has taken satisfaction in republishing leaked emails in which Key indicates there is no new money to deal with the crisis and that his minister's will just have to work within existing budgets.

The Standard's pathetic alternative, the alternative of all insipid Labourites everywhere, is to just dole out more money to the already wealthy business owners.

A case in point is Fisher and Paykel which, you may recall, sacked about 350 hundred workers in 2007 when it transferred some of its operations overseas.

The Standard has no problem with bailing out this loyal New Zealand company - and presumably other companies as well.

So The Standard, a self-proclaimed voice of the labour movement , has now arrived at the point of openly declaring itself as being an advocate for the New Zealand capitalist class. The pretence is over and the game is up.

A 'voice' of the labour movement! What absolute and self serving drivel.

Instead of campaigning on behalf of New Zealand capitalists, The Standard, if it any political credibility at all, would be campaigning on behalf of New Zealand workers.

Here's the real progressive alternative.

Let's turn these businesses like Fisher and Paykel over to the people who work in them!

These businesses will be run on democratic principles. Worker's councils can be set up to replace boards of directors that used to represent the shareholders and overseas interests. Workers - who now have a real say in the running of the company - will vote on a regular basis to determine who will sit on the council.

This is a real pro-labour solution that would be part of an integrated socialist approach which would include the nationalisation of the finance and banking sector.

Until The Standard stops going into bat for the likes of the wealthy Fisher and Paykel owners its claims to be 'progressive' must be regarded as hypocritical.

CORPORATE EARTH HOUR


Christchurch mayor Bob Parker is always on the lookout for positive media coverage and he was back in The Press newspaper on Saturday.

This time Parker is trying to catch some positive vibe in the lead-up to next month's Earth Hour.(March 28).

Remember Earth Hour?

Earth Hour was originally a joint project of World Wide Fund for Nature Australia, the Fairfax-owned Sydney Morning Herald and the advertising agency Leo Burnett and was launched in 2007. In the wake of the debatable "success" of the 2007 event, the organisers launched it as a global event in 2008. Christchurch was New Zealand's sole participant.

According to one of its main local Christchurch sponsors The Press, some thirty-seven New Zealand city, district and regional councils are participating this year.

They will be joining cities around the world in switching off the lights and electrical appliances for an hour, supposedly to support 'action' against climate change.

According to the politically conservative Mayor Parker: 'The bottom line for us is that we think it's good to remind ourselves that each of us can make a difference. The night is all about drawing attention to the issue that sustainability is all about each of us getting engaged.'

Parker, despite the rhetoric about 'making a difference' is actually pushing a message of disempowerment. It is completely disempowering - and condescending - to say that the best way to make a difference is to stop using electricity for an hour.

Instead of looking at the deeper political and economic reasons for our environmental problems, Earth Hour reduces real social and political activism to one of merely temporarily switching off a light switch.

This completely depoliticises the environmental issue and it turns it into one of individual action and choice - but this fits snugly into the philosophy of the environmental lobby group coordinating Earth Hour.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), formerly the World Wildlife Fund, has long been pushing a market-friendly brand of environmentalism

Indeed it has often been more than just friendly - the WWF has been all too eager to jump into bed with the corporations - the very same corporations polluting and damaging the environment.

During its forty- eight years, the WWF has consistently promoted what can best be described as market environmentalism. Such has been its cosy relationship with corporate capitalism that it has accepted funds from the oil industry, including Chevron and ExxonMobil - both oil giants with dismal environmental records. Last year the magazine Multinational Monitor listed Chevron has one of its ten worst multinationals of 2008.

Today the WWF, thanks in no small part to extensive corporate backing, is the world's largest environmental lobby group, It is also a very wealthy lobby group.

Such is WWF's pro-corporate politics that it even came out in support of uranium mining.

In May 2006, WWF Australia became the first Australian environment group to support uranium mining in Australia. WWF CEO, Greg Bourne, told The Australian that "we have been mining uranium and exporting it for many years and we're doing more because demand is going up, whether people like it or not," he said. "The key issues are if we're going to be a nation exporting uranium, we have to know absolutely it's only being used for peaceful purposes and waste products are being stored safely."

WWF Australia has received significant funding from uranium mining companies. It received $1.2million from uranium mining company Rio Tinto, prior to publicly taking a strong pro-uranium mining stance.

WWF Australia has also come out in support of the coal mining industry. Lat year Australian Green senator Christine Milne accused WWF of abandoning 'any remaining pretence of being part of the mainstream environmental movement by supporting the Clean Coal campaign'.

The clean coal campaign is a mining industry PR campaign designed to sell the view that future coal use will be safe for the environment and will not have any adverse impact on people's health.

WWF Australia was financially rewarded throughout the years of the Howard Government.WWF received a five-fold funding boost from the federal government between 1996 and 2004, at the same time as government funding to almost every other environment group was slashed.

According to the WWF:

“conservation is good business, and we are gratified by the growing number of successful companies that agree. We are partnering with leading companies across all industry sectors.”

These companies include Wal-Mart, Nokia, Nike and even Coca-Cola. The WWF has also teamed up with car company Nissan to form a “partnership” in order to promote a branded environmental program in university campuses.

Corporations who sign up to WWF campaigns can use the WWF name and logo in advertising.

One such corporation is Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola are a consistent target for political activists around the world - and for good reason. They have been exposed polluting the ground around bottling facilities in countries such as India and for causing water shortages in local communities.

In August 2007, while sipping a can of Diet Coke in front of the WWF logo, Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell announced a US$20 million dollar “partnership” with WWF that would aim to “replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production”. Part of the plan was to replenish the water. However, this replenishment wouldn’t be taking place at the sites of the water depletion, but through a series of projects taking place in other parts of the world — in other words, water offsets. This is exactly the mad logic of “green” capitalism that also applies to schemes like “carbon offsetting”.

Coca-Cola are also under attack for some of its labour practices including sacking known union members.

Don't expect to see much, if any, criticism of Earth Hour in the mainstream New Zealand media though.

Fairfax, which has extensive media interests in New Zealand including The Press and The Dominion, will be running a enthusiastic and extensive promotional campaign for Earth Hour.

The puff piece in Saturday's Press newspaper is just the start.

CLUELESS IN A CRISIS


I guess there's a grim satisfaction in watching neoliberal politicians having to resort to state interventionism in order to try to salvage something from the mess that neoliberal policies provoked in the first place.

In the last few days, the National-led government have announced various economic schemes they hope will, in the Minster of Finance's words 'blunt the impact of the recession.'

What's been served up so far has been predictable - assistance (ie welfare) for small and medium businesses and some infrastructure projects brought forward: $216.7 million on education and school related projects, NZ$142.5 million on transport infrastructure projects and NZ$124.5 million on projects based around the renovation and building of state houses.

But even the Government has admitted this will only provide an estimated 2000 jobs for perhaps 18 months or so. When 10,000 jobs have been lost in the last three months and there are Treasury reports floating around suggesting that 14 percent unemployment is a distinct possiblity, its desperate stuff from Bill English.

Also, most of these jobs appear to be in construction - tough luck if you are a former white collar worker and/or a woman.

Watching Bill English defend the economic plans in Parliament today, I couldn't help but notice that there was no mood of ebullience coming from the Deputy Leader. You would have thought he would have still been basking in the afterglow of National's election victory but, no, here was the sobriety of a politician knowing too well that the proverbial is starting to really hit the fan - and he's right in the firing line.

Of course what's so fascinating/horrifying is that other set of neoliberal politicians have no answers either.

Labour's beef is not with the National's sticky plaster solutions to the deepening recession - they just think the sticky plaster should be a whole lot bigger and it should be applied a whole lot quicker. But its still only a sticky plaster when major surgery - socialist surgery - is required.

It's like these two political parties, virtually indistinguishable from each other, have been recklessly speeding down the neoliberal road for the past twenty years or so, only to hit a big wall called 'Capitalist Meltdown'.

Of course out in Blogland the pro-Nat bloggers are defending National's economic plans. No surprises there then - its full steam ahead on the good ship 'SS Moronic'.

The pro-Labour bloggers, meanwhile, are in danger of disappearing up their own backsides.

Someone like Martyn Bradbury on Tumeke! can give National's economic plans a good kicking but he's got no alternative other than, presumably, to argue that Labour would SPEND MORE. I'm guessing here though because, to date, he's offered no alternative.

On The Standard someone going by the name 'Dancer' plaintively asks 'Why haven't Labour made more of National's weaknesses?'

Because, and I'll write this slowly so 'Dancer' might understand, Labour is stuck in the same neoliberal morass as National. It has no answers!

'Dancer' though, has other ideas: ' Perhaps they are saving themselves for an alternative Budget as Labour have presented in the past.'

Of course! Labour have got a cunning plan!

Good one, 'Dancer' - now we can all get some sleep....

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS EXPLAINED



Click on the graphic to bring up the large version. Clever comic strip, I think.

SMALL CHANGE


A few weeks ago Business New Zealand chief executive chief Phil O'Reilly was on TV1's Breakfast talking about the need for 'workplace flexibility' in these tough economic times.

O'Reilly never explained what he meant by 'flexibility' and TV1's resident market cheerleader Paul Henry never bothered to ask him.

But we all know its one of those code words that people like O'Reilly like to use instead of more unpalatable words like 'cuts' and 'casualisation' and 'reduced working conditions'.

Just a few days ago O'Reilly though made it more clear that he's no friend of New Zealand workers when he sternly warned the National-led government, that in these tough economic times, the last thing it should do is raise the minimum wage. O'Reilly, who is on an annual salary package of some $80,000, thinks workers should just be squeezed more as prices continue to rise.

As a certain VI Lenin once said - 'capitalists can survive any crisis as long as workers pay for it.'

The populist John Key though ignored O'Reilly and announced a token and pitiful increase of 50 cents an hour. It's a token gesture and not much more. About 120,000 workers will get the increase - don't spend it all at once, folks.

In fact, in real terms, its a cut because things like food, rents, power and transport have risen far faster than the Consumer price Index.

O'Reilly though continued his criticism, predictably warning that even this pathetic increase would put 'pressure' on employers and lead to more job losses.

What O'Reilly chose to ignore is that job losses are occurring, not because of increased wages, but because of the very same neoliberal economic policies he supports. In stark terms, the system is stuffed.

Meanwhile the Unite Union are pushing for an increase to $15 an hour.

The union, which represents many minimum-wage workers in fast food and other services, has lodged a request for a citizens-initiated referendum on whether the minimum should be raised to $15 an hour, and then to two-thirds of the average wage within three years.

1973 the Royal Commission on Social Policy said the minimum wage it should be raised to two-thirds of the average wage

O'Reilly has also had a go at this move, declaring that the call for a referendum was 'utterly ideological'.

Phil O'Reilly's comments and arguments though are entirely unbiased and un-ideological.

Meanwhile the Maori Party is publicly claiming it wants to see the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour but this appears to be more designed to assure Maori that it really is on their side.

Judging by the Minister of Labour's evasive response to questions in Parliament yesterday, it doesn't appear the Maori Party did a whole lot to promote the $15 cause within government. Kate Wilkinson refused to answer how many times she had met with the Maori Party to discuss a possible increase in the minimum wage. I'd bet 50 cents that they met zero times.

Lost in all this talk abut the minimum wage is the fact that benefit levels remain static. We can expect even more pressure on food banks in the coming months especially when we consider that Paula Bennett, the Minister of Social Development and Employment, let it slip yesterday that she had seen Treasury reports suggesting that unemployment could rise as much as 14 percent.

THE MAORI PARTY CAN'T BE TRUSTED


It was interesting to note the mainstream media's response to Prime Minister Key getting jostled at Waitangi last Thursday.

The general theme was Key conducted himself admirably and the activities of two Maori activists did not prevent the Waitangi formalities from still being a 'happy occasion'.

Wendy Petrie of One News, doing her little bit to support the National Party - Maori Party axis, said that the scuffle wasn't going to stop Waitangi being a symbol of 'our nationhood' - or words to that effect. I had my Bullshit Meter switched on at this point and it was rating off the dial while the pathetic Petrie waffled on about 'unity' and other nationalistic nonsense.

It was all just meaningless rhetoric designed to encourage the illusion that we are all 'one'.

What Petrie and co didn't pick up on - despite the fact it was staring them in the face - is that this little skirmish indicates there's already a whole load of dissatisfaction among Maori about the Maori Party's cosy wee relationship with National.

Maori activist Sina Brown-Davis make exactly this point on the Socialist Aoteraoa blog. She writes;

The National/Maori party honeymoon was smashed on Waitangi Day. The brave actions of two young warriors definitely dispelled the pro government propaganda that the National and Maori Party were desperately trying to cement on Waitangi Day. Mrs Harawira’s reaction is complete hypocrisy. Each generation has a right to oppose their oppression. Just because some are sitting at the table with or holding onto the arm of the oppressor that gives them no right to crush dissent when it doesn't suit their own political purposes. Whether our Maori leader’s or Maori elite like to admit it or not there is a groundswell of anger and disappointment that our grassroots have been sold out, again, and wait to get kicked in their teeth by their own.

She goes on to say:

The Maori Party is a right wing party, make no mistake about that. Hiding behind the rhetoric of advancing all Maori, they have shown that they are willing to sacrifice the vast majority of Maori for the enrichment and advancement of a few. Our so-called Maori leaders were unwilling to even discuss huge unemployment amongst our people at Waitangi, yet jump at the chance to be involved in privatisation. These neo tribal capitalists are transparent in their greed and their neoliberal modus operandi. These elements have much to gain from the privatisation of public services and their turning over to Maori business interests in the name of “self determination”.


On her own blog Brown-Davis quotes Professor Elizabeth Rata who identified what is essentially a new Maori capitalism - what Rata refers to as a 'neotribal capitalist regime of accumulation.'

This has seen the transformation of tribes into capitalist enterprises dominated by a small Maori elite of lawyers, businesspeople, leaders, bureaucrats.

Brown- Davis writes

Under neotribal capitalism, this access to what paltry resources have been returned to Maori is effectively exclusively controlled by the new tribal capitalist elite. Even if ownership of resources is nominally owned by the whole tribe (the corporate tribe, and not an individual, is the legal owner), and even if iwi members have a shareholding in the business, the undemocratic nature of neotribal capitalist business ensures that working class iwi do not have any real say in the corporate iwi head office.


This ultimatey exploitative relationship is camouflaged by the Maori elite who encourage the Maori working class to identify with their culture and community above all else..

What has the Maori woman working a minimum wage factory job in Auckland got in common with the wealthy Maori elite? Nothing. But if you listen to the likes of Peter Sharples or Willie Jackson, you would quickly get the impression that Maori aren't differentiated by class.

As the National-led government attempt to make the working class pay for the massive economic crisis, Maori - who are predominantly working class - will very much be in the gun.

They cannot expect any support from the Maori Party which will side with the business class. Nor can they turn to a politically bankrupt Labour Party for help. It's leader described the Waitangi protest as 'unacceptable'. Phil Goff thinks that some protests are more 'acceptable' than others.

The Maori working class needs to recognise that it shares the same economic interests as the Pakeha working class and that the way forward is to build an independent socialist alternative.

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: THE RICH CAN PAY FOR THE CRISIS!


The 8th World Social Forum concluded in the Brazilian city of Belem on Monday February 2.

The six-day anti-globalisation forum was organised to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It was attended by over 100,000 people from all over the world. The representatives of nearly 5,000 social movements were present.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government spent about $50 million for organising the forum which was attended by four Latin American presidents - Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Paraguay's Fernando Lugo.

Of course in Latin America we have seen several highly radical social struggles that have resulted in the overthrow of neoliberal governments and the empowerment of governments that have carried out many positive reforms such as the nationalisation of core sectors of the economy and the implementation of democratic constitutional reforms.

While capitalist politicians around the world, including our own, are desperately trying to salvage something from the mess they created by making ordinary people pay the cost, the Social Forum called on ordinary people to resist such attempts.

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela held capitalism responsible for the current economic crisis and that it was time for ordinary people to go on the offensive.

He said that attempts by governments, corporations and banks to shift the burden of the crisis on to the working class had to be resisted.

In its closing statement the Forum said:

We are facing a global crisis which is a direct consequence of the capitalist system and therefore cannot find a solution within the system. All the measures that have been taken so far to overcome the crisis merely aim at socialising losses so as to ensure the survival of a system based on privatising strategic economic sectors, public services, natural and energy resources and on the commoditisation of life and the exploitation of labour and of nature as well as on the transfer of resources from the Periphery to the Centre and from workers to the capitalist class.

The World Social Forum concluded that to overcome the economic crisis and grapple with the root of the problem - namely capitalism - a radical alternative had to be built.

Some of the immediate demands of the Forum are:

- Nationalising the banking sector without compensations and with full social monitoring,
- Reducing working time without any wage cut,
- Taking measures to ensure food and energy sovereignty
- Stopping wars, withdraw occupation troops and dismantle military foreign bases
- Acknowledging the peoples’ sovereignty and autonomy ensuring their right to self-determination
- Guaranteeing rights to land, territory, work, education and health for all.
- Democratise access to means of communication and knowledge.

Not surprisingly, the World Social Forum was ignored by the New Zealand corporate media.

It was also ignored by our so-called 'liberal' bloggers - generally Labour supporters - who run a mile at the mere mention of 'socialism'.

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE BOY RACERS


My two readers may recall that last year I criticised Sideshow Bob for political grandstanding over the issue of boy racers. It was apparent that the unpopular Mayor Bob was using the boy racer issue as a way to boost his profile and score a few brownie points with Christchurch ratepayers. Law and order-related issues are, of course, always big favourites with opportunistic politicians.

Bob's grandstanding reached a new low point when The Press published a large front page photo of him standing in the middle of a Canterbury road, arms folded, trying to look tough. I'm sure that photo will turn up as part of Sideshow's next mayoral campaign.

Then Sideshow proceeded to ban the boy racers from various city streets - which just resulted in them going elsewhere.

Government minister Clayton Cosgrove also jumped on the boy racer bandwagon and introduced his "boy racer" private members bill into Parliament with tougher penalties This passed with cross-party support.

But the situation didn't get any better and, as we have seen this past week, has just deteriorated further.

Sideshow Bob has labelled the boy racers as 'ugly, immature and embarrassing'. This might go down a treat with Mr and Mrs Plumbly-Walker of Fendalton but it has just further inflamed an already charged situation.

Minister Judith Collins, also engaging in some political posturing, hasn't helped with her authoritarian threats to crush the cars.

Tony Milne, on his I See Red blog asks:

'What will solve the problem, or create a situation where the noise, the nuisance, the rubbish, the danger is minimised? Is crushing cars, removing licenses and throwing these "boy racers" into prison (as John Key, Judith Collins, the police and others are suggesting) really going to solve the problem, or will it create an even worse situation? Where is the evidence, the research, the analysis?'

Milne is right - what we have witnessed in the last few days is a whole lot of kneejerk reaction, and a whole lot of political opportunism.


Sideshow Bob never bothered to talk with council tenants when he attempted to hike up their rents, similarly there's been no dialogue with the boy racers. Parker has simply launched a number of attacks in the media against the car enthusiasts and called for more heavy-handed action from the government.

The boy racers have reacted to Sideshow's comments by revving up their cars outside his central city apartment.

A Canterbury University academic who studies car culture, Associate Professor Simon Kingham, has brought some sanity to the whole affair with his call for dialogue between the authorities and the boy racers.

He says that Parker's comment that the boy racers were 'ugly, immature and embarrassing' was a unhelpful generalisation. He went on to say that "to associate them with the guys who had a go at the police is tarnishing them all with the same brush.'

Simply trying to bash down the boy racers with more laws and more aggressive police action is not to going to alleviate the situation - in fact will just inflame it even more.

I've talked to one of two boy racers in recent times - although I'm not sure how someone in their mid-20s can be called a 'boy racer'. They are not the violent hoons that Bob Parker and Judith Collins say they are.

They are largely just working class youth who like cars and like parading them with their fellow car enthusiasts on Friday and Saturday nights. They are not interested in Ellerslie Garden Shows and Busker's Festivals - they get their kicks from cars.

One boy racer I talked to freely admitted that there were some who wanted to push the police to the limit but he said they were in a minority - but he also added that he wasn't going to be pushed around by Parker and his mates.

His girlfriend said that Parker just wanted to stop them having fun and he should stop poking his nose into their lives.

'He should have stayed over in Akaroa,' she told me. I agree with her for a variety of reasons!

Associate Professor Kingham is right. Its time for the political posturing to stop and for some real dialogue to start.

It would be just great if Parker stopped talking about the boy racers as if they were something he had just scraped from the soles of his expensive Italian shoes.

TANCZOS CRITICISES THE GREEN PARTY


Former Green MP Nandor Tanczos has started up a blog. It's called Dread Times, and in one of his first posts he takes a bit of a confused swipe at the Green Party's election strategy.

He criticises his former colleagues for ruling out any cooperation with the National Party and for fastening their lifeboat to the 'sinking ship' that was Labour.

While co-leaders Russel Norman and Jeanette Fitsimons were quick to describe the Green's election campaign as a success, Tanczos says that the party's election results were disappointing and says:

'The Green Party might well have won their biggest caucus yet, if they had been prepared to stop licking Labour's hand.'

So was Tanczos hoping for a deal with National?

He appears to be in two minds about this. On the one hand he says it was possible that National would not of paid the Green Party any attention anyway - but in the next sentence he says that John Key's approach to the Maori Party indicated a 'new openness'.

He concludes:

'There was never a better time for the Greens to see if they could forge a new political space, genuinely independent of Labour and National. Unfortunately for us all, they lacked the courage to try.'

But what would this 'independent' Green Party look like? He doesn't say.

The question that Tanczos doesn't address is the Green's support for market-led environmentalism. This is not altogether surprising since, as an MP, he faithfully followed the Russel Norman pro-market line.

If Tanczos is sincere about wanting a 'independent' Green Party then he should also be calling for the party to abandon market environmentalism.

NO HAPPY HOUR FOR HENDO


As well as various property ventures, Dave Henderson has also dabbled in the wine industry. It will come as no surprise for readers to learn that Hendo has also botched up this business as well - and the inevitable posse of creditors are now pursuing him.

Henderson was the sole director of Anthem Holdings - a company owned by RDF investments. RDF is owned by Kristina Buxton who is Hendo's partner. He met her after coming out of bankruptcy in 2000.

Anthem Holdings is one of a collection of companies with similar names and who are all owned or directed by Hendo.

These companies were involved in the production of over 8000 cases of wine, valued at over a million dollars, that are presently sitting in cellars in Wanaka and Cromwell.

Because Anthem Holdings were put into receivership in August last year, the cases of wine cannot be sold until the court decides who owns them.

Not surprisingly, Hendo is again in dispute with the receivers.

He's claiming that while Anthem Holdings never actually produced the wine but just grew the grapes - so it doesn't own the wine so the receivers cannot take possession of it.

Hendo is also claiming the vineyard that grew the grapes is not in receivership.

However land belonging to Anthem Holdings is being sold off by the New Zealand Guardian Trust Company in a mortgagee sale on behalf of the lenders.

Hendo however has told the National Business Review that a covenant on the land states that Gibbston Downs Wines, which is owned by Mr Henderson's company Anthem Vineyards, has rights to the vines.

But says the NBR:

'A caveat in the land title for lot 3599 says there is an agreement to grant an "encumbrance in favour of the Gibbston Downs Wines."

However, no caveat or covenant relating to other lots, except those governing buildings and easements, could be located for NBR by Land Information New Zealand.'

All up, this is yet another Hendo business affair that will get bogged down in the courts again - probably for a good part of this year.

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