At gunpoint, maybe?
I recall the rise and rise of the Solidarity Free Trade Union movement in Poland in 1980, when Polish workers rose up against their communist government Overlords and said “enough!”. Workers wanted their own, independent, trade unions – not the puppet organisations run by, and for, the Polish communist party.
It gained strength and became not just the first truly independent worker’s union in a communist state – but practically a grass-roots de facto Opposition to Poland’s one-party government.
In 1981, the New Zealand Polish Association in Wellington; various local trade unions; and an organisation that I belonged to, organised one of the largest street marches – estimated to number up to ten thousand – in support of Solidarity.
Solidarity was hailed around the world.
Leaders in the West hailed Solidarity as peoples’ desire to be free and belong to whatever associations they wanted. The subtext, of course, was pointing out the irony that workers were protesting against their own supposedly workers-party, in a supposedly workers’ “socialist paradise”.
No wonder Western leaders of the likes of Reagan, Thatcher, et al, supported the Solidarity movement – it was a “poke in the eye” for the Soviet Union and it’s Eastern European satellite client-states. (Though I doubt that Western leaders had suddenly become over-night champions of workers’ rights.)
It seems therefore somewhat duplicitous that some folk now condemn free trade unions and want their activities curtailed, using “whatever action they need to take to resolve this matter“,
Really? Ex-National MP and mayoral aspirant, Christine Fletcher has called for the strike to be “resolved”, using “whatever action they need to take to resolve this matter“?!
Them is powerful words; “whatever action they need to take“.
I am reminded that the communist regime in Poland also attempted to employ “whatever action they needed” to crush the Solidarity Trade Union.
The communists – led by General Jaruzelski – declared martial law on December 13, 1981, which lasted until July 1983. Under cover of martial law, thousands of Polish activists (we would call them freedom fighters) were imprisoned. Up to 100 innocent people may have been killed in the crack-down, that was ruthless even by communist standards.
So when Ms Fletcher calls for the Auckland Port strike to be “resolved” using “whatever action they need to take to resolve this matter” – that statement makes me uneasy. She obviously has no real understanding what it takes to smash a trade union.
Does Ms Fletcher want the Maritime Union disbanded? It’s bank account(s) frozen? It’s assets seized? It’s organisers arrested and thrown into prison?
I’m under no illusion that there are quasi-sociopathic extremists in this country – as around the world in every other society – who would welcome living in a repressive, autocratic regime that would imprison trade unionists. (And possibly journalists, left-wing commentators and bloggers, judges, and anyone else who doesn’t tow the Party line. It’s called fascism.)
But I’m disappointed and saddened that Christine Fletcher is so mis-guided as to be espousing what amounts to a state crackdown on perfectly legal organisations, and their members exercising their democratic rights.
The same democratic rights, I might add, that eventually brought down the Polish government and started the domino-collapse of communism and the Soviet Empire.
I am even further saddened when I recall – and remind readers – that Ms Fletcher was a principled politician who resigned as Minister in September 1997, because she objected to the sale of publicly-owned assets of the ARST (Auckland Regional Services Trust) by the then, Bolger-led National government.
Whether or not Ms Fletcher supports the action of the Martime Union and the Ports of Auckland Board should be set aside. Democracy is, by necessity, a messy process.
Would we want it any other way?
Especially cosidering the alternatives? Perhaps we should ask the people of Syria.
When Ms Fletcher demands “whatever action they need to take to resolve this matter“, what, precisely, is she hinting but not actually putting into words?
At gunpoint, maybe?
Interestingly, the Maritime Union is asking for actually less than the Ports of Auckland Board is offering; 2.5% as opposed to the company’s 10%,
The “sticking point” is the companies plan to casualise the workforce.
As commentator and blogger, Kjt said on The Standard,
“Among other things, POAL want the advantages of a casual on call work force without having to pay for it. Not many people would want to be on 8 hours call 365 days of the year with only a certain number of hours guaranteed and no pay for being available. In Tauranga and Nelson casuals are free to take other work without penalty.”
No wonder the workers are fighting back by strike action. Their jobs are on the line.
Now, is that an unreasonable thing to fight for?
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