Let’s Melt The Wage Freeze

Anarchist leaflet aimed at public sector workers demonstrating against the state's wage freeze in New Zealand in 2009.

On Friday November 27th, thousands of workers took part in rallies and marches in 27 cities and towns across the country, demanding that the Government’s wage freeze for state sector employees was lifted. The protests focused on the struggles of hospital and school support staff, and employees at the Ministry of Justice, but many people from other sectors supported the demand and turned out to show their solidarity. Many of the attendees were on strike for the duration of the rallies.

Members of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) were present at rallies and marches in Auckland, Palmerston North, Levin, Wellington and Nelson. Below is the text of a leaflet handed out by AWSM members at the protests.

Let’s Melt The Wage Freeze

OK, you’re here at the rally about the wage freeze for low-paid government workers. Yeah, the recession has hit us hard, with mass layoffs and pay freezes, and the prices of food and stuff keeps going up and up. At the same time CEOs get hefty pay rises and the banks get bailed out. And bosses and managers still treat us like shit.

So what are we gonna do about it? Passively listen to speeches from union bureaucrats in well-paid, cushy jobs? Clap a bit, yell a bit, and then go home?

It’s time to start organising ourselves in our own workplaces. We don’t need to rely on others to do stuff for us. We can do it ourselves together with our workmates. By looking out for, and supporting each other — we call it solidarity — together we can win. This grassroots action is the key to melting the wage freeze.

Ministry of Justice court workers at Manukau and Waitakere have shown the way recently. During the MOJ strikes, they have gone out of their own accord, in addition to the strikes organised by the Public Services’ Association. Their wildcat strikes have shut down many courts. It is when us — the rank and file — get together and control the strikes ourselves that we are more likely to win (and be harder to break).

Action controlled from above, by union bureaucrats, leads to hollow strikes that are not well-supported. Sure, let’s use them to negotiate more pay for less work (stuff their productivity deals!) for us, but in the process you get the feeling you are being kicked around like a football for their own ends.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

That will needed to be worked out by us ourselves. But here are a few rough ideas, based on past successful struggles:

First of all, vote for industrial action where possible and encourage others to do the same. Build a culture of supporting each other at your workplace.

Make links between workers. Invite all staff at your workplace to your pay dispute meetings whether temps, permanent, members of your union or not.

Often you don’t need to strike. You can stay on-the-job and take action like go-slows and work-to-rules, which can be quite effective. Also it is a good idea to take regular common breaks.

Take control of the strikes and actions. Make decisions in open workplace meetings with as many people involved as possible rather than leaving it to union full-timers. Call for mass assemblies of workers to control action. Make sure these meetings are run from the floor and not by union officials.

Visit other workers’ picket lines and discuss how you can help each other. Form support groups if you are not on strike.

Form strike committees or informal groups at your workplace. Think creatively on how you can collectively stuff up your job, as you know your work better than your boss. Take local action against layoffs, bullying and overwork.

Call for all union officials to be elected by and constantly accountable to the membership. Officials to subject to immediate recall, and to be paid the average wage.

Above all, don’t trust bosses, union bureaucrats or politicians. Trust yourselves!

Posted By

Anarchia
Nov 28 2009 06:47

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Comments

Steven.
Nov 28 2009 11:09

I think that's a good leaflet, all apart from the penultimate paragraph "call for all union officials to be elected by and constantly accountable to the membership etc"

This has been the policy of just about every Trotskyist group in the world for the past hundred years, that and get themselves elected into the positions of officials.

The problem with it, of course, is not that union officials are necessarily bad people, but they are pressured to act in certain ways because of their status as officials.

For example, to act within the framework of the law they must offer an act against the wishes of their membership - in the UK this means disavowing unofficial action, banning solidarity action, etc. I'm sure there are similar laws in New Zealand.

This paragraph actually contradicts and sounds completely different from the rest of your leaflet (see the comment on action controlled by officials for example) - was it a concession to one or two people from a particular tendency or something? (It sounds like WSM-style platformism)

Out of interest, were some of the other "what to do" influenced by the ones in "tea break"?

Good luck with it though, I'd be interested to hear what sort of response it generates. And that's very difficult to assess, but anything you've heard would be interesting.

Steven.
Nov 28 2009 11:14

PS moved this into the library

Anarchia
Feb 1 2010 05:54

Hey,

I didn't write the leaflet - it was written by one member of AWSM (and approved by the rest of us, of course) so I've forwarded the link onto him so he might be on here at some point to answer your questions.

FWIW, I agree with your comment on the role of union officials.

As for the reception though, it was really well received on the day. I know that at the Wellington demonstration, where I was, several people came up to me asking for a copy after reading one that I'd given to someone else - that happens so rarely and is always a good sign! I heard similar things from the member who was at the Nelson rally.

We haven't received any emails to the address that was on the leaflet, unfortunately, but that's not really a big surprise.

Steven.
Feb 1 2010 10:52

thanks, yes the person who wrote it mostly send me a private message.

Regarding the union officials, I think that's a discussion worth having in your organisation. It's not even a difficult one to have really, as the idea is clearly completely impractical, and all the hundreds of Trotskyist groups that have been trying it for the past hundred years have had no success. And on top of that, if union full-time officials wages were tied with the average wage of those members they represent - then the incentive on them would be to try to recruit more highly paid members, such as managerial staff, and even drop lower paid members.

Sorting this point would mean you could give a bit more consistency.

anyway, cheers for the feedback!