First up for day one, ‘Standing Up for Our Rights’ was a talk by NZ Council of Trade Unions (CTU) President Helen Kelly. Helen spoke at length about the Governments proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act and Holidays Act. When it came time to talk about the CTU’s response, little was offered as a way forward in fighting the Governments attacks on the working class. Stop work meetings and rallies to be held on October 20th, but beyond this the strategy presented was one of petitions, lobbying and possibly some form of industrial action around collective agreement renewals. Nothing with any real teeth, especially nothing based on the self-activity of workers using direct action in the form of strikes, go slows, work to rule etc. In fact when these tactics were suggested, a response from an organiser was something like ‘it is a fight against the National Government and we shouldn’t upset employers, who are not our enemy’.
The afternoon consisted of ‘speed workshops’, with topics ranging from ‘Multi Member Parliament’ to ‘Problem Gambling.’
The formal part of day one ended with a campaign speech from Labour Party Minister Ruth Dyson, followed in a rather hurried fashion, by a remit and vote, “That the Service & Food Workers Union commits to conducting an active campaign in order to elect a Labour-led Centre-left Government.”
Little time was given for discussion and a lone dissenting voice from BR challenged the union’s affiliation to the Labour Party and likened the Union to class collaborationists. This for their role as managers of workers for the bosses, and their affiliation to the Labour Party, who as a political party, make up a part of the State, whose role is primarily to protect the power and privilege of the ruling class. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of this remit with only one vote against.
Day two was a half day with a Treaty workshop follow by elections of Reps.
Clearly the interests of the working class have nothing in common with any political party. Any union affiliating with the Labour Party or any political party must surely have the question asked, in the words of a traditional workers anthem, “Which side are you on boys, which side are you on?”