About a month back, just after the proposed changes to the ERA were announced, an emergency rally was held at Cathedral Square. This was called by a local Unite organiser and was reasonably well attended despite the short notice. Approximately 50 people were present ranging from union officials, delegates, rank and file, community activists and other concerned members of the public.
An organising meeting was called for the Monday after, which was again, well attended with about 40-50 people present. This meeting was well facilitated by the Unite organiser and everyone present were involved in discussions and decision making. The layout of the room was a large circle which enabled everyone to face each other and participate. The only negatives were a rant by an EPMU official, who went on about how much work he’d done to get the first rally organised and how if it wasn’t for him it would have been a complete failure. There was also murmurings by an official of the SFWU about support for Labour.
Another organising meeting was called for the following Monday and a decision was made to hold a protest rally on Sunday 8th on the corner of High St and Hereford, outside KFC. After this meeting members of Beyond Resistance and the Workers Party had some conversations about concerns that the union officials and the CTU would use this fight back as an opportunity to campaign for Labour. Also that the CTU would want to control any fight back. It was decided that members of Beyond Resistance would attend the next Workers Party meeting to organise as an anti-capitalist presence within the fight back.
So the next Monday two members of Beyond Resistance attended a Workers Party meeting, which was before the fight back organising meeting. It was decided to use the ‘Workers rights campaign’ [loose coalition of anti-capitalist groups formed after the 90 day bill was first announced by Wayne Mapp (ya bill is crap)] as a vehicle to organise from an anti-capitalist perspective. It was also decided that Beyond Resistance and Workers Party would organise a public meeting with four speakers, to present an anti-capitalist analyisis and discussion.
Then the organising meeting. It had been pre planned by union officials. The layout of the room was different, a panel of union officials facing everyone else as an audience. Everyone was told of the plan for the protest rally by the EPMU official and then a guest Australian union official/labour party candidate spoke about a campaign waged in Australia by unions and sections of the wider society against industrial law changes, that in his words, helped bring down the Howard Government. He also talked about the need for the ‘bottom up'(grassroots) to work with the ‘top down'(union bureaucracy, Labour Party). The bottom up for donkey work and the top down for finances and direction/decisions. There was no real opportunity for input by those present and it appeared as though the decisions about the protest had already been made. The next meeting was called a ‘more dui less Hui’ working bee to make banners and placards.
The protest rally on Sunday 8th was reasonably well attended with about 100 people present. There was about 10 minutes of speakers, then union officials attempted to rap it all up and go home. At this point members of Beyond Resistance put the question to the assembly of 100 or so. Do people want to march? There was an overwelming ‘yes’ and so a march through parts of town proceeded. People joined the march on route and militant chants were hollered by the marching mass, ‘This is Class War — Smash the Anti-Worker Laws’ being a favourite. Flyers were handed out about the Public meeting organised for the following week.
The public meeting was well attended with speakers from Unite, Workers Party, Beyond Resistance and an advocate who dealt with workplace greviences. There was about 50 present and after informative talks by the four speakers some great discussions followed. Plans have been made for the CTU 21st rally where an anti-capitalist bloc will lead a march after the rally, taking people on a tour of organisations offices who support of the Governments proposed changes to the ERA i.e. business community and politians. Information flyers will also be handed out as will flyers advertising a film for the following Saturday, where the Workers Party and Beyond Resistance will be screening the Australian film ‘Rocking the Foundations’ (about the BLF in Sydney in the 70’s). Another thing that came out of this meeting was a need for on-going activities, from educational events to protests and industrial action. Regular meetings are planned for the future.
What has also occured is that the organising by the CTU/union officials has divided itself from all others interested in organising around a fight back against the ERA changes. The CTU has shut out any others from participating in their organising in Christchurch and it is rumoured that meetings have been taking place between union officials and the Labour Party. It is possible that the Unite organisers have also not been privy to the CTU’s formal meetings here, however this has not been confirmed.
What is clear is that from the first emergency rally and meeting until now a split has occurred between the local CTU affiliated union officials, and everyone else who have wished to attend meetingsand be involved in organising a fight back against the Governments proposed changes to the ERA.
The battle continues…