About Matt McCarten

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Matt McCarten.Matt McCarten is one of NZs best unionists and civil rights activists. His wisdom and commentary are one of the few mainstream voices from the left. Few of us are important enough to have a wiki page, here is Matt’s…

McCarten started his political careeras a member of the Labour Party, but grew dissatisfied with the party’s direction under Minister of Finance Roger Douglas. Douglas was a strong promoter of free-market economics and deregulation, which McCarten and others saw as a betrayal of Labour’s roots.

Eventually, one of Labour’s MPs, Jim Anderton, broke away to found NewLabour , and McCarten became the president of the new organisation.

NewLabour later joined with several other parties to form the Alliance – McCarten became president of this new party as well.

After the 1999 elections , the Alliance became the junior partner in a coalition government with Labour (which had now moved away from its programme of economic reforms). However, some members of the Alliance, including McCarten, felt that their grouping had made too many concessions to the more centrist Labour, and that the Alliance was abandoning its left-wing principles.

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Eventually, a rift developed between McCarten (serving as the Alliance’s organisational leader) and Jim Anderton (serving as its political leader) – the party’s governing Council backed McCarten, but most of its MPs backed Anderton.

After a long and bitter dispute, Anderton and his supporters left the Alliance to found the Progressive Party in 2002, leaving McCarten’s faction in control of the Alliance.

The Alliance, led politically by Laila Harré from 2002 to 2003, suffered heavily in the 2002 elections, losing all representation in Parliament.

The following year, McCarten himself assumed the political leadership from Harré. He was compelled to resign this position in November 2004, however, after becoming increasingly involved with campaign work for the new Maori Party. McCarten believed that the Alliance and the Maori Party were compatible, and that they should not regard each other as rivals, but this view was not shared by the members of either group. McCarten chose to leave the Alliance to focus on the Maori Party.

In early 2005, however, McCarten ended his association with the Maori Party as well, amid reports that he wanted to found a new working-class based party. In early 2005 Matt McCarten gained a mandate from the Unite Union to take its leadership as secretary.

Since then the Unite Union has won significant victories organising workers in New Zealand’s secondary labour market (“the working poor”). Its most significant victory came out of the supersizemypay.com campaign, in which it negotiated a collective agreement covering the 7,000 employees of Restaurant Brands Ltd (Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hutt). It continues to expand its coverage of low-paid workers in the fast-food, call-centre, security, hotel and hospitality industries, particularly in Auckland.

On 27 October 2010 McCarten announced that he would stand as an independent candidate for Parliament in the Mana by-election caused by Winnie Laban resigning as an MP.

In April 2011, McCarten was appointed “interim” chair of Hone Harawira‘s new ‘Mana Party’.