Breaking through the silence

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Sorry WINZ I’ve had enough

Of precarious work and living it rough

And Dumpster Diving is not a career

That we should resort to with little ones to rear…

 

At the Auckland Housing Summit Vanessa Kururangi read a long poem about the arrogance of power and the powerlessness of the 99% where

“Sorry” makes us Invisible,

Not counted,

Not missed.

 

Invercargill’s Lisa Gibson described at the same summit how it was possible for a government agency responsible for state house tenants to be “purging women who are vulnerable onto the streets” as houses are emptied and land-banked. Tenants are afraid of being picked out and losing their homes, so they remain silent.

A weapon in the silencing of the majority is the fear of retribution. Last year a caregiver, Morven Hughes, was interviewed on Radio New Zealand, about her role in the care sector.  Neither she nor her employer were named because of Morven’s fear of retribution. Her employer, a corporate residential care provider, recognized her Scottish accent and took steps to punish and silence her through disciplinary action; action that continues today as her union, E tū, defends her right to freedom of speech.

E tū has also defended workers employed by major cleaning contractors, such as Spotless, who threaten union members with dismissal for talking to the media or appearing in front of parliamentary select committees to talk about low pay and it is now common for employers to attempt to insert clauses into employment agreements forbidding workers to talk to the media without the employer’s permission.

Elderly residents of Selwyn Village campaigning for a Living Wage for their carers were threatened with losing their “right to occupy” if organized a petition of other residents because expressing their views about workers’ rights was against the rules. Their freedom of speech is curtailed by fear of retribution.

Government and corporate employers are powerful and their threats against the powerless beggars belief, but it is not new. Captain Waldemar Pabst in 1962 spoke of attending a meeting of Rosa Luxenburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919 where he decided to have them killed for their intellectual leadership of the revolution: “One has to decide to break the rule of law…This decision to have them both killed did not come easy to me…I do maintain that this decision is morally and theologically legitimate.”

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Governments of many hues have successfully designed a system in Aotearoa where the interests of capital are nurtured and workers are legislated to the margins: individuals are isolated and easily intimidated; unions cannot bargain effectively with the funders of wages; and notions of the common good have retreated into the powerless and disconnected institutions of our civil society.

That being said around the globe there are glimmers of hope.  From the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union that reached out across the community to secure adequate school funding, to the formation of Minnesotans for a Fair Economy a few months ago, networks of union, community and faith groups are reasserting a notion of the common good, a connection fundamental to power and participation that makes sense of any concept of democracy.  

In Aotearoa, the Living Wage Movement is seeking this same common purpose by bringing together many institutions of civil society on a neutral shared platform from which we can raise our voices in fearless unity.

Usually we hear about the international developments after the new institutions of civil society have emerged and the temptation is to set up similar alliances, action groups, or coalitions because, well, we want that too. It makes sense to have an organisation that represents what we all share in common such as decent housing, good jobs or just wages.  But action precedes organisation, for good effect, which means the conversations, and the collaborations are critical.  The hard work of building power with others can’t be avoided.

UK academic, Jane Wills, describes the power of coalition in the “identity-linking” across diverse groups of civil society.  The majority of working people in state housing are low paid so the problem of low wages and the problem of the sale of state houses is linked. The act of bringing organisations together on a common platform, as the Housing Summit did, reinforces our shared identities and our common purpose, where Christians, teachers, health professionals, beneficiaries, unionists and state house activists meet, agree and organise – because our community matters.

 

Sorry, we will call it gentrification

When you sell our State Homes

Which belong to our Nation

Pffft…”social cleansing”? – sorry, not happenin’

When it’s the heart of our communities

You’re butchering and dismantling

 

While bearing the mantel and authority of our institutions we have to also step outside of the institution and discover our shared identities, activate our common interests and create sustained organisation.  Institutions of civil society are necessary but they quickly become gatekeepers containing the activism, passion and spirit of transformation that we need to prevent a terminal silencing of discontent.

Just wait and see

Because I’m not alone

There are millions like me

Sorry – the chains have fallen away

Sorry – it’s time we had our say

Sorry – we CAN protest and riot

Sorry – did you think I’d stay quiet?

Sorry…
(Thanks to Vanessa Karurangi – her poem can be read in full at www.livingwage.org.nz )

9 COMMENTS

  1. nice work Anne,

    We need plenty more “brave hearts” as Morven Hughes is.

    She is an inspiring soul, so we hope the remaining media folks wake up and begin to speak up about their gaging orders over them as we know they are prevented from speaking out anything that would embarrass the ruling repressive Government, before we are all placed under servitude forever.

  2. Yes, so true, but how do you convince and motivated the vast majority, who only tend to look after number one, or stick with their small peer group, who cling to their defacto class and who mostly do not want to belong to those “losers” that are not doing well.

    I see this every day, it should be so easily understood that solidarity is the necessary element a society needs, which workers certainly need, especially those in low paid, low skilled jobs, where replacing one staff member is relatively easy for an employer.

    But it is more than just feeling afraid and intimidated, it seems so many are brainwashed into thinking, they can somehow manage on their own, that tomorrow may be a better day, that an opportunity may arise for a better job some time soon, and that their present situation is just “temporary”.

    To bring change requires political action too, that means voting and participating in elections, as only changing the government bring the chance of changes to be brought in and implemented. But if people cannot or do not even want to understand that basic reality, what hope is there for them?

    It beggars belief that so many just simply remain silent and detached, and also many pretend they are ok and satisfied, while they have a grim future, unless some resolute action will bring change.

    Always just blaming others will be a weak excuse, if you do not like the politician or politics, look at another party or movement, and then get involved, I’d say.

    But spending endless times sending messages to and fro on mobile phones, surfing the internet for entertainment and infotainment, chatting on Twitter, Facebook and sending pics around, that is not much responsible, constructive action, I feel, there may be a time and place for that, but it seems for many, particularly those most affected by the above, are more so wasting their time than what they perhaps should do.

    Maybe a shock treatment is needed, to shake people out of their slumber?

    • Yes mike your last sentence said it all, where “a shock is needed”

      Well if the experts are right 2016 is when we will have the biggest Global economic shock we have ever witnessed in our time.

      Maybe we are sitting on the edge of the cliff, ready for waking them all up as our forefathers had been in 1929.

      Sad that folks got that gullible with the snake and his oil salesman called Joyce.

      http://pro.strategicinvestment.com/NDPCOL6/PNDPS100/?h=true

      80% Stock Market Crash To Strike in 2016, Economist Warns
      by JL Yastine
      April 25, 2016
      Several noted economists and distinguished investors are warning of a stock market crash.

      Billionaire Carl Icahn, for example, recently raised a red flag on a national broadcast when he declared, “The public is walking into a trap again as they did in 2007.”

      And the prophetic economist Andrew Smithers warns, “U.S. stocks are now about 80% overvalued.”

      Smithers backs up his prediction using a ratio which proves that the only time in history stocks were this risky was 1929 and 1999. And we all know what happened next. Stocks fell by 89% and 50%, respectively.

      Even the Royal Bank of Scotland says the markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the 2008 crisis. They told their clients to “Sell Everything” because “in a crowded hall, the exit doors are small.”

      Stocks like Apple, will plunge.

      But there is one distinct warning that should send chills down your spine … that of James Dale Davidson. Davidson is the famed economist who correctly predicted the collapse of 1999 and 2007.

      Davidson now warns, “There are three key economic indicators screaming SELL. They don’t imply that a 50% collapse is looming – it’s already at our doorstep.”

      And if Davidson calls for a 50% market correction, one should pay heed.

      Indeed, his predictions have been so accurate, he’s been invited to shake hands and counsel the likes of former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — and he’s had the good fortune to befriend and convene with George Bush Sr., Steve Forbes, Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Roger Douglas and even Boris Yeltsin.

      They know that when Davidson makes a prediction, he backs it up. True to form, in a new controversial video, Davidson uses 20 unquestionable charts to prove his point that a 50% stock market crash is here.

      Most alarming of all, is what Davidson says will cause the collapse. It has nothing to do with the China meltdown, Wall Street speculation or even the presidential election. Instead, it is linked back to a little-known economic “curse” that our Founding Fathers warned our elected officials about … a curse that was recently triggered.

      • Oh that was cruel! An infomercial…

        I did like his point about ‘low participation rate’, though. Sounds like the Auckland housing bubble. The same bunch of hustlers pumping up a leaky balloon for their own aggrandizement.

        And the velocity of money. I suspect that lethal slowing has also begun here.

        Some people go on about ‘Baby Boomers’ without recognising that a very large percentage have just the pension to exist on – and they, little humble pensioners, are a very important part of keeping the velocity of money above the stagnant level. Same as ‘beneficiaries’.

        Plus the real rate of unemployment and underemployment. 23%. Scary scary scary, eh? Ours is likely to be bobbing around in the high teens.

        And the evil (I’m being polite here) of student loans when those students cannot get employment that either lets them pay down debt or uses that so-called higher education in ways that are mutually profitable for them and the country.

        So, if there’s a massive correction in the tubes – most of us can only hope. We simply lack the resources to either profit or avoid the fallout.

        Woohoo! Back to the 1930s! Punitive and savage here we come!

      • Yep the big crash is coming. Its been commented about for a while now. The majority of the comfortable classes don’t realise their party is coming to end soon.

  3. Thank you Annie : this will be truly inspiring to our Meat Workers Union members who are up against it as you know in the Talleys owned companies. Suppression of voice is a powerful weapon and must be resisted.

  4. NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF THE BIGGER PICTURE
    ie -THAT
    This (SHOULD/would NEVER happen)
    if
    We
    (the PEOPLE)
    did NOT tolerate a World in which
    Money is more important than People.

    The “NZ Govt” is an entity / Bureaucracy has been allowed to morph into a “Humanity unfriendly” Machinery and needs to be dismantled!

    We urgently need to ALL gather together as a Nation of PEOPLE and create a NEW MODEL / SYSTEM of MANAGEMENT
    that
    promotes Human Wellbeing.

  5. The biggest challenge workers in New Zealand face is the work environment they are exposed to. While union membership has dropped in many countries, partly due to governments bringing in neoliberal policies and laws that weaken the rights of workers, beneficiaries and other disadvantaged persons, there is one important aspect to consider that applies to New Zealand more than many other developed countries.

    Most employers in New Zealand are small to medium size, and the medium size here would in many cases still be considered small in many other countries.

    That means most workers are employed in places where there are less than ten or a dozen workers at a work place, which in many cases includes the owner or manager, who runs the business, working near or alongside them.

    Hence they are constantly observed, challenged through their social interaction and conversations, by employers sending messages re what they think and expect, this goes also into politics and so forth.

    This puts pressure on workers to conform and not say things that the boss may not like to hear. And the small number of workers, often tied into individual contracts which force them to be mindful and also mistrust colleagues, as it is all designed to compete with each other, this all discourages workers to unite and stand up for their rights.

    Any person who dares to join a union and who may raise issues is the exposed to be criticised, isolated and risks being the first one out of the door again.

    This has left so many vulnerable, which was not, or lesser so the case, when we once upon a time had compulsory unionism and collective contracts all over the place.

    I am not for re-introducing compulsory unionism, but we must take on the challenge to network more, to support each other more and fight for workers to feel more encouraged to speak out when things are not right.

    Solidarity and social bonding are important, to achieve more collective spirit and unity, and this is not easy, but can be done.

  6. “Caring Counts”, 2012, a most excellant and thorough pice of work by Human Rights Commission explains how the caring industry is ” a modern day slave trade” and what has happened to this lady confirms this. If we treat our careers like slaves, how do we expect them to treat our elderly. Appalling reflection of New Zealand’s government attitude to those that created such a decent society, only to be destroyed by Key, who cares only for his gang.
    At least slaves were provided with a home and food, carers and other slaves are struggling to sustain a home and lifestyle the elite would shudder at, how do they sleep at night?
    No amount of money will help them end their days with a clear conscience and a sense of a life well lived, they will get all they deserve eventually.

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