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GUEST BLOG: Shirin Brown – Waiheke – Celebrating advocacy and lunacy

“Waiheke is full of activists and lunatics”.  Reading Doug McKay’s comments provided a hilarious start to Sunday morning.  The throwaway comments are also disturbing, reflecting the contempt and continued battle Waiheke and rural communities face in having our basic needs met by government entities.  Not to mention the socially damaging view that people who stand up for community values and environment are completely bonkers.  

Well this lunatic community has higher input into local board feedback than every other in the Auckland area, aside from Aotea/Great Barrier.   People can identify local board members by name and our local newspaper, radio station and facebook pages keep us informed of issues that affect us. 

As a population of 9,000 in a city of 1.8 million we’ve always had to pull above our weight, often maligned for seeking workable solutions to simple problems.     We also wonder why no brainers, like additional water tanks for water storage, haven’t reached Auckland sooner, particularly given the water shortages the city is now experiencing.  

Nuclear free, GE Free and TPPA free. We have a heightened sense of awareness of global issues and threats.   As an island community within an island nation, we’re like the canary down the mine, noticing the effects of rising housing prices often before they are felt by other communities, where it’s possible to move just that little bit further away to get something cheaper.  by moving just a little bit further away.  

Council staff have been genuinely surprised that the Waiheke Local Board had its own housing strategy to address housing access and affordability.  And yet, according to the 2013 census figures, significant numbers of renters spend more than 60% of their income to live in rotting baches, and live on a median annual income that is $2,400 less than Auckland. This housing unaffordability, while 30% of houses remain empty, splits families and friends, and sees people who have grown up and lived on Waiheke all their lives, forced away.  In fact, when Mr McKay’s comments came through on the intercom, the committee were waiting for the submission of the Waiheke Health Trust’s plea that Council land be held for community purposes.  

Our island population experiences comparable issues to the rest of the country but often with less support.  Addiction and poverty are an issue for many of us, particularly affecting young people who then struggle to engage with the opportunities of the city because work and study options are an unaffordable hour away. 

And yet we continue to be self-reliant and consistently solve our own problems.  A Friday night Friends of the Street service gets our young people home safely and has reduced our drink driving statistics, while  a Kai Conscious programme  feeds people, teaches people to cook supermarket rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, and provides a meeting place for all sectors of our community.  

Nor are our protests unreasonable.  The recent protest around bus routes highlighted a major shortcoming around the recent AT consultation.   According to the 2013 census, the 60 to 74 year olds are the fastest growing age bracket, with 58% of the population are aged over 40, compared to 43% in Auckland.    To their credit, AT changed some of the routes in response to the request for greater coverage over higher frequency.  

Meanwhile the press and Auckland Council continue to favour the mythical and lopsided view that we are only an island of nimbies and wealth.  Genuine concerns are dismissed as coming from ‘colourful characters’ who are difficult, parochial or stopping progress.  

We call it having fun with the things we stand up for.   Moreover, simply talking about the issues never seems to get any press coverage at all, nor does it dig us out of the quagmire of bureaucracy.  Since the forming of the Supercity in 2010, we have marched up Queen Street with a penguin look-a-like protect our waste contract, (since lost and recently returned),  and we’ve carried a coffin onto the ferry to protest unaffordable ferry fares.  Most recently a few of us drove a sheep down to Wellington to draw attention to the ridiculousness of plonking  a marina into a transport gateway that receives over 95% of our freight and is the only island access point for vehicles.  This issue is now in its 4th year, having cost the community $450,000 to date.   

I feel honoured to be labelled a lunatic if it means standing up for what you believe in.   My time on the Local Board and since have shown me what it means to feel empowered and to fight for community interests, and to get the best out of government.  Skills I now hope to take into the National political arena by standing for Labour in Tāmaki.  

Let’s position Waiheke as something more interesting and valuable than as a playground of the rich, to be taken advantage of and patronized.    It is a refuge, where successive generations of community and environmental advocates have fought to retain its rural character and maintain its feel as the jewel in Auckland’s crown, a place for all Aucklanders to enjoy, not just the superwealthy as is often promoted.  

‘We are far enough behind to be ahead’, not because we’re too stupid to know otherwise, but because we understand the value of undevelopment and work hard to protect what we have.   Perhaps more importantly we pave the way for other communities to question things that are done at them rather than with them. 

Shirin Brown was elected to the Waiheke Local Board from 2013 to 2019.  She is currently researching for a PhD in local government and standing for Labour in Tāmaki.  

 

GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – The pandemic and immigration

When the pandemic arrived in this country, Prime Minister Ardern appealed to New Zealanders to “be kind”.

The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief many of the unkinder aspects of our society.

Our willingness to pander to the employers to lower our borders so that we can continue to take advantage of migrant workers, but not extend to them, the same value as human beings the rest of us living and working here enjoy, is one such example.

Kindness can not be limited or constrained. Kindness if it is limited or constrained to some and not others, is not kindness, it is discrimination.

The invocation of the Prime Minister for New Zealanders to ‘be kind’ during this time, must be extended to those we bring here to labour for us in our fields and factories and offices, or be exposed as patent hypocrisy, even racism.

A 10-year-old child is facing deportation from New Zealand, despite her parents offering to pay for help with her special needs schooling.

The girl, who Stuff has chosen not to name for privacy reasons, has lived in Nelson with her parents for about two years.

Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says he is appalled at the prospect of the girl having to return home without her parents because of her special needs.

Her parents have valid work permits for a further two years.

They have been told their daughter will be unlawfully in New Zealand from Saturday and will have to return home.

The girl attends primary school in Nelson and her principal has advocated on her behalf.

The principal said the girl received up to two hours of support each day which the family had offered to pay for to minimise the government-funded costs.

“It should not be about politics – I am confident that when the minister has a chance to revisit the application that he will see that the case is more about human rights issues and accordingly make the right decision.”

The mother said the child had received plenty of support from her teachers and friends at school in the meantime.

Smith was made aware of the child’s situation by the family and school, and has written to associate Immigration Minister Poto Williams, seeking an urgent review.

Immigration is a human rights issue not a political issue. This girl’s principal is right.

Immigration is about human rights not money

When the local National Party MP Nick Smith, (not particularly noted for his compassion), can recognise the brutal inhuman cruelty of our immigration department toward this little girl and her family, something is very wrong.

The Associate Minister of immigration Poto Williams and the Honourable Member for this portfolio Kris Fafoi must take the Prime Minister’s appeal to ‘be kind’ to heart, and order their department to reverse this heartless decision immediately.

 

Pat is an activist, Unionist and writer.

The Daily Blog Open Mic – Sunday – 27th September 2020

Announce protest actions, general chit chat or give your opinion on issues we haven’t covered for the day.

Moderation rules are more lenient for this section, but try and play nicely.

EDITORS NOTE: – By the way, here’s a list of shit that will get your comment dumped. Sexist language, homophobic language, racist language, anti-muslim hate, transphobic language, Chemtrails, 9/11 truthers, climate deniers, anti-fluoride fanatics, anti-vaxxer lunatics, 5G conspiracy theories, the virus is a bioweapon, some weird bullshit about the UN taking over the world  and ANYONE that links to fucking infowar.

Workers Fired Because They Asked For Fairness: Boss Pockets Money – Coward Goes into Hiding

This morning we were supposed to be in Mediation with James Delmont, the boss of Dollar Dealers – the Auckland pawn shop chain. But he’s a no-show. Apparently, he’s made other plans. 

Delmont has managed to worm his way out of fronting for sacking two workers during the first COVID 19 lockdown. The Mediation Service told us at 4pm yesterday they no longer had a mediator available in Auckland. They offered a zoom conference call instead, with a mediator from Christchurch. Delmont quickly latched onto this opportunity, insisting it had to be face-to-face or nothing. Pathetically, the Mediation Service offered him a time seven weeks from now.

When I got back to my office and was told this, I went off my head. Delmont sacked two workers, without notice, pretending it was a redundancy issue. He then pocketed their wage subsidy. This was 20 weeks ago in May. These workers have been waiting since then to have Delmont attend a mediation and explain his actions. However, Auckland’s Mediation Service are so disorganised they blithely decided these workers could wait another 7 weeks. That would mean the workers would have to wait 6 months just to get to the first step. I have another case where the bosses are taking a worker to mediation. They got a date within two weeks. Disgraceful. I wasn’t having any of this crap. After a very ‘assertive’ discussion with the Mediation office, they managed to find a mediator after all. 

Although the whole process, since we were advised there was no mediator to then finding one, took less than two hours, Delmont said he had made other plans that couldn’t be changed. Really? Maybe he had a hair appointment that had opened up.

However, he did find the time to try and contact one of the workers from his cell phone. He was advised from the start he wasn’t permitted to contact a former employee once the legal process commenced. In the criminal courts it’s a crime to contact witnesses. It’s called intimidation. Of course he didn’t respond to me when I asked him to explain himself. Some people like Delmont believe rules and good behaviour don’t apply to them.  

I met the two workers last night for our prearranged meeting and advised them the mediation was off. They were obviously very upset. One hasn’t been able to find work during the COVID 19 pandemic, and the other had taken a day off from work to attend the Mediation and wouldn’t be able to work today. Just the cost of getting to my office is a burden. Delmont and his ilk who abuse others are oblivious to this reality for working class people these days, and if they did know – they wouldn’t give a toss. 

After debriefing with the two workers, I realised the case against Delmont and Dollar Dealers is even worse than I thought. When we first raised the dismissals in May, some unnamed “HR” person sent an extensive, elaborate redundancy process they claimed they had used. Last night the workers tell me nothing of the sort happened. They were the only two employees the company had spoken to about potential redundancies. Originally, Dollar Dealers said they would pay them the COVID wage subsidy. This was our tax money, which we gave to bosses so jobs could be protected. But Delmont told them at their termination meeting that he had changed his mind and he “would keep the money because he could.” They got just four days’ pay in lieu of notice and walked off the job immediately.

Right from the start, I wondered why these two women were targeted. Last night it became clear. When the lockdown started Dollar Dealers announced all employees would have to use their accrued holiday leave. Both these women had challenged management’s right to do this without consultation. Shortly after they were told they were being made “redundant”. 

When my union got involved it became apparent Delmont had concocted an elaborate fabrication that it was a legitimate redundancy due to COVID 19. I never believed it, because no business with 69 employees would go through an entire redundancy process just to make two workers redundant. Especially as their normal monthly staff turnover is three. Advertising vacancies on SEEK within a month gives the game away.

The women say since my previous Daily Blog article they have received dozens of stories from current and former employees on the outright dishonesty and corrupt practices carried out by this company. I have asked they send this information to me for future publication. 

In summary though, it works like this. Desperate people come in with family jewellery and other expensive heirlooms to use as collateral for short term loans. They get the loan for a fraction of what the items are worth. After deducting an ‘administration fee’ they get charged 35% interest. Many can’t meet the payment schedule and their goods are forfeited. They can be then resold for up to ten times the loan made to the former owner. In the US, they used to call these people the Mafia. It’s legal here. 

Skimming through social media pages show the extended Delmont family are clearly part of the ‘rich and famous’ lifestyle crowd. It seems their beautiful lives and privileges have been largely possible through the misfortunes of the poor. I note all the Dollar Dealer stores are in working class areas, whilst members of the extended Delmont family live in palatial mansions in the leafy suburbs.

When you absorb what types of people would run a business model like that, it’s easy to see why Delmont would have no problem sacking two employees and then pretend otherwise.

As you’d expect under the COVID 19 climate, business is booming for loan sharks. Dollar Dealers is soon to open up a new store in Hamilton. Our UTU bus should be up and running by then. We are looking forward to attending the launch party to expose their practices to the good people of Hamilton.

I was always prepared to reach a fair outcome for these workers. Clearly it’s not in Delmont’s character to consider that. I presume that’s because his whole life is about taking advantage of other people, so why would he stop now. 

I’ve written to him this morning (attaching this article) and amended our claim for the two workers. We will claim compensation for their normal wages from the time they were sacked (that’s $16,000 each in lost wages for the last 20 weeks) and I will add their normal weekly wage $800 a week until this matter is settled. For the stress and fear he has caused these two women he’s going to have to do the right thing and compensate them for $10,000. I’m adding the 3% monthly interest, he charges his clients. Workers should never have to pay to get justice from an unscrupulous boss, so he’ll get our invoice too.

If you have any information on James Delmont or Dollar Dealers, or would like to help, contact us at justice@oneunion.org.nz

We have our campaign bus ready for action to support a campaign to end exploitation. We are looking forward to visiting Hamilton for Dollar Dealers’ opening of their new store. We would appreciate any koha to get on the road. Click here. 

 

In solidarity / Nga mihi

 

Matt McCarten is the National Director of One Union and a Trustee of UTU For The People.

True Believers In A False God

WHEN ADOLF HITLER committed suicide on 30 April 1945, thousands of Germans followed his example. The most famous copy-cats were Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda. Not only did they take their own lives, but also those of their six children. The idea of surviving the Fuhrer, being held accountable for everything he, and they, had done, seeing National Socialism overthrown and accepting the inevitable ruin of everything they had hoped for and fought for, was simply too overwhelming for many fanatical Nazis to contemplate.

Good riddance! Well, yes, that’s one response. But just consider the following excerpt from US writer, Eric Levitz’s “QAnon Is Madness: But Believing It Can Be Rational” article posted on The Intelligencer website of 23/9/20:

“Speaking with voters in Wisconsin this month, Time reporter Charlotte Alter heard conspiracy theories from about 20 percent of her interview subjects. Many of these Wisconsinites were not familiar with QAnon but subscribed to its basic tenets. Tina Arthur, a small-business owner, told Alter that she was not a follower of QAnon but did believe that the Democrats were in league with a cabal of blood-drinking child rapists and that ‘if Biden wins, the world is over, basically … I would probably take my children and sit in the garage and turn my car on, and it would be over.’”

What the hell is going on, when a businesswoman from the Mid-Western United States is willing to wipe out her entire family rather than face the prospect of living under a Democratic President? Because, when all is said and done, “Sleepy Joe” Biden is a very far cry from Joseph Stalin, and even the most strident antifa protester is nowhere near as dangerous as the vengeance-seeking soldiers of the Red Army. How did as many as 20 percent of Americans end up tumbling down this dangerously hallucinatory rabbit-hole?

According to Levitz, conspiracy theories have much more to offer confused and frightened citizens than may, at first glance, be apparent:

“The tendency toward conspiracism is deeply rooted in the human psyche. It manifests across time and geography and is likely a product of evolutionary pressures. On an emotional level, human beings tend to find the idea of being threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control much more upsetting than being threatened by an intelligible enemy. Social psychologists have found that when fearful people contemplate potential misfortunes, they tend to feel helpless and pessimistic, but when angry people contemplate the same, they feel a sense of optimism and control. And one simple way to transmute fear into anger is to perceive an evil agent behind whatever development is causing you uncertainty and disquiet.”

With this in mind, we begin to appreciate the powerful psychological insight behind the New Zealand Government’s “Unite Against Covid-19!” campaign. By personifying the virus, transforming it into an “evil agent” which New Zealanders could defeat collectively, the Government and the Ministry of Health headed-off the sort of QAnon craziness that has turned so many fearful Americans into gibbering paranoiacs.

The other key factor in this country’s success in preventing the widespread uptake of insane conspiracy theories was the regular 1:00pm briefings from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Fear grows exponentially in the absence of timely and reliable information. New Zealand was, therefore, especially fortunate in having the “Jacinda and Ashley Show”. These two particularly gifted and credible communicators were able to deliver on an almost daily basis the answers and reassurance their frightened fellow citizens were so eager to receive. Such anger as was generated out of public fear tended to be directed against those who refused to “unite against the virus”. Not only did this popular enforcement of the Covid-19 Lockdown impede the disease’s spread, but it also served as a useful safety-valve for the tensions occasioned by the extraordinary limitations of individual freedom which the fight against the pandemic necessitated.

The comparison with the United States could hardly be more stark. Rather than the consistent and uplifting communications of Jacinda Ardern, the Americans were exposed to the constantly changing, often contradictory, messages of President Donald Trump. Also a formidable communicator, Trump deployed his talent in ways that fed, rather than calmed, his people’s fears, and fuelled their anger with hyper-politicised bulletins of unprecedented malignancy.

It would be wrong, however, to suggest that New Zealanders have been unanimous in their acceptance of the measures adopted to “stamp out” the virus. Although upwards of three-quarters of the population have registered either their “support” or “strong-support” for the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, that still leaves a quarter of the population unconvinced.

Some of these were the sort of hyper-individualists so often found in the upper reaches of societies dominated by the ideology of neoliberalism. Such people (most of them men) find the idea of standing in solidarity with the “sheeple” abhorrent. Equally unappealing, from the perspective of these “One Percenters”, is the unhelpful example set by the all-too-obvious success of collective intervention. Well-positioned to communicate their opposition, these Covid sceptics have been unceasing in their efforts to undermine the Government’s solidaristic appeals to “The Team of Five Million”.

The other pool of scepticism and resistance is fed by the fear and ignorance of New Zealand’s least educated and most marginalised citizens. With little cause to trust a state which bitter experience has taught them to regard as an alien and hostile entity, these folk remained largely untouched by the Government’s campaign against Covid-19. In terms of social-psychology, they are precisely the people who feel “threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control”. Looking for “an intelligible enemy” to blame for their shitty world becoming even shittier, they have every reason to believe, and insufficient intellectual resources to refute, the conspiracy theories fed to them by the algorithms of social media and the political predators who so adroitly exploit them.

Once inside the rabbit holes of the conspiracists; once supplied with the identity of the “evil agents” against whom their now inflamed emotions can be directed; once filled with the optimism and sense of control that makes being angry in the company of like minds so much more bearable than being alone and frightened; once the hallucinations have become more compelling than reality; what then is the incentive to stop seeing things that aren’t there? Better by far to expand the rabbit hole until in encompasses the whole world.

And if reality reasserts itself: either in the form of the Fuhrer’s death and the Red Army’s victory; or in the person of President Biden and a Democratic Party-controlled Congress; then what is the point of going on? Better to grab the kids, administer the poison, and avoid shouldering the unbearable heaviness of being exposed as a true believer in a false god.

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