Posts Tagged ‘Matt McCarten’


September 9, 2008

Matt McCarten’s Unite Union is noted for its innovative and determined approach to low-paid workers’ struggles. Now it has a new ally. Doesn’t have a name, so I’ll just call it Cheesy for now, though some are no doubt calling it Nigel.

Yep, UNITE have deployed a 20 foot high inflatable rat in their current struggle at Sky City:

“We wanted to tell the new SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrision not to be a rat and treat his staff decently,” said Unite National Director Mike Treen.

“After all he is one of New Zealand’s highest paid CEOs yet proposes to pay his workers the minimum wage and a wage offer to the rest of his staff that is less than the inflation rate.”

It’s the same old story. New Australian CEO thinks he’ll show the kiwi unions who’s boss. Where have we heard that story before?

Speaking of the low-paid workers and “dirty employers”, a former employee at a McDonald’s franchise in Kaiapoi has won $15,000 compensation for being constructively dismissed after joining Unite. (Decision here.) Treen says:

“… the union often has problems with McDonald’s franchise operators in complying with their legal obligations. They often take the decision of their employees to join the union as a personal affront.”

Fast food workers are often vulnerable as they are employed as “casuals” with no fixed hours of work. This allows the boss to punish or effectively dismiss workers simply by reducing or eliminating their hours. Unite is pushing for “security of hours” to be included in a new Collective Agreement with McDonald’s.

I heard a McDonald’s Restaurants (New Zealand) Ltd manager on the radio this morning being quoted as saying that many workers wanted the flexibility, but this is not in the on-line report and there is no press release on the McDonald’s site. Anyway, you decide where the truth lies.

Update: Anna McM at the Handmirror posts on Chantelle Coup’s victory.


From last cab to first limo

September 7, 2008

After reviewing the last couple of weeks and the turnaround in Labour’s fortunes, Matt McCarten in the HoS writes:

“The polls in the past two weeks must give real hope to Labour strategists. The gap between these two parties is closing to single digits. … if Labour gets within 10 points of National, it has a chance of pulling off a record fourth term … Labour’s ally, the Green Party, is certain to be returned in greater numbers. Add that to Labour’s numbers and the gap closes to almost the margin of error.”

Matt notes that the downside of Key’s big gamble should Peters not get charged with something serious is Peters back in parliament with at least 6 MPs, “… and you wouldn’t want to put money on the possibility that Peters can’t pull off one last trick.” Except that Key has.

Should Peters reach 5% he says, the Maori Party become the kingmakers. (I can see this happening without NZ First in Parliament under present trends. Once again, he warns that:

“There was an assumption the Maori Party would lean toward Labour, but that ignores the situation where their candidates are in fierce combat in the Maori seats. That is causing a lot of friction.”

He concludes:

“It won’t be long before the chattering political classes realise the possibility that the election’s outcome could be determined by the newest kid on the block – the Maori Party. Won’t that drive them nuts.”

Of course, some of us chattering classes figured this out months ago.

Georgia: dog wags tail

August 17, 2008

Matt McCarten starts his HoS column today with arguably the biggest understatement since Noah said, “Looks like rain today”:

“In the United States, it seems the mainstream media fall in line frequently with their government’s spin over international events.”

Matt’s disturbed by “how jingoistic and partisan the US news coverage is over the Georgia conflict.” This is important, he says, as the US is the world’s most powerful nation, and, because of the role played by the US news media in filtering the western world’s news. (For an example of the latter, just try TV3 news.)

He points out that most people in the US would have little idea that it was the Georgians who kicked off the current conflict there, with the slaughter of Russian peacekeepers and Ossetian civilians.

Instead they hear that, “the small, feisty and free democratic state of Georgia has been ruthlessly invaded by Russian thugs who are carrying out genocide and mass destruction. It’s … a fight between good and evil.”

We in NZ still have a range of views presented by our news media, and probably have a better understanding of events in Georgia than most Americans, Matt believes. He’s probably right.

Chris Trotter in Friday’s DomPost provides a graphic description of the “brigand’s strategy” pursued by the Georgian government, the human carnage and the sheer, breath-taking stupidity of poking the Russian Bear sharply in the eye. Especially, as Chris points out, when it has stationed masses of huge Russian battle tanks decked out in explosive reactive armour just across the border in North Ossetia.

He dwells — and rightly so — on the monumental irony of the likes of Bush and McCain deploring the violation of sovereign territory:

“Tell it to the Yugoslavs, Uncle Sam. Tell it to the Iraqis and the Afghans and the Nicaraguans, and every other unfortunate nation that has ever found itself in the cross-hairs of American foreign policy. Tell it to the Serbs, forced to watch helplessly as the Western powers carried off their province of Kosovo.”

Well put. Historically the US has maintained an interest in the Americas that almost saw the end of the world when the Soviets tried to station some missiles there, most notably. But there are few Latin American countries in whose affairs the USA has not interfered many times, if not invaded.

The US neocons seemed to have missed the point that their encouragement of Saakashvili is the equivalent of the Russians talking to Mexico about an alliance, and then encouraging them to lay waste to would-be break-away state of Baja California, immediately on the border with California, killing many Americans. What would you expect the Americans to do faced with that?!

That Dubya and his buddy John McCain can pronounce on territorial integrity, the acceptability of “bullying and intimidation” and how “In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations” without being howled down simply underlines Matt’s point.

Sunday paps

August 10, 2008

Matt McCarten‘s no syncophant as he sums up why Labour’ week was so good in the HOS:

“Since John Key was elected leader, National has had a dream run. Helen Clark must have been despairing over the endless own goals her colleagues have been providing to their political opponents… I can’t think of many weeks that there hasn’t been bad news for Labour.”

National’s conference was supposed to be “the unofficial launch of its coronation to victory… Apart from Key and Bill English looking a bit dorky, New Zealanders would have the subliminal message that the Nats are ready to govern.”

While views on the fallout from cocktail-gate vary, Matt opines that, “the revelations by the three senior Nats have put its campaign strategy at risk.” Add this to the tax cuts plus borrowing package, with its shades of Muldoonism, and Labour has more ammunition for the election than anybody thought possible just a short while ago.

Lastly, Matt suggests that the Peters saga favours Labour. “National’s unwillingness to nail Peters has meant the muck is not sticking to Clark.” And, come time for post-election horse-trading, Peters “will remember National was trying to shaft him. If NZ First is returned, I’d put money on him going with Clark.”

It won’t take too many good weeks for Labour for this to be a real possibility.

Deborah Coddington offers the insight that:

“In my experience it’s the well-off, in general, who have the most disgusting behaviour. The rich are different not just because they have more money but because many of them have less grace.”

Sadly, she doesn’t make the link to the attributes that the capitalist system rewards. It’s not exactly a revelation… didn’t someone once say something about the rich and eyes of needles? In the same vein, Fran O’Salivatin’ also writes about Rod Petricevic, who features in Coddington’s column. Petricevic is portrayed as a dubious character, but sui generis. Crap, ethical behaviour in capitalist commerce is a continuum, not bipolar.

In the SST, Rod Oram assesses the Nat’s announced economic policy. He finds it “troubling” :

“… the men who are potentially the next prime minister and deputy made scant reference to the fast-changing world and New Zealand’s role in it.”

Some of us have been noting for some time that there’s been plenty of talk from the Nats about closing wage — now after tax income — gaps and the like, but precious little announced that would materially assist improve NZ’s productivity levels.

Spending a little more on infrastructure won’t do it, note. As Oram says:

“An extra $500 million a year of spending will be only a small improvement on the already very large increase the current government has made in infrastructure investment; and National is promising to spend $1.5 billion on fibre optic cable, which could be wasteful or crowd out private sector investment, according to some telecommunications players.”

The impact here of the current global financial crisis should be at the forefront of out minds right now, says Oram, along with “the opportunities for us to earn a much bigger living in global markets.”

Oram outlines responses to recent recessions in order weigh National’s apparent insouciance, and explores some of the contradictions in National’s policies. My pick of the weekend’s reading.

[Update: Lynn Prentice at The Standard writes at greater length on Oram’s piece.]

The Sunday paps

August 3, 2008

More to come on Peters Bill Ralston lets slip that the campaign to eliminate Winston Peters has more ammunition:

“The bad news for Peters is that the allegations against him will not go away, in fact there will be more over the coming months.”

Ralston implies that only, “deranged paranoid conspiracy theorists” would be “willing to believe that a pliant media and big business is out to destroy” Peters. Well, as someone who never doubted that Lee Harvey Oswald acted single-handedly, I have to say that it is increasingly looking like a concerted effort to get Peters out of the way. I see that I’m not the only one coming to that conclusion.

Now, let’s see, who would have the most to gain from not having to deal with Peters at the end of the year?

Moving right along Finlay Macdonald sums up the typical bar room political trainspotters’ reaction to recent events: “media mud fight, Winston up to his old tricks, bloody politicians… what about Robbie Deans then?”

Cogently, he argues that;

“Parliamentary reporting has so blurred the line between editorial hypothesis and mundane truth that it creates its own version of the so-called “observer effect”: in the act of commentating upon an event, the event itself is changed.”

Macdonald also reiterates the point made here that, as they hound Peters in the corridors of power, the media are reinforcing exactly the image that Peters wants to project.

Doin’ it for themselves Matt McCarten warns that the working poor will not be so passive for a new National government, should the Nats win. He detects a growing determination amongst the low paid to combine and push for better pay and conditions, citing a number of instances in the past week alone.

In each case the workers were taking action without any outside help — giving the lie to the hoary old employer propaganda about “union interference” I might add in passing. McCarten concludes:

“I see more of this every day and feel – probably for the first time since the 1980s – workers are not prepared to roll over at their employer’s whim as they did in the past.”

National has released its industrial relations policy that indicates it wishes to roll back workers’ rights. My advice to John Key is that he should tread carefully. It may unleash something it may regret.”

White man’s anger, fact-light debate & Key’s secret

June 29, 2008

Some thoughts on today’s crop of newspaper columns…

In HoS, Matt McCarten gives us a potted history of New Zealand/Aotearoa, in the vein of The Sixty-Minute Shakespeare. He sums up the period known to Maori as Te Riri Pakeha — white man’s anger:

“The settlers set up provincial governments and passed laws to take the land without their consent. When Maori protested, the settlers sent in volunteer armies to kill them and steal their land anyway. Once they’d stolen enough land to share among the members of the militia they pinched some more to sell to cover the expenses of their excursions. Many descendants of these criminals begrudge today modest compensation to the Maori descendants of the former landholders.”


Lost in space

June 23, 2008

Matt McCarten reviewed recent political debate yesterday in the HoS, concluding that “our politics is rather sad and pathetic really, isn’t it?” He summed up:

“Despite the increasing challenge of oil running out and the impending environmental catastrophe, it seems our politicians would rather distract us with anti-tagging legislation, retracting KiwiSaver brochures, paying too much for hui and using women as a cynical election gimmick.”

Fair comment. Last week’s antics didn’t reflect well on politicians of any stripe, and the media continue to suck.

We should be debating how we’re going to secure our economic and environmental future, as well as cope with the recession in the short-term.

Issues such as our spending on research and development, both public and private, are infinitely more important than decisions by government officials to avoid anything that might be considered electioneering. (The latter actually reflects very well on the Government, if you think about it.)

The media have two defences. Firstly, their consumers have woefully limited capacity for serious stuff. If the media focussed on issues like R&D spending until the election, people would stop buying papers or turning on the tellie for the news. Arguably, the tiny minority interested in serious news has Radio NZ and the BBC on cable, so it’s well catered for anyway.

Secondly, there isn’t much policy to report and discuss at the moment. National are keeping their powder dry.

Let’s be clear. National are entitled to do this. And it may be to their advantage. But it has created an awful policy vacuum that short-changes the democratic process. Instead of debating issues and policy proposals critical to our future we are cast adrift in the thin atmosphere of policy outer space. And when I see reports in the news media about John Key being voted the sexiest politician and Nick Smith proposing in the sand, it feels like we are being forced to crap in our space suits.

[Update: Gordon Campbell helpfully sets out what he thinks National’s policies will be in the education, health, economy and lawn order areas, along with questions that need to be answered, based on speeches and announcements to date.]

Who Shall Go to the Ball?

June 7, 2008

Watching the various small parties position themselves in recent weeks, the words “rats” and “sinking ship” come to mind. But as Matt McCarten points out in today’s HoS column, Labour may be partly to blame for its predicament.

Matt reminds us that after the last election Winston Peters and Peter Dunne refused to support a Labour-led government if the Greens were in it. He argues that this “set up the situation where Labour’s hegemony of the minor parties would ultimately fracture.” And so it seems to be coming to pass.


Maori Party & balance of power

June 1, 2008

In recent threads on other blogs speculating on the outcome of the election, left-bloggers routinely take Maori Party support for a left bloc for granted.

That’s because they see a big difference between the way that Labour and National have approached Maori issues, culture and status over time. I’m inclined to agree with that assessment of the differences, but then, you see, I’m pakeha.

Maori don’t necessarily see it the same way. So it is foolish to take their post-election support in Parliament as a given.


CTU vs. striking doctors’ union

May 4, 2008

Today, CTU President Helen Kelly got a short, sharp lesson in trade unionism from Matt McCarten. He was not impressed by her criticism last week of the Resident Doctors’ Association, representing junior doctors, for the strike action in support of its pay claims.

Matt was typically blunt. He was “gobsmacked”, he said, “to see the head of the trade union movement publicly attack the junior doctors’ [strike] and their union leadership. It’s not as if [Kelly] doesn’t know any better – her parents were staunch unionists.” Ouch.

So, what was Kelly’s gripe? She argued that the RDA “never really formalised themselves into what a modern union is.” That is, they lack “wider professional advisers such as policy analysts, economists, lawyers and advocates” and focus on industrial matters instead of “social issues”. Rather than striking, the RDA should have been “[engaging] in the broad range of issues that face the health sector” with other health sector unions, the DHBs and the Ministry of Health.

It is true that the RDA is little more than a bargaining agency with a very narrow focus on pay and conditions, and that it has not participated in the multi-party problem-solving in the sector over recent years.

It is also true that the highly disruptive strike action is adding to the Government’s current woes. Kelly may have been recruited to put a helpful spin on things. It does begin to look that way.

Undoubtedly, unions in the present climate should cooperate where it is mutually beneficial to do so and there are win-win solutions to problems to be found. A recent survey revealed that this is what union members want.

But this approach doesn’t apply where there is a sharp conflict of interest. In this case, the DHBs are haemorrhaging junior doctors and the outlook is for things to get worse. That’s because of the huge pay differentials between here and other developed countries. It’s about the international labour market, stupid.

The DHBs seem to be the meat in the sandwich. It would appear that the government has been getting some poor advice from the Ministry of Health, or simply does not understand the magnitude of the problem. Either way — bureaucratic capture or arrogance — it is hard to find sympathy for the Government.

Further, the Government announced a massive $621m funding increase for the diplomatic corps only days before the first strike. Such timing! A new embassy in Stockholm or junior doctors to keep the hospitals running? Your choice, come November.

Some right-wing bloggers (here, here, and here) have been trying to promote the idea of a far-left takeover of the CTU linked to a new Alliance-type party. Ignore the blatant attempt at wedge politics from the right. Matt’s criticism of Kelly’s comments is much more readily explained as the response of a staunch unionist to a union leader lashing out at striking workers on behalf of a government that ought to know better. And I’m inclined to agree.

[Update: Bryce Edwards blogs on McCarten, “a right bastard.”]