Monday, February 9, 2009

Secretary's Reort 2008 (Abridged)

Untimely Loss of Branch President.
A long and deep shadow was cast over the life of the branch with the totally unexpected death in March of our then branch president Roger Fox. I make no apology for giving this first mention in my report as, besides being a foundation member of the union, it was largely through Roger’s initiative, enthusiasm, determination and perseverance that Waitemata Branch was established and continues to be the only branch in the union open to unemployed and beneficiaries. As he could take credit for the existence of the branch, so too can he take credit for its continuance after his death. His absence was felt when in August our branch meeting failed to achieve a quorum. Yet his presence was felt when in the following month attendance rebounded to 8, and in October to 11. And whenever our branch has been represented at pickets and demonstrations, we have been following precedents set by Roger.

Brief Overview of the Year in Retrospect.
Beyond regular monthly meetings, branch activity during the year came in three forms:.
Attending demonstrations and pickets in solidarity with striking workers in NZ and those oppressed by imperialist aggression overseas.
Organizing forums on topics of burning importance to Unite members and the wider working class.
Campaigning to have unemployed and beneficiaries democratically represented in the proposed amalgamation of Unite with the SFWU and NDU.

Campaigns Supported; Demos and Rallies Attended.
Continuing from the previous year, members actively supported the pickets of hospital cleaners in their successful strike against their employer Spotless. We were well represented at the rallies supporting the defendants in the so-called ‘Urewera terrorism’ case, and a few of us have regularly attended pickets at the court. Members marched in anti-war demos, Mayday parades and (despite atrocious weather) demonstrated against US imperialist Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice when she dared to visit Auckland.
Unite union has held strikes at a number of sites throughout the year, but typically we have heard about them too late to send organised support to the pickets. The union is not so organized that branch secretaries are routinely notified of pickets, and even if it were, it is doubtful that HQ would notify a branch which has reason to be critical of the leadership.

The branch hosted three forums. For the forum ‘Leg Irons for Workers: The Employment Relations Act and the Terrorism Suppression Act’ we were privileged to have as a speaker one the defendants. The forum on constitution of proposed amalgamated union. Was intended for the rank-and-file of all three unions concerned, but disappointingly, apart from Waitemata Branch members only a few supportive union organisers turned up. The third forum (on Rocketing Price Rises) was, like the first, well attended.

Membership and Meeting Attendance.
Membership remains stable at 16. Those lost through resignation and, sadly, through death have been replaced by two new members, both of whom had been recruited via forums. There is clearly a need to concentrate more on recruiting in future.

Since first hearing late last year of the amalgamation proposals, the branch has been a consistent advocate of democratic structures in an amalgamated union, organizing a forum and producing leaflets toward this end. Although attempts to send reps to negotiations have been obstructed by the bureaucrats, we were successful at the October union AGM in getting passed an amendment to a resolution to the effect that branches and worksites be encouraged to send delegates to amalgamation workshops. The resolution was one authorising the management committee to continue negotiating, even though it was reported to the AGM that negotiations had stalled, apparently on the issue of support or otherwise for the parliamentary Labour Party

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