Thursday, October 28, 2010

President's Report-Summary

Summary of the President's report to the Waitemata Unite AGM 16th October 2010

New enrolment form designed together with Unite HQ; and fee increase.

Our branch has been in negotiations with Unite HQ over the past year about formalising our membership and fee payment arrrangements. We agreed to pay the increased fee of $2.00 per week as soon as a collaboratively designed new membership form was available and arrangements were completed for the fee to be efficiently transferred from our branch to HQ, and back again to our branch for our union work. We also decided to send a remit to the Unite National Conference asking for fees for beneficiaries to be reduced; and to do fund- raising to help active members who can’t afford the $2.00. These arrangements are now nearly complete.

Delegate and Remits at Unite National Conference 25, 26 November 2010 This year we have been allocated a place for one delegate at the national conference, who we need to choose today.

Picketting Paula Bennett.

We held a well attended picket outside Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s office in March after the announcement of benefit cuts. This was the first time that we used Facebook and wrote on friendly blog sites like Socialist Aotearoa to advertise an action. This picket got a lot of publicity including on national radio, with a plug from Matt Mccarten, Unite Secretary, and support from Joe Carolan from Unite and Socialist Aotearoa. We printed a number of placards at Unite HQ. Joe and some of the Unite Living Wage crew turned up to support the picket and a wide number of people from the left. I took a number of photos of the picket, which I also displayed on facebook and also on our blog.

On Mayday we went to Piha to picket Paula Bennett at a public meeting, but it turned out to be a fairly low key event as it was only a clinic.

IN August we attended a public meeting with Paula Bennett at the Fickling Centre in Mt Roskill where she met considerable challenge from ourselves and others in the audience.

Other May Day events

After the Piha protest, we came back into town and attended several protests including the Mining protest, the Palestine Rally, the combined unions Mayday rally, and some of us attended the Unite May Day social in the evening.

Search and Surveillance Protest-several Unite Waitemata members attended this march earlier in the year.

90 Day Protests

Several of our members were out in force at the 90 Day protest outside the National Party conference at Sky City and have been active on this issue since including attending a public meeting at the university, and two of us have attended meetings of the Auckland Solidarity Network which-together with Unite- helped organise a very successful picket gainst an employer who sacked an employee under the legislation. Waitemata Unite is preparing to attend the 90 Day rally on 20 October called by the unions.

The 90 Day issue is crucial for beneficiaries who could be forced by WINZ to sign employment contracts using the 90 day legislation, and then could face a 91 day benefit stand down if sacked for no reason under the 90 Day law.

Unite Protests and Pickets

Our members have been very active in support of the Unite $15 per hour campaign and the JB Hi Fi pickets.

Palestine/Israel Protests Our members took part in an urgent protest in response to Israel’s murder of nine innocent people on the Gaza flotilla earlier this year.

Blog and Facebook Group. I have been working continuously with members on the Waitemata Unite blog all year, at, reporting our actions, sending in photos, reporting beneficiary protests overseas, reporting relevant news from New Zealand and overseas, and encouraging comments from readers.. I have started a Waitemata Unite Facebook Group which has attracted some interest around New Zealand and internationally.

Supporting our member getting her pay

We ventured into the field of workplace issues when one of our members was not paid the pay that she was due from a former employer. The threat of publicity and a quick word with a representative for the offending employer fixed that and our member got her pay!

Beneficiary Rights Groups and Forums

We have attended events organised by a number of groups who are raising beneficiary issues including the Child Poverty Action Group, the Alternative Welfare Working Group, the Kotare Centre, and a new beneficiaries’ action group which has been called for by Sue Bradford. We sent representatives to forums organised by the CPAG and the AWWG and also a disability forum organised by a Disability Law Centre. We are in touch with the Rotorua Peoples’ Union, which organised a dramatic protest in Rotorua this year; and the Wellington People’s Centre. I am also in touch with a group in Dunedin that wants to start up a beneficiaries’ union or perhaps form a branch of Unite.

Advocacy Training

Kay Beresford from the Wellington Peoples’ Centre has agreed to give advocacy training to some of our members in November.

Benefit Fact File

We receive updates of the Benefit Fact File from the Wellington People’s Centre around once or twice a year. This file has not yet been used to its full potential, but will be very useful when we begin to do more peer advocacy.

Auckland Super City Elections

Waitemata Unite members have been very active in grassroots movements aimed at opposing the privatisation of services such as water, and the anti-democratic structure of the new Auckland Super City, and have helped the campaign to get left leaning candidates elected.

Future Actions

I think that soon we need to get back to visiting WINZ offices to talk with and to recruit beneficiaries, and to give them leaflets explaining what the current political threats could be. We could also hold our own forums again.

This year WINZ took a large number of people off invalids benefits and onto sickness benefits, and National has passed legislation for work testing sickness beneficiaries and most single parents. Treasury is advocating further cuts, and the Welfare Working Group is looking at an insurance model which would disentitle most beneficiaries and allow people to receive help for only a short time. We are also seeing increasing privatisation of welfare services. This is why the need for beneficiaries to get organised is high.

When we go to WINZ we can hand out recruitment leaflets-which I have here-explaining the advantages of joining Unite, and encourage people to sign up with our new membership forms.

Over all this has been a good year for our branch, with steady attendance at meetings and lots of activity. The biggest blow is probably the fees increase within Unite, and of course the attacks from the government, without. However we have the potential to grow in numbers and in strength, and to help Unite to be truly a union for beneficiaries and paid workers as it was intended to be.

Finally, As an ex- treasurer I want to thank Paul Robertson for the fine job he has done, having taken over the huge job of treasurer, and also unofficial membership secretary, which goes with this job.

By Janet Robin

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