Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why You Need to Join Unite!:

Why you need to Join Unite! Union- and Waitemata Unite!

Unite! is a Community Union
Unite! is for low paid and casual workers, and for those who may not be in paid work for any reason, such as unemployment, illness disability, studying or parenting. We are all members of a community or whanau. We are all members of the working class. Unemployment rates are soaring. The government is not interested in creating suitable jobs that meet our needs or family responsibilities. It doesn’t value the contributions we make. It just wants to cut spending on benefits, and make us look for non- existent work. It is about to implement a number of the beneficiary bashing recommendations of the Welfare Working Group. Its basic philosophy is that ‘work makes us free’. To drive home this message it’s proposing to abolish most benefits and combine them into a lower-paid ‘Jobseeker Allowance’. Note that instead of a ‘benefit’ to which we have a right, it is called an ‘allowance’ so that we are only ‘allowed’ to get it if we seek jobs. This shifts the responsibility away from society to create jobs, onto us to find jobs. If we don’t find them because they aren’t there, or if we refuse to work for a starvation wage, or get sacked under the 90 Day Act for no reason, we are going to be blamed as ‘lazy bludgers’.

Unite! is a Union for Low Paid and Casual Workers
Unite is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing unions with over 10,000 members. Many young people who had never been in a union before are now proud Unite members. We are a lively and strong union who have had many successes! We successfully campaigned to abolish youth rates. Many of our members, such as those in the fast food industry, now have better wages and conditions protected by collective contracts. Most recently the Unite! ‘UTU’ squads of activists have successfully picketed bosses sacking workers under the 90 Day Act and lockouts of workers like at Skycity. Low paid workers are learning that when we unite together and stand strong, we can win!

Unite! is a Union for Unpaid Workers
Mothers are bringing up the future workers of our society. Carers care for the sick and elderly. Students work hard on their studies and still have to make ends meet in their spare time! Many of us do voluntary work, and help our communities. Now the Welfare Working Group is proposing that mothers and fathers on what is now the Domestic Purposes Benefit must work when their youngest child becomes 3yrs old. And if you have a child while on the DPB you will be punished and forced to go to work when the child reaches 14 weeks! Child centres will be allowed to take up to 75 under 2yrs with only 5 staff to look after them! Baby farming under 2’s while the mums and dads are turned into slave labourers! Join Unite! Fight against forced wage labour for mothers and baby farming for under 2’s and for the right to a living benefit!

The Fight against Work Tested Benefits and the 90 Day ‘Fire-at-Will’ Act
The 2010 Social Security Amendment Act came into effect last October. Mothers with children over six , and those on sickness benefits, have joined those on unemployment benefits in having to be available for paid work, whether it suits our family or health needs or not. Those on invalids’ benefits are being forced off them, losing $50 per week and having to look for work too! We will be punished by having half our benefits slashed if we don’t comply. If we still don’t comply after four weeks, our benefits are stopped altogether! Whenever we apply for a benefit, we face a thirteen week stand down if we left a previous job “for no good reason’ or were sacked for “misconduct”. Now the 90 Day ‘Fire-At-Will’ Act means that we could be sacked from a job for no reason, and then could face a benefit stand down for another 91 days for being sacked!

What’s Behind the Welfare Reform plans for Major Cuts in Social Welfare?
Why has the Welfare Working Group and Treasury proposed to savagely reduce our rights even further? Columnist Michael Laws calls us “ferals” and wants all benefits stopped to stop us “breeding”. John Key says that nobody would starve if all welfare was abolished. The WWG ‘razor gang’ wants all beneficiaries to be work tested and penalised if they do not take offered work. Invalid and Sickness beneficiaries will be medically reviewed and pressured into work. To cover up this trick they propose to eliminate benefits and combine them into a single ‘Jobseeker Allowance’. The effect will be to push people into meaningless work on poverty wages to drive down all wages towards the minimum. Meanwhile the government has raised the minimum wage by a miserable 25cents to $13 an hour when GST, food, petrol, rents etc costs will rise at over 4% plus this year. So that is a minimum wage cut! They are legislating to create a huge pool of poor people competing for non-existent or rubbish jobs while the rich are getting tax cuts and companies are getting bailouts. The government says its reforms will create jobs. Yes, the employers will be encouraged to create more minimum wage jobs on poverty wages to boost their profits!

This is why you need Unite! Unite! can fight these laws!
Unite! fights for the rights of employed and beneficiaries!
Waitemata Unite! is a branch of the Unite! union

 If you are a paid worker, Unite! will represent you in any disputes with your employer. If you become unemployed, you can still be a member of Unite!

If you are a beneficiary Waitemata Unite! will support you if you have troubles with WINZ getting the benefit you are entitled to. We will attend WINZ appointments with you, and can call a picket if WINZ persists in treating someone unfairly.

Unite! is picketing employers who sack any worker under the 90 Day legislation. We intend to make this law unworkable!

Lower benefits mean lower wages! Employed and unemployed need to Unite! for a living income for all ! Join Unite! Fight for a living benefits and a living wages! Waitemata Unite will fight every unjust benefit stand down!

These employment and benefit laws are unjust, and they must be changed! We need to stand strong and show the Government we will not take it!

Workers in paid employment can go on strike. Beneficiaries can refuse to go shopping or take our kids out on a demonstration instead of doing the housework. We can all go on pickets. We need to support each other. Together we are strong.

We meet every 3rd Saturday of the month at 11 am at the Avondale Community Centre, and have regular pickets and forums.

Come along, have a cuppa, get involved!

Unemployed and Employed, Join Waitemata Unite today!

Welfare Working Group's Infamous Report

The WWG's report may be found at the following site:

On February 22nd, the day the Christchurch earthquake struck, Paula Bennett’s Welfare Working Group (WWG) released its recommendations, which were greeted with a lively and well attended protest demonstration at the Henderson office of Work and Income. The more spectacular of the two catastrophes of course received far greater attention from the media, despite momentousness of the WWG’s report, and the likelihood that in the long term the recommended welfare “reforms” could result in a higher but less easily visible toll of casualties.
At a time of high unemployment attributable entirely to the unresolved global economic crisis, the WWG’s recommendations set the ambitious target of ”at least 100,000 fewer working age people receiving welfare by 2021…” Needless to say, the measures recommended to achieve this goal are thoroughly draconian, and include intensive case management of “Job Seekers” (as all beneficiaries including sole parents and invalids are to be designated) with punitive sanctions for those who seek but fail to find non-existent employment: Benefit cuts and stand-downs and forced labour are the order of the day.

In the preamble the WWG report predictably claims, “Our welfare system has major deficiencies that need to be corrected…”. Substitute the word “report” for “welfare system” and their claim would be valid. A search of the report in electronic pdf file yields zero results for certain words with obvious relevance, namely “recession”, “depression” or “financial crisis” This glaring omission cannot be explained by culpable ignorance or naivety on the group’s part, as the report does at one point fleetingly refer to the global crisis, trivializing it as an “economic downturn” which it blithely assume will be temporary. Nowhere do they discuss whether such optimism is warranted, nor do they address its implications, which if adequately considered would make a mockery of their ideological premises. Where they recommend that the government ”undertake an investigation into whether labour marker barriers to employment need to be addressed as part of a strategy to reduce benefit dependency.” It attests to its own disgraceful failure to make the very investigation necessary to formulate meaningful recommendations, and thus implicitly acknowledge its abject incompetence to do so.

The real significance of this gross omission is as follows: By pretending that no economic crisis has occurred it becomes unnecessary to blame the government’s bosom-friends the financiers for the widespread misery it has caused, and equally unnecessary to correctly identify the crisis as the real cause of the high levels of welfare dependency that the WWG so self-righteously deplores- and condemns. Instead, the wrath of the working class at being subjected to wage & employment cuts is diverted to the convenient scapegoats in the form of the crisis’ hardest-hit victims. Thus does the working class become divided and weakened at a time when in angry unity it could rise up to threaten the abusive power of its oppressors.

More than just diverting the blame for the crisis onto its victims, the WWG’s recommendations will serve very effectively to divert the cost of the crisis onto the working class as a whole. When 100 000 sole parents and invalids are goaded into the labour market they will be competing for employment with an army of former government employees laid off by cuts just announced to the civil service. The threat of eviction if not starvation will force them to accept whatever wage employers care to offer, however low, and crisis- hit employers will be to intent on defending their threatened profits at anyone’s expense but their own. So wages will be driven down to maintain bosses profits. That this is the true purpose of “welfare reform” is borne out by other such anti-worker legislation as the 90-day Fire-at-Will Act.

Further evidence that the WWGs recommendations are tailored to suit the corporate agenda is that along with the radically “fundamental” reform of placing all claimants on a “Job Seeker” benefit goes the contracting out of welfare services to “private and community, not-for-profit sector agencies to deliver employment services.” When the “community” has been devastated (earthquakelike) by other neo-liberal cutbacks, that leaves the field clear for such multi-national “players” as Lockheed -Martin, which has extended its tentacles all over the US welfare system. Oops, this overlooks the Iwi agencies who, considering the disproportionate representation of Maori amongst the unemployed, are to be assigned a major role in achieving the aforementioned target of reduction by 100,000.

Amongst the most maniacally single-minded of the WWG’s “work-focused” recommendations (albeit only by a “majority”) is the one “that a work test in the case of parents having an additional child while on welfare should be aligned with paid parental leave provisions (when the youngest child reaches 14 weeks).” This despite paying lip service elsewhere to “identify[ing] the likely impact of welfare reform on the well-being of children.” That WWG is apparently unaware after months of “consultation” that the “likely impact” has already been identified by concerned professionals (otherwise it could never have considered such a proposal) is proof that it has been selective in its consultation.

Perhaps this last proposal was calculated to make John Key look benign in comparison when he publicly rejected it.

With respect to the last recommendation, the WWG covers its backside by recommending that “the current Taskforce on Early Childhood Education consider ways to improve the availability and affordability of childcare and early childhood education services for lower paid families and people on welfare, including reprioritising some of the existing ECE expenditure.”

True to its real agenda, Key’s government has already responded ever so benignly to this the only commendable recommendation by slashing the funding of ECE with the effect of making childcare services unaffordable to those who will be coerced into using them.

On top of punitive sanctions against alleged malingerers there is intrusive prying into domestic affairs, with for example sanctions against mothers who become pregnant while receiving a benefit. Before the last election the corporate media were trumpeting the accusatory and disparaging slogan of “Nanny State” in their eagerness to get the Natacts elected. Their deafening silence now is hardly attributable to natural disasters. Fine by them that their ideal state now offers it ample mammaries only to voracious corporate suckers. For the working class it has become a harsh, puritanical and Calvinistic Victorian patriarch, with values that match its pure Victorian economic policies.

Other comments on the report may be found at:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What it's really like for single mothers

Reality ignored in parallel welfare universe

By Donna Wynd and Susan St John

Wednesday Mar 30, 2011 NZ Herald

The Government taskforce's plans amount to a punishment for young mothers.
The Welfare Working Group's final report, Reducing Long-term Benefit Dependency 2011, is arguably one of the most unenlightened pieces of work ever to emerge from a government-funded taskforce.

Most submissions were ignored, revealing that much of the consultation process was simply a public relations exercise.

The report uses the term "paid work" 242 times but "unpaid work" does not appear once. Thus, caregiving to young children by their parents is invisible and unvalued.

Parents are either paid workers or "jobseekers", but not nurturers caring for the next generation of New Zealanders.

The working group proposes a range of reforms to sort out feckless sole parents. To illustrate how these would operate they use the example of "Nikki", who has two children aged 3 and 6, works part-time at night and has just separated from her partner.

Under the present rules, Nikki will receive the domestic purposes benefit and not be expected to work until her younger child is 6.

Under the working group proposals she would become a "jobseeker", but a benefit would be unnecessary because her "co-ordinator" - a private-sector case worker paid to move people off benefits - will arrange "free" childcare at the local kindergarten and an accommodation supplement, and help her claim Working for Families from Inland Revenue and Child Support from her ex-partner.

As if by magic, Nikki "continues working, and also looking after her children".

This facile case study obscures the bothersome reality that Nikki faces. In Child Poverty Action Group's experience, the story is more likely to go something like this: Nikki and her partner find themselves under increasing stress from financial difficulties.

Her partner works long hours for low pay, and to help the family finances Nikki works 10 hours a week at night at the local supermarket.

When Nikki's partner moves out, the children are distraught and develop behavioural problems. On being notified of the separation, Inland Revenue cuts off her In Work Tax Credit and bills her for overpayments because she does not work 20 hours a week.

Eventually Nikki's meagre savings run out and she is forced on to a benefit and to seek cheaper accommodation in another part of town with few services.

The local kindergarten is full but the day-care centre accepts the unsettled 3-year-old. While the 20 hours' day care is supposed to be free, in fact it costs $150 a week, money she does not have.

Meanwhile, in the welfare working group's parallel universe, Nikki is a "jobseeker". To help meet the government group's specified outputs, she must come off the DPB and work at least 20 paid hours.

Suppose that Nikki is fortunate enough to find 20 hours of work during day-care hours. At the minimum wage, 20 hours nets her $223 a week. From this she still has to pay for day care.

Added to the 20 hours is commuting time and travel to drop off and collect the children. She also has to run the home, cook meals, help with homework and remain sufficiently emotionally stable to be a good parent on her own.

Obviously 20 hours does not give her enough money to live on. "No problem", says the co-ordinator, who organises a top-up to $408 a week under the Minimum Family Tax Credit from the IRD.

With the "In Work Tax Credit" of $60 each week plus the Family Tax Credit, she is better off than on a benefit. But only because the Government is giving her a huge wage subsidy through the tax system.

For a few weeks Nikki manages to work the required number of hours. Then the day care centre rings: the 3-year-old has measles and she has to look after him for 10 days at home. Then the 6-year-old breaks her arm at school.

Then Nikki finds she has no one to look after the child in the school holidays. Her own health suffers, and while her employer tries to be understanding she loses her job. The rent falls behind and debts start to mount.

Nikki has to claw her way back on to a jobseeker's benefit, something her "co-ordinator" is reluctant to facilitate. The last straw is when her younger child is admitted to hospital with pneumonia, contributed to by the cold damp housing in which she lives.

Back on a benefit, a few hours a week might be the only paid work that Nikki can manage. Currently earning $100 a week would give her about $82.50 extra net income.

Under the working group's proposals, extra earnings would be abated much more harshly so as to teach her that she should really be in full-time work. Nikki would now get just under $40 a week for her efforts.

The government group would also like to put Nikki on long-term contraception as a condition of getting a benefit, although it pays no regard to the freedom of her ex-partner to continue to have children when he chooses.

In the parallel universe of the Welfare Working Group, all childcare can and should be done by paid caregivers, while the mothers who are deemed solely responsible for producing them must be coerced into work, no matter how inappropriate.

What example are we setting for our children when grown adults allow such punitive policies for young mothers to be taken seriously?

* Donna Wynd is a Child Poverty Action Group researcher; Susan St John is Associate Professor Economics, Auckland Business School.