Friday, October 24, 2014

President's Report 2013-2014

President's Report        17 October 2014                           Janet Robin

Greetings members and friends, welcome to the AGM of Unite Waitemata.
Tēnā koutou , tēna koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

 All our remits were passed at Unite AGM on 26-26th November 2013.

·      Unite calls for minimum wages and benefits to be at the level of a living income.
·      Unite Calls for One Year’s Paid Parental Leave.
·      Unite calls for all carers of their disabled adult family members to have the right to be employed by the state on a living wage.
·      Unite Calls for Working for Families Tax Credits to be extended to Beneficiary Families.
·      Unite opposes all benefit sanctions.
·      Unite opposes compulsory drug tests, compulsory training, working without pay, compulsory childcare and compulsory medical visits for beneficiaries and their families.
·      Unite opposes work testing of parents, the sick and disabled.
·      Unite opposes the use of WINZ trained designated doctors to provide alternative diagnoses to the diagnosis provided by the beneficiary’s own doctor.
·      Unite opposes “income management” for youth.
·      Unite opposes contracting out WINZ functions  to private  providers.
·      Unite calls on the Government to create real jobs for those that need them.

Early this year Ivan and I attended the first meeting of the new Unite executive. We had been invited to attend by Unite President Gerard Heihir, to help decide how to implement the remits.

We suggested having a paid organiser for beneficiaries, and publishing a link to our branch on the Unite website, but we were told we were just asking for money.
Nothing was decided. The Vice President was meant to get in touch with me so we could make further plans together. But he didn't do this, and I didn't hear back from Gerard Heihir.

People  have come to our meetings and joined the branch after I helped them  with advocacy as a Unite peer advocate , and sometimes  as an advocate  at a local community organisation where I have been working. People have come to our meetings after meeting us at public events such as pickets and demonstrations.

We  had a visit in January from Julie Whitehouse from the Auckland Single Parents Trust.  We met Julie at a demonstration outside a National Party  Christmas Party at Auckland Grammar School last December, organised by Auckland Action Against Poverty.  Later in the year Julie 's political differences with us became apparent, when she publically supported the Government's work focus for single parents.

In February the branch had a visit from the Unite Secretary Matt McCarten.
As it turned out, this was just before he left Unite to become the campaign manager for David Cuniffe and the Labour Party.

 On March 8th, I celebrated International Women's Day on our behalf by taking some placards to the Poverty Spoons display in Te Atatu People's Park.

On the 26th March we held a successful protest at a public meeting for Paula Bennett at the Kelston Community Centre.  We met Christina Faumuina, a Labour Party member and former SFWU delegate , who spoke very eloquently at the public meeting.

Christina attended our next meeting and joined our branch.

We held a successful forum at the Trades Hall to celebrate May Day.

 In August I participated in the Auckland Action Against Poverty Impact at Mangere WINZ. . I was shocked at the level of poverty and hardship that so many people were enduring.

I have continued to maintain our facebook pages.
Unite Waitemata organiser page has 648 friends
The Waitemata Unite Group has 212 members.
The Unite Waitemata  Community (Like)  page has 160 friends

Our website is  Keith has been contributing to it this year. It has had 46, 664 page views in all time, and 3451 page views in the last month.  

Some of us continued to informally support the Mana Movement, and the newly formed Internet Mana Party during the election campaign. We had more formally supported Mana  during the previous election.  The defeat of Internet- Mana  (and the possibiity of a Labour led government) and the triumph of National at the elections, with their declared intention of reducing the number of beneficiaries by another 25% is a big concern for us. Poverty levels are soaring.  Child poverty was an election issue, which National gave some lip service to, but appears to have already decided to do nothing about it.  Housing is at an absolute crisis with many families living in cars and garages.  Keith and some of our members have been active supporting state housing tenants' struggles this year.

That's the end of my report . I hope you enjoy the rest of the meeting.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou , tēnā tātou katoa.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Secretary's Report 2013/4

Waitemata Branch of Unite Union

Secretary's Annual Report 2013/4

Keith Henderson 16/10/14

Waitemata Branch’s activities during the year 2013-2014 have consisted of advocacy for members with benefit issues, public comment on issues affecting beneficiaries, the initiation of meetings and protests and the participation in protest actions organised by others.

In the field of advocacy we have had one victory at a Benefits Review Committee hearing in a case where a member had had his benefit stopped allegedly for failing to fulfil job-seeking obligations. The outcome was reinstatement of benefit with back-payment of lost entitlements. The case demonstrated the value of taking matters to the Review Committee with peer support. Had this not been given our member would have been grievously victimised.

The main issue on which Waitemata Branch has commented publicly has been Work Capability Assessments and WINZ use of designated doctors to achieve arbitrary targets in the number of benefits granted. The invaluable information obtained by one of our associates under the official information act has been posted on our blog along with other commentary on the benefit reforms. I as secretary also wrote an open letter to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians criticising the position paper on the Health Benefits of Work put out by its Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which WINZ saw fit to quote on it Work Capacity Certificates, despite a faulty methodology which if consistently applied would return NZ to the Victorian era of child labour.

The open letter was sent to the CTU and some of its unions that had signed up to the FOEM's Consensus Statement but (shamefully) no response has been received. An abridged version of the letter was published in the NZ Medical Journal but as that journal is accessible only to subscribers I don't know how it the letter was received by the medical profession at large.

At our last monthly meeting the branch resolved to call on the PSA to recognise, in view of the tragic shootings at the Ashburton WINZ office, that the benefit reforms have turned WINZ offices into lethal environments and to organise appropriate industrial action under the Health and Safety provisions of the ERA. A remit to be put to this meeting addresses this issue.

When it became apparent that there would be no Mayday parade in 2014 Waitemata Branch undertook to organise a Mayday forum at Trades Hall which had quite a good turnout.

We initiated protests at two of Paula Bennett's public meetings in the lead up to the election. At one of these our vice president was assaulted by the police for attempting to get too close to Bill English who stood in for PB whose plane was delayed by fog. Neither of these protests was well supported by other groups, though a competing event excuses this n the latter case.

The housing crisis and the defence of state tenants have this year become one of our major preoccupations. Individual members have continued to attend meetings of the Tamaki Housing Action Group and reported on proceedings. Other sources have confirmed 'our man's impression that the struggle in GI was subordinated to Mana's electoral politics. Only recently did I hear about a picket in May which temporarily delayed the removal of a state house.

Recognising that GI is geographically too remote for most of our members to participate, our branch resolved to support the state tenants' struggle wherever we could closer to home. We invited Gael Baldock to address our June branch meeting re her own struggle in Grey Lynn and contribute toward the publicity costs for the public meeting her support committee organised at Trades Hall. We heartily congratulate her on the victory she has since won in the tenancy tribunal. Along the way her struggle has exposed the chicanery of a once proud Housing NZ now dedicated to serving the Nats neo-liberal agenda.

With a view to supporting struggles in Grey Lynn and GI we committed to collaborating with other parties in organising a public meeting in West Auckland on the housing crisis. However of the parties contacted none showed an interest- until we heard of the Housing Call 2 Action network that independently was publicising the related issue of homelessness. At the public meeting they organised (which was addressed by rival electoral candidates) we distributed a leaflet calling on working class people to make themselves available for pickets in defence of state houses. That no-one signed up to a contact register revealed a lamentable reliance on parliamentarians who solve a housing crisis they have allowed to happen.

Foremost among the protest marches we have supported have been the CPAG's march against child poverty and the series of solidarity marches for Gaza when it was under assault again from the might of the IDF. We voted $100 towards the Kia Ora Gaza relief fund.