Monday, November 21, 2016

Stop The Genocide in Aleppo and all of Syria !


 Civilians in Aleppo  and across Syria are being intensively bombed right now !
-by bunker bombs, phosphorous bombs, napalm, thermobaric , cluster and chlorine containing barrel bombs by Russia and the Assad regime, targetting homes, schools, hospitals,  rescue teams, and underground shelters ! The regime and Russia have even bombed the city's water supply! 
Every day more hospitals are destroyed!

The bombed city of Aleppo 

Aleppo is  under a starvation siege, like many other Syrian cities.
300,000 citizens of Aleppo could  starve to death within weeks !  
Innocent civilians -babies, women, men, and children, are completely trapped !
Despite these atrocious crimes against humanity,  Aleppo's people show tremendous solidarity and caring for each other, as they work to find  the wounded under the rubble, and rush them to 
underground clinics for treatment.

A child being rescued from a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo 

Hundreds of democratically run community councils have been formed across Syria. The councils take care of the people's needs,  and are completely free of the state.
They have produced a tremendous amount of art , literature,  music and electronic media documenting the revolution and counter revolution in Syria.
 Unite  Waitemata Community Branch stands in solidarity with these local community councils who set an inspiring example to the world!

Syrian  Dignity Symbol - the Jasmine Flower. 
With its interconnected roots it represents the  network of community groups across Syria 
calling for Dignity, Justice and Freedom 

The Assad regime and Russia have killed half a million Syrian people.
The regime regularly uses rape and torture as weapons. Most of the fighters killing Syrian civilians are not Syrians. They include soldiers from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.   All foreign troops Out!

The war started because people across Syria went onto the streets to demand democracy, and instead were shot, rounded up, tortured, raped and killed. 
So  eventually the people took up arms to defend themselves. The Assad regime has vowed to continue to obliterate the population until it accepts his rule.

Both the United States and Russia have re-defined the people's struggle for
democracy as a "war on terror" and are both responsible for killing civilians.
 The growth of Isis was encouraged by the Assad regime, so the regime would look like a lesser evil. However, despite the evils perpetrated by Isis, it  has killed a fraction of the number of people that the Assad regime  and Russia have.  The democratic opposition has been forced to fight on two fronts, against the attacks from the regime and from Isis.

We call on   all workers, beneficiaries, and lovers of peace and democracy everywhere  to stand in solidarity with the people of Aleppo!

Unite Waitemata members at a Rally Calling for the Bombing of Syria  to Stop, on 29.10.16

Stop the  bombing!  Troops out!
Stop the Starvation Sieges !
Stop the Genocide! 
Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution!
Issued by Unite Waitemata Community Branch


We Stand In Solidarity with the People of Aleppo !

Civilians in Aleppo and across Syria are being intensively bombed, and  trapped in starvation sieges,  by the Syrian Government  with its Russian  and other foreign allies.

Unite Waitemata Community Branch stands in solidarity with the people of Aleppo and all of Syria!
We support:
-their right  to  life  and  community essentials such housing, hospitals, schools  - Stop the bombing!
-their right to the  absolute essentials of  life such as water  and food-Stop the sieges!
-their right to democratically organise their own communities and to choose their own governing bodies.

At our AGM on 15 October we  unanimously passed the following resolutions:

1.Unite Waitemata expresses our solidarity with the Syrian revolution.

2.Unite Waitemata supports the struggle of the Syrian people for democracy.

3. Unite Waitemata  calls on the Assad regime and Russia to stop bombing Syrian civilians.

4.Unite Waitemata  calls on the Assad regime and its allies to stop the starvation sieges of Syrian civilians.

5. Unite Waitemata endorses  the following remit being  being sent  to the Unite Union AGM:

Unite calls for all aerial bombing and starvation sieges  in Syria to stop.
We support the struggle of the Syrian people for democracy.

Unite calls for the Council of Trade Unions to support these remits.  

Unite Waitemata Community Branch has a new name and two Co Presidents

At our AGM we decided  to change our name to Unite Waitemata Community Branch.
This reflects the fact that we work in the community and in our union  to unite both unwaged and waged workers to stand up for our rights,  to support one other and to win a living income for all.
Our members  mainly live in West,  Central and North Auckland, near the Waitemata Harbour.

We also voted to have two Co- Presidents rather than a President and a Vice President.
The  two Co-Presidents for 2016-2017 are Christina Faumuina and Janet Robin.
Having two Co Presidents  for our branch  reflects the choice of Unite Union  to do the same.
It was hoped that having two Co Presidents  for our branch, would enable the two representatives to share the work   between them and to help one another.
It was agreed that Christina Faumuina would mainly work in the community, and that Janet Robin would mainly work with media and organising events.

We clarified the  manner of choosing the  Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer/s.
We confirmed that the treasurer is an elected position, and that up to two assistant treasurers may either be appointed by the treasurer or elected by the branch.
The new treasurer  elected for 2016-2017 is Keith Henderson.  Keith has taken over this position from Janet Robin, who has been treasurer for a number of years.
Janet Robin was elected as Assistant Treasurer, and a third assistant treasurer is Paul Robertson.
The Secretary and Co President positions will continue to be elected positions.

The new  Unite Waitemata Community Branch executive for 2016-2017 is:
Secretary : Keith Henderson
Co Presidents:   Christina Faumuina and Janet Robin
Treasurer:  Keith Henderson
Assistant Treasurers :  Janet Robin and Paul Robertson

President's Report 15 October 2016

The following is a report from our 2015 President Christina Faumuina. We  have copied Christina's handwritten report onto the blog.  Christina has been working in the community  including with unions,  housing action,  poverty  advocacy groups,  the Living Wage Campaign,  churches, foodbanks, the Labour Party,
 and helping workers facing redundancy. She arranged a branch meeting with the Unite National Director Mike Treen, to discuss ways that our branch and the union as a whole can work together.

Secretary's Report, 15 October 2016

Waitemata Branch of Unite Union

Secretary's Report 15th October 2016
By Keith Henderson

In last year's report I noted that the removal of Paula Bennett from both her former position as Minister of Social Development and from her former electorate had deprived  Unite Waitemata of a focus for protesting her government's attacks on beneficiaries.

The fall off in our activity was expressed in a resolution to meet throughout 2016 only every two months, instead of monthly as previously. Instead our attention has been been increasingly directed towards the housing crisis, and we have been active participants in united front activities with other groups in the Hikoi for Homes, the national Housing Conference called by SHAN, in TAG's occupation of vacant "ghost houses" and the recent stand Up housing rally. 

While our first attempts in SHAN to mobilize the west Auckland state tenants around the housing issue were discouraging, the situation has changed and is full of possibilities. 
So grave has the  crisis become that the media have at last found it newsworthy and there has been a growing public awareness of its implications.  As property values appreciate at a rate several times faster than the median wage the spiraling rents- typically exceeding 50% of incomes-go uncontrolled by the income-related rent of a remnant of state houses, and home ownership becomes unattainable to a whole generation. There is a need for a united front of private sector and rental tenants to support one another in the struggle.

In an attempt to raise its profile in West Auckland the National Party has held a series of public meetings attended by Housing Ministers and Paula Bennett and Nick Smith, the Prime Minister John Key and his deputy Bill English and Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley.. It is thanks to Unite Waitemata's initiatives that only one of four such meetings has gone unprotested.


Vice President's Report , 15 October 2016

Waitemata Branch of Unite Union
Vice President's Report    15 October 2016                 By Janet Robin

In  2016 we started meeting every 2 months instead of every month.
We began meeting at the  New Lynn Community Centre and then shifted to the New Lynn MacDonalds meeting room.

A major focus of this year's activities has been the housing crisis, and secondly, suporting the campaign to stop sanctioning single mothers who don't name the fathers of their children.  We also made efforts to liase with  other community groups and with  Unite Headquarters.
People's desperate poverty continues unabated, with the  $25 increase in Sole Parent Support, being way too little , too late.

The most obvious  sign of a failing system has been the housing crisis, which is now so bad that the Government can no longer deny it, and has been caught on the back foot, with no solutions in sight.
Despite the desperate shortage of affordable housing, the Government  continues to sell off  our publically owned  state houses  into private hands.. Only a fraction of them end up as "social housing" which is a privately owned rental accommodation with government subsidies to be rented out  more cheaply than at market rates.

Unite Waitemata members have continued to be  members of  West Auckland SHAN (the West Auckland branch of the State Housing Action Network ) in 2016, and to sometimes host West Auckland SHAN meetings

In  13 February and on 9 April I  represented Unite Waitemata, and West Auckland SHAN at  SHAN planning meetings for a  New Zealand Housing Summit.
The Housing Summit was held on the 16th April.  I attended this summit along with several other members of our branch .

In June,  I  organised a protest outside a public meeting, on 13 June, held  by the National Party in Blockhouse Bay, where the speakers were Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Housing,  Nick Smith, the Minister of Housing.
This was a well attended and lively protest, with a large contingent from the Tamaki Housing group, amongst others.

Later in the year our members attended other housing protests, such as  a symbolic occupation outside some empty state houses in  Glen Innes, and I attended   a  protest at public  event about a house which had been built in a programme called "The Block" .
n August, the Tauranga branch of SHAN formed a separate group, an incorporated Society entitled SHA Inc, in order to take the government to court  for selling state housing in Tauranga. Whilst we expressed our support, we didn't join the new incorporated society.

Government Legislation
The government has not introduced  major new legislation  this year that directly attacks benefits,  but  it has attacked beneficiaries indirectly.

The Social Security Rewrite Bill  reinforced or even worsened  some of its earlier oppressive legislation, including  rewriting Section 70 which punishes women for not naming the fathers of their children. We took part in the  campaign  to the "Stop the Sanctions" against these women. 

I wrote   a submission , which you can read  about on our blog,, dated  21st June 2016, here:
I gave an oral presentation of the  submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee.   On 15 September Keith and  I  attended the AAAP's official  launch of their campaign to "Stop the Sanctions"; which appears to be getting widespread support amongst MP's of several political parties.  This campaign was supported by several groups including the Auckland Women's Centre and the Child Poverty Action Group. 

The Minstry for Vulnerable Children
The new MInister for Social Welfare, Anne Tolley, has  introduced legislation that reforms CYF.  It opens the way for more social work to be done by  private agencies , and makes it easier for Māori and other children in  care, to be fostered by families that are  not of the same  extended whanau , hapu, or iwi.  Many Māori are very concerned about this, and see it as a colonial attack upon their people. The United Nations has criticised the English name of Anne Tolley's new ministry,  "The Ministry for Vulnerable Children" as stigmatising the children it focuses on.

Media Work
I continue to do media work, including  maintaining our two facebook pages. the Unite Waitemata  Like  page, and the Waitemata Unite group page, and  helping to take care of the SHAN facebook page.

Solidarity with other groups
This year  some of our members, together with our Unite Waitemata Banner;  have attended protests in support of the Syrian revolution,  and against the aerial bombing of civilians.
We have maintained a co-operative relationship with the Combined Beneficiaries Union, with some of us attending their meetings, and  with Thomas  Harvey, from the CBU attending our June meeting.  We continue to support  Auckland Action Against Poverty , and other groups campaigning against poverty. In April I assisted at the  AAAP Impact, held at Mangere WINZ.  And of course we support SHAN, the Tamaki Housing Group, and other housing activist groups.

Relationship with Unite Headquarters
The visit of Mike Treen, Unite director,  to our August meeting, at the invitation of our President, Christina Faumuina,  was a positive step, and hopefully more communication and co-operation may develop  between our branch and Unite HQ.