Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Co President's Report to Branch AGM November 2017

Co President's Report                                 Unite Waitemata Community Branch

By Janet Robin                                                                           18 November 2017.

It is one year now since we have been renamed the Unite Waitemata Community Branch of Unite.

At the last AGM we changed our name, and   I resigned as Treasurer, and Keith Henderson was elected as Treasurer.  Keith was also re-elected as Secretary.

Paul Robertson and myself were elected as Assistant Treasurs

Christina Faumuina  and I were elected as the two Co- Presidents.

So our  Executive for 2016-2017 comprised Keith, myself,  Christina and Paul.

I changed the names of our facebook group and our blog site to  include "Community Branch" as part of  the  name.  

The facebook group's name is Waitemata Unite Community Branch.
The Website or blog is also  called   Waitemata Unite Community Branch

Our Community  or "Like" Page on the other hand, on Facebook,  kept its original name "Unite Waitemata".

 The Waitemata Unite Community Branch Group on facebook ,  has had an active year full of lively discussions and debates., with some new members.
The Facebook Like page has been less active, but still has regular posts from time to time.
I am also contributing to the State Housing Action Network page as one of the administrators, adding information related to the housing crisis on this page.

Keith and I attended the Unite National Conference   as delegates,  towards the end of 2016, and promoted our remits in support of the Syrian revolution, and against the bombing and starving of civilians in Syria. These remits did not pass, but there was a sizeable minority in support of them.

We did not attend the 2017 Unite National Conference.

The blog site, ,  has   not been very active in 2017.

One of the main areas of our branch activism this year  has been in support of Niki Rauti, who struggled to keep her state  home at 14 Taniwha St, Glen Innes.

Many of our members went out to her home several times, and attended court hearings,  to  help stop Niki's eviction .

Niki  contested the eviction in the courts, and had some success in delaying the eviction for several months. When the High Court decided against her, Niki, who was very tired, eventually accepted some  alternative housing near by, and agreed to leave her home. This was a sad ending to a long struggle, but I think we can be happy that the community rallied around Niki and that we put up an effective struggle for such a long time.

One of our main actions this year was to organise a forum about the Universal Basic Income.

This was held  in August, in  the period leading up to the general election. We had speakers from the Green Party (Denise Roche)  the Opportunities Party (Geoff Simmons) ,  as well as Dave Bedggood, a  marxist sociologist, communist and member of our branch.

The UBI continues to be a theme that is being widely discused and it was good to have some time to look at it in both positive and critical ways.   
Denise Roche  presented some of the welfare policies  of  the Green Party, which  could radically improve the lives of beneficiaries if they were implemented; as well as their policies to raise the minimum wage and to strengthen unions.

Before the election,  the co-leader of the Green Party, Meteria Turei  resigned, after being lambasted in the media, for having spoken publically about having lied to WINZ  when she had been a young sole mother on a benefit. Meteria said that she had spoken out in order to focus people's attention on the poverty that beneficiaries actually face.  

On 16 SeptemberUnite Waitemata Community Branch  members attended
a Rally against Poverty  at the Otara Town centre,  organised by the Green Party.

The  general election of 23 September, leading to the formation of the Labour- NZ First government, with the backing of the Green Party;  gives us an opportunity to be heard and to present some ideas  for how to improve the welfare system. Jacinda Ardern, the new Prime Minister has also taken on a portfolio to tackle Child Poverty. 

 Carmel Sepuloni, the new Minister of Social Development,  has shown a lot of commitment to beneficiaries  in her electorate whilst in  opposition. The new government has proposals to help parents  including  sole parents, but is less forthcoming in assisting single people such as  those receiving Job Seeker Support or Supported Living Payment.

Carmel Sepuloni has signalled the government's   intention to abolish sanctions for sole mothers who don't name the father of their babies.
This is victory for decades of activism. In 2016 a  campaign against sanctions against sole mother  was launched by a number of organisations, including the Auckland Women's Centre and Auckland Action Against Poverty. Our branch contributed   to the campaign,   including  by making submissions to parliament.

There are so many things wrong with the welfare system, and the new government gives us an opportunity for us to put pressure on the slightly more left leaning government to make progressive changes.

We also need to be alert for any anti beneficiary proposals coming from the NZ First part of the coalition, such as Shane Jones' recently talking about work for the dole.

The  new Comprehensive and  Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacficic Partnership (CPTPP); which is currently supported by both National and Labour;  is also a threat to our rights,  especially whilst any Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses remain in it.   We should continue to oppose the TPP,  and  its current form-  the CPTPP.

 However, despite the opportunities for activism, the energy of our branch has dwindled. There  do not appear to be the people willing and able to perform the necessary duties of treasurer and secretary which are essential if we were to continue as a branch. 

We could possibly continue to function  as an activist group, and this is one thing that  an ongoing executive and/or  subcomittee could look into;  before making final proposals to a Special General meeting in early 2018. We could use our current funds to help our ongoing activities  promoting beneficiary rights  and  working class solidarity.

We could also look into the possibility of some kind merger with an organisation with similar goals to ours.

However it could be that the best option would be to close the branch, and donate any remaining funds to orgaisations with similar aims to ours.

If we close the branch, our current members  could join other organisations with similar goals to ours, if  they wish to do that.

If we do close as a branch, we can look back to decades of activism in support of beneficaries rights, and in support of beneficiary -worker solidarity.  We have always felt that the Unite union  should honour its constitution, and actively recruit and organise beneficiaries, in an organised way, with proper funding, from its central organisation.   We haven't succeeded in persuading the central organisation to do this. 

Some of the highlights of our activism over the years,  were  our  frequent visits to, and leafletting of, WINZ centres; engaging with other beneficiaries, advising people of their rights,  campaigning for change, and encouraging people to come to our meetings.   We organised many protests outside WINZ offices, including Henderson and New Lynn. I organised a three day Advocacy training in Te Atatu, so that our members could more effectively act as peer advocates for each other.  Our biggest year of activism was probably 2012, when we worked hard all year against the welfare attacks intoduced by the National government.  Most significant were the  International Women's Day protest over  a motorway overbridge  in St Lukes Rd, a May Day pram  protest at  WINZ Queen Streen; and a huge day of action as part of a National Day of Action against the cuts in October 2012; in Henderson. On this day we assembed  in Henderson, marched to WINZ, assembled and listened to speakers there; then marched again to another rally at Paula Bennett's office.  In  December of the previous year, we had also held a successful joint protest  with  AAAP at the Henderson WINZ . Whilst Paula Bennet was the Minster for Social Development we held several protests at her office over several years;  both by night and by day; and attended many of her public meetings-  both  by challenging her inside the meeting,  and prosting with placards outside. We had some wonderful placards designed for us by one member who we met at the International Women's Day protest.

Ka whawhai tonu mātou.        Kia ora katoa.


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