The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, September 22, 2006

The post I was too excited to come up with a title for!

Yesterday afternoon I was frantically doing something I only do when desperate for news - listening to Danny Watson on ZB "interviewing" someone about insurance. It was a sacrifice I made only to find out what the Hades had happened with the NDU (and EPMU) members' vote on the new Progressive Enterprises deal. See my previous rants about this issue here and here.

Maia and Idiot/Savant have more of the detail, which unfortunately I don't have time this morning to write about (and they and the Shelf Respect site have covered it well already anyway).

But I just wanted to add a smidgen of brief analysis. Rumour has it that Progressives knew there was a high possibility they would lose the court case that started this week between them and NDU. NDU was taking PEL to court on the basis that they could not lock workers out because they were claiming a national collective agreement. There is precedent for this in the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) that the Association of University Staff sought with the universities last year (or was it the year before?). In that case the court decided that the universities had to at least begin bargaining for a national collective agreement, they could not simply oppose it on principle with no reasons.

Anyway it's possible that PEL looked at their odds for court and made the call - let's not lose this case because if we do it has big implications for our other agreements and also for other businesses.

There are some who will say the union has lost this battle. I don't see how they can come to this conclusion - as Maia has pointed out the workforce has come out stronger than they went in despite not getting a national collective agreement. Pay parity is a massive step, one that many workers would love. Imagine being paid what your work is worth, not the smallest amount your manager can get away with paying you! This settlement is an important move towards achieving that goal for these workers (although most days I am dubious it is an aim that can be achieved under capitalism, but that's a grip for another post).

What this dispute has also shown is how unions, and the community, can work together. I am hopeful that the links made over the last six weeks can be nurtured and grown to strengthen workers for the next fight that comes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Makeover continues

Have now archived the last 300 posts, but am worried about the impact beta is having on the level of comments. If there are commenters out there having problems please do email me, if only just to let me know you are unable to comment: spanblatheratgmaildotcom.

An unsavoury affair

I have a bit of an icky response to news of affairs amongst politicians. As someone just the other side of the Beltway, I often hear about these things a few days before they become common knowledge.

Several moons ago (at least) I wrote about politically legitimate reasons to leave your partner - in response to the Graham Capill conviction, but also covering affairs. Even longer ago I wrote about Richard Prebble's affair and whether it mattered.

I feel uncomfortable about the cheating, Don Brash's in particular, for two reasons:

1. I'd like politicians, and really anyone in the public eye, to be entitled to a private life. If I were in their shoes (as the target or the partner) I would not want media camped out on the lawn, in amongst the rose bushes, taking pics of my hand pulling the curtains closed against their prying. It wouldn't help resolve your private matters, to be forced to do so in the hot squinting gaze of the public eye, as represented by the relentless cameras and microphones of a frenzied media.

2. But I wonder about the gender politics of this. The stories you hear about cheating politicians (cheating on their spouses, I clarify) are almost always the husbands having affairs, not the wives or same-sex partners. What does it say about a man that he has, possibly repeatedly, shown little regard for the commitment he has made to a woman, for the hurt he will cause her when she finds out? What's the feminist response to news of any serial adulterer whose attitude to women is thus suspect? I don't really know. But it makes me feel uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

It seems an apposite coincidence that all this Brash stuff is going on at the same time that Frankie has found out about Danny's affair on Coro St in NZ. One can imagine the conversations between Brash and his wife being similar to those between the junior Baldwin and the woman he cheated on with his first wife and later married. For those not watching, Danny claims he has a weakness and that it meant nothing, all of the normal mouthings we're all used to seeing on the screen in relation to discovered affairs.

Idiot/Savant is firmly of the opinion that the affair doesn't matter, and the identity of the woman doesn't matter either. I've already detailed above why I'm conflicted over whether the affair matters, but in regard to the Other Woman, I think who she is does matter because, if true, this was a political relationship too.

Red has also pointed out some of the money quotes from Brash about marriage that have resulted in many labelling him a hypocrite in recent days. I would also add that if this allegation is true then we know of two times that Brash has disrespected not only his own marriage but also the commitments of the two other women he has cheated with, as both were also hitched to other men during the affairs. Personally I don't think we need to overly respect the institution of Marriage, but we should respect the individual commitments people make to each other. Brash, and many of his backers and supporters, have gone on and on about the importance of Marriage, not least during the Civil Union flip-flop, and so the yard stick can be applied to them now in turn.

One final point. For all those bloggers who have ever made nasty comments about the fact that Helen Clark preferred not to marry, or has not had children, or have judged any of those MPs who identify as lesbian, gay or transgender (in or out of the closet), you risk the H label too. You cannot criticise some MPs for what happens in their personal lives and yet insist that those on your team are immune to scrutiny. As you sow so shall you reap.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A few facts about the lock-out and Progressive Enterprises

For your edification (and mine - I didn't know some of this stuff either):

  • NDU Workers in Auckland and Christchurch earn between 80c - $2.50 per hour less than their colleagues doing identical work in Palmerston North.
  • The workers are seeking for Progressives to recommit to a national collective agreement. The company had agreed prior to the Australian takeover last year. Now the company has locked workers out until they drop this claim. That's right, a claim they had previously agreed to.
  • Last year Progressives announced a 24.3% increase in profits to $A1.1 billion. This is not a company that can legitimately cry poor. Unlike these distribution workers.
  • Progressives' CEO made over $A8 million last year. That's in Aussie dollars. Even if all the workers got full and immediate pay parity (as opposed to stepping it in) and an 8% pay rise it wouldn't even touch the size of the CEO's pay packet.
More fuel for the fire I guess.

Missing link

Received an email earlier this morning alerting me to a poll on the Northern Young Nats webpage about support (or lack thereof) for Wayne Mapp's 90 Day Bill.

Forwarded it on to others I thought might be interested - at the time I voted there were 50 votes cast and it was a dead heat. Now, a skant couple of hours later, the page has mysteriously disappeared, as you'll know if you clicked on the link above to try to vote.

Is this a continuation of the trend set by Family Integrity of pulling polls that don't return the result the organisation wants?

Having problems commenting?

I've had some feedback by email that there are problems with the comments now that the blog has shifted to beta. This would seem to be backed up by the low number of comments, given that the hits have been quite healthy.

If you want to comment but are having troubles please email your comment to me, ( along with the name you want me to post it under and any url you want in the post, and I will put it up when I get a chance. Yes, even the people I disagree with.

Hopefully Blogger will complete the transition to beta soon and these kinds of bugs will be squashed, but in the meantime I guess it's all just yet another lesson in patience.

Thanks again,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pledge! (no, not the furniture polish)

Idiot Savant has set up a pledgebank for those interested in supporting the locked out distribution workers at Progressive Enterprises, who've now been without pay since August 25th.

Yes a tiny number have gone back to work - the economic pressure of having no income is rather extreme after all. They've had to agree to quit the union to make this return, from what I've heard, which is not something they would do lightly, given the commitment they'd made and how long they've gone without money already. Not to mention the knowledge that they would be letting their workmates down. Not a nice place to be in, but one many families are having to face as the company shows no willingness to return to negotiations after several weeks of this.

So let's help the remaining workers, over 500 of them, to stay out for as long as they need to. There are lots of ways you can make financial donations or show your support, including supporting I/S's pledgebank by clicking here.

Every little bit will make a big difference to these workers' everyday lives - right now and for the future.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This blog now in Beta

Let's hope Beta Blogger doesn't go the way of Betamax...

Anyway, apologies to those who are having problems commenting as a result of the shift to beta. My advice is to use the Other or Anon functions if you are finding you can't use your normal profile.

My main motivation for shifting to beta was to get myself some shiny labels. I've got nearly 600 posts to categorise, since June 2004, and I've done approx the last 50. It's slow work.

Alas my recent comments hack, so generously provided by AL* many moons ago now, doesn't seem to work in the beta format. I'll hopefully manage to hunt down one that does at some point in the future, but any hattips on this gratefully accepted.

Also I hope to be blogging a bit more on politics in the next week or two. I've got a post about the future of the NZ Left in draft form, including covering the Alliance, as requested in recent comments, which will hopefully be up by week's end.

Any feedback about the new look most welcome. And thanks for reading!


* Is it old news that Aaron Bhatnagar has returned to the blogosphere on Sir Humph's? I note that former figment of everyone's imagination, AJ Chesswas, is also commenting there. All that's really required is for some of the About Town team to join their number and surely we have a conjunction of the constellations of the NZ blogosphere that signals the beginning of the End Times? Or perhaps I need more sugar.

A new lease on life - Part III

And here we go, another post that indulges my new new Dr Who obssession.

Part the Third - The Doctor Finds His Heart(s)?
The burgeoning love interest side of the Doctor has been at times uncomfortable (for me anyway). Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this the first time that Mr Fancy Tardis has been portrayed as possibly being a sexual being - someone who might be physically attracted to others and want to act on it at some vague future point. There's certainly been an awfully lot of hugging in this series, if you ask me.

Also that the companionship between Doctor and assistant could be more akin to an unrequited soapie-type relationship (Moonlighting anyone?) than the usual platonic jolly good chaps (and chapettes). We even had Rose and Sarah Jane competing for the affections and attention of the Tennant incarnation (with K9 mercifully in only a bit-part). Gotta love the Who You Know competition between them - "Daleks!" "Met the Emperor!" etc.

Now Rose is my all-time favourite companion to date. I am going to cry buckets when she goes and I believe that may be quite soon. I do not want to know what happens in advance, thanks all the same. If the Doctor was going to fall for anyone I can see why it would be her - spunky, smart but not in a ridiculous way, and she's a chav! I hear she can sing a little as well.

But it all sits a little uncomfortably for me - this series, more than the Eccleston one, has investigated what happens to the companions after the Doctor has moved on without them, through Rose, Sarah Jane and Micky (or was it Ricky, I forget already), not to mention poor run-down K9. If the Doctor were to have an icky-boy-and-girl-germs-mingling relationship with Rose then it throws things out of whack a fair bit. He's never done it before, and what would it bode for the future if he did? Would he spend the rest of the Tennant incarnation being a grump after she goes/dies, refusing to find love again, and making all sorts of crap judgement calls as a result? Will he go on the piss and try calling her in the middle of the night when he's drunk just to tell her he's really over her this time? Or will he stoically soldier on, as a good Timelord ought to?

In short - is there anyway out of this plot direction, other than a sharp swerve away sometime very soon, that doesn't tend towards Doctor Who becoming more like The OC In Space/Time?


Others in the A New Lease on Life series:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Get over it Progressive Enterprises

Dear oh dear, Progressive Enterprises appear to be determined to win the coveted Business Round Table award for worst employer of the month (both August and September), the well-known Tin Arse Award.

Or perhaps it should be called the Ostrich - Progressive Enterprises seem to have their head in the sand about some of the realities of modern employment. (To continue to uplift slogans from other times and campaigns and mangle them to my own doubtless nefarious uses) National collective agreements: they're here, they're fair, they're in your workplace!

Let's be clear about one thing - this is no longer a strike, this is a lock out. What that means is rather than the workers holding the company to ransom, as some would have you believe, the reverse is in fact true. The boss is now saying, has been saying for some days, if you do not drop your claim to a national collective agreement then you can not return to work. No work = no pay. No pay = not much to live off (in fact nothing to live off due to Work & Income stand-downs periods).

And what's so scary about national collective agreements anyway? They're becoming more fashionable, not just across one company like Progressive Enterprises but as Multi-Employer Collective Agreements (MECAs) as well. National agreements are more than capable of providing for different work arrangements in different parts of the country, which is the argument the employer has put up against them. Of course we all suspect that the real reason they don't want a national agreement is that Progressive Enterprises knows that with numbers comes strength, and if those workers are on a single agreement then there won't be anymore playing them off against each other come negotiation time because they will stand united.

The distribution centre workers are standing united now, even without a national agreement. If you want to stand with them on the picket line, be it in person, electronically or with your wallet, here are some ways to show your support:

  • Messages of support to the locked-out workers can make a huge difference to their morale - you can send a message directly to those involved in the campaign via the Shelf Respect site here
  • Send a clear message to the boss - the international website LabourStart, which supports worker campaigns all over the world, has set up an easy-peasy email to the boss page here.
  • Boycott Progressive Enterprises supermarkets - it's been happening for a while informally I think, but the Greens (Hattip: No Right Turn) have now come out and called for it publicly (did I spell that right Sagenz?) No more shopping at Countdown, Foodtown, Woolworths, Super Value or Fresh Choice for me! We should refuse to walk across the threshold of stores where the boss has big signs outside bagging their own workers (not to mention misleading the public).
  • Forget saying it with flowers - say it with money, which can help these workers and their families who have now been without pay since August 25th. Click here for exact details about how to donate money either by electronic on-line banking transfer or by an automatic phone donation of $20 per call.
  • Come along to one of this weekend's public rallies in support of the workers. I'll be at the Auckland one, at Mangere Town Centre on Saturday at 12noon. There are also rallies in Christchurch, Palmerston North and Napier, and I suspect more will be added to the NDU list. There are also details at that link of where the existing picket lines are for those who want to go along (perhaps laden with some goodies) to visit the workers, or just drive by and beep madly (very satisfying for both the beeper and the beepee).

And here's some linky love for those who aren't satisfied with my blatherings and require more more more:
- The National Distribution Union (NDU) website about the campaign Shelf Respect
- Maia's Lies Management Tell
- Joe Hendren's Progressive Enterprises are being loose with the truth and Christchurch Solidarity March for Locked-Out Progressive Enterprises Workers
- Idiot Savant's Empty Shelves
- Russell Brown's Hard News column which mentions this situation around the half-way mark for those who prefer to scroll. I disagree with Brown however about the Auckland premium for two reasons: 1) you can recognise this in a national agreement, 2) however the highest paid workers under the three separate agreements are actually those at the Palmerston North distribution centre.
- Indymedia also has extensive coverage, including pictures and stories directly from the picket lines. (Added 8th Sept. 7.48am)

(If you've written something on this that is sympathetic to the workers and I haven't picked it up please post a link in comments and I'll add it to the post when I can).

Update, 8th Sept. 7.55am: Andrew Falloon has criticised my point about this being a lock-out over on his own blog. It seems to me that there has been a lot of confusion amongst media and bloggers that this is still a strike, where the workers determine when they return to work, when that's not the case at all, as I've said above. That was my point. Am I outraged that the workers have been locked out, as Falloon claims? I wouldn't go so far as to say outraged. I'm not surprised, and usually I have to be surprised to be outraged, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, locking out workers is not the choice that a company looking for compromise or settlement makes. Yes the company will be feeling some pain in terms of loss of sales and public goodwill. But the workers have been losing their entire wages (not just some of their income, as is happening to Progressive Enterprises, but all of it), indefinitely since August 25th. At first this was their choice but it is not anymore, as they have been locked out. Of the two groups it is quite clear to me who is the underdog here, and who is the bully.

Update, 11th Sept. 8.25pm: A few more supportive posts to add to the list:
- Asher's Locked Out Won't Shut Up (Hattip: his fine self, in comments)
- Auckland's Burning - John's dedicated to covering the ongoing ructions, in pictures and words
- Idiot Savant's pledgebank post, seeking donations for a good cause (this cause)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Newsflash - Irwin death denial!

Oh dear, let the spoofs begin.

Hattip: The Man With No Lap (off-blog)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The plays for Mangere

As no doubt every person who has ever read this blog (except ferringers of course) already knows, the MP for Mangere has been stood down on full pay* while the police investigate various allegations and complaints. I'm not even going to bother linking to a news article on it because surely it is the talk of the town (plus I'm lazy).

I've written about this a few times before, but what I wanted to focus on in this post was something Idiot/Savant brought up:

Meanwhile, I hope the smaller parties are lining up their candidates for a
by-election, just in case...
Well that's an interesting thought.

What would the parties currently in various coalition-like arrangments do if there was a by-election in Mangere? Given that Labour would almost certainly win (although possibly by a small margin if Field himself ran as an independent or for another party) would the Greens, United, NZ First stand candidates? What about the Progressives (and what about that Matt Robson)?

If a by-election happens it is usually jumped on by at least one minor party as an opportunity to get their profile up, revitalise their party organisation, and see if they can't increase their representation (even if merely on the local community board in the next round of local body elections, which of course are coming up next year).

* As you can see from my past writings about Mr Field I'm not a fan. However people do have the right to be paid as normal while they are suspended during an investigation, so enough with the harping on and on about this please. Besides which can you imagine what he might be forced to get up to if he wasn't on fully pay? (boom boom)