Written By: - Date published: 12:01 pm, October 29th, 2013 - 81 comments
Categories: activism, auckland supercity, capitalism, class war, democratic participation, Revolution, workers' rights - Tags: ports of auckland
I wonder who decided to include such a divisive piece of artwork on Queen’s Wharf on Auckland’s waterfront? Sir Bob Harvey seems to be a spokesperson in relation to it, but I would have expected him to have known better. At least if they were including a piece celebrating the suppression of one one of the most significant strikes in NZ’s history, they would have thought to include both sides of the dispute.
An artwork depicting controversial strikes on Auckland’s waterfront 100 years ago has been covered up ahead of its removal this morning to avoid upsetting descendants of harbour workers.
The two-dimensional black silhouette shows a baton-wielding “strike-breaker”, one of the rural Aucklanders employed to disrupt protesting dock workers in 1913.
The work is on Queens Wharf as part ofTamaki Makaurau – The Many Lovers of Auckland, a Waterfront Auckland project that tells the history of the waterfront.
Yesterday, city councillor Mike Lee protested to Waterfront Auckland chairman Sir Bob Harvey after reading the plaque attached to the work. It quotes strike-breaker Jim Ross from a 1913 newspaper saying, “From our homes in the backblocks of Auckland we came to help down the strike and keep the town’s name.”
An accompanying description gave a brief history of the role of strike-breakers and labelled Mr Ross “one of the many lovers of Auckland”.
Mr Lee said the artwork paid homage to “thugs and bashers on the people’s wharf. We have really lost our way if heritage experts believe vigilante thugs rounded up to attack striking working people are deemed to be heroes.”
Mr Lee’s great-grandfather and grandfather were both dock workers.
Labour Day commemorates past battles won for rights and fairness for NZ workers.
Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.
The date, 28 October, marked the first anniversary of the establishment of the Maritime Council, an organisation of transport and mining unions.
It’s a sign of the times when the Auckland authorities, (or is it the unaccountable Ports of Auckland Ltd) show such disrespect for the workers of Auckland and the country.
Time for the many to unite against the few who so easily disregard important struggles for fairness and democratic rights.