Advocacy activism in precarious times

Written By: - Date published: 5:31 pm, December 11th, 2012 - 23 comments
Categories: activism, benefits, child welfare, greens, labour, mana, Maori Issues, pasifika, unemployment, wages, welfare - Tags: , , , ,

In these troubling times, it was uplifting to see the flax-roots, practical and collaborative action at the Onehunga Recession Busting Impact rally for beneficiaries, organised by AAAP.  For 3 days, there are volunteers sitting at tables in front of the WINZ office in Onehunga Mall, giving support and assistance to enable those most in need to get the funding they are entitled to.

A little further along the Mall up to a hundred people attended a rally, as volunteers BBQed sausages for the public.

The rally began with an AAAP spokesman (sorry I didn’t catch his name) explaining the aim of the 3 days of action.  The assistance is being given by trained advocates and is called “direct action casework“.  Such people work alongside beneficiaries as advocates, providing guidance and support based on trust and understanding.

 

Jan Logie spoke about the way the Green Party valued all work that contributed to society, whether it was paid or unpaid.  She gave the example of the unpaid advocacy work being done for Impact.  Logie was critical of the current NZ government’s attitude that pitted paid against unpaid workers, and employed people against beneficiaries.  John Key’s vision is of a low paid workforce, enabled by a shortage of jobs and “precarious work”.  Later speakers also said similar things, using the same term.

Logie also said that hardship in our dysfunctional society was increased by discrimination against Maori, Pasifika and immigrant people, as well as against women and the disabled.  She hoped that this kind of advocacy action would take off and become more common.

The next speaker (sounded like Locka?), was a local community worker, born and raised in poverty in a Pasifika community.  She now did local community work supporting people on a range of issues.

Jacinda Ardern thanked all the activists on this issue. Clearly with Paula Bennett in her sights, she said all politicians should be held accountable.  She was critical of the way Bennett’s welfare reforms treated those on government support as criminals (drug testing) and the way the government was cultivating a “blame culture”.  Ardern wants the government to take responsibility and to return social security to the way it was originally intended: to provide the support needed to enable a dignified return to paid work, and for those that needed long term support, for them to be treated with dignity.  She ended by saying that on such issues, the Labour Party would work “alongside Mana and The Greens and hopefully the Maori Party.”

First Union, CTU

Andrea (Rushton?)  spoke on behalf of the Living Wage campaign. She represents the Service and Care Workers Union. A speaker for the First Union, also the Maori VP for the CTU, spoke against the demonisation of Maori as criminals and for the large proportion of Maori children living in poverty.  Like some of the other speakers, he criticised the government’s tax-cuts that benefited the rich, and supported the campaign for a living wage, especially for Maori households.

John Minto, speaking for the Mana Party, was indignant that NZ is a “land of plenty” but that this “plenty” was only being experienced by the few.  He promoted Hone Harawira’s  Feed the Kids Bill, due for its first reading on 13 February.  Minto asked “Can you believe it?”, that currently we are debating, “Should we feed our kids?” He said Mana believe in doing practical things and would put workers and any economic policy at the centre of the system.

The speeches finished with Sue Bradford thanking all the politcal parties that sent representatives to the rally.  They had invited representatives from all parties. National said they were too busy, and ACT didn’t reply.  The other parties (NZ First, UF, and Maori) were not mentioned.  Bradford said that she wanted all opposition parties to state their policies on social security, and to state they would wind back regressive laws.  She especially wanted a Labour -led government to overturn all the cut backs to social security made in the past by Labour and National-led governments.

Bradford  ended by saying that it would be necessary to keep the pressure on Labour not to sell out beneficiaries again, once they got into government again.  Bradford also thanked the unions for their support, saying that it was a welcome change to have the unions supporting beneficiaries, the unemployed and those doing precarious work.

The rally then marched down the Mall to the National Party office, carrying a “WORK WANTED” sign.  The sign was placed in the window of Sam Lotu-liga’s office and some work CVs were pushed under his door.  A guy standing at the side of the crowd said Lotu-liga was never there, and a uniformed policeman beside him laughed and told the protesters, “Even I can tell you he’s never at his office.”

Positive, practical, well-planned, collaborative, good humoured, friendly, inclusive, community-centred action.  I like it.

[Update: First Union, CTU photo added]

23 comments on “Advocacy activism in precarious times”

  1. One Tāne Viper 1

    Great reportage, Karol.

    Keep it up.

  2. Johnm 2

    Sooner Goldman Sachs Key exits this land for Hawaii the better. Shallow piece of Americanised whatsit! This bloke is so lacking in a brain and heart and conscience it makes me sick!

  3. just saying 3

    I appreciate the important work you do in attending and reporting events like this one. It is activism in itself.

  4. Colonial Weka 4

    That sounds awesome, thanks Karol. So heartening to hear of such on to it proactive strategies as providing advocacy for 3 days at the door of WINZ. Wish I could have heard the speakers too. Jan Logie’s words are the right anti-dote to Shearer and Key (yes Shearer, that’s how we see you now).

    • One Tāne Viper 4.1

      Yes, Shearer, that is how we see you now.

      • Tazireviper 4.1.1

        +1

        • xtasy 4.1.1.1

          In the House today:

          Shearer and Peters: “Mediocre”.

          Turei from the Greens: Excellent!

          Key: “Out of it, or high on something, extremely busy distracting with attacks on Labour!”

    • rosy viper 4.2

      +1 – even Ardern’s words were an antidote to Key and Shearer 😉

      I also like that the term social security instead of the odious social welfare is used in this post.

      • karol 4.2.1

        Hah!  Yes, rosy.  I just admit, I did start to type “welfare” a couple of times, but when I checked my notes, people like Bradford had used the term “social security.”

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    What an excellent action, practical assistance and advocacy for people and political consciousness raising.

    To paraphrase Paul Blair a very experienced beneficiary advocate from Rotorua, on RNZ this morning: “Onehunga (WINZ office) was not too bad actually, they (WINZ offices) are all bad of course, just some are badder than others”.

    And it is the mana stripping, bullying, lying by omission culture that puts many people off applying for their entitlements as citizens.

  6. xtasy 6

    You would not believe it. Presently I depend on WINZ again.

    I could not attend the event, due to other commitments, but due to some other matter, I had to drop a form off at the Onehunga WINZ office late afternoon.

    UNBELIEVABLE! I have NEVER been treated with such courtesy, respect and dignity by any of the staff there, since I ever had to deal with them years ago!

    I saw the advocates and Sue Bradford talking with some journalist. I had little time, so did not stop to chat. But anyway, inside WINZ, the atmosphere was subdued, at the same time every staff member appeared to be so “hard working” and worried about all needs of anyone coming in to be looked after, this has NEVER been like this before.

    At the reception I was greeted by my name, instantly by a case manager who knows me well, and also later by another one, who I even flew off at once.

    What a MIRACLE AAAP’s presence has created there for all beneficiaries, to suddenly being taken so seriously, treated fairly, listened to and feeling acknowledged once for all.

    The whole service offered there at present, plus the little demo in the lunchtime and early afternoon time, this has sent a great, welcome message home to WINZ and the beneficiaries in the area!

    THANK YOU SO MUCH, ALL OF YOU AT AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY!

    This is recommendable, and I hope other advocacy services will learn from this and follow this up in front of other WINZ offices all over the country.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 6.1

      Agreed!

      Porirua is the third (?) largest service center in the country, bigger than those in Wellington central. Hope we get something like this action down here. God knows it’s badly needed.

      Great to see some excellent politicians along too : )

      • David Viperious H 6.1.1

        I’m in Levin I already have a framed letter of apology from them.
        But in the last 6 months or so I find that they are not as helpful as they used to be. Mind you that could be because half of the staff have vanished (the good ones) so now we have to deal with the rude, the sighers, (big sighs) And the ‘commentators’ the (“I dont spend money on that”) Now I have to go and battle them next week Oh joy.

    • AAAP 6.2

      Kia ora Xtasy,

      Thanks so much for these kind words. Love hearing how the atmosphere has changed and that so many people are leaving Work and Income with big smiles on their faces.

      These kinds of stories are important, and we’re really keen to compile them so that we have a record that this kind of action has a positive effect.

      Would you mind if we used this story (anonymous of course) in our ongoing campaigning?

      Please get in touch with me if this is at all possible 🙂

      Thanks

      Chris Zack
      (chris.zack@aaap.org.nz)

    • fender Viper 6.3

      “THANK YOU SO MUCH, ALL OF YOU AT AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY!”
      +1

      Great post Karol, 1st class.

      The portrait of Bennett has really captured her blackened soul perfectly, great work artist responsible.

      • karol 6.3.1

        Thanks, fender.  I don’t know if it’s clear from the photo, but the Bennett caricature has a couple of vampire teeth.

  7. Good stuff Karol.

    I tell you the really frustrating part about factional politics is that it draws us away from campaigning on issues that really matter.  Like poverty and excessive wealth and making sure that social security (yes!) protection is maintained and enhanced. 

  8. kiwi_prometheus 8

    I like the “Jobs Wanted” sign on the Nats office and the police laughing about the M.I.A. Nat guy.

    Don’t like this or should I say the double standards of – “spoke against the demonisation of Maori as criminals”.

    How about someone on the Left speaking up against the demonisation of men as rapists by the Feminist zealots?

  9. Jenny 9

    Here in Papakura I hear that many young people who are unemployed are not on any benefit. Mainly because WINZ here are so oppressive and abusive, and the unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles they make people jump through keep young people especially from getting their entitlement.

    How they survive I don’t know.

    One of Papakura WINZ favourite tricks; When an unemployed person goes to WINZ to sign on, instead of allowing them to sign on for a benefit, Papkura WINZ give them an address to go to for a fictitious job interview. After borrowing the money for gas or a bus fare to get there and spending most of the day going to this interview they return to WINZ the next day and are given another fictitious job address to go to. Of course none of these jobs eventuate. This procedure can go on for weeks and still no job and no income to show for it. It is only when people are reduced to crying and weeping, are they finally allowed to see a case manager “to assess your needs”.

    I also hear that many on those surviving on benefits are sometimes just cut off for no reason at all, just to see if they complain.

    The whole experience is so degrading and humiliating it probably explains why young people in Papakura with few jobs and no income give up, and drift towards the gangs.

    Does this rigamarole and runaround happen in other areas?

    Maybe AAAP might like to investigate. I would gladly give them a donation for their efforts.

    Do they have a website?

    • fatty 9.1

      Their website is http://aaap.org.nz/
      Or, they have a facebook page here.

      I am interested if there are similar beneficiary advocacy groups throughout other main centres? I know that places like the City Mission & Sallies offer these kinds of services, but its not their focus.

    • karol 9.2

      Appalling stories, Jenny that are similar to others coming from different sources and places – probably staff trying to follow directions from above to save money and treat claimants as criminals.

      I linked to the AAAP website in my post above.  The website is here, and there are contact details. 

    • Johnm 9.3

      Hi Jenny
      “I also hear that many on those surviving on benefits are sometimes just cut off for no reason at all, just to see if they complain.” True:
      A friend of mine has lived in the same house for 20 years and is currently on a unemployed benefit.He has an answer phone. It takes 6 rings for the answer machine to start up. While he was out Winz rang him about 6 times (Heard by a fellow house mate) to contact him but hung up before the answer phone could begin. Once he received a message from them and he phoned back and had to leave a message on their answer phone. They then said he couldn’t be contacted though they had his email address and not sending him any notification by letter cited Section 81 of the SS Act to stop his benefit.
      Realising this with no payment he phoned them and made a formal complaint of harrassment. They had no appointment for him for 8 days! But pleading hardship he got an appointment the next day where the benefit was reinstated. The effect on him has been demoralising and depressing the complete opposite of the climate you’d want for job hunting. The reality he was at all times contactable and the excuse to cut his benefit an outrageous trigger happy ploy. He really feels contempt for these “case managers now” who have behaved as arrogant bullies.
      I well believe they are bullying and oppressing young people out of their rights and the culture is coming from the very top. 🙁

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