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Strikes: One Law for All

Written By: - Date published: 10:09 pm, April 26th, 2013 - 28 comments
Categories: capitalism, equality, same old national, workers' rights - Tags:

National announced their Labour laws today, rolling back all the improvements brought in by the fifth Labour government. There were some new sanctions on workers’ right to strike: parties will have to provide notice of a strike, and employers will have a new right to fine workers for “partial strikes” – go-slows and the like.

Also today, by coincidence, the Herald’s Insider  reports business reaction to Labour’s plan to lower power prices for families and households, and invokes the threat of capital strike by business, posed as a threat to a democratically elected government’s right to govern.

David Shearer and David Parker should have a chat to Helen Clark and Michael Cullen about when Labour was last in power. At that time the government faced the threat of a capital strike over much milder policy changes and had to tone them down. Politicians not only have to win elections, but they also have to govern…

If National’s labour laws are about improving fairness, as Simon Bridges asserts, then capital strikes should surely face the same constraints as worker strikes. There should be advanced written notice to the public by all those companies intending to conduct a capital strike, and ten percent of the annual income of companies participating in the capital strike should be payable to the Government as a penalty for the  harm they do to the community.

I’m not holding my breath.

28 comments on “Strikes: One Law for All ”

  1. geoff 1

    ‘Striking Capital’ – pfft there’s no honour among thieves.
    The most stupid thing about the notion of the fleeing/striking of “capital” (let’s just call it what they mean, money)
    is that the crony capitalists (ok ok just capitalists) are going to have to try to sell that line at a time when the globe is awash with cash from the quantitative easing policies of the US, Japanese, UK central banks.

    The owners of that QE money ( eg commercial banks like Goldman Sachs but also many large corporations) are in a mad rush to find a home for it which will retain its value (the usual home for low risk returns is government bonds which, for many countries like the US, are presently returning what is known as ‘return-free risk’, ie negative interest rates when adjusted for inflation).

    That money would love to get its filthy fingers into any part of the NZ electricity system because , even with the Labour/Green plan, it’ll be risk-free return, which is a very scarce thing in the global financial system.

    You can’t escape the fact that the right wingers will say and do just about anything to protect their rent-seeking.

    • If National’s labour laws are about improving fairness, as Simon Bridges asserts, then capital strikes should surely face the same constraints as worker strikes. There should be advanced written notice to the public by all those companies intending to conduct a capital strike, and ten percent of the annual income of companies participating in the capital strike should be payable to the Government as a penalty for the harm they do to the community.

      Well said Mike but I agree you should not hold your breath …

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    If National’s labour laws are about improving fairness, as Simon Bridges asserts, then capital strikes should surely face the same constraints as worker strikes.

    Except that international capital sets the rules, and without a Labour Party prepared to challenge the monetary rule of the banksters and their capital markets, there is not much to be done about this.

    Given that neither Savage, Fraser or Kirk were willing or able to do this themselves, I understand the limitations. I wouldn’t expect Shearer or Robertson to either understand or challenge the status quo.

    • CV I agree that Labour’s current leadership is not up to the task. But a new leadership could be. Nash for all his moderation, did challenge the Bank of England and the City. NZ had a hell of a lot more financial independence in the late thirties than today. Capital controls, import controls, and the like can be reintroduced even by a social democratic government facing a global crisis. Of course NZs creditors only allow as much independence as does not threaten their stake in its national resources. But this doesn’t have to be private ownership.

      Labour and the Greens really don’t need much courage to return to classic social democracy when neo-liberalism is bankrupt and climate change is burning us up. They don’t seem to realise that their time is up as centre left parliamentary parties administering a dying capitalist economy. They don’t understand that since 2008 the world has moved on mainly downward and NZ has been completely recolonised. All they need to do is reverse Rogernomics and re-regulate the economy to protect what is left of the post war settlement from the global banksters and they will find their majority again. Once that majority is awake and moving a Labour party could emerge that is a party based on the democratic will of the membership and capable of creating a workers’ government.

      Its time to re-regulate and restore national controls over the economy. Renationalise our assets, reintroduce capital controls against capital flight, nationalise corporations that don’t play by the rules or close down such as Rio Tinto, regulate the Aussie banks and tax their super-profits, tax land to remove the rent rorting, turn Kiwi bank into an official state bank etc. As long as we nationalise our strategic assets we can borrow on the strength of their capital value and retain public ownership. We don’t need stock exchanges/casinos betting on how much value can be ripped out of NZ labour and land as super-profits.

      Of course for this to happen there has to be a huge groundswell of political radicalism from below that forces the Labour and Greens out of their comfort zone and into open advocacy of working class politics. I think that time is coming because the global crisis is deepening and the climate catastrophe is looming. Defending our strategic assets from the global parasites who are burning up the planet, and putting them into collective ownership and control is what will unite us in NZ and also unite us with all the many global social movements which have a common interest to change the world.

      • Mike S 2.1.1

        You don’t need to do any of that. All that needs to be done is to stop private banks being allowed to create money out of thin air. Money creation should be a function of elected government and should be created interest free.

        It really is that simple.

        Oh, I would also bring in corporate charters like they used to have in America, where companies had to prove how they were benefiting society or lose their charter (license to operate)

        • red rattler

          Mike S. Who is going to stop private banks from printing money?
          If we were in the position to do that we would already control the state, there would be no need for private banks, and the money supply would be determined by us collectively through a state bank as no more than a means of exchange necessary for ensuring that a rational economic plan can work effectively.

          The idea that what is wrong with capitalism is all to do with money is a fallacy long debunked. It is based on the false assumption that money, which is no more than a necessary means of exchange and loses its value if not invested in production, is the root of all evil. It’s not surprising since the evils of capitalism, its rampant greed and theft, appear to be the result of the drive to accumulate money. Te Whiti, for example was opposed to colonial settler society because in his view it was devoted to money. But money is only the symptom of capitalist production for profit and not need.

          Marx explains it very well. In capitalist production those who add value to commodities see only that the commodities have value, and not the labour power required to make them. Then almost ‘naturally’ they see the commodity that is used to ‘measure’ the value of commodities in exchange, money, as the supreme commodity embodying value in its essence. The money commodity then takes on the appearance of value and money becomes the root of all evil. Marx called this ‘commodity fetishism’.
          “I am” as Marx says “my hip pocket”.

          Unions can counter this to some extent by ‘collectivising’ the hip pocket, but since 1984 the gains of the labour movement going back to 1894 have been eroded significantly. We need to rebuild the unions but this time not devoted to equalising exchange since that merely legitimates commodity fetishism as ‘economism’. We need a union movement that can rally workers to take control of production and overthrow the capitalist production relations that are inherently unequal.

          • Colonial Viper

            You can’t take control of production and operate businesses without access to financing and capital. That’s why Mondragon has its own bank.

            Credit unions, savings and loans banks, etc.

    • Tim 2.2

      Just as an aside fellas…… Soimun Brudgizzzz wouldn’t be capable of asserting Jack Shit without the knowledge (or impression he’s convinced hissearf ) he has (the NAct ‘machine’ – such as it isn’t) behind him.

      Oi beseach you Soimun, do issss orl a fayva! or you’ll be destined for “empra with nah clothes” status.

      Personally I’m hoping he keeps up his public spouting off as much as possible.
      The more that happens, the more people will ask themselves how the hell such a total fukwit bekum.

  3. Sosoo 3

    This will continue because our masters have no fear of us. If you want to change things, then start thinking about how to frighten them (communism used to terrify them, so it can be done). Otherwise, you are nothing more than peasants petitioning your lords for scraps of bread, and will be treated as such.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Absolutely. I’ve come to the conclusion that the rich and powerful see themselves as a different species to ordinary people.

      When they look at us, it is as when we look at a sheep in a paddock. Prey.

      This is why 1m people didn’t bother voting at the last election; because at some level they know that the political system has become a farce. If the system worked it would have responded to the egregious frauds, crimes and abuses already exposed. But nothing has been done.

      My father used to tell me that the British upper classes owed a huge debt to the Unions during the pre-WW2 period, because without the Unions intervention and mitigation of the economic crisis of the time there would have been a bloody revolution.

      My moral being is committed to the idea of constructive, ethical change. The anger of crowds is like lightening; prone to striking the public figures who happen to be prominent at the time. The result is brutal and unleashes a dark, unpredictable counter-action.

      Yet the economic and moral violence being inflicted on us is only increasing. The longer we present a passive face to it’s onslaught, the more emboldened, like all bullies, they become.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        And like all bullies they get surprised when the people that they’ve been bullying turns round and thumps them.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2


  4. Barry 4

    The last time capital went on “strike” was the end of the Muldoon government when they moved their money overseas and held their breath, waiting for the inevitible devaluation. When it happened they pocketed a 25% gain for 2 weeks’ “work”.

    If union strikes could be anywhere near as effective they would have been banned long ago.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      If union strikes could be anywhere near as effective they would have been banned long ago.

      They were.

      General strikes are now illegal, as is striking in support of fellow workers in other companies or industries.

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Not only has the legal framework been twisted to virtually outlaw strikes, but the power of the police state has been bent to enforcing that regime.

        The state has ALWAYS come down on the side of the employers.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Yep, that’s why the state was set up as a representative democracy rather than as a participatory democracy. It’s possible to buy the representatives of the populace but impossible to buy the populace itself.

  5. QoT 5

    “Capital strike” is just a slightly-more-serious way of saying “going Galt”, y/y?

  6. Ennui 6

    My take from an employers angle is that Nact have got a warped idea of the NZ employment scene: there are so few industrial enterprises in the old sense left, manufacturing is either automated or gone, very few businesses are of a scale that “unionism” as we understood it 30 years ago is relevant. The only unions of any clout live in the state sector, government departments and teachers.

    In the private sector employers rarely face unions and have an alternate challenge: employees who work the legislation to the max for individual gain. Any employer can cite examples of being stung by personal grievances etc, and associated costs. Getting rid of staff who are obstructive, non productive etc is a financial minefield. Pay negotiations are a nightmare, the culture of entitlement amongst workers against their workmates is astonishing. I would much rather deal with a unionised workforce and a single award.

    So while National go on the warpath against unions they miss the point: small businesses have a problem with todays labour acts that havsbugger all to do with unions and everything thing to do with individualism and fragmentation.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      Very thoughtful. Indeed given that the vast majority of New Zealanders work in SME’s of 10 or fewer employees what you are saying goes to the heart of the matter. Old style mass unions are indeed virtually irrelevant to most working people in this country.

      I’m a member of the EPMU, but as a salaried employee I really have zero expectation that the union will be of any actual use to me. I’m happy to pay my dues, but mainly because I can afford to and a sense of probably misplaced nostalgia.

      • Malcolm 6.1.1

        The vast majority of NZers don’t work in SMEs of 10 or fewer employees.

        From the most recent business demographics survey (Feb 2012):

        Only about 15% of employees are in enterprises with 10 or fewer employees.

        By far the majority of employees (48%) are in enterprises with over 100 employees.

        You should check your facts.

        • RedLogix

          Ah yes. I was thinking of another statistic relating to SME’s. About 30% work in companies less than 20 employees. Still not the majority I agree.

          But given that only 18% of working people belong to a union, and in the private sector it’s about half that, and that more and more people are working for salaries these days … the old days of the hourly paid collective agreement are pretty much over.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.2

        Ennui is right. I’ve seen too many fraught issues around managing employees, and frequently it boiled down to an employee wanting to be paid off $3k – $4K to go away quietly. With that and associated legal costs and business disruption, a small 5-6 person business can face a big hole in the side of its finances.

        • RedBaronCV

          Yep and it has a name ” called go-away money” when you calculate the amount the lawyer would cost, the time devoted to the dispute better spend on other things and also that the ones most likely to look for it are often not the most disadvantaged employees.

    • ghostrider888 6.2

      individualism and fragmentation. (I view the paying of union dues as a medium of supporting those employees who are less able than myself to advocate for their realistic human needs when employed in the existing market).

  7. David H 7

    Now Mike we have all read the abortion that the Nats call their employment relations. At least they have one, What is labour doing? Playing who can hold their breath the longest, and turn BLUE?

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