Gordon Campbell on ACT’s anti-worker crusade, and Israeli settler violence

4c429cc7b776278ad552The ACT Party’s announcement yesterday that it aims to stop workers in the gig economy from being allowed to test in court whether they deserve to be treated as employees – and thus entitled to sick leave, holiday pay etc – has been the most blatant example yet of ACT’s hostility to working people. Any wage and salary earner who votes for the ACT Party has to be a masochist.

As E Tu assistant national secretary Annie Newman pointed out yesterday:

“ACT have also promised to end Fair Pay Agreements and bring back 90-day trials. They have opposed every increase to the minimum wage, opposed doubling sick leave, and even oppose moves to make wage theft a criminal offence.

ACT’s attack on gig workers comes in the wake of Uber drivers winning their court case last year to be recognised as employees, with the rights and benefits this entails. ACT has seen how the legal ground has been shifting in favour of workers in the gig economy, and is therefore promising to change the rules, and turn back the clock in favour of the party’s corporate sponsors. As the dutiful servant of capital, ACT wants to formally strip gig economy workers of their hard -won means of legal protection.

Talk about true colours. When it suits, ACT likes to pose as a libertarian party, but that’s a sham. It has little interest in individual rights, or human rights. Repeatedly, it goes into attack mode whenever individuals choose to act collectively. What really makes the ACT Party swoon is the collective power of employers (unions:bad, Business NZ:good) and it has dedicated itself to protecting the property rights of the business elites it exists to serve. The party’s chief mission is to perpetuate privilege, as embedded in the existing power imbalances within the workplace, and across society in general.

It is not an accident that many of the socio-economic imbalances in this country are legacies of colonialism. As a staunch defender of white privilege, ACT was at the forefront of the attacks on co-governance. It is opposed to any and all affirmative actions taken to address the racial disadvantages long evident in our health, welfare and imprisonment statistics. (If anything, ACT’s law and order policies will make the rates of Māori incarceration far worse.)

The choice facing New Zealanders at this election is becoming stark, every day. Act has carted the National Party and its ineffectual leader further and further to the right, and Christopher Luxon plainly lacks the leadership skills required to bring his party back from the brink. The failings of the current government are just as evident, but at least Labour is making an attempt to govern for all New Zealanders. Act is quite happy to govern for the top 5% and to throw everyone else to the wolves.

Footnote: The so called “Hobbit law” was the last time the centre-right changed the rules to ensure that “independent” contractors had to submit to the wages and conditions dished out to them by employers. Typically, Labour made it theoretically possible for contractors to organise – if they dared – but otherwise Labour has done little to protect gig workers from exploitation. As with so many other things, Labour deferred taking meaningful action on the gig economy, from fear of the political fallout.

No such reluctance on the centre-right. What ACT/National and their cronies in Business NZ are aiming to do is to turn back the clock to the early 1990s, to the worst days of the Employment Contracts Act. Back then, employers could slap a contract on the table and require job applicants to “choose” to sign up to its provisions, or else. The good old days.

Israel’s civil war

Talking of extremism… Israel is currently being ruled by its most extreme right-wing government in decades. While there has been some coverage of the huge protests against the efforts being made by Benjamin Netanyahu to weaken Israel’s courts, the ongoing setter violence on the West Bank barely rates a mention in the international media. In New Zealand, this coverage gap is a reflection of the reliance of our television media in particular, on US network footage.

Here’s a short version of what’s currently going on:

Fascist Israeli squatters are routinely attacking Palestinian hamlets with mayhem and murder on their minds, and the Israeli Army often takes the side of the aggressors.

Israel, it should be noted, can only claim the West Bank by dint of conquest, in 1967. The UN has never recognised its annexation. Control of the West Bank has recently been turned over to Israel’s Finance Minister, a known fascist/racist called Bezalel Smotrich – a man who is himself a West Bank settler and a denier not only of the right of Palestinians to statehood, but of their very existence as a people.

Five million Palestinians – roughly the population of New Zealand – live on the West Bank and in Gaza, in apartheid-like conditions. They are subjected to repeated attacks on their homes (and crops) by Israeli settlers intent on seizing their land for further settlements. Here’s what happened in one such incident (link above) earlier this week:

….Some 400 militant Israeli squatters descended on the Palestinian town of Turmus Ayya [north of Ramallah] with guns and Molotov cocktails. They shot down 12 locals with live fire, [one fatally] set fire to 30 homes, and burned 60 vehicles. They also set fire to fields, including to crops. Israeli squatters often attempt to destroy olive trees and other agricultural crops of Palestinians in hopes of starving them out so they can seize further property from them.

Locals reported that not only were the squatters firing their guns at civilians but that the Israeli security forces who came in behind them also fired at the inhabitants.

The (paywalled) Israeli newspaper Haaretz report on the settler raid on Turmusayya can be found here. An Arabic language account of the attack can be found on this site. By using Google Translate, I found the Arabic account had made this telling point:

Yesterday’s massacre brings to mind the brutality of the settlers on the twenty-sixth of February [2023], when they carried out 300 attacks in the towns of Hawara, Burin, and Asira al-Qibliya, south of Nablus. Orif, and Kafr ad-Dik. The attacks on Turmusayya came hours after hundreds of settlers carried out terrorist attacks yesterday evening in 10 villages.

Keep this pattern of brutality by Israel’s illegal settlers in mind the next time that you hear Western countries (a) deplore the violence occurring in the occupied territories, but then (b) call on “both sides” to refrain from violence. As if this has ever been a fair fight, between equals.

Palestinian voices

This is one of several tracks by a kid called MC Abdul, of Gaza. His real name is Abdel-Rahman Al-Shantti and he was born in September 2008.

This is a short track recorded a few years ago when MC Abdul was reportedly, only eleven years old.