From Green Left Weekly 14th June 06
On June 2, Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle caught up with Matt McCarten, the secretary of New Zealand’s Unite union, who was visiting Sydney. Like his union, which is widely acknowledged to be revitalising the trade union movement across the Tasman, McCarten is in a fighting mood.
“We are just beginning to move back onto the attack after years of retreat in the face of the kind of anti-union and anti-worker laws that you are seeing in Australia today.
McCarten explained that Unite “started organising the lowest-paid and the most de-unionised sections of the working class, including the young casual workers in the fast-food industry, and we’ve had some wins with our Supersize My Pay campaign”.
Unite recently won significant pay rises for thousands of workers employed by Restaurant Brands, which covers in New Zealand covers Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut and Restaurant Brands call centres. And with real results to show, Unite’s fee-paying membership has risen in the past year from 3500 to more than 6000. Another 5000 members don’t yet pay fees and the union actively organises members who temporarily move out of work. It has even started organising Supersize My Pay clubs on schools.
On the industrial front, Unite is now going after McDonald’s and held an action to launch the campaign on June 9. On the broader political front, McCarten is a central leader of the Workers Charter, which now produces a monthly newspaper. The paper has been well received around the country. The next step is trying to build a network around it to bring together supporters for collective political action.
McCarten, who was a leader of the NZ Alliance firmly believes that workers need to build a new party of their own. Labour, he said, is finished as a party of and for the working class.