It didn’t take long.
Nick Kelly becomes president of the Wellington Tramways Union and the capital is thrown into turmoil after a short notice bus strike.
Thousands of commuters have been affected and schools and businesses have been disrupted. The situation appears likely to escalate as the employer has threatened to lock-out striking drivers.
From TV1 News
Getting to work on Thursday will be a major problem for 50,000 Wellington commuters with the city’s bus service crippled by an industrial dispute.
Bus drivers went on strike on Wednesday morning and now their employer plans to lock them out…
The lockout begins from 5:30am and means there will be no public transport in the inner city.
But with parking in town both scarce and costly, commuters are caught between a rock and a hard place.
NZ Bus offered drivers a 7% increase this year. The union says that’s not good enough and the drivers are fed up.
“We’re on $12.72 starting rate an hour. That’s not acceptable when you’re living in Wellington City,” says Nick Kelly of the Tramways Union.
Neither party seems willing to budge.
“The offer we’ve got on the table is the best one we’ve got,” says Emson.
Union negotiator Graeme Clarke sees a problem with the employers’ approach to the dispute.
“They say they want to negotiate and then they say it’s a final offer. How can you negotiate a final offer?” he says.
It is worth remembering that Nick Kelly is a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, a member of the Workers Party of New Zealand.
While President of the Victoria University Students Association in 2006, Kelly told the Workers Party journal, The Spark;
It is important for Marxists to stand and if possible take on leadership roles within student associations and trade unions. What the last four years involvement with VUWSA have shown that pretty significant things can be achieved by members of what is a fairly small revolutionary organisation.
Graeme Clarke was formerly chairman of the now defunct Workers Communist League, also a pro Mao organisation. Clarke is a long time General Secretary of Manufacturing and Construction Union-one of the few unions that explicitly calls for socialism in its constitution. Like Nick Kelly, Clarke came to unionism from student politics. In 1973/74 he was NZUSA Education and Welfare Vice President.
Trouble on the buses has been brewing for some time.
In December 2007, the Workers Party produced a leaflet “Bus drivers stand up to the boss” alleging that management of Go Wellington had imposed shift changes in 2007 resulting in income drops for drivers.
Now Workers Party Wellington Central candidate Don Franks has weighed in with some inflammatory rhetoric.
” Wellington bus drivers have been treated like shit…Its a rotten system where hard working folks can be legally locked out for refusing poverty wages…As I said to these drivers at the depot first thing this morning their cause is fully justified and deserves the support of all other workers…By standing up to the boss and demanding a better income the drivers are taking a stand which will benefit the whole working class,”
Don Franks is also a former member of the Workers Communist League and an old comrade of Graeme Clarke’s.
A strike just before an election.
Three interconnected Maoists or former Maoists involved.
Surely this is mere coincidence?