Monday, 29 April 2013

remembering the dead

i've had a bit of blogging break because i ran out of energy.  too many things happening at once, and i needed some time to myself, which i got a bit of this weekend.

there are many things i want to write about, but the most pressing today is the death of parekura horomia.  it is so unexpected, and he's a politician i have huge respect for.  i'd only talked to him a couple of times and seen him around at conferences and the like.  but my most enduring memory of him is at the labour party conference just after the passing of the foreshore & seabed legislation.

i was one of the first to stand up, in what turned out to be the longest standing ovation i've seen at a labour party conference.  it was a time for labour people to acknowledge what a difficult time it had been for our maori MPs, and mr horomia had managed to come through the whole messy process while keeping his dignity & mana intact.  this is a bill i wish a labour government had never put up, but given that it happened, i believe mr horomia & other maori MPs of the time did us proud. as we stood to acknowledge all of that, his eyes filled with tears, and you could see not only the appreciation he felt but also the humility that is the hallmark of a truly great person.

mr horomia will be sorely missed, both in maoridom & across all communities in this country.  he was the kind of leader we need a lot more of.  my condolences to his whanau.

yesterday was workers' memorial day, a day for us to remember all those people who died in the workplace.  the focus in new zealand this year was on forestry workers:  "since 2008, 23 workers have died and almost 900 have been seriously injured."  it's an appalling situation, made worse because this industry prefers to treat it's workers as contractors, thereby not allowing them to form unions and to push collectively for health & safety regulations.

at the asset sale protest in hamilton on saturday, we took the time to remember these workers and others.  i particularly felt for the bangladeshi workers who had been forced by their bosses to go back to work in a building that had cracks in the walls and was known to be unsafe.  this awful tragedy highlights so clearly the power imbalance between workers and their employers.  without regulation and without workers pushing for their rights, health & safety goes by the wayside.  employers will complain about "bureaucracy" and "red tape" and make all regulation sound like an evil thing.  it is truly hard to comprehend that there are employers who care so little about the lives and the safety of their workers, and who see health & safety regulation as a burden rather than a necessary requirement to protect their employees.

just 2 days before workers memorial day, the government announced a bill that would weaken further what little power workers have.  this bill further attacks the ability to bargain collectively, to have industry bargaining via multi-employer contracts.  in fact it's so petty that it removes the right for workers to have tea breaks.  helen kelly gives a good summary of the provisions of the bill here.

we need to fight back against this, in every way we can.  it's time we begin to acknowledge the value of human labour, to pay fair wages and ensure fair working conditions.  there is no doubt that a fairer society is not only a healthier society but also a wealthier one.


Rust Beast said...

No recognition of the fact that the vast majority of workers injured in the workplace are men, naturally.

stargazer said...

funny how you also forgot to mention that the employers responsible for poor working conditions and lack of health & safety regulations are also men. and you don't seem to want to recognise that the majority of those dying in workplace accidents in bangladesh recently are women who work in the garment trade.

Rust Beast said...

@Stargazer: Actually, I mentioned both things in my blog post. But, so? Two wrongs don't make a right. You are ruthless in pointing out gender differences when it comes to harm to women, but with men, not so much. Don't you think there's a gender dynamic to workplace safety?

stargazer said...

not sure why you mention your blog post, which i haven't read & am not intending to. i didn't mention gender at all in my post, you're the one who brought it up in a particularly one-sided way. and yes, if you actually read & understood my previous comment, i acknowledged that there is a gender-dimension in workplace safety. you acknowledged the deaths, i acknowledged what you didn't mention in your comment here: ie that the gender that has put poor workplace safety policies in place are also the same.

and "ruthless"? please. i have also written posts, particularly at the hand mirror, about how the structures & institutions that harm women also harm men. mosts feminists do.