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The Alliance is the party of the working poor

The Alliance is the party of the working poor

As someone once said: “History repeats itself -- the first time as a tragedy; the second as a farce.”

Alliance members are bemused at the announcement that Matt McCarten is no longer Maori Party campaign manager after being given an ultimatum over working to build another party. This comes just months after he resigned from the Alliance when members voted that it was not appropriate for someone in a leadership position to be actively building another party – the Maori Party in that case.

He now says he is in the "very early stages" of planning a new political party of the Left. Alliance president Jill Ovens says there is no need for a new party to defend the interests of the working poor.

"The Alliance is that party."

She says that despite a Labour Government, low hourly rates and the loss of overtime rates mean low-paid workers are worse off in real terms then they were 15 years ago. Workers have to work long hours just to make ends meet.

"We have a strong economy with growth around 4% last year, but the average worker saw only a 2.7% rise in pay. For someone on $10 or $11 an hour, that means less than 30 cents an hour."

Unemployment may well be at an all-time low, but many jobs are part-time or casual. "Casual workers often miss out on basic entitlements such as sick leave or parental leave, and they are easily dismissed.”

The State has allowed wages and conditions to be driven down by contracting out services such as cleaning in hospitals and doing nothing to ensure workers get a living wage and decent conditions.

The Alliance says we need to: •Increase the minimum wage: The Alliance will push for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. We oppose discriminatory youth rates. Everyone (those with jobs and beneficiaries) should get a living wage.

• Control excessive hours: We will push for a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay and immediate introduction of 4 weeks annual leave. We will push for the right to refuse unreasonable hours or shift work, and mandatory overtime rates.

•Introduce responsible contracting: Where employers get public money to deliver services, we think they should be required to meet national standards in pay and conditions.

•Protect casual workers: We will push for protections for casual and part-time workers and make it possible for them to carry over service from job to job so they qualify for public holidays, sick leave and parental leave.

•Secure a right to redundancy: All workers should have the right to a minimum redundancy payment, but many do not have the power to negotiate this. We will push for minimum redundancy of 4 weeks, plus 2 weeks for every year of service.

•Address pay equity in the private sector: Pay inequities in the private sector as well as the public sector will be reduced when we have free childcare, after-school care and when the work that women commonly do is rewarded with decent pay.

• Extend Paid Parental leave: We will push for 12 months paid parental leave for all women workers, including casual and seasonal workers. We will also push for 2 weeks paid parental leave for partners.

• Legalise the right to strike: Workers should have the right to strike to enforce their Collective Agreement, to oppose lay-offs, to support other workers and for political reasons.

• Introduce workplace democracy: Workers should have a say in the way work is organised. The Alliance will push for stronger employment legislation to ensure greater workplace democracy.

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