Further to my post this morning, here are two pics I took on the rally in the last hour or so:
The two marches meet, one coming from Auckland Hospital coming down Queen St, and the other up from Britomart with workers from all over the rest of Auckland. I just cannot explain in words how amazingly powerful that was, to have them meet in the middle of Queen St. I took a short video clip on my camera, but it really doesn't get across the sense of solidarity for both groups of coming together like that.
These three young women had come all the way from Pukekohe or Papakura (sorry dear readers, I always get those two confused) into the city. The middle one reads "try supporting a family on my wage".
It's been a while since I went to a union rally and it was fantastic, big massive ups to the organisers. After the two marches met we all packed into the Methodist Mission, across from the Town Hall, and there was singing, a bit of dancing (props to the lovely Pasifika woman who started that and got Mr Goff up looking like a bit of a birk), and a whole lot of workers and unionists sharing the true stories of the low paid in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Linda, a school support staff worker shared that she and the colleague standing next to her earned a combined income less than Bill English's housing allowance. She said "we all want to feel valued for the work we do... we want the Government to start valuing that work too." Jit, a long time employee of IDEA services, was amongst many at the rally who had been offered zero percent increases by their employers, and she felt it was "an insult" to those already on a low wage. Brendon, a union organiser working with employees at Abano, told us how the members he works with were asking for only 2%, but the company had said no to even that, despite a $9M profit in the last year, made off the work of those people. These workers provide the 24/7 care that those who have suffered serious brain injuries need, and Abano recently won Company of the Year in recognition of that work.
There were politicians too - both Green and Labour MPs and it was heartening to hear representatives from both parties (Phil Goff and Darien Fenton for Labour, and Keith Locke for the Greens) speak of the cooperative work they are doing in Parliament to fight this Government's attacks on low income people. Turns out Phil Goff's wife Mary is a school support staff worker, who knew?!
Barbara Wyeth, president of the Service and Food Workers' Union and a cook at North Shore Hospital, spoke very well on the impact the wage freeze is having on workers. I thought she summed up it with the statement "it's gotta stop; it's not fair."
And the rally closed with unanimous passing of this resolution:
That we call on the National Government to end the wage freeze on low paid state funded workers.
Bring on the school support staff march tomorrow! (Meet QEII Square from 11.30am)