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The start of our ‘Winter of Discontent’? NZ circa 2009

Posted by Lee on May 18, 2009

Down here in Wellington, it’s cold, wet and windy – the usual conditions heralding the approach of Winter. However, this year it feels a lot chillier. Signs of the ‘R’ word are appearing everywhere – take a walk down the streets and we seem to be in the middle of a perpetual ‘sale season’, with shop windows everywhere yelling out to us with ’50 – 80% off everything in store’ and ‘2 for one offers’ – it all feels a little desperate.

For the moment, the cafes are still doing a roaring trade, but there’s little escape from the fear of  ‘R’ for the patrons of the coffee shops. As they sit there, sipping on their lattes and reading the newspapers, on nearly every page there are tales of economic woe. A couple of months ago, these stories would have been restricted to the business section of the dailies, but now they have spread across to the national news section as the economic woes of the world are no longer just  ‘Where did my investment go?’ or “Damn it, my shares have dropped again”, but now there’s  a torrent of ‘R’ words stories – Recession, Redundancies, and Real Kiwis losing Real jobs in Real communities – and if not mine, then very similar to mine.

Turning up my collar against the wind and the rain,  I decided to pick up a sandwich for lunch and came upon another sight that really added to my gloomy winter feeling. There on Lambton Quay, the ‘retail mile’ of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, were a group of people handing out leaflets and selling cakes.LWR Cake Bake

Lane Walker Rudkin, the iconic Kiwi clothing manufacturer is closing down and had just announced that 186 workers were being made redundant. Apparently, the workers may see their last wage payments, but there is no guarantee that they will get any redundancy payment or holiday pay. Sure, in times like these redundancies are going to happen, but it seems that yet again, the employer is not doing the right thing by their staff – this is an issue I’ve written about before. Surely as a minimum,  the staff’s outstanding holiday pay is an entitlement – an entitlement the company must have known about when the noose started to tighten.

So, were these ex-workers striking? Hardly, as that would be pretty pointless – no, instead they had set up a cake stall to to help the workers help each other out.

This may not be a big deal in other countries, but in NZ, it’s all quite unusual. However, what’s changed since earlier recessions and industrial unrest is the use of social media. In no time at all, The NDU (National distribution Union) who are acting with these ex-workers, have just launched a Facebook Group, “Bake a cake for Lane Walker Rudkin Workers”

I accept that these are the signs of the times, and maybe this is going to be our winter of discontent, and that’s a reality, just as long as employers continue to try and do the right thing by their employees, even while making the tough decisions.

By the way, if you come across these guys and their cake stand – take a moment to stop, put your hand in your pocket and buy a piece of cake. It’s delicious, and just be thankful that it isn’t you that’s been driven to doing this.

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One Response to “The start of our ‘Winter of Discontent’? NZ circa 2009”

  1. Sam said

    Thanks Lee. If people aren’t able to get to one of the cake stalls, they can also make a small donation online here: http://ndu.org.nz/support_lane_walker_rudkin_workers

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