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Report from Wellington ACC Protest

category aotearoa / pacific islands | community struggles | news report author Wednesday February 24, 2010 10:50author by AWSM - Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movementauthor email info at awsm dot org dot nz Report this post to the editors

On Tuesday 16 February, about 700-1000 people marched on parliament in Wellington to protest against proposed increases in accident compensation. The march was organised by a group called the ACC Futures Coalition, a group which includes a broad range of organisations including unions, community groups, bikers, consumer groups, academics and health workers.

Proposed changes to accident compensation will increase levies on all workers’ wages, privatise the Work Account and make further cuts to services, shifting the cost of injury onto the injured person. The changers will pass much of the cost of treating workplace injuries on to working class people, and make it harder for many to receive ACC. Most of us are already struggling to get by on little income as it is.

There are many workplace accidents and deaths in Aotearoa, and these are increasing. Sixty-seven people died in 2008 from workplace accidents. And pretty much all of them are caused by bosses making us work harder and longer. It’s pretty easy for workers to make a silly mistake when you are forced to work fast, and work long hours, and when workplace health and safety is ignored by bosses so that they can make more profit. It is part of the agenda of the capitalist class – currently being carried out with vim and vigour by the National government — of passing the cost of almost everything onto workers, and to make sure we pay for the cost of their relentless speed ups.

The protest turnout was pretty disappointing, given that unions urged members to join the march. There’s been lots of protest against the ACC changes from a broad variety of groups, from feminist groups opposing changes to counselling for sexual abuse survivors (incredibly degradingly, survivors now need to be diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness to get counselling) to bikers. Bikies held a massive ‘bike-oi’ on parliament last year, when over 6,000 bikies biked onto parliament in the loudest protest in New Zealand history. Bikers are opposing hefty hikes in the registration costs of bikes, attempting to pass the cost of road accidents onto bikers themselves. The low turnout of the Feb 16 rally just shows how little support unions have in Aotearoa at the movement.

Pushing for reforms like opposing cuts to accident compensation is necessary, but in the end we need to get rid of the system that causes these accidents and abuse in the first place. Sounds a bit corny, but getting rid of capitalism and hierarchy would mean we would be able to reorganise society and workplaces so that accidents would be minimised to the highest degree possible. For example, in workplaces there would be no drive for profit or production, no speed ups, and people would collectively work at their own pace so that they could produce the stuff people genuinely need. Health care, like everything else, would be freely available on the basis of need. To get there we need to build up working class movements against capital from below, and not in a top down manner like the vast majority of leftists suggest.

Photos from this protest can be seen at http://awsm.org.nz/?p=215

Related Link: http://www.awsm.org.nz
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