Friday, 14 June 2013

Bloody Friday

Saturday mornings, I cook pancakes. While cooking pancakes, I listen to Duncan Smith and Susan Murray's Country Life programme on Radio New Zealand (as do all good Kiwis). It's often a wonderful celebration of rural entrepreneurship.

I had never heard of Bloody Friday. And so I last week learned something new.

Friday, 9 June, 1978: 300 farmers released 1300 ewes onto the streets of Invercargill, herded them through the streets, then slaughtered them right there to the surprise of onlookers.

The Meatworkers' Union had made it impossible for the farmers to get their stock to slaughter. Sheep were starving in the paddocks because the feed had run out; the farmers had planned on getting their stock to market rather earlier.

Country Life interviewed Syd Slee about it. You can listen here. I especially liked the part where the police van showed up. The protesters expected they were going to be arrested. Listen in to hear what happened instead.

I was reminded of this interview when Jaime Lee-Ross's private member's bill was drawn from the ballot. His bill makes it easier for employers to hire replacement workers in case of strike. Here's Farrar on the bill; here's Cresswell.

I support the bill, and especially if we could have it apply retrospectively to 1978 when it would have done the most good. I'm a bit puzzled about the point given that New Zealand doesn't really have closed shop any longer - we don't lose that many days to strike action any longer. 2011 had the lowest number of stoppages since they started counting in 1986; I can't find more recent numbers quickly. And the Bill will do a great job of mobilising Labour's base to get out the vote. It the game worth the candle?

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