In countries across the Western world policy-makers are looking to improve workers’ standard of living in the face of more globalised labour markets and pressure from corporate powers to do the reverse. In New Zealand the government has opted to support the people who generate the wealth of their society- the workers. The country’s Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced that the minimum wage will be raised to 16.50 NZD an hour (11.60 USD), in a move expected to benefit 164,000 workers. Although the Ardern government may be in its early stages, this marks an important departure from the years of National Party rule and will hopefully set a tone for the next few years.
Despite finishing second in the recent general election Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party will lead the next government of New Zealand after reaching an agreement with the centre-left Green Party and the conservative populists of New Zealand First. The move will result in New Zealand’s first government not led by the National Party since 2008 and as a result much attention has been paid to what the priorities of the next administration will be. In recent days Ardern has been more explicit in what her government will do and on the whole the Left should welcome the announcements, although there are some caveats that need to be added.
Labour has long claimed to be active in every community up and down the country and whilst this is not an untrue statement, there are many parts of Britain where the Labour Party is exclusively encountered in the press. For many citizens political activity is something that is people want to do but do not know how to get involved with issues they care about. My suggestion would be to make the Labour Party into a grassroots movement that is active at a level that is much more localised than just parliamentary constituencies. Empowering local people should be the future of the party and this requires a new approach to party organisation.
Employment tribunals are a key way for workers to protect themselves against unscrupulous employers but in recent years the number of people going to tribunals has dramatically fallen. This is largely because of the introduction of tribunal fees, whereby workers had to pay, in some cases, thousands of pounds up front in order to have their cases heard. According to figures from the Ministry of Justice quoted by the BBC, the number of cases going to tribunals has dropped from around 5,000 per month before tribunal fees were introduced in 2013, to around 1,600 per month after the introduction. However this situation has finally been remedied, as the Supreme Court has ruled that these punitive fees are against the law.
There is much discussion in Labour Party circles about the merits and pitfalls of mandatory reselection. The opponents of this idea are exclusively in the more moderate wing of the party and these individuals fear that if primaries were to be held for all Labour candidates for Parliament, the party would swing to the left. This is a well-founded fear as if left-wing membership were truly empowered to take these decisions, as opposed to a moderate group of party insiders, Corbyn’s leadership would be secured for the foreseeable future and his successor would likely oppose any attempt at modernisation, which is simply a euphemism for moving Labour away from socialist roots. But nevertheless, mandatory reselection should be introduced.
Described by some as the Mediterranean’s ‘liberal paradox’, the small island state of Malta has embraced LGBT rights at some one the fastest paces in the world despite its majority Catholic population. Same-sex cohabitation were first regulated in 2012 and civil unions were legalised in 2014. The Civil Unions Act of 2014 guaranteed that gay couples had all the same rights as married heterosexual couples including the right to jointly adopt children, a freedom that in many states where same-sex marriage was legalised earlier took many more years to achieve. Malta has now gone one step further and legalised same-sex marriage, only three years after civil unions were first introduced.