29 May 2024

Budget protest strike: 'We've had more support than not' from employers - Ngarewa-Packer

9:03 am on 29 May 2024
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says numerous employers they had spoken to supported the strike. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Te Pāti Māori says most employers they have spoken to are supportive of a strike in protest of government policies affecting Māori.

Social Media posts published jointly with the party are urging people to protest on Budget Day on Thursday but Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says striking would be illegal.

Luxon and Labour leader Chris Hipkins are both warning people not to break the law during the planned protest.

Te Pāti Māori's been criticised for calling the protest action a "strike", but co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told Morning Report the same scrutiny was not applied to climate strikes.

People would rise whether or not it was said to be legal or not legal, she said.

"We all use whatever words we need to to get the attention to the pain that's being created by this government."

It was immature to think people would not have a conversation with their employer before walking off the job, Ngarewa-Packer said.

"We've already spoken to numerous employers who are extremely supportive and are saying 'no you do take a strike, don't take leave, we understand the principle that you're standing for'. So we've had more support than not."

It only gets complicated where people decide not to listen and engage with each other, she said.

Meanwhile, police issued a statement saying they were planning for hīkoi and public gatherings across the country on Thursday.

There would be a visible police presence on the roading network with hīkoi travel scheduled to start at 6.30am around the country and likely to disrupt traffic in a number of areas during the morning, police said.

Gatherings planned for Aotea Square in Auckland from 11am and Parliament Grounds in Wellington from midday were expected to continue in to the afternoon, police said.

'Now is the time for action' - Ngarewa-Packer

Ngarewa-Packer said the government had not not allowed public scrutiny on its dismantling of policies put in place to stop harm in communities in areas such as health, Māori and disabilities.

Asked why the action should take place now Ngarewa-Packer said they were at a point where things had become intolerable for tangata whenua.

"When things get to a point of being intolerable then now is the time for action," she said.

The Budget had been crafted by dismantling policies which ended up being harmful to very marginalised communities such as Māori, disabled, rainbow or struggling to make ends meet, she said.

"The Budget is the pinnacle of the dismantling of a lot of the things that have helped us - the Māori wards referendum, the [Section] 7AA Oranga Tamariki - you know really enough is enough."

The protest would show the power "of ordinary people that have had enough of the government's harmful behaviour", as well as providing a call for unity and a better nation, she said.

Hipkins encourages employers to allow employees to protest

Labour leader Chris Hipkins told Morning Report he encouraged people to exercise their right to free speech.

But he said calling it a 'strike' suggested people were being encouraged to stop working and there were only certain conditions they could do that under.

"Strike action in the context of walking off the job has a particular meaning... you have to be for example in bargaining around your pay in order to take that type of strike action."

Hipkins said he encouraged employers to allow employees to take the day off to protest if they wanted to.

Labour MPs may meet with protesters, Hipkins said.

"What we're seeing is that there's a growing number of New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori, that are very concerned about the actions of this government and people want to participate in protest and want to have their voices heard."

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