by Helen Kelly
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Trades Hall bombing in Wellington. The bomb killed Ernie Abbott, President of the Wellington Caretakers and Cleaners Union. No one has ever been charged with Ernie’s murder.
The bombing of the Hall was a direct attack on democracy in New Zealand aimed to destabilising the union movement and the values it promotes. It occurred in a climate promoted by the Government of the day where unions and their members were portrayed in negative terms and personal attacks on union leaders was a normal affair.
It is uncertain that any lessons were learned regarding the danger of this kind of unprincipled rhetoric and while the nature of attacks on workers rights to organise may have changed, the underlying theme of reducing rights for workers in New Zealand has continued apace.
Ernie was an ordinary man who believed that we all should have the right to a safe work place with decent pay and conditions. He paid the ultimate price for those beliefs.
We honour the thousands of everyday heroes who stand up for justice and equality. Ernie was one of these heroes and that’s why we’ll always remember him.
Today we remember Ernie, and trade unionists all over the world, who have died fighting for the rights of others.
Helen Kelly is president of the NZ Council of Trade Unions