Police surveillance a waste of time and money

The Maritime Union says police have better things to do than expending major resources on running surveillance operations on union pickets and political groups.

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the Union is concerned at the level of police presence at public events revealed in a list of 84 police “operations” in 2008/2009. Peace Action Wellington obtained the records through an Official Information Act request.

Police in Wellington and Auckland ran several operations during industrial disputes, including on Maritime Union members engaged in a legal strike in late 2008 at Ports of Auckland.

Mr Fleetwood says the Union was unhappy about its members having to pay taxes to fund their own surveillance by police for legal and above board industrial activity.

“We question why these resources can’t be directed to investigating dangerous work places and illegal work practices on the job around New Zealand where workers are killed and injured on a regular basis.”

He says he did not see why there was a need for a major police presence or substantial observation at many of the events, especially when it was claimed police resources were over stretched.

“They might want to pop down to have a look as part of their daily rounds, no problem, but this appears to be at a different level.”

Mr Fleetwood says despite claims that police were there to look after the rights of demonstrators, the reality was that law enforcement appeared a lot more active when it came to workers and less so when it came to employers.

“The right to lawful pickets and demonstrations is a hard won right, a democratic right, and certainly in our Union we have a long memory about how police powers have been used to undermine workers rights.”

There had been a number of incidents in recent years such as the use of paid police informants used to spy on legitimate groups and the “terror raids” of 15 October 2007 which showed that there was a tendency for police powers to expand, and a culture of state control and surveillance to grow, unless challenged.

The Maritime Union was also concerned at the implications of the Search and Surveillance Bill that is currently before parliament, and which has generated widespread concern amongst many as undermining long standing rights of citizens.

“As it has been said before, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

ENDS

For more information, contact Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood on 021364649

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