22 May 2012

Iwi leader says tribes helped Affco settlement

7:14 pm on 22 May 2012

One of the iwi leaders who helped to end the Affco contract dispute says a quick and tidy resolution would not have been found without the help of the tribal grouping.

Affco and the Meat Workers Union reached a new collective agreement just before dawn on Tuesday, following all-night negotiations which ended a bitter three-month dispute.

The two sides had been at loggerheads since late February, with 1200 workers either locked out or on strike for the past two months.

Tukoroirangi Morgan says the Iwi Leaders Group contacted Affco to offer its services at the start of the month, and has been working on a resolution ever since.

Without the iwi group, the dispute would not have ended as quickly, or as tidily, he says.

Maori make up 78% of workers

About 78% percent of Affco workers are Maori, and he wanted to find a resolution with which both sides could live.

One worker, Dave Taurima who works in the freezers at the Wairoa plant, says the past 12 weeks have been a real struggle for many Maori families in the town.

He says one of his daughters started work at the Wairoa sheep and beef plant just before AFFCO locked out unionised workers, so the family has been hard-hit financially.

But he says refusing to bow to the demands of Affco management, has been worth the financial pain.

Mr Taurima says it was important for the 110 locked-out workers in Wairoa, to fight to retain their conditions of employment, and not let Affco dictate to their employees and take away long held rights.

Since the contract dispute began in late February, about 500 union members have been locked out of eight North Island processing plants, while a further 800 have been on strike.

Tuesday's agreement protects wages and job security and means unionised staff will continue to have their terms and conditions negotiated by the union, but the Meat Workers' Union has agreed to drug testing for workers.