A corporation jointly owned by New Zealand and overseas investors, ANZCO aimed to cut costs and smash the Meat Workers Union. A week before the lockout began, letters were sent to all union members onsite demanding they accept pay cuts of 20-30%, and leave the union, before returning to work. While a significant number accepted the pay cuts, 111 workers refused, including many of the skilled workers onsite. The union took a position of accepting 10% pay cuts which the company did not accept.
The decision to stand strong against a brutally exploitative local corporation inspired nationwide solidarity efforts. While the Maritime Union was the only major union to make significant financial contributions from the start, community efforts as far south as Invercargill and as far north as Whangarei raised up to $46,000 p/w, exceeding the CTU target of $25,000. Even this number was meagre when divided up between families, but solidarity efforts did a lot to boost morale.
After negotiations repeatedly broke down, Council of Trade Unions head Helen Kelly was drafted in to mediate. Just before Christmas, the negotiating team recommended a deal with reduced pay-cuts and without some of the former cuts to conditions. With the site becoming increasingly split, workers voted to return.
We will publish an analytical article in the February edition of the Spark. In the coming months it is crucial that radicals consider and debate the significance of this struggle.