In the first half of 2012 we have seen the bosses attack New Zealand workers in some of their strongest bastions: the Ports of Auckland and the freezing works. In this talk I want to focus on a single aspect of both disputes, namely, the role of iwi in assisting the workers.
This was most pronounced in the Talley’s/ AFFCO dispute, where up to 90% of the union membership is Māori. Also, quite crucially, 40% of beef production at AFFCO comes from Māori trusts. Talley’s must have perceived the defeat suffered by unionists at ANZCO/ CMP in Martin last year as a signal that they too could finish off the union in their plants. After a mere ten hours at the negotiating table Talley’s locked out hundreds of workers who refused to sign Individual Employment Agreements that gave away terms and conditions that had been built up over years.
Now it’s no secret that the leadership of Meat Workers Union struggled to organise the dispute. After 20 years without a major “blue”, they were caught on the hop by Talley’s full frontal assault. They turned to the CTU for help. But it was the involvement of the CTU’s Māori representative body, the Rūnanga, and its Vice President Māori Syd Keepa in particular, that were decisive in turning around the fortunes of the meatworkers. [Read more...]