Iwi step in to break Talleys-AFFCO meatworks lock-out

Byron Clark

After more than three months of hardship for over 5000 people the Talleys-AFFCO lockout has been brought to an end through pressure by iwi leaders. Sections of the trade union movement and key individuals within it were able to generate support from a majority of iwi leaders in the impacted areas where the workforces were often than 70 percent Maori.

The chairman of Waikato-Tainui executive Te Arataura, Tom Roa told Radio New Zealand last month that there was a consensus among iwi leaders to put pressure on AFFCO and its owners, the Talley family, to end the three month long industrial dispute which is having a huge effect on Maori communities. This followed similar comments from Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau, who suggested farmers from his and other iwi should stop supplying animals to AFFCO unless the dispute is settled.

The union movement has been grateful for the support. Laurie Nankivell, a Shed Secretary for the Meat Workers Union said on Triangle TV’s The Union Report “it’s a huge bonus for us up North ‘cause we all know Sonny Tau up North, he worked with us in the freezing works in the ’80s- ’70s and ’80s, it was good to see him on our picket line.”

“We also want to acknowledge the work the iwi is doing to support the locked-out workers and their whanau” stated CTU Vice President Maori Syd Keepa. In a press release he said, “The support centre opened by Ngati Kahungunu in Wairoa …provides much appreciated food and other services from the community to the locked out workers and their families.”

Not every iwi leadership came on board however- the farming arm of Rotorua iwi Ngati Whakaue came out publically against a supplier boycott, saying the iwi had “long-standing and on-going “ relations with the company, and claimed it was “not its place to take a political stance.” But of course, it is impossible not to take sides in an industrial dispute like this, and by continuing to supply AFFCO the leadership of Ngati Whakaue took sides against the workers.

Even if they and other suppliers had wanted to continue to supply AFFCO they may have be forced to sell their livestock to other plants as AFFCO didn’t have the skilled workforce required to continue processing. At the time Meatworkers media spokesperson Simon Oosterman told the New Zealand Herald that he knew of farmers who couldn’t hold on to stock any more, due to the expense of feeding them over winter, and were sending them to other plants.

A consumer boycott of Talley’s products was also called for by Mana Party MP Hone Harawira, “The locked out workers have been forced to band together to survive and to keep the working conditions they’ve won through years of negotiations and they’re being locked out because the $300 million Talley family want to bash the unions”.

The role of iwi has been so significant because they came to it with their the ability to hurt the employers production process. Putting a stop to supply and production is again shown to be the key aspect in resolving an industrial dispute.

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