Tainui leader urges Talley's to end strife

"There seems to be little recognition of the Maori blood, sweat and tears" that made Affco into a successful business.

These words, from Waikato-Tainui executive board chair Tom Roa, formed part of the heavyweight's first public move in the standoff between the Meat Workers Union and owners of the Affco empire, the Talley family.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Roa called on the Talley family and management to recognise the increasing potential for the three-month lockout to have a devastating impact on the social fabric of Ngaruawahia.

"We have seen that the Talley family recognise and accept the responsibilities they have within their local community, in Motueka," Mr Roa said.

"What I'm asking of Talley's and Affco is that they recognise their responsibilities in our communities too.

"Our local communities and our whanau have been the backs upon which a successful business has been developed. We are simply asking Talley's to be mindful of the human toll on our communities."

Union delegate Waata Muru said the number of workers locked out in Horotiu has been fluctuating above 100 since February.

"We're doing it pretty hard now, mate," he said. "We're surviving on the skin of our teeth. We're asking for food donations from the community, which is not an easy thing to do, but we've been forced to do it."

He said the dispute over the union negotiated collective contract had divided the community and families.

Some union members were still working in the factory and others were on individual contracts.

"The big one now is financial hardship – we're struggling to keep our head above water."

He said local businesses were also suffering because workers didn't have money to buy groceries, services and other products. "All I want is to see this dispute resolved, sooner rather than later so we can all get back to work and get on with our lives."

Iwi leaders met earlier this week to discuss finding a way forward.

Mr Roa said: "The concern we have is that there seems to be little recognition of the Maori blood, sweat and tears that have contributed to that successful business, not just here in the Waikato, but in Northland, Gisborne and elsewhere.

"There is a consensus among us that the primary role of iwi is to protect and advance the interests of tribal membership. The reality is a majority of these locked-out workers are Maori, and a great proportion are Waikato-Tainui ... Our people are hurting. Not just those workers who have been locked out. The indirect social costs are being felt by wider whanau, community groupings and businesses throughout the region."

Mr Roa said the Talleys were a major stakeholder in the community. "We would welcome the opportunity to work with them to promote their interests, while safeguarding employee rights and outcomes of benefit to our iwi and local communities."