The New Zealand Meat Workers Union and meat processor Affco settled on a new collective agreement at 5am today, ending a bitter 12-week industrial dispute.
Affco workers will be back on the pay roll from today and will return to work over the next short period. Ratification meetings for the agreement will be completed by next Monday.
''The settlement secures the core issues of concern to our members. It retains protection of wages and employment security and ensures workers continue to have their terms and conditions set by a union negotiated agreement,'' Union president Mike Nahu said.
Families had suffered extensive hardship during the dispute and were extremely relieved to see a resolution, he said.
The union acknowledged the support it had received from iwi leaders to help bring about the settlement.
''They showed incredible skill, resolve and solidarity in working with us and the company right until the documents were signed,'' Nahu said.
Affco director Andrew Talley said the settlement was welcome at the end of a difficult time for everyone.
''I am looking forward to spending additional time around the meat plants and working with the union and its members to continue to improve these meat plants making them the best performing in the country.''
Speaking about the resolution on Radio New Zealand, Nahu said, "We had a full session Sunday, and an all-day session Monday and we've only just finished so yes, it was a marathon effort but it was an exercise that had to be done.
"From our point of view we've got the union protection and issues that we wanted addressed for our members. From the company's point of view, they've probably got a wee bit of the flexibility they wanted in terms of the agreement.
"We've kept the collective, we kept the active union involvement, we've kept the right to secure employment - many things that were very important to us.
Yesterday an Employment Court hearing concerning a bid by the Meat Workers Union to have Affco's lockout ruled illegal was surprisingly adjourned amid news an ''iwi leadership forum'' had succeeded in dragging parties back to the bargaining table.
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples told Business Day: ''Sometimes a third party, or fourth party, can make a difference and bring a bit of perspective to a problem.''
Both the union and the company have credited the involvement of Tainui boss Tuku Morgan, Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau and Wanganui activist Ken Mair for achieving progress in the dispute.
Maori comprise around 75 per cent of union membership at plants affected by the industrial turmoil and the three iwi group members all represent regions near where Affco plants are located.
Sharples said he first met with iwi - including Tau and Ngati Kahunguni chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana - two weeks ago where intervention in the dispute was discussed.
''They agreed it would take a joint meeting with the [Affco owner] Talley guys. Iwi works with Talley on fishing, they know they've got this working relationship with Maori.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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