Meatworker union review

The outlook for meatworkers nationwide is ''not good'' and the NZ Meat Workers' Union is reviewing its operations to see how it can better represent workers, says a union official.

Union general secretary Graham Cooke said about 75 union representatives from meat plants throughout New Zealand were meeting in Palmerston North this week to discuss plant over capacity, worker productivity and the consolidation of its accounts.

Over capacity, resulting in too many meatworkers and not enough stock, was a major problem facing the industry, he said.

''It's a continuing recipe for disaster, jobs are more vulnerable and it's playing havoc with wages.''

Mr Cooke said it was not looking good for meatworkers in light of current circumstances.

Lamb numbers are down and workers, although more productive, are not getting paid more, he said.

Workers are processing heavier lambs, they are working shorter days and most workers were getting wage cuts, Mr Cooke said.

When asked if the union had any real power to advocate on behalf of workers, Mr Cooke said it was more difficult under a National Government where the primary interest was employers.

''It's an uphill battle.''

The union is still very effective but it can always do better, he said

The meeting comes as Otago Southland union representatives have been busy negotiating a better deal for workers at Southland meat plants.

The union came out with a good agreement for both Alliance Group's Mataura workers and the company, he said.

''We're optimistic we've done the very best for all people concerned.''

About 150 workers at Blue Sky Meats voted in favour of new shift and wage structures at a union meeting last week.

The Southland Times