Editorial: Credit due to iwi leaders

Maori leaders deserve credit for their part in the resolution of an industrial dispute which was beginning to have serious consequences.

The stoush between the New Zealand Meat Workers Union and meat processor Affco over pay and conditions for 1000 union workers in eight plants appears over.

After 40 hours of exhausting talks the parties settled on a new collective agreement early yesterday, ending a bitter 12-week standoff. The deal still needs to be ratified by meatworkers but parties appear confident the agreement will stick.

Maori leaders must be congratulated for their work behind the scenes in helping broker a deal to relieve the hardship of their people, who make up 75 per cent of the union membership at the affected plants.

The first lockout at Horotiu's Affco plant in more than 40 years has been an ugly affair; while union members went on strike those on individual contracts remained. It has been a bruising emotional journey which has pitted friends and even family members against each other.

The financial hardship for striking workers has seen them needing assistance from Work and Income, the union and Tainui.

The strain culminated in Waikato-Tainui executive board chairman Tom Roa last week calling on the Talley family and Affco management to recognise the potential for a devastating impact on the social fabric of Ngaruawahia.

The influence from Maori leaders has been a shared effort across the three iwi groups representing regions near where Affco plants are located.

Former Tainui boss Tuku Morgan, Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau and Whanganui activist Ken Mair have been credited for their part while Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana have also been involved.

Given the rift between union and non-union members there is still likely to be some tension as the meatworkers go back to work over the coming weeks. It will take time for wounds to heal and trust to be regained and one hopes the agreement between Affco and meatworkers is sturdy enough to avoid any repeat.

Waikato Times