In the late 1980’s I worked on the establishment of the Meat Industry Tradesmens Agreement, bringing eight old awards into one. It was a difficult negotiation, but one lasting memory is now the meat companies hated each other more than they hated the unions, and they were no union-lovers. 25 years later, the companies still can’t get their act together, and it is the country as well as the farmers who are hurting. It may surprise some, but it’s the Labour party who is putting forward policy to bring in the necessary change. Good work from Damien O’Connor and the Labour leadership.
You can read the full policy statement here. Some highlights:
The New Zealand meat industry currently generates nearly NZ$8 billion annually in export earnings. However, little growth and poor performance has meant the meat industry is facing a decline in profitability. While some industry leaders battle to maintain the status quo, an increasing number of farmers are desperately seeking change in both the structure of the industry and new levels of supply commitment from farmers themselves.
Recent farmer-led initiatives for reform show a new willingness by farmers to work together. This could prove to be the difference this time in whether consolidation goes ahead. Leaders have called for farmers to approach the proposal without pre-conceived ideas of how the “right industry structure” might look. Any change will require strong leadership and a willingness to set aside old grievances if the sector is to move forward and realise its potential. But if change can be achieved, the prize is significant with some suggesting that collaboration around livestock supply and processing could generate annual benefits for industry participants of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
• Provide the leadership and funding so that industry participants can reform the meat sector by developing a sustainable model to deliver more jobs and wealth.
• Encourage the creation of businesses with real market scale and, if required, we will look to amend the Commerce Act to achieve this aim.
• Review the Primary Growth Partnership grants to the meat sector to ensure they contribute to a more strategic industry future.
• Work with Iwi and other large agricultural companies to consolidate efforts and interests for better long term profitability.
• Reassess the management of government to government quota market access arrangements to maximize the opportunities available to all parts of the meat sector.
• Encourage a new collaborative working environment between companies and workers to offer greater security for all parties.
• Review the deregulated meat inspection system to ensure it is not putting our long term reputation for quality and food safety at risk.
• Ensure animal welfare standards are being maintained in the transport of livestock.