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Jobs That Count

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, December 17th, 2014 - 20 comments
Categories: employment, farming, health and safety, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Launching at 3pm today in Palmerston North, the NZ Meat Workers Union’s campaign to highlight job insecurity will hopefully have an impact on employment practices.

There are more than 20,000 meat workers, and they get a raw deal: seasonal work, dangerous jobs, casual and zero hours contracts and anti-union pressure.

One big employer is over a year out-of-date on their collective employment agreement, and likely to be the first to test National’s new bargaining law that allows the bad faith of breaking off negotiations.

As the union’s National Secretary, Graham Cooke, puts it: “When meat workers don’t thrive, communities, local businesses and schools all suffer too.”

As well as employment certainty and collective agreements settled on reasonable terms, the campaign aims to stop workers facing anti-union pressure, and make sure they’re safe at work.

As Darien Fenton’s public submission to the government’s Health and Safety Reform Bill put it:

In my short time with the Meat Workers Union, I’ve come across workers who have lost the tips of their fingers, a cleaner whose scalp was caught in a hook, and some particularly shocking examples in one South Island plant, which has resulted in three grievances before the Employment Relations Authority.

But the biggest focus will be on job security.  The meat industry has increasing casualisation, with old systems of seniority breaking down. There is contracting out and growing numbers of migrant workers being brought in.

The pressure on workers to work longer hours as their job insecurity grows will be exacerbated by the recent changes to employment laws, with collective agreements remaining unsettled and new workers employed on different pay and conditions – sometimes the dreaded “zero hours” contracts.

The main website is http://www.jobsthatcount.org.nz/ and there’s a facebook page.

Meat Workers Union – best of luck with the campaign.

20 comments on “Jobs That Count ”

  1. Skinny 1

    Darien Fenton is doing a great job for the meat workers since retiring as an MP. Ironical that the president of the Maritime Union, Garry Parslow presented me with a nice spainish bottle of vino signed by Darien, last night at a Unions Xmas function. Very honoured for the recognition for my election campaigning, and chuffed with the nice red, Darien is well known for her great taste in wine.

    Moving on, done a season when I was kicking around at uni. It was hard repeative work, however the money and conditions were ok back then, unlike the conditions the poor sods are dealing with today. Zero Hours contracts really are a terrible toxin creeping into the labour market, and must be confronted by Unions and Labours new leader.

    Paid lobbyists like Hooton and their free market ideology is how such dread comes into working people’s lives. I actually believe the Greens are on the right track with tightening up on registering & tracking who & why are gaining access to our politicians.

    • Im a firm believer in compusory unionism ,but I realise that is very unlikely.
      What I would like to suggest Darien is that every effort be made to make unionism affordable fo all .Now I say this because when I have a chance I always advise anyone and everyone to join their union ,one reason often indicated as why they do not join is the cost and if one is on the mininum wage its understandable .
      I do not have the answer lets start thinking .We all need unions..

  2. Tom Gould 2

    While campaigns such as these are to be applauded for raising awareness, the truth is that the only way to get a fair basis for fair wages and conditions from good jobs under the current administration is to change the administration and change the law. The recent changes to the ERA will make it pretty much up to the employers to decide who has been naughty and who has been nice.

    • Skinny 2.1

      The problem any Union looking to have a crack at one of the two big playersin thereat industry is they run the risk of the processing being done out of China, like the whole carcass shipped to China and processed and distributed worldwide from there. The biggest poultry outfit in America is doing exactly this with chicken, and then bringing back for American consumption. In the quest for greed the advantages are 1-2 per hour labour rates and no hindering regulations. Add to this no requirement of labeling where the chicken is processed, bowever you can guarantee a product of America label.

      • Atiawa 2.1.1

        Nothing new about shipping carcasses to another country. We sent sides of frozen beef and whole sheep to the UK by the boat load less than 40 years ago.
        How does this differ to sending pine logs or 25 kg bags of milk powder to China or iron sands & coking coal to Japan and oil tankers to Perth or Singapore refineries? Having a crack at the meat industry requires a unified approach but the issue of adding value is broader than one industry, as is insecure work. Surely it requires a wider action.

        • Murray Rawshark

          Exporting carcasses would be the same as how we export raw logs if we subsequently imported them back as salami or smoked meats, at a much higher price. This sort of thing happens with logs and swamp kauri.

          • Atiawa

            So would it be ok if we imported the salami manufactured from our beef & sheep from China at a lesser price then the locally made salami also manufactured from our beef & sheep?

            • Murray Rawshark

              Not by me. Irrespective of price, we need the work at home, both to employ people and develop skills. In any case, I wasn’t clear in how I wrote things. The higher price is higher than we’d get for the carcasses. The value is added overseas, which I don’t think is a good thing, whether it’s done in China or somewhere else. I didn’t actually mention China.

  3. Skinny 3

    *Commenting on here using an iphone sorry about the typo’s.

  4. Thanks for posting this. Its great to be back with the union movement. Don’t disagree that we need to change the government and the law; but meat workers can’t wait for that to happen. Employment law changes will impact on them sooner rather than later and we in the labour/union community need to be prepared to stand with them.

    Wonderful launch today, with the workers starring, of course.

  5. RedBaronCV 5

    But there is a potential consumer power backlash if you ship it all away to be cut up in unknown conditions overseas. One whiff of that and a lot of product would be left on the shelves. Look how Freedom bacon has increased in sales. The meatworkers could let us know which plants & companies are going for zero hours contracts.

    • miravox 5.1

      Freedom farms bacon, free-range eggs and organic veges are only for the wealthier classes.

      The race to the bottom in wages leads to a race to the bottom in what is acceptable food.

      But yes, consumer boycott is a great tool. It would be nice (good middle class word that) if the wealthier classes went beyond that in support of workers subject to insecure and unsafe working conditions.

      • greywarshark 5.1.1

        Don’t diss a good idea because of one aspect miravox. The information doesn’t have to be used for a boycott. Getting people to think of virtuous circles – spend your wages on certain brands that pay decent ages to other NZs. Inform people which brands are not ripping off their workers and therefore the country by keeping workers poor and ill-treated.

        • miravox

          I’m not sure why you think I’m dissing the idea. I’m fully supportive of using consumer power to make a point, but it’s restricted to those who can afford to do that. I also prefer to think that people can be more than just consumers.

          I’m saying middle and high income people need to go beyond using their consumer power and fully support all workers working under insecure conditions – in part because these workers and their families cannot afford to choose better quality/higher priced product – more is needed though, for people to live in a secure community and a decent society.

      • Tom Gould 5.1.2

        The paradox is that poor people – which is most people in New Zealand – tend to shop primarily on price so cheap imported bacon heavily discounted due to dodgy farming and processing practices is the one they will buy in order to feed their families. The same families who need the processing jobs. So what’s the answer?

        • miravox

          I probably feel much as you do given what you’ve expressed upthread.

          There will be no options under this government. The lower paid members of our society need better pay, better working conditions. We need good environmental regulation, better farm and product standards. We need relevant standards adopted by our trading partners and assurances that workers are treated fairly before we import their food. We need the population to understand these standards.

          We need the middle class to recognise their jostle for income security and well-being is not with the low paid and those reliant on social security, but with the top 1% owners of wealth and to act with that fact in mind.

          That’s for a start. Then we can start talking to poor people about food choices.

  6. Atiawa 6

    Nationalize the means of production. For the people by the people.

    Anything less is attempting to run the capitalist system better than the Tories. And we are never going to be able to do that,they’re the experts.

  7. Philip Ferguson 7

    Unfortunately, no-one in the union movement is advocating the kind of resistance that is so desperately needed.

    But there are examples overseas of some great initiatives by workers. Here’s how workers at a factory in Thessaloniki responded to the crisis over there.

    The machines of self-management have been turned on: http://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/greek-factory-the-machines-of-self-management-have-been-turned-on/

    Here’s an interview I did with the spokesperson for the workers who took over the factory: http://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/workers-self-management-only-solution-interview-with-spokesperson-for-vio-me-occupation/

    And a video on the occupation: http://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/4506/

    And here’s an inspiring and fascinating piece from a factory in Buenos Aires; especially interesting is the kind of political discussions that began in the factory when the workers took it over: http://rdln.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/factory-takeover-in-argentina-sees-discussions-on-workers-power-and-womens-liberation-the-russian-revolution/


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