News in that Talley’s/AFFCO and the Meatworkers reached an agreement at 5am this morning. The workers will keep their wage and job security provisions and still be covered by a collective contract. These things are never a complete victory but Talley’s appear to have won little for a dispute that has cost them and their workers’ families millions. Next time, they’ll think twice before attacking their workers.
The strength of spirit of the thousand plus workers and their families have displayed to stand strong while one rich family tried to bully and extort them into handing over some of what little wealth they have is astounding. I know the tens of thousands of dollars donated by New Zealanders up and down the country, along with payments from their union brothers and sisters via the CTU, have been absolutely vital in keeping these families going. As has the support of iwi, who have not only provided practical support to the families but have flexed their economic muscle as well by threatening a boycott of Talley’s/AFFCO by Maori farmers and even mooted setting up a competing network of meatworks.
At the end of the day, a dispute like this comes down to who can take the pain longer, and who has most to lose. The workers had the most to lose because accepting the bosses’ demands would have been the end of the union and a ticket to lower wages and casualisation. With the help of iwi, the union movement, and ordinary New Zealanders, they have shown they could bear the pain longer than Talley’s/AFFCO could bear to lose millions in revenue.
And we owe our thanks to the meatworkers, as well as the wharfies at Ports of Auckland. There’s no doubt that these two vicious attacks on workers by their bosses were the opening salvos in a broader attack on workers’ rights, supported and abetted by National with further undermining of our work rights.
Both Talley’s/AFFCO and Ports of Auckland have come away with bloody noses and the reputations of their senior managers in tatters. That will be noted by bosses up and down this country. Had Talley’s/AFFCO and PoAL won, it would have been open season on workers’ rights and pay. Instead, the lesson is: don’t mess with unions and don’t mess with workers.
The bosses and their shills should take some time to absorb that lesson before they attack New Zealand’s working families again.
And the meatworkers should stand a little taller today as they return to work today. They have done themselves and all working New Zealanders proud.