What an inspiration Ngaruawahia's Whare family are to all unionists! Kerry Whare junior, 22, and Maraea, 21 are two of over one hundred Meat Workers' Union members who have been locked out by their bosses in an attempt to force through dangerous and physically exhausting speed-ups ("increased productivity" in code). Their parents - Kerry senior and Rangi - are, with others in the union, on strike in support of their locked-out workmates.
The meat workers are ready to fight, and they're ready to win: Joseph Kumeroa, from the Feilding plant, told media there has been "amazing community support." Horotiu site union president Don Arnold summed up why the company's demands need to be resisted: workers are "human beings, not machines."
The Whare whanau's action shows why unionism means strength: standing together, and taking the slogan "touch one, touch all" seriously, we have a chance to defend our rights and our condition.
The bosses are on the offensive, from Ports of Auckland to rest homes, and hope to use the current recession to increase their exploitation of workers. Make no mistake, Affco - wholy owned by Talleys - see this as a political opportunity, a chance to attack the Meat Workers' Union, the democratic voice of meat workers. “Essentially it is a struggle over management control," Affco operations manager Rowan Ogg told the Gisborne Herald. "Affco management is seeking to draw a line on union influence in the workplace."
"Union influence" means health and safety; conditions we've fought for; the chance to fight together for improved pay. No wonder management want to "draw a line"!
But you can't run a meat works without meat workers. Affco are trying to intimidate their workers with this lockout -- if the workers stand strong, though, they can push back this attack, and offer an inspiration to us all. Affco may have the money and the public relations machine: the union has the potential of workers' power, collective action, and all the traditions of solidarity symbolised by the Whare whanau's action together.
The International Socialist Organisation support the locked-out Meatworkers 100%. Over the coming weeks we'll be collecting money at our branch meetings, stalls, and public events. We'll post details of where you can donate up here when they become available. In the meantime, like "Support for Affco Workers" on Facebook for more information, and to find out about picket lines you can join.
Kaimahi Kaha - workers' power!