23 May 2012

Iwi role may mark a turning point - academic

6:31 am on 23 May 2012

Victoria University industrial relations specialist Dr Stephen Blumenfeld says iwi involvement in settling the AFFCO dispute has been unusual.

AFFCO and the Meat Workers Union reached a new collective agreement at 5am on Tuesday, following all-night negotiations.

The two parties had been at loggerheads since late February, with 1200 union members either locked out or on strike for the past two months. The company and the union have reached a new collective agreement, ending three months of lockouts and strikes.

Iwi leaders have been credited as playing a pivotal role in ending the dispute. About 78% percent of AFFCO employees are Maori.

It's the first time the Waikato iwi Tainui has become involved in an industrial dispute, and it says it wanted to find a resolution with which both sides could live because the action was hurting local communities.

Dr Blumenfeld says the Talley's family that owns Affco has a history of trying to de-unionise its food businesses.

He says it's surprising that local iwi were able to convince them to return to the bargaining table.

Former AFFCO senior executive Allan Barber - who is now a meat industry commentator and business consultant - says the way the settlement was brokered could mark a change in the way such negotiations are handled.

And one of the iwi leaders who helped to end the Affco contract dispute says a quick and tidy resolution would not have been found without the help of the tribal grouping.

Tukoroirangi Morgan says the Iwi Leaders Group contacted Affco to offer its services at the start of the month, and has been working on a resolution ever since.

Without the iwi group, the dispute would not have ended as quickly, or as tidily, he says.