Iwi leader questions effectiveness of Labour's Māori caucus

updated By Maiki Sherman

The Labour Party's Māori caucus is calling on iwi leaders to help support meat workers in their employment negotiations with the company Talleys.

It's been over a year since negotiations began but an agreement still hasn't been reached.

It has gained momentum in that negotiations with Talleys are now being watched carefully.

However, it has also exposed a weakness in the Māori caucus in that they themselves are not in a position to settle the issue alone. Ngāpuhi's Raniera Tau says that's the reality of being in opposition.

Tau is sharpening his knives but who's on the chopping block? 

Tau says, “Labour currently has a number of Māori MPs. My challenge to them is, why they couldn't sort this issue out themselves for our people?”

Labour has sent an open letter seeking support from iwi leaders.  Tau says it's an example of how ineffective sitting in opposition can be.

“No matter if you're in opposition or if you're part of the government, those with power are those who have influence over policy decisions,” says Tau.

Nanaia Mahuta says, “I don't agree, we opposed the government's employment law changes and we are right behind this issue and the workers here.”

Negotiations have been underway for over a year between the Meat Workers Union (MWU) and Talleys, a company with a strained history regarding employment agreements. 

In 2012, a deal was reached between Talleys and its workers thanks to the efforts of iwi leaders.

Mahuta says, “Talleys know that the Māori asset base is increasing in areas like fisheries and the meat works so they need to be considerate in regard to our meat workers.”

Tau says, “It would be easy for us to hold discussions with them but we will take our cue from the workers in these factories.”

However, despite extending a helping hand, Tau still holds some concerns.

He says, “We are wary of getting overly involved as both the unions and companies could see us as a panacea to settling their disputes.”

Negotiations are continuing between the MWU and Talleys. They're expected to meet again in about three weeks' time.