Right now, many meat workers are facing lay offs at the end of the season. It starts with shorter days, then one shift gets laid off, then the next. While some workers will work nearly all year round, most won't.
What has provided a measure of protection for workers is the system of seniority - where those who have been at the plant longest get laid off last and get taken on first.
The other thing that has been extremely important for meat workers is their collective agreement : so when they are taken back on after the season, they come back to union pay and conditions.
All this is changing. The fourth largest company in the Meat Industry, Talley's, have no current collective agreements, leaving them free to try to dictate the pay and conditions for their workers when they come back to work.
Other companies are making changes too. Silver Fern Farms is splitting its company into business units for sheep, beef and venison, leaving workers uncertain about where that leaves their collective agreement. Workers across the country are reporting increasing pressure at work, shorter seasons and concerns about hard-won pay and conditions.
When a meat worker gets laid off, they have to try to find other work. WINZ will usually put them on a stand-down, they have to use their meagre holiday pay and they will sent to minimum wage jobs. Employers can be reluctant to employ meat workers, because they never know when they may be called back to work.
This could be described as zero hours. It's different to fast foods, but it's real. It's been around a long time, and we've ut up with this for years in our number 2 Export Industry. And guess who pays?
The workers, their families, our local communities and businesses. That's who.
That's why the Jobs that Count campaign matters to all of us.