Successful NZ Meat Industry companies recognise that Meat Workers Union members elected as officials and delegates on their sites add value to their business. Like it or not, there is high density of union membership in the NZ Meat Industry and this needs to be respected.
Today, more than ever, these roles matter. It is on-job MWU shed officials and delegates who can best connect with other workers about what's happening, what works and what doesn't. They bring their skills and experience on the job for the best outcomes for their workmates, their whanau and community.
It's often a thankless job. Delegates and shed leaders spend hours of their own time on top of doing their day to day job. They get the blame for workers' discontent from the boss, and the members often blame them for not performing miracles.
So here's a big shout out to all those in the Meat Industry who have put their hand up, who work hard every day at their jobs as meat workers, and take on the extra role of representing MWU members on the job.
Sometimes, MWU members will disagree with their bosses. That's OK. Disagreement should not be feared in a 21st century workplace. Not everyone gets it right and the power of managerial success is not being afraid of what your workers tell you. After all, it is they who work day by day, hands-on in the business of their company. In many cases, they bring decades of experience.
The meat industry should welcome and value MWU leaders and delegates on the job, facilitate their involvement and training and most of all respect the role they take on representing the workers who make the industry successful.
Some companies see these roles as a threat. They are the ones who lose if that is the case.
Workers and companies will not always agree. Companies want to provide profits to their owners and shareholders while workers will want to see a fair return to those who do the work. It's always been that way.
Delegates, elected on-job Union Presidents and Secretaries are the leaders of workers on the job. They don't get there without effort or backing from the workers. Smart companies and managers understand these leaders have a role to be valued. They don't fear dissenting opinions. They embrace on-job delegates and leaders and find ways of better working together, including consultation, negotiation and recognition.
NZ's Meat industry faces many challenges. NZMWU understands that. But confining the role of the union to the narrowest of representation roles and only when there is conflict means shutting down the opportunity to engage, to face the challenges ahead and work with workers and their union for the good of all parties.
You never know. Managers should try talking to MWU delegates. They might be surprised how much they know.