Tiny Kirk : Moi Mai Ra e hoa

Tiny Kirk, our former Meat Workers Union General Secretary from 1993 to 2002 passed away peacefully on Wednesday, 23rd October,  surrounded by his family.

He was an official for the Canterbury Branch for a number of years before becoming Assistant Secretary to the General Secretary and then was elected to the National General Secretary's role in 1992. Tiny was the General Secretary during the turbulent years of the 1990's, when the then National Government had implemented the Employment Contracts Act - legislation designed to crush unions, cut wages and make collective bargaining all but impossible for most NZ Workers but Tiny led our union through that time, and he was passionate about ensuring that meat workers were able to fight back.  

From the Christchurch Press February 2, 2002 : "Union Boss ends challenging career". 

"When Tiny Kirk started work for the union, everyone wore a tie. But surveying the rows of photographs lining the New Zealand Meatworkers' Union's meeting room yesterday, the retiring general secretary conceded times had changed. "Look at these men," he said, pointing to a faded picture hanging on the light-soaked wall.

"They're in suits and ties, but a couple of hours before they were up to their elbows in blood. They were the days when no-one would have dared meet the bosses without a tie."

Tiny Kirk had worn a tie for the union since 1965, eight years after starting work as a slaughterman at the Canterbury Frozen Meat plant in Belfast. He was as surprised as his co-workers to be elected plant representative, but that soon became his life's calling. At 30, Mr Kirk was the youngest to hold an elected position. And more than 30 years later, at 67, he has finished the oldest.

"A lot has changed over my time _ we were instrumental in getting three weeks annual leave in 1972 and we were the first union to get equal pay _ but I'll be the first to say not everything has gone for the better. The challenges still come, and there will be more."

Tiny Kirk said the challenges of the 1950s and 1960s were nothing compared with the 1980s. When he started in the union, the major battle was with the master-servant mentality of British plant owners. By the 1980s, it was to keep the plants open at all.

"Things were grim then, and morale was low because of decisions being made in boardrooms that were a world away from the plants. It was a time when 1600 people could be told at 4.30pm not to turn up to work the next day."

Mr Kirk said things got worse under the Employment Contracts Act, with unions being further marginalised and workers being less aware of their rights. But even with the new Employment Relations Act, the challenges remained. "I still believe that workers are worried about their future, and that this won't change until some employers start to recognise the value of their staff.

"I'm sure the closures we've had in the past are just the start. There will be more, but when is in someone else's hands." Mr Kirk said retirement meant he could leave the old scores in the past, to concentrate on settling new scores on the New Brighton club's bowling green. It would also mean losing a tie to the past. For a long time he had seen the union national executive photographs and he was the only one in a tie.

"Well, that's going to change."

Rest In Peace Tiny

Tiny’s funeral service is at :

1.00pm Wednesday 30th October 2019.

John Rhind Funerals

19/15 London Street


Christchurch 8013





Since his retirement from the union in 2002, Tiny has devoted a lot of his time to his local community, particularly post Christchurch Earthquake. Tiny never stopped doing what he always did ; organising to help people get a fair deal. 

Tiny's Funeral Service is:

1.00pm Wednesday 30th October 2019.

John Rhind Funeral

19/15 London Street


Christchurch 8013



Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Stand with us Volunteer


get updates