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Sharples hears impassioned pleas from AFFCO workers


MEDIA STATEMENT

The Hon Dr Pita Sharples
Maori Party Co-Leader | MP for Tamaki Makaurau
28 April 2012

Sharples hears impassioned pleas from AFFCO workers

“How can one family inflict so much pain and poverty on the workers who have served them for decades?”

“AFFCO Talleys forces hundreds of families into poverty.”

These were the impassioned pleas of locked-out workers in Wairoa, who met with Maori Party Co-leader and Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples at Takitimu marae yesterday.

Dr Sharples attended a hui to discuss Maori representation on the Wairoa District Council, and found the industrial dispute at the AFFCO freezing works was the main topic of talk in the town.

“Incidents of extreme hardship were laid out before the hui – of senior rangatira who have contributed hugely to their community, and who have worked for AFFCO Talleys for thirty years, facing the humiliation of going cap in hand to WINZ for financial relief,” said Dr Sharples.

“These are people in their fifties now, who have provided for their families and supported their community, but who are without the means to pay their mortgages, service their overdrafts, or pay their rates,” he said.

“The community has rallied, and provided breakfasts and lunches for some of their mokopuna, but this does not relieve the feeling of shame and embarrassment felt by the older workers in Wairoa.

“I know this situation is the same all across New Zealand where there are AFFCO Talleys plants. It is especially severe in Wairoa and Moerewa and other towns where there are very few other job opportunities.

“The lockouts have seriously affected not just the hundreds of workers, but all of their families, and the local and tribal communities they belong to,” said Dr Sharples.

“In Wairoa, Kaitoko Whanau from Te Puni Kokiri have been guiding families who have never before had to seek a mortgage holiday, rates relief or a bank overdraft. They have had some success in helping whanau secure the government assistance they are entitled to.

“I have also written to iwi leaders right throughout Aotearoa, asking them to consider how they might best support their communities under stress, in accordance with Maori values of collective action to look after each other and protect vulnerable whanau. Some have responded, saying they are discussing plans to withhold stock from their farms, to show their displeasure with AFFCO Talleys.

“I have also been trying hard to meet with representatives of the Talley family, to see if we can find a way forward through this dispute, in the interests of the parties and of rural communities who are caught up in this dispute,” said Dr Sharples.

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