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Tiwai Deal A Great Relief For Workers And Southland Community

Workers at New Zealand Aluminium Smelter at Tiwai Point are celebrating the company Rio Tinto’s new electricity deal with Meridian Energy, finally securing a longer-term future for the plant.

The 20-year deal ends years of uncertainty about Tiwai Point, which is the largest employer in the Southland region and also supports the local economy by providing many opportunities for businesses in the area.

E tū delegate at Tiwai Point, Curtis Omelvena, says workers are thrilled with the news.

“We finally have job security after five years of constantly being threatened with closure,” Curtis says.

“I was wondering what to do if the place closed down, and I would have most likely left Invercargill and even New Zealand altogether. If it did close, I could imagine a lot of us younger workers leaving the area, leading to a big recession in Invercargill.

“It’s a hugely positive thing for the workers and the wider community in Invercargill, especially as the smelter is working hard to clean up the area.”

Curits says the uncertainty has taken a big toll on the workforce.

“The last few years have been very trying on our patience and mental health. Morale will start improving from now.”

E tū National Secretary, Rachel Mackintosh, says the economic impact of this decision for the Southland economy is significant.

“The smelter contributes about $400 million to the Southland economy – it is vital for work and business opportunities in the region,” Rachel says.

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“E tū members have been working through the uncertainty as best they can. Our union is committed to a Just Transition through economic changes, which means making sure that workers and local communities don’t bear the full brunt of the everchanging future of work.

“It is a big relief that our members at Tiwai Point, and everyone whose work is connected to the smelter, now have some real certainty about the future. We are looking forward to continuing progress on a collective agreement for E tū members at Tiwai, and with the company’s newly improved position, Tiwai workers should expect some real improvement on wages and conditions as a result of their collective activity.”

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