Support rolling in for striking workers

By Carly Gibbs

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Public donations have started to roll in for Affco freezing workers as protests stretch into their second week.

Bill Karati, a Pyes Pa mutton butcher, has been protesting daily outside Affco's Rangiuru branch since March 6 because of a stand-off over contract disputes.

Mr Karati said he and his fellow Affco union members would not give up.

Public support for protesters is mounting, with almost every driver tooting in support yesterday when the Bay of Plenty Times visited a crew of about 20 picketing outside the plant.

Mr Karati - who has worked in the meat industry for 31 years, eight of them at Rangiuru - said members of the public had been stopping to donate gold coins.

Some of that money had been used to buy sausages for a barbecue along the picket line during eight-hour shifts on the roadside.

"Today is protest day," he said. "On strike days, everyone is out here."

Mr Karati said around 85 per cent of Rangiuru workers were union members and it had been 100 per cent until individual employment agreements were introduced about two years ago.

Many locked out union members are claiming the emergency benefit from Work and Income. Over 200 workers were locked out and up to 170 were working to keep "the chain" running.

All Affco's plants are in operation and Affco has not locked out all members of the union.

A support dinner is being held at Waitangi's Tuhourangi Marae tonight for 200-plus union members and their families with much of the food donated by freezing workers, who hunt and fish in their own time.

The lockout has come after more than 1000 workers began picketing outside another five of Affco's eight plants last week.

Affco operations manager Rowan Ogg said the lockout would continue indefinitely and a return to the negotiating table with the Meat Workers Union was unlikely unless the union had a "significant change in philosophy".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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