The New Zealand Meat Workers and Related Trades Union is currently a four-branch organisation which funds a National Office on a capitation per member basis. The four branches are:
The highest body of the union is the National Conference which consists of the union’s National Officers, the Branch Secretaries, the Branch Organisers and one delegate representing 350 annual equivalent members from each Branch. The Conference meets twice a year in Christchurch.
Canterbury/ Marlborough/Nelson/Westland Branch
Between these meetings, the authority of the union is exercised by the New Zealand Executive which consists of the National President, National Secretary, and all Branch Secretaries and Branch President/Organisers. This body meets at least four times annually, also in Christchurch.
The union’s National Officers consist of a full time National Secretary (based in Christchurch) and a National President which is an honorary position; both are elected every three years by ballot of all members.
Graham Cooke, National Secretary
Upon the retirement of (then National Secretary) Dave Eastlake in May 2012, Graham was elected to his present position of General Secretary.
Graham started work in the meat industry as a seasonal Fellmongery worker in 1968, later transferring to the beef house, eventually learning the skills in 1974 of a slaughterman flanking and pelting on the mutton and calf chains. In 1978 Graham was elected Horotiu Sub Branch Secretary (1,651 members) and in 1987 elected Secretary of the Auckland & Tomoana Freezing Workers Union. In 1994 Graham was elected Secretary of the Meat Union Aotearoa. April 2005 the Meat Union Aotearoa became a Branch of the NZ Meat Workers Union.
“The Meat Workers Union needs to be relevant to today’s members and continue to inform workers of the need and benefits of belonging to national collective employment agreements. Workers need to be a part of a union organisation that promotes a collective voice that is able to deliver good terms and conditions of employment. The Union has to be relevant to the Meat Industry Employers so that they treat their employees with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
National Office, Christchurch
The branches include members from both meat plants and related trades. Each branch has its own elected President, Secretary, Vice President and Organisers.
Aotearoa Branch has a total of six full-time officials.
Canterbury/ Marlborough/Nelson & Westland Branch have a President, Secretary and an Organiser as full time officials.
Otago/Southland Branch have a full time President and Secretary.
Wanganui Branch (which consists of four plants and an abattoir) has no full time officials, preferring to make use of their Honorary Secretary should the occasion arise.
Branch Executives consist of the Branch Officials, one representative from each sub-branch and representatives from the Related Trades Council. These executives meet throughout the year on a regular basis.
Each branch sets its own union fee and forwards on the agreed capitation to the National Office. Sub-branches are also permitted to have funds as decided by the members of each site or the Branch Executives.
Branches with sufficient related trades have a Related Trades Council which would meet when required by the Branch Officials.
Each Branch is divided into Plant Sub Branches which democratically elect their own President/Secretary and Vice President.
The Sub-Branch Board of Control consists of these officers plus one delegate representing the workers of each department within the Sub Branch.
All officers of the Union, whether it be at National, Branch, Sub-Branch or Departmental level, are elected by ballot of the membership, the exception being Branch Secretary or Branch Organisers who may be elected by vote of the Branch Executive.
The delegate of any works department, or of any related trade is a key member of the Union, and plays a key role in the smooth and effective running of the plant.
They should know their department and its operations thoroughly, understand the current agreement, and how to discuss rationally, and without anger, any dispute that may arise.
Members tend to judge the Union’s effectiveness on the knowledge they gain from their delegates. Delegates act as an important link between Union Officials and members. They keep members informed about Union activities, and keep the Union Officials informed of members’ opinions.
Delegates are required to represent members in discussion with front-line management (eg. foreman and supervisors) with or without Union Officials. They also support Union Officials in discussions with top-line management (eg. plant managers and industrial relations personnel).
What a Delegate Needs to Know
Delegates should always listen carefully to members’ opinions and complaints and take time to evaluate the situations before taking whatever action may be necessary. Never be frightened to seek advice from a senior Union Official if you are not sure of what to do about a particular problem.
Delegates need to be aware of Union policies and practices. No delegate can explain to members Union matters that they do not fully understand personally.
The Union does run training courses for delegates to assist them with their role.