Meatworkers prefer Labour's education policy over National's tax cuts

Prime Minister Bill English has claimed a mandate from meat workers he met with at Horotiu during the leaders debate on Thursday night.

During the debate against Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, he said, "Try telling them that you're taking my tax cuts back, to make education cheaper".

All that occupies the small Waikato town, with a population of 800, is the meat works. 

But last night, its workers took centre stage in the leader's debate, and Newshub wanted to see whether the workers backed Bill, or not.

Mr English said, "transparency would require Labour to look in the eye those meatworkers I spoke to yesterday in Horotiu, and tell them they are going to take a thousand dollars a year off them, because those people will get a thousand dollars from the tax cuts that are legislated- take it off them to spend on making tertiary education a bit cheaper for lawyers."

Those tax cuts were announced in May's budget and Labour is set to scrap them if it wins this election.

Labour will use that cash instead to fund policies like free tertiary education.

Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern said the factory worker Mr English spoke about in Horotiu, "who's one day potentially going to be replaced by a machine - they deserve access to free education as much as a school-leaver. That's how you deal with the productivity challenge".

So, what do those meat workers actually think?

Former Union delegate Waata Muru has worked in the Horotiu plant for 35 years, and was there when Mr English came to visit.

Mr Muru said he "certainly thought" there would be quite a few meatworkers and general factory workers across the country who would be interested in Labour's policy with free education.

"Especially people with children who are about to embark on tertiary education and go to university".

Mr Muru said meat processing is seasonal, so he's unlikely to see a full thousand-dollar cut anyway.

Fellow workers up the road in Ngaruawahia are also keen on scrapping tax cuts.

One resident said he had kids in school, and he'd been laid off from the meat works.

"I'm struggling. To help my baby that's still in school, that's possible way of pushing it forward."

But some in Ngaruawahia are "backing Bill".

One resident said they thought a thousand dollars "would be good for the tax cut, because taxes are quite high, especially the hours the amount of people work  that extra thousand dollars will come in handy for people.

Another resident asked what happened after the first year, "They fall into debt, student loans, all those sorts of things."

So, when it comes to Bill English's tax cuts versus Jacinda Ardern's education subsidy, the Horotiu meatworks didn't quite deliver the slam dunk Bill English seemed to think it would.