First sheep shearing collective signed in 24 years

The first union collective for the sheep shearing and wool handling industry in 24 years has been signed, and it's hoped more companies will follow suit.

FIRST Union has signed the collective with Manawatu Shearing Limited ahead of an industry meeting on Wednesday. 

FIRST Union Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing Divisional Secretary, Jared Abbott said the collective was in response to concerns across the industry.

These included wage discrepancies, inadequate timekeeping, a lack of employment agreements, the common incorrect taxation of staff as casuals, not paying proper holiday pay or for public holidays and many not paying the rates recommended by the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association.

He said Manawatu Shearing was the first to do the right thing and he invites more to fall into line.

"Manawatu Shearing is a company that not only values its employees, but it also values the industry," he said.

He said the lack of a pragmatic Industry Training structure has let shearers down and now New Zealand shearers have been losing their placing on the world stage. 

"This agreement and our commitment to more than triple the current amount of staff being trained annually is a hugely positive step for the company and beyond."

The new collective includes market-leading rates of pay and will enable workers within the company to engage more in the decision making around their employment and in the wider industry. 

Abbott said the union sees the shearing industry as an integral part of the wool supply chain and already represents workers in production, manufacturing, and retail of textiles and clothing in New Zealand. 

"Therefore there is an opportunity to use this industrial power to promote training, upskilling, more value added processing in New Zealand and to give an alternative voice for the industry in the public sphere."

The union has also committed to returning half of all income obtained from union fees back into upskilling members in their trade.

"As a union, we want to see as much value added processing returned to New Zealand communities as possible."  

"With our existing relationships in the Textiles and Clothing industries, we see our involvement in Sheep Shearing as an opportunity to promote a strong a sustainable industry in New Zealand for years to come."

The union will be presenting to other employers about its plans for the industry at the New Zealand Shearing Contractors' Association Inc. Annual General Meeting taking place on Wednesday (15 May 2019).