At the start it was about Woolworths distribution, going into the second week it was about New Zealand workers in general, there was a lot of members of the public that saw that, and rallied behind us.That's from Shane Cooper, a worker at the Palmerston North distribution centre.
I pay tribute to the 500 workers who stayed solid, stayed union, and fought the battle. One of the workers at Farvona road said 'someone has to fight for the next generation and it might as well be us'.
The media keep asking 'who won' - as if it was a game, the sort of game with one set of rules and a referee. It doesn't work like that. This settlement is a victory for the workers, and it wouldn't have happened without a struggle. But it's not complete victory. The workers were without pay for 4 weeks, that's basically 8% of their yearly wages, and a three-year term is a high price to pay for parity. But in three years they will be able to negotiate again, and fight again for everything they didn't get this one. In a way, for workers, any dispute where they come out stronger than they went in, and better able to fight the next one, is a victory.
The company is claiming victory, because there are still three documents. I can see that you might think that if you didn't have a lot of experience in collective agreement negotiations. Collective agreements - single-site, multi-site, single employer, or multi-employer, are means to an ends (getting workers what they want). There is almost no practical difference between bargaining three seperate agreements with the same expiry date nationally, and a single national collective agreement.
The reason the victory isn't a total victory isn't because of the form, but because of the content. It took a four week lock-out to get a 4%-7% increase on a three-year deal.