Newspaper Article 1972 – Killing resumes at Whakatu

Killing resumes at Whakatu

Women in dispute give up their jobs

Tears….but union says they were not ‘got at’

The six women who have been at the centre of a dispute at Whakatu Freezing works since October 24 today told a union stop work meeting that they no longer wanted to work on the Viscera table, according to the president of the Whakatu Freezing Workers’ Union, Mr W. T. Bennett.

Mr Bennett said the women individually and voluntarily made this statement. There was no pressure from the union meeting.

He said the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company, owners of Whakatu, maintain that the women were “got at.”

Killing of 10,000 lambs through four chains was supposed to have started at the Whakatu works this morning after the freezing industry disputes committee gave a ruling on three questions put to it by the Whakatu union and the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company in Christchurch on Saturday.

The Union held a stop-work meeting this morning which lasted from 7.30 until 9.15. Killing did not resume until the afternoon. There were four chains operating and there were no women at the viscera table.


Mr Bennett said the union meeting endorsed the action of the secretary, Mr E. W. Earp, and himself in giving the Minister of Labour, Mr Thomson, an assurance on Friday that normal work would resume today under the terms of the disputes committee rulings.

Mr Bennett and Mr Earp reported on the disputes committee’s rulings after a motion was tabled that the reports be received.

The six women then said they no longer wished to work on the viscera tables.

Mr Bennett said they wanted to go back to the jobs they held last season in the boning room.


About 10 o’clock this morning one of the women, Mrs Phyllis Chittleburg, was being escorted from the works to the company offices when the vice-president of the union, Mr Harry Williams, called out to her and she was escorted to the union office by the union treasurer, Mr Peter Reo.

She was crying.

The top management of the company, Mr D. R. Little, managing director, Mr I. D. Cameron, general manager, Mr Tony Wharton works manager in charge of labour, and the chairman of directors, Mr R. S. Ellingham, walked across to the union office.


About 10 minutes later, union officials escorted five of the six women to the company offices. As they entered the building the women hid their faces from cameras.

About 10 minutes later they came out with the union officials and Mr Bennett told them to make no statements to anyone. The women then got into a car and drove off.

While this was going on, men were waiting outside the works in working clothes.

When reporters and photographers approached, some of them said: “Why don’t you go up there, pointing to the slaughter floor of the works. “There are 500 men up there waiting beside the chains to start work.”


Mr Bennett said that at the meeting in the company’s office, Mr Cameron started asking the women leading questions.

Mr Bennett said he objected to this because it was not Mr Cameron’s right to ask leading questions.

Questions of this sort should be asked by an independent chairman, he said.


When the union officials and the women were at the entrance to the company’s offices after the meeting. Mr Bennett told the women not to make any statements to the management, the union or anyone else.

“It is better at this stage if they don’t say anything,” said Mr Bennett.

The women had gone away together to one place.


Mr Bennett said the union has asked for the advice of the Federation of Labour on the latest development.

Mr Cameron said the Minister of Labour, Mr Thomson had been told of the result of the union meeting.

It is expected that if the company and the union can not settle their dispute Mr Thomson will step in.

The six women involved n the dispute are Mrs Myra Otene, Mrs Hankie Tawhai, Mrs Nancy Beacham, Mrs Frances Harris, Mrs Elizabeth Morunga, and Mrs Chittleburg.


The “change of heart” by the six women was a result of the union meeting this morning and the women were most upset, the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company said this afternoon.

Until Mr Bennett told the works manager that the women did not want the jobs, the company had every reason to believe the women were both willing and able to start work, the company said.


“It is also believed that union officials visited each of these women in their homes on Sunday afternoon.

“There appears to be only one conclusion that can be drawn from these actions,” the company said.

“The union called a meeting before starting work. After 11-hours the president of the union told the works manager that the six women did not now want the jobs.


“This was not acceptable to the company and the union officials were called to the company’s office and requested to honour their undertaking to abide by the decision of the disputes committee.

“A telephone call was then made to the Minister of Labour who asked to speak to the president of the union and arranged that the women should be recalled from their homes and offered their jobs by the company in front of the union officials.

“This meeting took place and Mr Cameron stated the company’s views to the women.


“Before they could reply, Mr Bennett stated he would refer the matter to the Federation of Labour that the union would withdraw and the women members of the union must go with him.

“But as they were leaving one woman stated that they, the women, were members of the union and must abide by decisions of the union.”

Mr Harrison ‘hopes women not intimidated’

Mr J. R. Harrison, MP for Hawke’s Bay, said today he hoped suggestions of intimidation and stand-over tactics against the women involved in the Whakatu dispute were untrue.

Mr Harrison said he was also appalled that the women had been told not to talk to the press.

“I also hope suggestions are not true that the local union is being influenced from outside Hawke’s Bay in their stand,” he said.

Mr Harrison said continuation of the dispute was a tragedy,

“The people who are really suffering are the members of the union and even more so their wives and families and the business people who supply the groceries and so on to those families.” said Mr Harrison.

He said he understood that wages lost so far during the dispute amounted to $300,000 which was not only lost to the workers, but also to the families and the businesses which serviced those families.


Mr Harrison said the union and the company had both agreed to abide by the findings of the disputes committee and that work would be resumed today on the terms laid down by the committee.

“Obviously there has been some union misunderstanding of Mr Nordmeyer’s ruling. I understand that Mr Nordmeyer has since explained to the company and the union exactly what he did mean.

“I also understand that he said the company was correct in offering work to women on the viscera table of the fourth chain. If that is correct then someone is not sticking to the agreement.”

Mr Harrison said he would get in touch with Mr Thomson, the Minister of Labour, later this afternoon.

He said it was in the best interests of the workers, the company, the farmers, Hawke’s Bay and the country in general that the works get on with the job of killing lambs.

Mr Butcher: Call Govt conference

Mr David Butcher, Labour candidate for Hawke’s Bay, the electorate in which the Whakatu freezing works are sited, called today for a Government conference between the works management and the union under the Industrial Relations Act if negotiations on the dispute fail.

Mr Butcher said he believed it was wrong for the works to remain idle and said work should start on the “basis of the status quo,” which would mean the employment of men in the disputed viscera tables while the issue was more fully discussed.

He said the operation of the works meant a great deal to the farming community and it was the management’s responsibility to ensure the start of the new season was not delayed through failure to make adequate preparation for it.

Mr Butcher said negotiation with the union was just as important as arrangements for other aspects of the season.

On the information he had, it appeared that the management had failed to give the union adequate and early enough notice of its intention to make substantial changes in employment policy involving the engagement of women.

Photo caption – Troubleshooter flying in
New Zealand’s top industrial troubleshooter, Mr J. D. Gibb (above), is flying to the Whakatu dispute. Mr J. R. Harrison, MP for Hawke’s Bay, said the Minister of Labour, Mr Thomson, had told him that Mr Gibb, was to fly to Hawke’s Bay today in a special flight for on-the-spot talks at Whakatu.

Mr Gibb began duties early this year as the Government’s chief industrial mediator.

Photo caption – After a meeting with the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company, the Whakatu union president, Mr W. T. Bennett (left), tells four of the women not to talk to anyone about the dispute. On the right is the union vice-president, Mr Harry Williams.

Photo caption – Four of the top men from the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company wait this morning for union officials and women to come to the offices. They are from left Mr R. S. Ellingham, chairman of directors, Mr E. B. Jenkinson, works manager in charge of production, Mr I. D. Cameron, general-manager, and Mr D. R. Little, managing-director.

Photo caption – One of the women at the centre of the dispute at Whakatu, Mrs Phyllis Chittleburg, hides her face as she walks into the works offices. In the foreground is the works manager in charge of labour, Mr R. A. Wharton.

HB lambs held up at Feilding

Thousands of Hawke’s Bay lambs, many of them sent to Feilding freezing works because of a dispute at Whakatu, have not been killed at Feilding because a dispute has broken out there.

Killing stopped at the Thomas Borthwick and Sons works on Friday after a dispute over payment for empty hooks on the chain.

By midday today the dispute had not been resolved and farmers said they feared that lambs in the yards were losing weight rapidly.

During the weekend the lambs were taken from the yards to paddocks.

Empty hooks on the mutton chain are paid for under contract rates, but the management warned its No. 3 chain last Monday that poor butchering was causing too many empty hooks and it would not pay for these.

The men held a stopwork meeting on Thursday, then killed only 600 of the 6000 lambs in the yards on Friday before stopping work.

Original digital file


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Business / Organisation

The Hawke's Bay Farmers' Meat Company Ltd, Whakatu Works

Date published

30 November 1972

Format of the original

Newspaper article


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Mrs Nancy Beacham
  • W T Bennett
  • David Butcher
  • I D Cameron
  • Mrs Phyllis Chittleburg
  • E W Earp
  • R S Ellingham
  • J D Gibb
  • Mrs Frances Harris
  • J R Harrison
  • E B Jenkinson
  • D R Little
  • Mrs Elizabeth Morunga
  • Arnold Nordmeyer
  • Mrs Myra Otene
  • Peter Reo
  • Mrs Hankie Tawhai
  • R A (Tony) Wharton
  • Harry Williams

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