Skip to content

Unions must show solidarity with the fight for Te Tiriti justice

Richard Wagstaff
This year, more than ever, unions must stand in solidarity with Māori workers in the fight back against this assault on their rights.

The Growing Movement of Māori Unity

I have recently had the privilege of being present for two important moments in the growing movement of Māori unity in face of this new Coalition Government’s attack on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

In January I joined with ten thousand others at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia, in response to Kīngi Tūheitia’s call for a national hui.

And this week I was able to be at Waitangi for Waitangi Day and witness the growing momentum of resistance in the face of a divisive and uncaring government.

NZCTU Commitment to Te Tiriti justice

At our Biennial Conference in October last year, strong resolutions were passed in support of kaimahi Māori who are already facing an onslaught from this new Coalition Government.

The conference statement was clear that we will oppose the proliferation of racist rhetoric and actions by political parties and other groups in Aotearoa New Zealand and will call on government to meet its obligations under Te Tiriti and eliminate the systemic barriers that kaimahi Māori face.


It was a real honour to have the opportunity to attend the hui at Turangawaewae and stand alongside all the people who had travelled there from right around the country.

There was a large contingent of union members and officials present. It was great to be with them on what was a historic day.

I went along to the breakout session on economic justice and soaked in all the kōrero. It strengthened my belief that there is an important opportunity for the union movement to be working with Māori leaders on kaupapa to ensure economic security for workers, underpinned by shared values such as fairness/manaakitanga and solidarity/kotahitanga.

With Mark Potter & Stephanie Mills (NZEI Te Riu Roa).


I loved being at Waitangi. The Bay of Islands is such a beautiful region, and I always have a strong sense of the weight of history and culture on that land.

It was with deep pride and feeling a strong sense of emotion that I watched the wero to the Government as they were welcomed by mana whenua on to the Treaty grounds.

The activism and demonstrations against the Government felt appropriate, well organised and respectful.

The strength and conviction of the challenge that was laid down was palpable.

In stark contrast, the response of the Government was weak and failed to rise to the importance of the moment.

Platitudes and weasel words are unacceptable at a time when we need genuine commitment to working through difficult issues together and seeing each other’s perspectives.

But even that didn’t seem to ruin the positive and uplifting vibe.

The festival atmosphere was positive, uplifting and spoke to everything that is good about our country.

I really encourage everyone who hasn’t been to Waitangi to go there and soak in everything it has to offer. As a Pākehā, it has a profound effect. 

Standing in Solidarity

While at Waitangi I was also pleased to meet up with representatives from  the PSA, and since then I’ve been reflecting on the impact that the erosion of public services will have on Māori communities.

Not only are ministers sewing doubt and undermining the constitutional partnership that lies at the foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand, but they are also scrapping a range of positive initiatives aimed at lifting Māori outcomes in health, education and the justice sectors.

They are weakening employment law including through abandoning Fair Pay Agreements and extending 90-day trails, decisions that will disproportionately harm Māori.

Taken together, the pressure and anxiety that Māori workers will no doubt be feeling, will be immense.

This year, more than ever, unions have an obligation to show up and stand in solidarity with Māori workers in the fight back against this assault on their rights.

We need to be active, engaged and committed to supporting our Māori members and their whānau and communities.

That might look like anything from writing submissions, attending demonstrations, donating to organisations, or just being a good ally and speaking up in your workplace or community.

Te Tiriti Partnership is Resilient

I am confident that while the scale of the challenges are considerable, the opportunities are even greater.

After these attending these historic events, it’s impossible to have a negative outlook on the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The generosity of spirit and conviction that Māori constantly show to Pākehā as Te Tiriti partners is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

Despite what this current Government might think, the partnership is strong, resilient and runs deep in the fabric of our nation.