Kinleith strike brought out of the dark
The Kinleith Mill strike of 1992 was a tense time in the South Waikato as Trade Union members took action against the government’s Employment Contracts Act which they saw as a threat to collective bargaining.
Official Union photographer Chris Williams was front row and centre throughout the three month long strike which involved the majority of mill workers.
Now 24 years later he is putting together an exhibition featuring 40 of his best shots which will be displayed at the South Waikato Sports and Events Centre later this year.
While the photos were exhibited shortly after the strike and travelled the country, Williams said it was too fresh in people’s minds for them to fully appreciate them so they have been left forgotten in his darkroom ever since.
Fast forward to 2016 a photo was recently shared on Facebook of him promoting the event at the time and Williams said he has been inundated with inquires.
‘‘It’s generated a lot of healthy debates. The phone calls I have been getting,’’ he said.
He said the exhibition would be insightful for younger generations as well as reflective for those who lived through the strike.
‘‘It was deemed the last big strike. We had collective bargaining and the Employment Contracts Act 1991 was then prime minister Jim Bolger’s way of trying to break all the Unions which was what brought it all about,’’ he said.
‘‘Picketers set up at the mill’s three gates and the whole mill was shut down apart from a few scabs (people who worked despite the strike) who tried to get through. It was quite a tense time, it really was.’’
He said the exhibition will feature photos showing the build up to the strike, during the strike, and when workers marched back onto the site at its conclusion.
‘‘Because I was a Union official I took my camera with me everywhere and I have hundreds and hundreds of other negatives in my darkroom which have never been developed,’’ he said.
‘‘There are some photos of well known locals in there and it is part of Tokoroa’s history which should be shared. This is Tokoroa and the history of our whanau.’’
He said deputy mayor Jenny Shattock had helped organise the exhibition venue which he thanked her for.
‘‘Her father was a union official so she has a connection with it growing up here and I can’t thank her enough for helping to get this back in the public eye,’’ he said.
Williams said cameras would not be allowed in the exhibition but he would be happy to talk to people if they wanted to buy prints. Dates for the exhibition will be confirmed shortly.
Tokoroa photographer Chris Williams is preparing to once again showcase his collection of photographs from the 1992 Kinleith Mill strike.