A salute to Campbell Live

A salute to Campbell Live


By Mike Treen, Unite National Director

The members and staff of Unite Union are deeply disappointed at the ending of the Campbell Live show and the exit of John Campbell himself from this important part of the media landscape.

Unite has had a special relationship with John and his show for the decade the show has been running. In part our fortunes have been mixed together in ways few know about.


The relationship began in tragic circumstances.

Unite union had just begun its fast food organising effort the same year Campbell Live began in 2005.

We were sustained by a score of volunteers who would go out day and night visiting stores to recruit members and promote our SupersizeMyPay.Com campaign.

One of those volunteers was Piripi Pokaitarawikiriwhi, a young Maori worker who had recently returned from overseas including a stint in prison in Germany. He began as a volunteer, proved very able at that task and joined the minimum wage staff then being employed at Unite.

Pripipi suffered a fatal motorcycle accident on November 12, 2005, and John Campbell leapt out of a taxi nearby to hold his hand and comfort him as lay dying. Pirpi's family were kind enough to allow Unite to have a tangi at Unite's office before taking him back to his marae for burial.

John got to hear about it and asked to pay his respects. He sat there some hours after finishing his own work listening to the stories being told about Piripi. He was able share some words of comfort himself as he was able to attest to the fact that Piripi did not seem to have suffered in those final moments. John himself however became intrigued by the stories being told about how Piripi's life had been turned around after getting involved with Unite. He learn't how Piripi life given a new purpose by this grass roots campaign by a union with no resources, trying to take on the fast food giants to achieve the abolition of youth rates, a boost to the minimum wage and what we then called “secure hours”.

As a consequence he got Campbell Live to research a very powerful show highlighting the work of Unite, the pathetic nature of the then minimum wage and the launch of “the world's first Starbucks strikes” as part of the campaign on Wednesday, November 22, 2005.

Over the last few weeks it was fitting that Campbell Live was able to be an important part of the conclusion of the campaign they helped launch a decade ago. The one issue from the first campaign that little progress had been made was on secure hours. This year through the successful campaign against zero-hour contracts by both Unite Union and Campbell Live we brought that situation to a successful conclusion.

We join many other Kiwis who want to salute John and his team who have made Campbell Live an important part of our lives as one on the few sources of investigative and campaigning journalism. But we also want to salute John and his team as fellow fighters against injustice. Thank you and goodnight.