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MAF appeals for union to delay strike action

25 January, 2001.

MAF appeals for union to delay strike action and return to talks

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is appealing for its vets to delay strike action and return to talks.

The appeal follows the vets' rejection of a package agreed to last week by the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and MAF, and the union's threat to strike every day for three hours from 3 February until 22 February, with full-day strikes to follow.

MAF spokesperson Grant Burney said today he was "very disappointed" that the agreement had been rejected, but was urging NUPE to delay strike action and get back into talks right away.

"We felt that we were close to an agreement. And we believe that we could get to one if the union would delay its strike for a little longer." Mr Burney said it was "absolutely essential" to keep talking "because the issues at stake are much bigger than MAF and the union put together."

"The country's meat works are in the middle of processing $1.4 billion worth of meat for the Easter lamb trade.

"But they cannot function without the vets who are required to certify meat for export.

"Strikes have the potential to really hurt the meat processors, to hurt the farmers, to put meat workers out of work, and to do great damage to rural communities which depend on their income.

"It is probably the worst time of year for farmers to have to delay sending stock to meat works. They are carrying high numbers of animals and have little flexibility when it comes to managing feed and water.

"The damage to small rural communities could be substantial. And that is why we are urging the union to delay this strike and continue talking."

Mr Burney said that the need for a delay in the strike and a commitment to keep talking was "reaching crisis point".

"The crucial date is not the 3rd of February date set for the strike to commence, but a week or so earlier. This is because the meat industry has to know how much stock to purchase for killing. And it cannot know this once we get within a week of threatened strike action.

MAF was therefore doing everything it could to get the strike delayed and the union back into talks", Mr Burney said.

For more information contact Anthony Keesing, MAF, on 4-4989882.

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