Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Meatworkers lockout stoush with Talley's Affco back in court

Affco and Meatworkers Union square off in court again over Wairoa lockout

By Fiona Rotherham

Jan. 25 (BusinessDesk) - An Employment Court hearing has begun in Auckland over stalled negotiations between Talley’s-owned meat processor Affco and the Meat Workers Union on a return to work by 200 Wairoa freezing workers who have been out of work for the past 135 days.

The Court unanimously decided in November that Affco's lockout of freezing workers at plants across the North Island who had refused to sign individual contracts earlier in the year was illegal. It also said that Affco had breached section 32 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 by not acting in good faith while collective bargaining was continuing.

Workers at other plants eventually returned to work under the new contracts but a number of Wairoa workers refused to sign.

Both parties were ordered to return to mediation on the Wairoa return to work and any remedies were postponed until after that occurred. However further mediation talks have failed to resolve the long-running stoush. An urgent hearing before Christmas where the union sought an injunction failed, but the judge ruled the union had an arguable case and the hearing, set down for three days, was brought forward to today.

Around 10 of the Wairoa freezing workers turned up in the public gallery at today’s hearing before Judge Bruce Corkill, sporting green union “jobs that count” t-shirts., which the company has banned workers from wearing on its sites.

Under dispute are the terms and conditions on which they return to work. The union told the court today that Affco, the country’s fourth-largest meat processor, continues to insist the locked-out workers should restart work on the nightshift, which the union contends is unreasonable and discriminatory.

Union lawyer Peter Cranney told the court Affco asserted it had a “right to transfer anyone, anytime, to any job.”

Meatworkers Union national secretary Graham Cooke gave evidence that the collective agreement contains seniority provisions which means nearly all the Wairoa workers should start on a day shift, even though that means non-union members already employed may need to have their position changed. Day-shift workers are often employed longer throughout the season – for up to 10 months compared to a typical five months for a night-shift worker.

Typically meat companies start the season with a day shift and build up to include a second shift at night as stock numbers rise and the season peaks.

However, Affco has for the first time started the season with both a day and night-time shift at all its North Island plants apart from Moerewa, and contends that, had the lockout never occurred, the workers involved would all have been employed on the night shift.

Cooke admitted under cross-examination that seniority was not the only consideration taken into account when staff were reengaged for the season but he said it was standard throughout the industry that it was the predominant factor.

Cooke also claimed that it was uneconomic for the company to be running two shifts at the start of the season and that it had only done so because it wanted to put all workers at once onto the new terms and conditions under the individual contracts.

Affco's lawyer, Paul Wicks QC, said the company’s decision could have rested on a number of things, including climate, economic factors, and the inability of competitors to buy stock at this time.

Cooke said member feedback was that the plants were processing low stock numbers and that they were working reduced hours and earning low wages.

The company’s evidence was that it had “more employees, working longer, and earning more", Wicks said.

A second court case set down for November claiming the company walked away from negotiations on the collective contract that expired in 2013 was postponed until after the mediation talks on the lockout issue.

Affco was the first under the government’s new employment law to apply for an end to bargaining under amendments to the Employment Relations Act which lets firms opt out of multi-employer agreements and removed the duty under good faith bargaining for both sides to reach agreement.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Trade: NZ Trade Deficit Widens To A Record In September

Oct. 27 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's monthly trade deficit widened to a record in September as meat exports dropped to their lowest level in more than three years. More>>


Animal Welfare: Cruel Practices Condemned By DairyNZ Chief

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says cruel and illegal practices are not in any way condoned or accepted by the industry as part of dairy farming.

Tim says the video released today by Farmwatch shows some footage of transport companies and their workers, as well as some unacceptable behaviour by farmers of dragging calves. More>>


Postnatal Depression: 'The Thief That Steals Motherhood' - Alison McCulloch

Post-natal depression is a sly and cruel illness, described by one expert as ‘the thief that steals motherhood’, it creeps up on its victims, hiding behind the stress and exhaustion of being a new parent, catching many women unaware and unprepared. More>>


DIY: Kiwi Ingenuity And Masking Tape Saves Chick

Kiwi ingenuity and masking tape has saved a Kiwi chick after its egg was badly damaged endangering the chick's life. The egg was delivered to Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua 14 days ago by a DOC worker with a large hole in its shell and against all odds has just successfully hatched. More>>


International Trade: Key To Lead Mission To India; ASEAN FTA Review Announced

Prime Minister John Key will lead a trade delegation to India next week, saying the pursuit of a free trade agreement with the protectionist giant is "the primary reason we're going" but playing down the likelihood of early progress. More>>



MYOB: Digital Signatures Go Live

From today, Inland Revenue will begin accepting “digital signatures”, saving businesses and their accountants a huge amount of administration time and further reducing the need for pen and paper in the workplace. More>>

Oil Searches: Norway's Statoil Quits Reinga Basin

Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil company, has given up oil and gas exploration in Northland's Reinga Basin, saying the probably of a find was 'too low'. More>>


Modern Living: Auckland Development Blowouts Reminiscent Of Run Up To GFC

The collapse of property developments in Auckland is "almost groundhog day" to the run-up of the global financial crisis in 2007/2008 as banks refuse to fund projects due to blowouts in construction and labour costs, says John Kensington, the author of KPMG's Financial Institutions Performance Survey. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news