Meat Workers around Aotearoa New Zealand are welcoming the passing of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill into law today and look forward to its implementation in 2019. Of particular concern to some meat workers was the weakening of the specific right to rest and meal breaks passed by the last National Government.
"These changes have affected meat workers in a way that has impacted on our health and safety " says Kara Iraia, Union Secretary at AFFCO Manawatu and Boning Room Packer.
"We work in a tough job, on our feet, in gumboots on hard concrete floors, standing for hours at a time. We are under pressure every day to meet stock tallies and throughputs. Breaks are important for meat workers and we welcome certainty around the timing and length of breaks that means our health and safety can’t be compromised by expecting workers to work longer production runs in an already tough industry," says Kara.
Graham Cooke, National Secretary of the union for Meat Workers, NZMWU says that other changes in the bill will have a positive impact for the 22,000 union members working in an important NZ export industry.
"Access provisions have not been a problem with most companies, but at least one major company has used the changes implemented by the last National Government to deny workers the right to speak with a union representative. This has resulted in expensive court actions and massive fines for that company, but the illegal behaviour continues," says Graham Cooke.
"We also welcome the recognition of union delegates to do their work on site representing workers. In our industry, where meat processing plants are located in small rural towns, on-site union delegates play a critical part in the smooth running of the works. These workers are volunteers, elected by their fellow union members. Many are leaders in their communities, including coaching the local sports teams, on the local school board and active in their marae.
"For many meat companies and the NZMWU, it will be business as usual. For those outliers who continue to oppose the rights of workers to join unions and collectively bargain, using every means possible, this will be a wake-up call." says Graham Cooke.