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CHH trying to intimidate workers - judge

CHH trying to intimidate workers - judge

Forestry giant Carter Holt Harvey has been accused by an Employment Court judge of using legal action to intimidate striking workers.

Judge G Colgan refused an application by the company to extend legal action to six striking workers from the Kinleith pulp and paper mill.

The company is already taking legal action against the EPMU and the senior Kinleith delegate for damages from earlier strikes, which it claims were illegal.

In a finding released yesterday, Judge Colgan agreed with a submission by the EPMU’s lawyer, Dr Rodney Harrison, QC, that the company’s move to broaden the action to six other workers was a tactical industrial strategy.

“Suing individual employees, who, in spite of the strike action, remain in that employment relationship with the plaintiff, is well known to place additional pressure on negotiations, as does unresolved damages litigation. I agree with this analysis of the position,” he said in his judgment.

The hearing into the original case had already been delayed several times at the company’s request, and was now set down to begin on June 30. Judge Colgan said that allowing CHH to add new defendents to the case would mean that either they would not have sufficient time to prepare their defence, or the case would be held up for several months more.

He said that CHH had said that if its application was refused, it would sue the six workers separately.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little welcomed the decision, saying that having a multi-national company trying to sue its own workers would not led to good industrial relations.

“Instead of trying to intimidate and terrify its workforce, CHH should be working towards settling this dispute,” he said.

Some 270 workers from the Kinleith mill have been on strike since March 7 over the company’s proposals to use production workers to replace professional firefighters, scrap a fair, transparent promotion system and make people work longer hours for less pay.

The old collective agreement expired more than two years ago. Carter Holt Harvey is controlled by the American company, International Paper.

Talks are scheduled to be held tomorrow (Wednesday, May 7).

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