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CHH calls police into dispute

October 11, 2005

Media Release

CHH calls police into dispute

The dispute at the Carter Holt Harvey laminated veneer plant in Whangarei has turned nasty, with workers being confronted by dozens of police with paddy wagons when they turned up to negotiations at the plant this morning

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little that workers and union negotiators were met by a double row of police when they arrived at the plant this morning.

“There were more than 40 police in formation outside the plant,” he said.

“We were there at the invitation of the company to talk about resolving the dispute, and this is what we were confronted with. They were there with paddy wagons.”

Mr Little said that he was stunned by the company’s actions, especially since it had been at pains last week to tell the public that it wanted to resume talks and to resolve the dispute.

“The situation was extremely confrontational,” he said. “This is one of the most aggressive examples of employer behaviour that I have seen in a long, long time.”

Mr Little said that workers waited at the plant while their negotiators met with company managers.

“The talks proved pointless,” he said. “We were there to talk about finding ways forward, including the workers returning to work. We were looking for fruitful negotiations, but all the employers would say was that they might talk to us if the workers came back to work. They would even guarantee they’d resume negotiations, despite giving us an assurance in writing last week that that was their intention.”

Workers at the plant, at Marsden Pt near Whangarei, have been on strike since September 23 in protest over the failure to settle their collective employment agreement.

The workers’ claims include a five per cent pay rise this year, and shift and meal allowances. They have been offered a two-year agreement with a three per cent rise this year and another three per cent next year, but the offer is contingent upon the workers giving up their six-year long service leave.

Mr Little said the workers were frustrated by the lack of progress.

“Negotiations began long before the agreement expired in July,” he said. “The company’s approach has been antagonistic from the beginning.”

Last week, about 100 of the 200 striking workers mounted a hikoi to the CHH head office in Auckland to tell bosses of their concerns. The company refused to meet them, but gave the union a letter saying that it wished to return to talks immediately.

Mr Little said that workers were extremely disappointed by today’s developments.

“We were there to negotiate,” he said. “The workers want this dispute settled and are doing all they can to make that happen.”


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