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


Affco tried to gag union badmouthing Talleys

Friday 23 September 2016 04:27 PM

Affco tried to gag union badmouthing Talleys as condition of meat contract talks

By Jonathan Underhill

Sept. 23 (BusinessDesk) - Affco Holdings, the meat company owned by Talley's Group, demanded that the Meatworkers Union cease badmouthing members of the Talley family as a precondition of resuming contract negotiations at its Land Meats subsidiary, an Employment Relations Authority ruling says.

The determination, dated Sept. 22, says Land Meat (LMNZ) breached its duty of good faith to the union and imposed a fine of $15,000 and ordered the company to use its best endeavours to begin the process of bargaining in an effective and efficient manner. It is the latest in a long-running battle between the union and meat companies controlled by Talley's Group over collective contracts.

The dispute dates back to the Land Meat New Zealand Limited Slaughter Collective Employment Contract 2013-2014 which expired on July 1, 2014, and the union lodged proceedings with the ERA in November 2015. Mediation failed to resolve differences. The determination accepts that John Woodhead, the union's Whanganui branch secretary, made multiple attempts to get negotiations started, including "a dozen" calls to the manager to LMNZ's Whanganui plant manager John Fitness, and meetings arranged with Affco director Dane Gerrard, who then failed to turn up.

The company had sent a bargaining process agreement (BPA) to the union in June last year but the union didn't accept its conditions. Then in August 2015, counsel for LMNZ Graham Malone wrote to Woodhead saying the union had acted in bad faith against Affco and its subsidiaries in the previous 18 months including comments from Graham Cooke, national secretary of the NZ Meat Workers and Related Trades Union, that conditions at Affco plants were "third world".

Woodhead took this to be an attempt "to draw in the applicant's Wanganui Branch into the other disputes between the applicant and Affco Group," the determination says. The demand that the union cease making derogatory media releases, including on social media, were raised again by Affco's Gerard in a reworked BPA sent to the union in May this year.

In his brief of evidence, Cooke alleged the company's "anti-union strategy" was due to Talley's Group joint managing director and shareholder Michael Talley. He had either personally or through the companies he controlled "systematically and knowingly ignored and violated employment law" and the Talley's regarded penalties imposed "simply as part of the cost of implementing this strategy of de-unionising their workplace" and "a general business expense", Cooke claimed.

"They continually and routinely breach employment law in complete disregard to the court's rulings, and constantly devise new ways to circumvent very simple and basic employment rights," Cooke said in his brief of evidence.

Appearing before the ERA, Gerard referred to media reports citing the union making "malicious" and "derogatory" statements about Affco, Talleys and the Talley family.

Peter Churchman QC for the union said the company displayed "calculated, cynical behaviour which demonstrates contempt for the law", while Malone for the company argued it had used "best endeavours" to resume negotiations and saying the union's Woodhead had only made two enquiries about bargaining during the period in question.

However, ERA member Trish MacKinnon said she preferred Woodhead's evidence of numerous attempts to contact the company including about a dozen calls.

She noted "an inexplicably lengthy period of non-responsiveness" by LMNZ and wasn't satisfied the company used its best endeavours to enter into a BPA.

"It is well known that LMNZ's parent company and the union have other proceedings before the authority as well as the Employment Court and the Court of Appeal," MacKinnon says in the determination. " However, these are not valid reasons for these proceedings to be used as an excuse to avoid bargaining for a new LMNZ collective agreement."

She called the company's insistence that the union refrain from derogatory media releases "a significant and unreasonable stumbling block."

"LMNZ's failure to engage in any meaningful way with the union over a BPA after the union had initiated bargaining was a deliberate, serious and sustained breach of good faith over a period of several months," she said. "I find the imposition of a penalty is justified." She declined a union request that it receive part of the fine to cover its costs.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Air New Zealand: Capital Raise Deferred

Air New Zealand has decided to defer its planned capital raise to later in 2021 allowing more time to assess the impacts of recent developments on the airline’s path to recovery. 'We’ve seen some clearing of COVID-19 clouds recently, with ... More>>

Commerce Commission: Cartel Conduct Now Punishable By Up To 7 Years’ Jail Time

Cartel conduct can now be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to 7 years, after the Commerce (Criminalisation of Cartels) Amendment Act 2019 came into effect today. Cartel conduct includes price fixing, market allocation and bid rigging (see ... More>>

Stats NZ: Auckland Population May Hit 2 Million In Early 2030s

Auckland’s population may rise from about 1.7 million currently to 2 million by early next decade, Stats NZ said today. “Auckland will likely have the highest average annual growth of New Zealand’s 16 regions over the next 30 years, from ... More>>

Air New Zealand: Business Travellers Return To The Skies In Record Numbers

After a year of talking to a computer, Kiwis are leaving the office to re-connect with their clients, suppliers, and staff. New figures released by Air New Zealand show domestic business and corporate travel has defied global trends by returning ... More>>

PwC: Outcome Of Review Into Air New Zealand Gas Turbines Business

Air New Zealand has received the report into its Gas Turbines business from independent external advisers PwC. Air New Zealand Chairman Dame Therese Walsh says the report identified a range of effective controls in the Gas Turbines revenue contracting ... More>>

LPG Association: Renewable LPG Achieves Emissions Budgets With No Need To Ban New LPG Connections

Renewable LPG can supply New Zealand’s LPG needs and achieve the emissions reductions proposed by the Climate Commission without the need to ban new connections, a new study shows. The investigation, by leading consultancy Worley, was prepared for the ... More>>

Commerce: House Values Continue To Climb As New Government Measures Announced

The Government’s new initiatives to quell the rocketing housing market were announced last week, just as house prices hit a new high for the end of March. The average value increased 7.8% nationally over the past three-month period, up from the 6.8% ... More>>