Media Release: Dairy Workers Union
Thursday September 24, 2009.
Uncertainty of six week lockout starts tonight for Open Country Cheese workers
Open Country Cheese worker Cheyenne Kaukau is disappointed with his company’s refusal to negotiate with them for a collective agreement, as workers face the uncertainty of a six week lockout period which starts tonight.
“All we are asking for is job security, and a fair collective employment deal, that’s what the negotiations were about.”
Cheyenne, who is Tainui and Ngati Haua, said that the changes the company were proposing would have seen them loose their permanent jobs and suffer big cuts to their income.
“After May they were going to put us off, and then put us on seasonal contracts, but also drop our pay level to $16.50 an hour. The impact would be quite considerable,” he said.
“Lots of people have mortgages. At the moment, with our pay rates we’re all trying hard to make ends meet, but that sort of a drop would have been really difficult.”
He said for both operators and packers this would see big cuts to their pay, in addition to losing income for large parts of the year. Roster changes the company wanted would also see them being required to work 12 hour days for 6 days in a row at short notice.
Dairy Workers Union National Secretary James Ritchie says that Open Country Cheese should come up with a decent reason why its workers have been locked out, after the workers’ strike ended four days ago, and that their ‘environmental sabotage’ smokescreen was wearing thin.
“There is a camera over the environmental pond area. If the company has any evidence of environmental sabotage, they should release it immediately.”
“This is from a company who has a highly questionable environmental track record. Let’s not forget that in 2007 Open Country Cheese was convicted and fined $55,000 for illegally dumping 250,000 litres of rotten milk in big pit dug by company, frequently dumping excess wastewater on to surrounding land and several other wilful offῥnces.
“And this year they were fined $11,000 over the illegal dumping of up to 20,000 litres of sludge which contaminated local waterways.”
“Open Country needs to stop trying to divert attention away from the fact that they are putting their stated goal of locking workers out of a collective agreement ahead of environmental protections and rights at work.”
The Employment Court will tomorrow hear an urgent case over whether Open Country has being acting unlawfully in their use of replacement labour while workers are on strike or locked out.