Around 250 members of the NZ Meat Workers Union in Wairoa are saying no to the unlawful lockout tactics of their employer, AFFCO Talley’s, by refusing to accept punitive individual agreements as a precondition to returning to work after the seasonal lay-off.
Wairoa is the fourth AFFCO plant to experience this process in the last three months, after AFFCO Talleys walked when AFFCO Talleys walked away from mediation around renewal of the collective agreement and sought to have the Employment Authority end the bargaining.
Meat workers have returned to work in Rangiuru, Imlay and Manawatu to a climate of fear, of managerial dictate and punishment. Worse still, skilled workers with years of service are being forced to leave because of unreasonable shift arrangements and uncertain income.
In July, the NZ Meat Workers Union sought an injunction to prevent what they argue is an unlawful lockout at the first roll-out of individual agreements at Rangiuru. At the time, Chief Judge Colgan denied the injunction, but said there is an “arguable case” and a full bench of the Employment Court will hear this in early October.
“Wairoa workers have seen the impact of accepting the company’s individual agreements in other sites and they’ve decided they won’t put up with that” says Eric Mischefski, NZMWU Branch Organiser.
"The workers know this isn’t going to be easy. The company will try to recruit other workers both locally and from other towns to replace them.
"But in a small town like Wairoa, the workers have wide support, including whanau, hapu and iwi. Wairoa knows that it is important the workers at the freezing works do well or local businesses and the community pay the price.” says Eric Mischefski.
Workers will be protesting on the Bridge in Wairoa from 9.30am on Wednesday..