The Talley family are one of New Zealand’s wealthiest families. Their operations include Seafood, Frozen vegetables, Dairy and Meat. One of their family, Peter Talley was recently knighted for services to business and the community.
But this company has a checkered employment relations history going back to the early 1990's. In 2012 they locked out workers in their AFFCO meat plants for 84 days. Families and kids suffered, and it was only the support of unions, communities and iwi that got them through. But now it's happening all over again.
Around 1000 members of the Meat Workers Union work at the Talley’s AFFCO meat plants in small communities like Moerewa, Horotiu, Rangiuru, Wairoa and Fielding and tannery plants in Wiri and Napier, where whanau, communities and local businesses depend on the freezing works.
Their collective agreement expired at the end of 2013 and the MWU has been trying to settle a fair agreement ever since. After days of bargaining the union has withdrawn all claims, but the company still has 18, including 9 new demands tabled this year.
At the last bargaining, Talley’s AFFCO upped the ante by insisting workers agree to weaken the only job security they have – the process by which they are laid off and reemployed from season to season.
Recently, workers had to sign company imposed individual agreements that stripped away important protections in order to return to work after the off-season.
Talley’s has since become the first employer to apply to end bargaining under the Government’s employment law changes that came into force in March this year.
Not the Kiwi way
Talley’s see union members not as workers, but as an interference in their business. Apart from the MWU, no other union members have been able to organise in their fishing, frozen foods, dairy and other companies because they are aggressively anti-union. Talley’s blame the Meat Workers Union. They say the union has breached good faith by criticising them. They even threatened the President of the CTU, Helen Kelly with defamation action!
The workers don't want much. They have said a rollover of the 2012 agreement would settle the agreement.
They just want a fair collective agreement.
Talley’s actions are not the Kiwi way. If they want the trust of their customers, they have to put aside their legal actions, get around the table and show they are prepared to treat their workers fairly and safely.