16 Jun 2015

Meatworkers fight to keep current job terms

8:51 am on 16 June 2015

Employees of a Bay of Plenty meat works are to argue in court that they are being unlawfully locked out.

Beef carcasses

Photo: 123RF

The Meatworkers Union says staff at AFFCO's Rangiuru site want to sign on for the new season on the same terms as last year, but the company will not offer them jobs unless they sign new contracts with lesser terms.

The union will today seek an interim injunction in the Employment Court in Rotorua to allow them to remain on collective agreement terms until a full hearing next month.

Mutton and lamb butcher Bernie Ratu would normally now be returning to work at the Rangiuru site after the seasonal shut-down, but she and her co-workers were called to a meeting last week.

She said at the meeting they were offered the new, individual employment agreements.

"We all were really disappointed and our company seems to think they want it all their way or it's the highway. We don't sign these new contracts and they won't offer us a job."

The Meatworkers' Union has been in talks with AFFCO about renewing the collective agreement since 2013.

The agreement has expired, but until they were laid off at the seasonal shutdown, the union says workers remained on the same terms.

Union president Mike Nahu said the individual deals on offer to workers contained provisions the union had been fighting to keep out of the collective agreement.

"There's numerous other changes to currently what they've got, such as generally a lot of their rights about representation, a lot of their rights about things being changed on them without consultation. There's probably about 30 or 40 conditions that are different to what they currently work under."

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said she foresaw this happening when the Government passed changes to employment laws last year.

She said the changes allowed companies to walk away from collective bargaining.

"Now we're seeing the sorts of things that employers, we know from previous history, put into individual employment agreements which are really, in our view, totally oppressive of what is a large, 3000 workforce in provincial areas which are reliant on this work."

AFFCO was not prepared to comment ahead of today's hearing.

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