23 Sep 2016

AFFCO fined $15k and accused of 'union busting'

4:43 pm on 23 September 2016

Meat processor AFFCO is being accused of American-style union busting after it was fined $15,000 by the Employment Relations Authority.

Affco workers made the journey from Wairoa to Auckland for the hearing.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

It is the latest development in an ongoing spat between the Talley's owned AFFCO and the Meatworkers Union.

The union took AFFCO's Whanganui-based subsidiary Land Meat New Zealand to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) over its refusal to agree on a process for renegotiating a collective contract which expired in 2014.

The union told ERA it had contacted Land Meat New Zealand numerous times in an attempt to begin negotiations.

Land Meat New Zealand said the union itself had acted in bad faith by making negative public comments about AFFCO.

ERA found Land Meat New Zealand had breached its duty of good faith.

It ordered the company to set out a process for negotiations within six weeks, and also fined the company $15,000.

Meatworkers Union national secretary Graham Cooke said the refusal to agree on a process to negotiate was the latest in a long line of stalling tactics used by the Talley's Group.

"The Talley's [Group] are determined not to negotiate a collective agreement and therefore negotiate a pay increase of better terms and conditions of employment."

The company wanted workers on individual contracts so it could change employment conditions when it suited them, Mr Cooke said.

He said it was using stalling tactics similar to those used against unions in the US.

AFFCO general manager Andy Leonard said the company believed the union breached good faith requirements by making "defamatory and derogatory" comments about it.

"We remain of that view. The union's view that they are free to publish whatever misleading and damaging remarks they choose is not one supported by the [law]."

AFFCO is taking separate legal action against the union for its comments regarding the company.