20 Jul 2010

Meat workers deny sick leave rort

9:07 am on 20 July 2010

Meat workers have hit back at criticism by the Prime Minister that absenteeism is hurting their industry.

John Key says chronic absenteeism is killing productivity in the meat industry, which is why tougher legislation is needed.

The Government is to amend the law to allow employers to ask for proof of sickness or injury if an employee takes one day of sick leave.

At present, a medical certificate is required only for absences of three days or more.

The Meatworkers & Related Trades Union says it's a myth its members take sick days to coincide with periods when their hourly rate is at its highest.

The union says National is bowing to pressure from the meat industry to slash conditions and such claims are hurtful.

North Island secretary Graham Cooke told Morning Report meatworkers get only five days sick leave per year.

Mr Cooke said meat companies regularly terminate contracts before they reach the six month mark.

He said the meat companies were making a mountain out of a molehill.

Earlier, union organiser Eric Mischefski said they're not rorting the system, but merely getting their entitlement.

Employers' view

Meanwhile, an employers group says a third of employers who were surveyed, have reported an increase in workers taking sick leave under changes to the Holidays Act made by the previous Labour Government.

The Northern Employers & Manufacturers Association says the change will give employers the ability to manage sick leave when they think it is being abused.

It says the majority of people are genuinely sick when they take a sick day.