6 Mar 2015

Meat workers worried about new laws

2:07 pm on 6 March 2015

The Meat Workers Union says staff at AFFCO meat plants are fearing the new employment laws which come into effect today, as they attempt to settle a collective agreement.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act included allowing employers to walk away from collective bargaining, and removed the requirement for new staff to be employed under a collective agreement for the first 30 days.

It also allowed more flexible working arrangements, including the timing of meal breaks.

Meat Workers Union's president Mike Nahu said AFFCO, majority owned by the Talleys group, had been stalling on collective agreement negotiations for 14 months.

He said the company wanted to cut more than $100 to staff's weekly minimum pay and make them work longer days for less.

He said workers at AFFCO's eight North Island plants were worried it was relying on the law changes to avoid a collective agreement and have individual contracts instead.

"They're very unsettled at the moment, their contract collective agreement expired 14 months ago and probably a bit vivid in their memory is three years ago when they were locked out to settle their last collective agreement, so it worries them that they don't have a settled collective, it worries them that the new law allows for bargining to be concluded.

"Not saying these things are going to happen but the possibilities of what could arise are actually causing a great deal of concern given the history of the last collective negotiations."

In response, AFFCO's director of operations Rowan Ogg said the company was still in collective negotiations and rejected the union's comment that it had stalled for the law changes.

He said the company did not hear from the union for 12 months and that the law changes would not make any difference to negotiations.