One Thousand New Zealand Meat Workers Locked-Out at Talleys/AFFCO
Affco, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Talley's Group, a leading New Zealand processor of seafood, vegetables, dairy products and meat, has locked out some 1,000 meat workers at 6 of the company's 8 plants in the North Island of New Zealand.
The New Zealand Meat Workers Union has been in negotiations for a new collective agreement with Affco, whose aim it is to get more workers on individual agreements (IEAs) and make changes in working conditions with only token consultation - in order to be able to reduce pay at will.
Following the refusal of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union to accept the company's redraft of the collective agreement, Affco issued a lock-out notice, naming the 762 workers at 5 plants who would be locked out indefinitely as of February 29.
In a communication issued following a mediation meeting on February 28, the NZMWU reported that Talley's negotiating team had confirmed they were not at mediation to bargain a new collective agreement, but simply to meet the requirements of the Employment Relations Act to meet when a lockout notice has been issued.
The company further acknowledged that the new provisions it wants to introduce in the collective agreement would give them the ability to unilaterally reduce workers pay without agreement.
Union members overwhelmingly voted for strike action in a secret ballot organized at the 8 North Island plants. Two days after the lockout went into effect, meat workers who were not locked out went on a one-day strike. Affco then locked out another 200 workers at a 6th plant. Another one-day strike took place on March 6.
As of today, March 12, a two-day strike is in progress at all 8 plants (2 of which remain unaffected by the lockout) and a ban on overtime and on training replacement labour has started.
IUF members will recall the vicious attack on workers' rights mounted against the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union and its members by Talley's at its Open Country Cheese subsidiary in 2009. Talley's current attack on rights - this time against the New Zealand Meat Workers Union and its members - is equally vicious and there are indications that the company has been planning its attack for over a year.
The IUF is in close contact with the union as it meets the challenge of this major fight. IUF affiliates are urgently requested to send messages of solidarity to the union, its locked-out members and members still on the job at Affco. Please send your messages to [email protected] and we will forward them on.