Affco dispute into seventh week after mediation fails

By James Ihaka

Union members protest outside the Horotiu Affco freezing works on State Highway 1. Photo / Richard Robinson
Union members protest outside the Horotiu Affco freezing works on State Highway 1. Photo / Richard Robinson

The ongoing dispute between hundreds of locked-out Affco workers and food processing giant Talley's will enter its seventh week after the latest round of mediation failed.

Affco and the National Meatworkers' Union met in Auckland yesterday for negotiations over a collective agreement but talks have again been put on hold, until next Thursday.

The union has issued 15 strike notices since the end of last year and today 1300 workers at eight North Island plants will strike for five days.

MWU national secretary Dave Eastlake said yesterday's mediation "didn't progress far" . He accused Affco of spending more time talking to media about their "mischievous Serious Fraud Office complaint" than trying to negotiate with them.

"It's a kick in the guts for the 1000 locked out workers and their families to see Talley's throwing their money and public money on a complaint that has been dismissed for the second time," he said.

Affco spokesman Rowan Ogg said a "substantial number" of union members had moved to individual contracts since the lockouts began in February.

Affco chief executive Hamish Simson said the company had been targeted by the Council of Trade Unions and the meat workers' union because of dwindling union membership at Affco sites.

"The union has already stated the dispute is not about wages but about the authority the union has over the operations of the company and ability to influence or retain members."

Mr Simson said the company wanted a clear, modern, flexible collective agreement that was not subject to continued legal challenges. He urged the union to take "a modern approach".

Yesterday The Serious Fraud Office said it would not investigate Affco's allegations of irregularities in the union's accounts.

Affco claimed the union had not declared all the income gained from fees paid by its members but SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said investigators found no evidence of fraud.

- Additional reporting: APNZ

- NZ Herald

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