James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

200 more workers locked out at Te Puke

Locked-out meat workers protest outside the Affco meat works at Rangiuru. Photo / Alan Gibson
Locked-out meat workers protest outside the Affco meat works at Rangiuru. Photo / Alan Gibson

A face-off in which hundreds of Affco workers have been locked out of their jobs could continue indefinitely unless there is a "change in philosophy" from the union representing them, a spokesman for Affco says.

Yesterday, a further 200 meat workers were locked out at the Affco Rangiuru plant near Te Puke because of a stand-off over contract disputes, as 150 unaffected union members staged a 24-hour strike in solidarity.

The lock-out came after more than 1000 workers began picketing outside another five of Affco's eight plants last week.

Among them were dozens of meat workers continuing their protest outside the Horotiu plant, waving placards at passing motorists and booing and jeering as trucks drove into the plant.

Among them was Graham Cooke, who said workers wanted Affco to honour its employment agreements which they believed had been ignored.

"The company is putting out a lot of prattle about wanting flexibility and all that, but the issue is the employer does not want a union in the place."

Affco operations manager Rowan Ogg said the lockout would continue indefinitely and a return to the negotiating table with the Meat Workers Union was unlikely unless the union had a "significant change in philosophy".

"What we would like to have fundamentally is the ability to manage our plants which the union wants to take away from us ... they also seem very keen to litigate everything they possibly can," he said.

Mr Ogg said all its plants were in operation and Affco had not locked out all members of the union, or members who are party to the collective.

"We have locked out some and we have a reasonable number of people who have signed independent employment agreements and they're all working as well."

He said negotiations for a new collective agreement had been in progress since mid-November, but the union first addressed the issues the company was concerned about at a mediation meeting last Tuesday.

Dave Eastlake of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union said mediation had failed and the union was yet to hear back from Affco about proposals they had put forward.

"They say they want flexibility and we gave them responses to all their things and safeguards for our workers and we are still waiting to hear back from them."

He said Affco claims that the union wanted to manage the plants were "ridiculous".

"We don't want anything more than what's in the collective agreement at the moment, apart from a pay increase, of course.

"What they want to do is to change the wording in the collective agreement so they can alter people's workloads and throughputs without any agreement or discussion at any time they so wish."

Mr Eastlake said production was at a low level and he suspected Affco would normally have laid off people at this time of year, but had instead chosen to lock out workers.

He said union delegates would meet in Taupo today to discuss a campaign against the continued lockout.

STAND-OFF

* 200 meat workers were locked out at the Affco Rangiuru plant near Te Puke.

* There is a stand-off over contract disputes as 150 unaffected union members staged a 24-hour strike in solidarity.

* The lock-out came after more than 1000 workers began picketing outside another five of Affco's eight plants last week.

* There is likely to be further strikes and workers are seeking support from their communities and nationwide fundraising.

- NZ Herald

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