Meat workers plan further strikes

Workers have been picketing outside Affco meat-processing plants around the North Island since more than 1000 were locked out. Photo / Alan Gibson
Workers have been picketing outside Affco meat-processing plants around the North Island since more than 1000 were locked out. Photo / Alan Gibson

Meat workers at Talley's eight North Island Affco plants will continue their industrial action with two-day strikes planned next week.

Meat Workers Union members will next week also start indefinite work bans on overtime and training new staff to replace locked-out workers.

Representatives from Affco plants in Moerewa, Wiri, Horotiu, Rangiuru, Feilding, Wanganui, Wairoa and Napier made the decision to escalate strike action at an organising conference in Taupo yesterday.

This follows the lockout of more than 1000 workers, many of whom began picketing outside five of Affco's eight North Island plants last week.

Union national secretary Dave Eastlake said the strikes would be next Monday and Tuesday at some plants, and Wednesday and Thursday at others.

"It is reprehensible that while 1000 workers are locked out and struggling to pay bills, Talley's Affco still hasn't bothered to respond to our last bargaining position," he said.

"Workers feel sick that some of them have to drive to work while their kids are locked out and want us to put more pressure on the company to drop the lockout and let them go back to work."

Affco operations manager Rowan Ogg said the company would not hire casual labour to cover the shortfall of workers when the strikes were on.

But it would be business as usual because the company still had a large number of employees on individual contracts and would be able to cope.

Asked why Affco had taken its time to respond to the union's bargaining position, he said the company had actually been faster with its answers and a response could happen today.

"It took the union over 14 days to respond to our very latest claims and so far we have only taken eight days, so if there are any complaints they should level them at themselves," he said.

"But we will be responding to them very soon."

Picket lines outside Horotiu plant near Hamilton had ceased by yesterday but union spokesman Simon Oosterman said action would continue, with workers likely to protest outside supermarkets selling Talley's products next week. "We basically want to put as much pressure as we can on the company, the more pressure we can put on them the quicker we can get these workers back to work."

Mr Oosterman said the issue was not about pay but control in the workplace.

"Talley's sat down and said we are not going to have a union in the workplace and this is the only company that Talley's has with a union and that's simply because they inherited it," he said.

"They have not one single member in any of their plants and they're the biggest food manufacturer in New Zealand."

Mr Eastlake said a campaign to be launched next week alongside the strike action would include seeking support from local communities, fundraising - and an escalation in strike action where required.

ACTION PLAN

* Workers at eight Affco plants have strikes planned for two days early next week.

* Strikes will be held next Monday and Tuesday, or Wednesday and Thursday.

* 1000 workers have been locked out of the plants.

- NZ Herald

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