James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Union and Talley's to lock horns before judge

The embattled Meat Workers Union and Talley's will tomorrow lock horns at a settlement conference to discuss the legality of the near two-month lockout of hundreds of Affco workers.

The conference, a confidential meeting between the two parties in front of an employment judge, comes as 500 Affco workers were this morning locked out of work for 24 hours.

They join 900 others, many of whom have been locked out of Affco's eight North Island plants since February.

The conference follows the postponement of an Employment Court hearing that was to be held on Monday and yesterday in Auckland. The judge was concerned he would not be able to hear all the evidence in two days.

The union filed an urgent interim injunction on the lockout after the decision and will be given a date following tomorrow's settlement conference.

It is also waiting for a date for facilitated bargaining so collective agreement negotiations can continue.

Union national secretary Dave Eastlake said today's lockout was the second Talley's had implemented on a public holiday.

"Talley's followed through with a threat to lock out workers over Easter if they went on strike in solidarity with locked-out family members and workmates."

He said it would be the first time in recent memory that Affco's North Island freezing works would be open on Anzac Day, and Talley's was ending a tradition of honouring fallen soldiers by closing the plants.

But Affco spokesman Rowan Ogg, who said the number of workers being locked out was closer to 450, insisted it was not uncommon for meat workers to work on statutory holidays.

"We are operating right through this week including Anzac Day and we need to know the numbers of people attending work ... We hope this further lockout will simply lend weight for the union to take the company's claims seriously."

Mr Eastlake said a further 500 workers would strike in solidarity with 900 locked-out workers for a third consecutive week from Friday.

- NZ Herald

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