Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Affco upset by Shearer's picket visit

David Shearer talks to locked-out Affco workers on the picket line at Horotiu. Photo / Christine Cornege
David Shearer talks to locked-out Affco workers on the picket line at Horotiu. Photo / Christine Cornege

Affco, the company at the centre of a long-running employment dispute, is disappointed Labour leader David Shearer visited workers on the picket line but didn't visit management.

Mr Shearer joined about 40 locked-out Affco workers on the Horotiu freezing works picket line yesterday.

Union workers faced their 77th day locked out or on strike in a dispute with Affco owner Talleys about their collective agreement.

The Meat Workers Union is in talks over a third offer on the table, which workers say is no better than the previous two.

Affco's director of operations at Horotiu, Rowan Ogg, said he was disappointed Mr Shearer had taken the time to visit the picket line but did not talk to management.

"He didn't bother to attempt to come in and talk to us and find out our side of the story. I think he needs a balanced point of view.

"I'm surprised he didn't."

Asked if he could see an end in sight to the dispute, Mr Ogg indicated the status quo - entrenched positions on both sides - wouldn't be moving either to a common position any time soon.

"Look, there's got to be an end. I wouldn't like to give a timeframe because I think there's quite a bit of negotiation to be undertaken."

The Government is this week considering changes to industrial relations law including removing the requirement to conclude collective bargaining and giving employers an option of opting out of collective agreements.

Mr Shearer said this would be a backward step.

"I'm very supportive of collective agreements. I think the issue here is they [union workers] are willing to negotiate but now what's happening is they are being locked out. What we don't want to see is those workers being locked out and not being given a real fair go."

Mr Shearer called on Talleys to be more open to the "very reasonable demands" of workers.

"Talleys have always had a strong opposition to union labour. Other meatworks we've gone to which have had unions and they've worked very effectively."

Mr Shearer gave the workers six bags of groceries from Pak n' Save.

Meat Workers Union delegate Pat Tupaea, who has worked at Affco for 40 years, said Labour's support to date had been in the background and they were getting more help from other unions.

- NZ Herald

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