A 12-week industrial dispute between AFFCO and the New Zealand Meatworkers Union has been settled this morning.

More than 900 workers have been locked out of AFFCO's eight North Island plants since negotiations for a collective agreement collapsed at the end of February.

The parties were to have met today in the Employment Court, where the union wanted to continue challenging the legality of the near three-month lockout of workers.

But they announced yesterday they had reached provisional agreement on a core document, and were working towards the settlement of specific site documents for AFFCO's North Island plants.


AFFCO workers will be back on pay from today, and will return to work over the next short period, after coming to an agreement with their bosses over a new collective agreement at 5am today.

Both parties yesterday announced "significant progress" had been made after a meeting on Sunday brokered by representatives from the iwi leaders' forum resulted in a breakthrough.

Company director Andrew Talley today welcomed the settlement.

"I am looking forward to spending additional time around the meat plants and working with the union and its members to continue to improve these meat plants making them the best performing in the country."

New Zealand Meatworkers Union president Mike Nahu said the settlement retains "protection of wages and employment security and ensures workers continue to have their terms and conditions set by a union negotiated agreement".

"These twelve weeks have tested our union and its members to the core and they have shown incredible commitment to their principles and to each other," Mr Nahu said.

"Families have suffered extensive hardship and they will be extremely relieved to see the end of the dispute and to return to jobs they love and know they are good at."

Mr Tahu acknowledged the "magnificent support" it has received from iwi leaders in helping to broker the settlement.

"Maori dominated this group of workers and Iwi recognised the interest of their members were at stake on the picket line. They showed incredible skill, resolve and solidarity in working with us and the company right until the documents were signed and I know the members of the union are extremely grateful and proud of the role they undertook," he said.

Ken Mair, representing the Iwi Leadership Forum, said: "I know our communities will be greatly relieved that this dispute is over and we are committed to continuing to support a better relationship between the company and the union in the future."