The Employment Court has ruled 'donning and doffing' in meat works is paid work in a landmark decision for the industry.

The court determined that the requirement to put on and remove specialised clothing and equipment at the beginning and end of each shift and at rest and meals breaks is "work" under s 6 of the Minimum Wage Act for which the minimum wage is payable.

Graham Cooke, national secretary of the NZ Meat Workers Union (MWU), said 'donning and doffing' had been a growing concern of meat workers in the industry.

"As the requirements around hygiene, food safety, export standards and other regulations have increased, so has the responsibility of meat workers to meet these requirements in their own time before and after work, and before and after paid and unpaid breaks," Cooke said.

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"This is a wake-up call for the Meat Industry, as it has been for other industries where unpaid work has been taken for granted for far too long."

The case was between Ovation Gisborne, Fielding, Te Kuiti Meats and the Meat Workers Union.