A Hastings food factory, owned by one of New Zealand's richest families, on Thursday paid out some of the $1 million it owes to workers underpaid for smoko breaks.

About 150 members of the NZ Meat and Related Trades Workers Union, employed by Progressive Meats Ltd Hastings, received a back payment of wages as a result of an Employment Court ruling that determined workers' tea breaks should be paid at the same pay rate as their usual pay rate.

Meat Workers Union organiser Eric Mischefski said, unlike other hourly-paid workers, piece rate workers (who are paid based on the number of animals slaughtered or by volume) at the Hastings plant, had historically been paid for tea breaks at a rate lower than usual production earning rates.

The payments to workers comes more than a year after the Court of Appeal upheld a previous Employment Court decision on the same matter relating to an Oamaru meat processing plant, also owned by Hawke's Bay businessman Craig Hickson.


"This week's payment at the Hastings site is the second instalment of back pay negotiated by the union over the previous four months. The first payment being at the end of November 2017."

Mr Mischefski told Hawke's Bay Today that the backdated installments would average out at about $1500 a worker but could reach $5000 at the top end.