Meatworkers fight for conditions

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2012

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While meat workers recognise business is getting tougher for Affco they're not about to be forced into unreasonable working conditions, said a 25-year veteran of the company's Moerewa plant.

All 1460 residents of the small Northland town are bracing for hardship as 122 union workers were locked out yesterday due to ongoing wrangling over a new collective agreement.

They represent almost 70 per cent of Affco's workforce and around 8 per cent of Moerewa's estimated overall population.

Northland has the country's highest unemployment rate – 8.3 per cent, according to Statistics New Zealand figures.

Affco, now privately owned by the Talley family, issued the lock-out notice to the New Zealand Meat Workers Union on Tuesday for an "indefinite" period, affecting 762 workers across plants at Moerewa, Manawatu, Imlay, Horotiu and Wairoa.

About 30 union workers had been kept on at the Moerewa plant in addition to those on individual contracts, said the plant's Meatworkers' Union secretary, Laurie Nankivell, who has been working there since 1977.

Nankivell said the union's stand wasn't about money, but about maintaining working conditions and collective contract rights.

But the lockout would have a huge effect on the community as it was the area's biggest employer by far.

Nankivell had organised Work and Income New Zealand seminars at the Moerewa Rugby Club to help affected workers assess their income options.

He said he would also deliver updates on the union's position and the process of mediation at the meeting. Fairfax NZ

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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