Set of overalls sparks stoush in meat industry

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:01 03/09/2014

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A set of white overalls has sparked a stoush between the New Zealand Meatworkers Union and Awarua-based South Pacific Meats.

At an Employment Relations Authority hearing in Invercargill yesterday, the union claimed South Pacific Meats was restricting, obstructing and denying its Otago-Southland president, Daryl Carran, from accessing the site.

Union lawyer Peter Churchman, QC, said a change to the white workwear policy at South Pacific Meats was an attempt to "dress up" restrictions for union access at the plant.

In December, South Pacific Meats introduced a policy that made compliant whites compulsory for workers using the main canteen.

In order to meet with workers, Carran would have to also wear compliant whites.

The process would be simple but South Pacific Meats was deliberately making it difficult by not supplying Carran with a set of whites like it does with other site visitors, Churchman said.

However, South Pacific Meats plant manager Kevin Hamilton said the union should provide Carran with the whites.

Carran visited the plant often, so it was not unreasonable for the union boss to buy and clean his own gear at a commercial laundromat approved by the meatworks, Hamilton said.

He said South Pacific Meats enforced the "whites-only" policy in the main canteen to meet requirements from overseas markets.

Churchman said there were no external export regulations that required a change in policy. It was the company's own decision and one made to claim existing reasonable rules and regulations to deny or restrict union access, he said.

Hamilton said if Carran wore compliant whites, he would have no problems accessing the main canteen.

The union also claimed the company was trying to impose conditions on Carran before he was granted access, including limiting speech and talking to groups.

Hamilton said the company had received written complaints from non-union workers that they did not want their smoko or lunch break disturbed by Carran making union speeches.

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- The Southland Times

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