Affco Talley's meatworkers in Wairoa to return to work after five months

Cliff Horua working on the mutton slaughter floor at Affco Wairoa.

Cliff Horua working on the mutton slaughter floor at Affco Wairoa.

Locked-out Wairoa meatworkers will go back to their jobs on Monday after five months without work.

One hundred and seventy workers at AFFCO Talley's Wairoa plant have been recalled to comply with an Employment Court ruling which deemed the lockout unlawful.

The ruling was made in November but the case went back to court after the union members were given their jobs back on the night shift.

Another ruling last week was also in the workers' favour, giving the company until February 23, next Tuesday, to re-engage the workers on the shifts they would have been working on, had it not been for the lockout. 

Union organising director Darien Fenton said the workers could finally rebuild their lives after a very tough financial time, especially at Christmas.

"It's been really difficult for them, there's been a lot of financial support from unions and others, but all that's done has paid for a food parcel once a week. It doesn't pay their bills."

* Wairoa meat workers lock out deemed illegal 
* North Island Affco workers vote to strike next week

Fenton said Wairoa workers would be celebrating and also thanking the "thousands" of people who had given food and money to support them.

"This is a wonderful victory for a group of determined workers, who stood up to one of New Zealand's richest companies and won," she said.

AFFCO Talleys has been approached for comment.

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 In November, the union's national secretary, Graham Cook, said Talley's tried almost everything to prevent workers from bargaining for a fair deal.

"They've forced some workers onto individual agreements, they've tried to undermine the union behind closed doors."

New provisions in the individual contracts included an end to the longstanding concept of "seniority".

As sites shut down for the season around April, staff were laid off according to seniority but the new contracts allowed the company's management to lay off staff at their own discretion.

Lay-offs did not have to be discussed with the employee and they were given five calender days' notice, Cook said.

The minimum weekly pay was abolished, staff were required to work when instructed, and meal breaks were only to be taken "as and when the demands of business" allowed.

 - Stuff

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