Wairoa meat workers lock out deemed illegal
A lockout of Wairoa freezing workers who refused to sign individual contracts has been deemed illegal.
The Employment Court issued a statement on Tuesday saying the AFFCO plant unlawfully breached the Employment Act by locking out 170 staff who refused to sign new individual contracts.
It also said AFFCO, owned by Talley's, failed to act in good faith towards the workers while collective bargaining was still in progress.
The workers have gone without work for eight weeks so far and two bus loads travelled to parliament on Tuesday to speak with Labour politicians about their experiences.
The court statement ordered both parties to return to mediation and any remedies were postponed until this was completed.
AFFCO previously applied to walk away from collective bargaining – made possible by changes to the Employment Act passed in March this year.
This second court case was due to begin next week but this was also postponed until after mediation.
The Meat Workers Union, which has been negotiating for the workers, labelled the decision a "victory".
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."
He said when the workers at parliament heard the news they started dancing with joy and it was a win for all Talley's workers around New Zealand.
The union would be looking closely at the full decision, expected to be released on Wednesday, and it would consider all remedies including compensation.