Lockout looms at plant

23:00, Oct 07 2011

Three hundred meatworkers will be locked out of the CMP Rangitikei meatworks after pay negotiations between management and the union fell over.

The lamb and sheep slaughter and processing plant, on State Highway 1 near Marton, employs about 400 people but plant manager Darryl Mackenzie said 300 of them would be locked out from October 19.

There have been 14 meetings since April, but the union and site management have been unable to reach an agreement over wages and working conditions.

Meatworkers Union spokesman Roger Middlemass said management had asked workers to take a 15 to 20 per cent pay cut, and also wanted to change shifts and allowances.

"The company claims it has lost $60 million in the six years it has been operating, but has produced no evidence of this."

The union believes the company proposals would cost a nightshift meatworker on a B-grade pay scale with six years service $443 a week.

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Mr Middlemass said CMP Rangitikei had not blamed the recent losses on the attitude or work effort of the employees, but the workers were still going to pay.

In a letter to the union, Mr MacKenzie said the company needed to make cuts as it could not continue to operate with higher costs than its competitors.

Mr MacKenzie told the Manawatu Standard he could not discuss the issue in detail as the company was in negotiations with the workers.

"We continue our efforts to agree to a new collective agreement with the NZ Meat Workers' Union over changes required by the CMP Rangitikei lamb processing plant," he said.

"As we have stated publicly before there are positions available for all of our existing employees in the new structure."

A CMP Rangitikei meatworker, who did not want to be named for fear of being singled out by management, said the lockout would be tough on staff.

"The pay cut is the big one. Let's say I took home $51,000, they want to cut that by more than $7000. Petrol and groceries are more. It is a big issue for us."

The cuts proposed by CMP Rangitikei would mean staff would have lower pay and worse conditions than meatworkers elsewhere in the country. That would mean owners of other plants would monitor developments closely, he said.

A picket line is expected at the plant during the lockout, although there were indications CMP Rangitikei would send its stock to Ashburton, as it would be unable to kill and process the new season's lambs.

The meatworker knew of a few staff who had left the union and signed individual contracts, but most backed the union.

Locked-out meatworkers are entitled to emergency benefits.

Many plant workers were on a week's holiday and would return to the lockout, Mr Middlemass said.

Manawatu Standard