CMP Rangitikei meatworkers picket after pay negotiations fail

00:40, Oct 19 2011
CMP Meatworks
Making a stand: Meatworkers picket at CMP Rangitikei's lamb plant near Marton. They were locked out at 4am after talks over pay and conditions failed.

Meatworkers for CMP Rangitikei picketed their workplace this morning after pay talks broke down between the company and the union representing about 200 staff.

The company issued a lockout notice because no middle ground could be reached over an expired collective agreement.

The lockout took effect from 4am today.

About 60 picketers waved signs outside CMP Rangitikei and rallied support from passers-by, who tooted their horns and gave words of encouragement.

A dozen police and two security guards were on site to ensure the picketing remained under control, and workers who tried to prevent people from going to work said they were threatened with arrest.

Meatworkers Union organiser Robbie Magee said the people on the picket line were at the high skill end of the work force.

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"There's ill-feeling towards the company, and the company's misjudged that," he said.

Union representatives met with plant managers yesterday morning, but said there were still big issues over conditions to work through.

There was a union meeting in Marton in the afternoon, attended by more than 150 staff.

"Though blameless for the situation, meatworkers, are being forced to concede punishing increases in workload, together with drastic wage cuts, in order to keep their jobs while incidentally saving the corporate necks of employers," union organiser Roger Middlemass said.

He said plant management had consistently praised the work ethic and attitude of workers and the co-operation of the union, but they said, in front of a mediator, that the plant had lost $60 million in the past six years.

Mr Middlemass said the union would agree to the wage rates and shift structure, but it wanted any pay cuts across the board, not just carried by the meatworkers.

"If it is good enough for us, it is good enough for the employer," Mr Middlemass said.

He said CMP Rangitikei would not tell the union what salaried staff made, saying it was not the union's business.

Mr Middlemass said there was strong support for the stance.

"But the concern is for those who aren't here. Some, particularly immigrants, were told ... there would be no work and they'll be sent home to Samoa."

He said Itoham was the major shareholder in CMP and it was the 50th biggest food company in the world, but it was leaving negotiations to New Zealand.

Plant manager Darryl Mackenize said workers would continue killing and processing at the plant this week, despite the lockout.

Manawatu Standard