Supervised mediation for Affco dispute

The Employment Relations Authority has referred the Affco meat company and the Meatworkers Union to facilitated mediation in a bid to help end their two month old North Island lockout and strike conflict.

The union applied for the authority's direction to a mediator. 

Affco operations manager Rowan Ogg said the company did not believe facilitated mediation was necessary, but did not oppose the union's application.

The mediator could make non-binding recommendations to resolve the dispute, which is over a new collective agreement, he said.

No date has yet been set for the fresh round of bargaining.

The Employment Relations Act provides for the authority to refer a dispute to facilitated mediation if there has been one or more strikes or lockouts and the the conflicts have been protracted and acrimonious.

The authority determined the grounds had been met.

Hamilton-headquartered Affco, which operates seven meat processing plants and two tanneries in the North Island, locked out around 700 unionised workers from five plants on February 29.

The company said the lockout was a response to a string of previous court actions by the union.  The dispute over a new collective agreement has since escalated to involve more North Island Affco plants, more locked out workers, and retalitory strikes and bans by the union.

Affco's North Island plants have continued operating throughout the lockout and strike action, with the Talleys family-owned company claiming most of its workforce is non-unionised. 

The Employment Authority has accepted a Meat Worker's Union application for facilitated bargaining with Talley's Affco.

The authority found there is acrimony between the parties but has not yet set a date for the bargaining. 

Meat Worker's Union general secretary Dave Eastlake says the news has come at good time for struggling families who say they were given false hope that the company's plan to partially lift the lockout would end the dispute.

Waikato Times