Darien Fenton at Jobs That Count brings us the details of the fight for decent pay and conditions at Talley’s meat processing plants
Ask anyone in the Union movement about “Talley’s” and they’ll recall the 84-day lockout of workers in Talley’s-owned AFFCO North Island meat processing plants in 2012.
Three years on, it’s feeling like déjà vu with AFFCO Talley’s. There’s no settled collective agreement despite bargaining being initiated in November 2013, and 9 days of negotiations since. The agreement expired in December 2013, which puts the workers well outside the 12 -month post expiry protection date, on individual agreements.
It’s not like it’s been quiet since the settlement. It hasn’t. Despite promises of a better relationship between the union and the company, you don’t have to go far to find Talley’s workers who will tell you how union membership is still actively discouraged, how they are not allowed to talk union in the lunch room and how many new workers now accept individual agreements because they fear joining the union will mean they won’t get work.
The Meat Industry isn’t like other industries, where workers work year round, week-on-week. The big stick Meat Industry employers have is the seasonal nature of the work, which means seasonal lay-offs, casual work and zero hours contracts.
To mitigate against this the Meat Workers Union has successfully worked with the meat industry on “seniority” provisions in collective agreements that act to ensure continuity of employment from one season to another.
AFFCO Talley’s agreement has this provision, but new reasons, such as performance, warnings, sick days, union membership and activism are being used as a tool to weed out “trouble makers” when re-employment comes around.
Now there’s a new factor: new employment laws are about to commence on 6 March 2015 that enable employers to seek to end bargaining and employ new workers on less or different terms and conditions.
There are some good employers in this industry, and good union sites with high union density and good pay and conditions. But the highly competitive nature of the Meat Industry, means that the cards are stacked against Talleys workers like never before. And what happens with Talley’s will affect every worker in the Meat Industry.
Bargaining is coming up again on the 11th February. It’s crunch time.
Right now, the options for Talley’s workers are being worked on. But the Employment Relations Act, both before and after National Government amendment offers little by way of remedy.
You know what got these workers there in 2012? It was your support. It was the support of communities, and unions and whanau and the Iwi Leaders Group.
That’s why a small solidarity action from you on social media will go a long way and mean the world to the workers. It will let AFFCO Talley’s workers know you’re on their side, and also let Talley’s know you are watching.
At the same time, we can send a warning shot over the bow of the National Government and tell them that we won’t tolerate their new labour laws being used to shaft workers.
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