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Corporate bully-boys step it up a level

Written By: - Date published: 6:14 am, September 18th, 2009 - 16 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, class war, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

open-countryThe Open Country Cheese dispute is underway. Workers are striking against the bosses’ attempts to casualise their hours and reduce their conditions. They are not striking for huge pay increases, despite the lies of Open Country.

Open Country Cheese, part-owned by the notorious Talleys and tied to various National MPs via the Dairy Investment Fund and Kaimai, is fighting very dirty in an attempt to break the workers:

  • Union members were escorted from the site five hours before the strike was due to start, in violation of the Employment Relations Act.
  • The company is trying to get in farmers as strike-breakers in action eerily reminiscent of 1913.
  • The company has apparently re-registered as a different company in order to be able to use employees from that company as strike-breakers. It is illegal to use this ruse to break strikes.
  • On Tuesday a union member was seriously assaulted by a manager. The Police are investigating.

The eight day strike will end next Wednesday, then the company’s six week lockout starts (it would have started earlier, but the company botched the lockout notice). Remember, the company claims that it is the workers putting at risk the plant’s ability to handle milk volumes at the height of milk production but it is the company that is preventing the workers working for six weeks.

Open Country is doing this for one reason and one reason only: to break the workers, force them to de-unionise, bow down, and accept the casualisation of their work and their industry.

There is a picket running from 5.30am to 6pm each day at Waharoa. The Dairy Workers Union will be collecting food and money. There should be a website up soon. These 40-odd workers and their families are going to be under huge pressure in the coming weeks, but together we can help them through. Let’s show Talleys and co we won’t bow down.

16 comments on “Corporate bully-boys step it up a level ”

  1. lprent 1

    The Talley’s are a group who need to have their management license taken away. They do this shit all of the time, and you really have to ask why they prefer doing it the hard way each time.

    We need a bank account to push money into.

    I’m afraid that to me this is a case of “Screw the Talley’s”. Lets push them offshore because they clearly have no business here.

  2. Patrick 2

    The union might want to tell us what products are produced so that we can avoid buying them.

    I know that Kaimai Cheese is a front for Open Country and that Kaimai Cheese operates out of the Parnell Farmers market.

    Some smart union operator could picket the stall there.

    • snoozer 2.1

      Open Cheese mostly produces bulk cheese that is later split up and branded by other companies (you know it’s all the same stuff, whether it’s budget or mainland or whatever)… the wider company also sells milk powder and stuff but, apart from this Kaimai thing, I don’t think they produce retail products

      http://www.opencountry.co.nz/page/7-Our-Products

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Oh, right, capitalist “competition.” When are we going to learn that there really is no such thing?

  3. George D 3

    Boycott.

    The unions need to organise a boycott of Talleys products. A serious one. Not just a small one, but a large scale one, and spread the word nationwide. Not just picketing one small stall, but letting every union member and their families know. If it went wide it could hurt Talleys properly, and more importantly, make an example of them. Businesses are starting to think they can abuse workers with no consequence, and they really need to be shown that they’re wrong.

    The advantage in this case is that the dispute is high profile, they’re vulnerable to consumers, and are well known. They’re a perfect case.

    Boycotts are work, of course, but a committed one could save a lot of work in the future.

    My only concern is that the CTU would be too cowardly to do it. At least they won’t be scared of hurting the New Zealand Labour Party in this case.

    • snoozer 3.1

      That is the way to go in terms of boycott, target Talley’s.

      Products:

      Talley’s fish and seafood,
      Talley’s frozen vegetables,
      Talley’s frozen fries,
      Creme de la creme ice cream.

      http://www.talleys.co.nz/index.htm

      Of course, they’ve got their fingers in a lot of other pies too.

      • Daveo 3.1.1

        There are a few things with a boycott.

        a) You need to make sure there is strong public awareness and support to make sure it has an effect. We’re not at that stage yet with Open Country Cheese.

        b) You need to make sure it’s not going to put workers out of jobs in other Talleys-owned businesses. We are in the middle of a recession, so there might not be many alternatives at the moment.

        c) You’d need to make sure they’re not primarily making their money out of exports so that a domestic boycott wouldn’t have much effect.

        Still, if three or so weeks into the lockout and there’s strong public awareness and support then it would certainly become an option. Would be a stupid idea to call right now though.

        • Jenny 3.1.1.1

          How about this?

          To: Helen Kelly President NZCTU
          From: Patrick John O’Dea Redundant Transfield EPMU Delegate
          Subject: Pick one, pick any one.

          The growing readiness of employers to use lockouts needs to be addressed by the Combined Trade Union movement as a whole.

          Any employer who reaches for the lockout weapon needs to be smacked down hard to discourage others. Employers announced twice in one day, their preparedness to use this once rare tactic against dairy workers and concrete workers.
          http://business.scoop.co.nz/2009/09/16/employer-militancy-grows/
          Added to these two new lockouts, is the threatened lockout against the bus drivers. Also the Telecom campaign to dismiss and starve out of their network engineers, employed by their subcontractors Downers and Transfield untill these workers agree to take jobs at much reduced wages and conditions with Telecom’s new front company Visionstream. Telecom’s campaign is also a lockout, in all but name. (The Telecom campaign gathered pace last week, when Transfield closed the gates on another 200 engineers.)

          As other comentators have noted, individual worksites and unions are powerless in the face of lock outs. As the Progressive Enterprises dispute showed, only a CTU wide call for wide solidarity from all affiliated unions can blunt this sort of attack on working people and their families.
          I think that a mass union campaign against lockouts needs to be mounted again.
          I think we need to deal with this growing emergency before it becomes an epidemic. I would like to suggest that the CTU as the overarching body of the New Zealand of union movement call for a mass rally of all trade unionists outside one of the guilty employers to reopen the gates, and get the workers back inside.
          That such a rally should be called for a weekend so as many workers can attend as possible.

          Pick One! Pick any One!

          it could be the Bridgeman Concrete lockout.
          It could be the Telecom Lockout
          It could be the Auckland Bus workers lockout.
          It could be the Open Country lockout.

          Because lockouts cannot be beaten by individual unions, the catch word through the recession should be solidarity.

          It is no good just waiting for a Labour government to be returned, (which seems to be the CTU strategy).

          Despite the harm that working people and their families will suffer in the meantime, (which always takes a long time to recover from):

          Remember, active organised working people learn the lessons of solidarity, the importance of involvement – and when the time comes vote left.

          Uninvolved and beaten down working people become despondent, despondency leads to apathy, apathy leads to a victory for the right voters.

          Nobody wants another 2 term National administration, so lets get active, let’s mobilise, let’s get some victories, lets get some confidence back.
          Let’s turn this right wing onslaught into a rout.

    • BLiP 3.2

      You’re on to it. The only way to effectively communicate with big business is via their bottom line. Cadbury learned, Fonterra are starting to get the idea – Talley’s next.

  4. Gale 4

    Boycotts work, but under strict conditions. The Coor’s Beers boycott by the gay community in the US, the Rosa Parks boycott of buses in Alabama etc.

    You need a clearly committed group of people who share a common interest, and a clearly articulated target and clearly articulated goal.

    The unions could potentially be that committed group of people, but they could never organise themselves in a million years so any boycott is going to fail.

    Shame really.

    • George D 4.1

      There are some good member unions who would be up to it. NDU, SFWU, MUNZ, are all pretty good. But I wouldn’t count on the conservative unions.

      • Daveo 4.1.1

        Which ones are these George?

        • George D 4.1.1.1

          You’re right, that was too harsh. I do want to see unions getting their hands dirty and not being afraid to take it to employers and fight, and I’ve felt in the past that parts of the union movement have stood back and done less than they could have. Part of this is due to New Zealand’s anti-union laws which restrict striking and other industrial action by unions, of course.

          • The Voice of Reason 4.1.1.1.1

            And of course, rather than let the unions let us all down, you could start the boycott yourself, George. But first, I’d check with the Dairy Workers Union themselves as to whether that’s a tactic they want to use at this point.

            During the Progressive dispute, it was clear that the company lost market share and that is one of the reasons they gave up. But it was an unofficial, sporadic and consumer led boycott and allowed the two unions the ability to call for a formal boycott any time they felt they wanted to play that card. Luckily, Woolies folded before it was neccessary to take that step, which would have also impacted on other union members working in the supermarkets, who were not directly part of the dispute as they were covered by a different CEA.

            If you are a union member George, you could contact your local office and ask what assistance your union is willing to provide to the DWU. And while you’re on the phone, ask if they’ve made a donation to the Telecom workers yet. But, I’m guessing that you’re not a member as comments such as ‘The unions need to …’ are almost exclusively from those who don’t pay union fees.

            Could I humbly suggest you ask to join a union as an associate member, which costs very little and doesn’t prefer any general rights of representation, but does make you a modest part of the union movement and able to comment from the inside rather than just being an earnest observer?

  5. George D 5

    I’m in Australia at the moment, so either of those isn’t an option.

    I’ve worked part time at my university in the last year, and was a member of the NTEU on their very reasonable 4 month part-time workers membership (equivalent to just over an hour of my wages). I decided to give it a go.

    My membership has expired, as my job finished. I might give it another go, because although there are some very serious problems with the executive, they have a strong focus on workplaces organising themselves, and are /relatively/ democratic.

    Call me what you like, say that I want unions that are whiter than snow. All I want is a union that is democratic and aware of the unequal relationship and differing interests between workers, capital, and the state. The unions I see that do recognise this, and try and avoid sandwiching a professional “organising class” to mediate those tensions (as is the non-antagonistic “partnership” model that the NZLP and the CTU leadership endorse), are often also the strongest, because they are both relevant to their members and controlled by their members.

    • The Voice of Reason 5.1

      Good points, George, though I think the ‘partnership model’ has rarely, if ever, been used by a major union in NZ, as far as I know. Not sure if I agree about the ‘organising class’ either. Shouldn’t the paid staff of unions be professionals? I wouldn’t want to be represented by an amateur if my job was on the line!

      But anyhoo, you obviously know what side you’re on, so more power to ya, brother.

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