Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, December 17th, 2014 - 20 comments
Categories: employment, farming, health and safety, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: darien fenton, meatworkers union, zero hour contracts
Launching at 3pm today in Palmerston North, the NZ Meat Workers Union’s campaign to highlight job insecurity will hopefully have an impact on employment practices.
There are more than 20,000 meat workers, and they get a raw deal: seasonal work, dangerous jobs, casual and zero hours contracts and anti-union pressure.
One big employer is over a year out-of-date on their collective employment agreement, and likely to be the first to test National’s new bargaining law that allows the bad faith of breaking off negotiations.
As the union’s National Secretary, Graham Cooke, puts it: “When meat workers don’t thrive, communities, local businesses and schools all suffer too.”
As well as employment certainty and collective agreements settled on reasonable terms, the campaign aims to stop workers facing anti-union pressure, and make sure they’re safe at work.
As Darien Fenton’s public submission to the government’s Health and Safety Reform Bill put it:
In my short time with the Meat Workers Union, I’ve come across workers who have lost the tips of their fingers, a cleaner whose scalp was caught in a hook, and some particularly shocking examples in one South Island plant, which has resulted in three grievances before the Employment Relations Authority.
But the biggest focus will be on job security. The meat industry has increasing casualisation, with old systems of seniority breaking down. There is contracting out and growing numbers of migrant workers being brought in.
The pressure on workers to work longer hours as their job insecurity grows will be exacerbated by the recent changes to employment laws, with collective agreements remaining unsettled and new workers employed on different pay and conditions – sometimes the dreaded “zero hours” contracts.
Meat Workers Union – best of luck with the campaign.