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Open Country now assaulting workers

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, September 23rd, 2009 - 68 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

Giovanni

Open Country worker Giovanni Moana with his sons

The Talleys-owned Open Country Cheese dispute took a new turn today after it was revealed that a senior manager, not content with just bullying workers, has assaulted one of them.

Here’s what Giovanni Moana, the worker concerned, had to say:

“I was told to put my head through a window in the packing room at the factory. My manager slammed the sliding window on my head and put quite a bit of weight on to it. He then said next time he would throw tomatoes at me.’

Naturally, this was pretty upsetting for him.

‘I’ve got a large family to feed and eventually I’ve got to get back to work. I was enjoying my time at Open Country. I had big plans for my family to have a better life, and for something to happen to me like this, it’s just shattering,’ he said to Radio NZ.

The Talleys cheese firm are trying everything they can to bully the workers. They set up a fake employment agency to bypass the union and casualise the workforce, tried (and failed) to block workers from accessing representation on-site from their union (earning them a $1,000 fine from the Employment Relations Authority on August 11 for breaching s.25 of the ERA), responded to strike notice with a 6 week lockout threat, and then this week have come up with fanciful stories about environmental sabotage. And right now, the workers are currently being unlawfully locked out.

It’s a pretty simple issue really, that everyone but Talleys seems to get these workers have a right to join a union, and they have a right to negotiate with their boss collectively as a team, rather than one on one. They want some basic protection around their security of hours and working conditions.

Open Country may prefer to keep its workers on individual contracts. That’s no surprise. Individual contracts have worked wonders for employers for hundreds of years in keeping wages down.

But it’s not up to them. It’s the workers who get to choose whether they go it alone or in a union and it’s their choice about who represents them.

Waikato Times reports the parties are now in mediation. The sooner that Open Country and their owners Talleys realise that workers have a right to join a union and negotiate collectively the better. But it’s not looking hopeful.

* The author is inolved in the current dispute at Open Country Cheese.

68 comments on “Open Country now assaulting workers ”

  1. Maynard J 1

    Roger Kerr was arguing that the employer-employee displute is an old discredited marxist idea. That only hold true if you consider Open Country Cheese a discredited anachronism of an employer – while I do not consider them the norm, they are by no means alone (though doubtless at the bottom end of the scale for atrocious priactices).

    Just goes to show how far removed teh business round table is from reality – they really are like some inverse Camelot, far away, mystical and representing all that is wrong.

    Good luck to you with this dispute – I hope you get all the support you need, and can break them.

    • Ag 1.1

      “Roger Kerr was arguing that the employer-employee displute is an old discredited marxist idea.”

      Why anyone listens to Kerr is beyond me. He’s been consistently wrong for 20 years.

  2. Bill 2

    A $1000 fine? So that would be one less bottle of champers the bastards will buy at their celebration dinner when this is all over.

    Sadly, it is only a theory that says the workers have a right to decide to join a union and negotiate collectively. The reality is that if the boss is willing to spend a little money on fines in the short term, then there will be no union on site.

    I remain of the opinion that unions are only one of a number of necessary weapons that need to be aligned against bosses and one of the most powerful and sadly neglected over recent years is the wider community.

    You can defeat a union with money. But you can’t defeat a committed citizenry.

    And the interaction of the community and the union cannot be determined by union officials if matters are going to be settled t the worker’s satisfaction.

    • George.com 2.1

      underneath the veneer of modern employment relations, good faith bargaining, company identity, shared interests etc etc lie the basic and brutal matters of work and indutsrial relations – an industrial fight and a structured antagonism between labour and capital. Theres a scrap and it is being decided on the basis of power. As for Roger Kerr, he needs to get with it. Which, pray tell Roger, of your theories of HRM, corporate culture or post-modernism shed any great light on this stoush. I can pull up a few basic marxist or neo-marxist concepts that frame it well.

  3. I hope he takes this jerk to the cleaners.

    • Rex Widerstrom 3.1

      That would be after he gets the tomatoes thrown at him?

      Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

      I mean what sort of twat assaults a worker and then follows it up with a threat to “throw tomatoes” as if that’s upping the ante?

      Sounds like something Nelson would say, followed of course by “Ha haaa”.

      If that’s the standard of management at Open Country it’s easy to see why Talley’s are worried about profitability. But they should be looking not at their workers, but their managers.

  4. felix 4

    Hey righties:

    You know how you’re always saying we don’t need minimum workplace standards because most employers are decent people?

    And you know how we usually reply that that may be true, but the laws are to protect workers from the handful of shithouse employers who really aren’t decent people?

    And you know how you say we’re just out of touch with the real world etc etc?

    This is what we mean.

    • Rex Widerstrom 4.1

      You just don’t get it, do you felix?

      Minimums when applied to protecting people are bad.

      Minimums when applied to jailing them are good.

      HTH

  5. Pat 5

    Presumably this man’s Union is helping him with his assault complaint to the Police?

    If not, why not?

    • Bill 5.1

      If you bothered to go to the links, you wouldn’t have to ask the question but what I want know is what is this mentality that responds to instructions like “stick your head through this here window for a minute, mate” or whatever. I mean WTF is wrong with people?

      • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1

        It’s the obedience circuit. It’s inherent in statism and begins in the family. It surprises me that leftists will find this behaviour ridiculous yet rally against individualism and rightists will talk of individualism yet see nothing wrong with hierachies and the instillment of blind obedience in the family.

        • Daveo 5.1.1.1

          Democratic socialists don’t oppose individual freedom, what they oppose is the kind of venal, anti-social self-interest that drives many on the right.

          For the great majority of people the idea of individual freedom is a fraud unless it’s backed with collective action and, in our current social setup, that includes the backing of the state.

          • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.1.1

            The actions of social democrats in government would say otherwise to their purported care for individual freedom. Nothing wrong with opposing “venal anti-social self-interest” if that’s what you think, but I’ve read many comments here that oppose individualism per se.

            • George.com 5.1.1.1.1.1

              You are conflating (at least) three ideas here – freedom, individual subjectivity and agency, and what may be loosely termed social conditioning and discourses of manipulation and hegemony. These three matters are related, but are also somewhat distinct. For example, your notion of ‘obedience hierarchies’ does not automatically lead to an antithesis of freedom and individualism. For another, avoid assuming that freemarket capitalism is the antithesis of ‘obedience hierarchies’, which I suspect you do. Advertising, to sell products and create consumer loyalty, is one of the most powerful tools of social conditioning and manipulation in capitalist societies.

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.1.1.2

              For example, your notion of ‘obedience hierarchies’ does not automatically lead to an antithesis of freedom and individualism.
              I agree and I didn’t say it was the antithesis of freedom did I? Please read. As you note its related. It is the credulous atitude of both those on the left and right that I was noting. I’ve made no conflation between agency and social conditioning how you can draw that from a few sentences I don’t know. Agency is, as you note related to social conditioning and part of that social conditioning is obedience.
              For another, avoid assuming that freemarket capitalism is the antithesis of ‘obedience hierarchies’, which I suspect you do.
              No I believe free market capitalism is a contradiction in terms.

          • mickysavage 5.1.1.1.2

            You are right. Those who talk loudest about individual freedom tend to be those who believe these freedoms should be applied selectively, to themselves and their mates.

        • Bill 5.1.1.2

          So orphans cannot develop an ‘obedience circuit’?

          I prefer the Right Wing Authoritarian explanation that at least has a plethora of published studies underpinning it. Of course that may well be me simply acquiescing to the perceived authority of publication rather than making an intelligent judgement call between a developed theory and a rant. Whatever.

          For the record, I don’t so much find blind obedience ridiculous as scary. And individualism, in spite of what you seem to believe has nothing what-so-ever to do with freedom or anarchy and a lot to do with bloody stupidity aka ‘lifestylism’

          • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1

            Bill that orphan bit is a ludircous argument – think about it.
            Individualism has everything to do with freedom. The problem is those collectivists (and individualists) who put a false dichotomy between individualism and cooperation or communinalism etc.

            • Bill 5.1.1.2.1.1

              If you don’t have a family and a dynamic begins in the family….I was being facetious QtR.

              How for you, do the bounds get defined between what I as an individual have an inalienable right to do on the one hand and what society has a right to demand of me on the other?

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.2

              Bill – The issue for me is freedom from coercion. Society cannot demand anything from you. You can only give freely.

            • Bill 5.1.1.2.1.3

              If society cannot demand anything of or from the individual, then how is it that your idea of the free market works again? Where’s the governance of the polity and the economy? If society has no right to make demands on individuals then what you are saying is that no group has a right to expect any given behaviours or actions of its individual group members and no group can have expectations with regards sub groups or visa versa….which means that society cannot form.

              Society does have legitimate expectations with regards certain actions from individual citizens where the actions have effects beyond the individual in question. It does not have the right to oppress or coerce though.

              And that’s the trick of substantive democracy (anarchy)…not a pursuit of individual desires that will leave organised economic actors in charge of the economy and the polity(corporatism)

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.4

              I think we’re talking over eachother. I agree with “Society does have legitimate expectations with regards certain actions from individual citizens where the actions have effects beyond the individual in question. It does not have the right to oppress or coerce though.” But that to me is in not doing something, not coercing another, not commiting violence etc – in a negative sense. I was thinking more along the lines of society can make no demands upon a person in a positive sense. One can have expectations, but expectations are not demands.

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.5

              Bill – This explains things well.

            • Bill 5.1.1.2.1.6

              It explains what precisely? Excuse me for being really down to earth about all this, but….

              Really existing situation. Community of people. People shit. People have a sewerage system. Who wants to maintain sewerage system? No-one.

              So sewerage system maintenance is an onerous piece of shit that gets put on a list ( a roster?….that was how it was.) of other onerous but necessary bits of shit that everyone must have a hand in….you don’t want to sign up to shit pit?…sign up to this other equivalent. Sign up to nothing? Get fucked. Be ostracised.

              Society has legitimate demands on the individual in a positive sense.

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.7

              Bill – I think I’m getting caught up with terminology. Forget the word demand for a moment. Think obligation.
              The needs of society can only be fulfilled by voluntary cooperation. Positvie obligations are illegitimate. Involuntary positive obligations are a violation of individual sovereignty. This is basic anarchist ideology. Cooperation requires consent. It has to be voluntary. I’m sure you agree with that. So we’re on the same page, no?

            • Bill 5.1.1.2.1.8

              So we’ll say obligation then. Same thing applies. Although cooperation in the broader sense is voluntary there is still the issue of onerous shit that needs to be done that nobody really wants to do.

              I’ve outlined a way around this. It is not entirely voluntary. The group (society) imposes an obligation on the individual. All people participate in the process that leads to a decision whereby all individuals have an obligation imposed on them to do their share of identified unpleasant but necessary shit.

              Once that agreement is in place it becomes a part of institutional knowledge or memory and so new people have the obligation imposed without having participated in the decision process.

              Under your ‘basic anarchist ideology’ there is no room to negotiate, formulate and impose an obligation as above. So things fall apart. Which is the antithesis of anarchy.

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.9

              Bill – Poor wording in my last comment. No, there is room for obligations. People organise themselves how they wish. If you want to voluntarily take on an obligation that’s your perogative. Join a community sign up to their roster. But you cannot acquire a positive obligation without consent. Voluntary cooperation is the basis of anarchism.

              Once that agreement is in place it becomes a part of institutional knowledge or memory and so new people have the obligation imposed without having participated in the decision process.

              This is not sufficiently different from the state and the “social contract.” One must take part in the decision making process. One cannot acquire a positive obligation without consent.

            • Bill 5.1.1.2.1.10

              By your reasoning, freeloading is just fine and society has no right to sanction such behaviour because the sanctity of individual sovereignty or whatever outweighs the functioning of society. And if everyone gives the onerous but necessary tasks the long finger then that’s just fine?

              What I’ve outlined is a million miles away from Rousseau’s wholly imaginary/ theoretical social contract.

              But whatever.

              If what I have outlined is not anarchist or democratic enough then you really do need to offer some alternative democratic mechanism that ensures that the onerous tasks necessary for the functioning of society are performed.

              Or perhaps you’d rather advocate a free market economy that perpetuates a master/slave relationship allowing for a needy outsider to be employed to carry out such tasks?

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.11

              Bill – You are the one who has proposed this hypothetical society not me.The free rider problem is a problem in any society, including our current one, and probably always will be. Incentives are the key – reward people for their labour. Humans are social creatures we want to cooperate and we cooperate to our mutual benefit. That’s the way it is. Don’t build the free rider problem up to be something it is not.
              It seems to me that you at once want to critque market society (in a strawman way BTW) and yet you want to coerce free riders, perhaps ostracise them and let them starve, which to me appears as bad as any strawman argument against the free market.
              There are plenty of anarchist forums with members more knowledgable than myself. If you want an anarcho-communist’s or whoever’s perspective, per your hypothetical, on this than you should try there.

            • Bill 5.1.1.2.1.12

              I was interested in your thoughts as to how society might ensure that onerous but necessary tasks are performed. But it seems you don’t really want to think the problem through. C’est la vie.

            • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.2.1.13

              Bill – We’ve worked throught this a lot. I don’t try to propose any societal structure like some anarchists. Anarchism to me and many other anarchists is a constant process with no end point. I start from first prinicples, anti-authoritarianism, non-violence, non-aggression, non-coercion, voluntaryism, equality of authority, equality of liberty, democracy and so on and suport whatever works towards them. I see little point getting into an argument about a hypothetical society.
              People like to find a problem with anarchist theory and say “see there it wouldn’t work” despite being able to look around themselves at statist society and see an endless series of problems, environmental damage, exploitation, privation, alienation, war, etc.
              I have said somewhat to the free rider problem which is present in today’s society as well. To me if in a free society individuals were rewarded commensurate with their labour, if there was full employment, if indiviudals weren’t atomised by the state and hence genuinely wished to give freely to help their community then the free rider problem would probably be incredibly slight in which case maybe the best option would be to simply let it be and not resort to depriving or coercing such people.

        • George.com 5.1.1.3

          I was responding to the information in the link you provided, rather than your actual comments on this thread. I have read through the linked information again and I stand corrected. My aplogies for making accusations against you that are not correct. I read certain things in to the linked information that were not actually there, and equated your comments as a continuation of the Roger Kerr type approach. I have seen simplistic analysis (bollocks) from the likes of everyones best mate Redbaiter and his notion of ‘cultural socialists’. If anything, I was responding to erroneous analysis of that sort rather than what you actually referenced.

          You seem essentially to be talking about discourses of langauge and hegemonic notions. There is also a debate in there somewhere about the natural state of humanity. It seems to me that an example of ‘obedience circuit’ is the neo-liberal argument that beneficiaries are basically lazy, parasites on society and hence a reason to cut benefits.

          Alongside discourses and hegemonic language sits subjectivity & agency and sklongside that notions of freedom and liberty. The very idea that freedom and liberty can be a collective action is anathema to the benefit cutting neo-liberals. I hope this is a more accurate assessment of your position.

    • Daveo 5.2

      Of course they are. Are you alleging dishonesty Pat?

  6. The Voice of Reason 6

    Read the post, Pat

    The second link is to the DWU (Dairy Workers Union), so obviously they are helping him. Can you think of any reason they wouldn’t help in these circumstances, know something but are too coy to say or are you just waffling for the sake of it?

  7. Ianmac 7

    Is it possible that this conflict is a fore-runner of a return to the 90’s when the unions were made almost redundant under National? I can hear the Minister of Labour saying in Parliament that “here we have a bunch of Communists holding a really good business up for ransome so we are bringing in a new Employment Bill to make Individual Contracts……..”

    • The sad thing is that the Trade Union movement got a real hammering under the ECA in the 1990s and has not really recovered. During Labour’s last term membership stabilised and grew a bit but Unions did not approach their former strength.

      Some will think this is a good thing but if you want us to enjoy Australian type wages then our unions need Australian type strength. If you look at the average wage statistics ours got a hammering at the same time as the unions got a hammering. Over the last decade membership and the wage gap both stabilised. I do not think this is a coincidence.

      The mindsets of ordinary kiwis have changed and collective action is not understood the way it used to be. Unfortunately this means that we will be nothing but fodder for overseas interests until we collectively decide to regain our economic sovereignty.

      • Swampy 7.1.1

        People don’t want that strength, they don’t want a strike on every day of the week (as used to happen when I grew up in the late 70s/early 80s). It all happened because of the Labour Government’s policy of compulsory unionism.

        • Daveosaurus 7.1.1.1

          Please refresh my memory: which Labour Government was in power during the late 1970s / early 1980s?

  8. Ron 8

    Old Mr Talley was in the Nelson papers a while back after a speech to the local boy’s college graduation in which he blamed the depletion of fish stocks on the anti-whaling movement.
    Apparently all the extra whales are eating all the fish.
    It really puts the lie to the theory of a meritocracy, don’t it? You gotta wonder how the bugger got rich in the first place.

  9. Tim Ellis 9

    I wonder if a complaint has been made to police.

    • felix 9.1

      I wonder if “Tim Ellis” is allowed to follow links and read articles.

      • BLiP 9.1.1

        Sure he can – he just isn’t allowed think about or remember what he reads. That’s a big no-no.

    • Daveo 9.2

      I wonder if Tim likes insinuating that people are lying.

      Read the links Tim.

    • Marty G 9.3

      I wonder where Tim Ellis gets off casting aspersions on the word of this man just because it’s truth he doesn’t want to hear.

      • Tim Ellis 9.3.1

        You don’t need to get so sensitive about it marty. There’s nothing in the post that says a complaint has been laid with police. I look forward to the outcome and hope it is properly investigated. I would hate to think that a union member might make untrue allegations just to advance their negotiating position.

        • Daveo 9.3.1.1

          And he’s at it again. What a dishonest little creep.

        • felix 9.3.1.2

          I would hate to think that “Tim Ellis” was a dishonest little creep, but if he really was being honest when he said “I wonder” then he would’ve followed the links provided and found out.

          That makes him a liar, and yes, a dishonest creep.

          But as he has freely admitted before, he is here primarily to write for the lurkers, the majority of readers who don’t usually comment.

          He’s just doing his job I suppose, but I do wish he wouldn’t be so dishonest and creepy about it.

          • Tim Ellis 9.3.1.2.1

            What is creepy felix is your fixation with all of my comments.

            • felix 9.3.1.2.1.1

              I’m not the slightest bit interested in your comments “Tim Ellis”.

              I’m interested in your creepy obsession with coming here every day to tell lies and spread dirt on behalf of the government.

              Creep.

            • Tim Ellis 9.3.1.2.1.2

              Yes well your conduct suggests otherwise felix. What is interesting is that you manage to get away with this kind of abuse without attracting the attention of moderators.

            • Maynard J 9.3.1.2.1.3

              That is because what felix says about you is generally not unwarranted nor untrue.

        • Marty G 9.3.1.3

          Well don’t think it then, Tim, because it’s not a reasonable assumption to make.

        • George.com 9.3.1.4

          Whereas Tim, a company executive wouldn’t dream of laying blame for an effulent spillage on lock out workers, now would they. I mean, make untrue allegations to strengthen their negotiating position.

          However we can both take comfort from the news that the worker has indeed taken the issue to the police. Obviously this meets the test you have established to allay your fears.

          • Tim Ellis 9.3.1.4.1

            Yes George I hope the police conduct a thorough investigation because it a very serious allegation.

            I’m not sure that it’s very smart for unions to try and flex their muscle in the middle of a recession when unemployment is rising though. I don’t think that’s in workers’ interests.

            • Daveo 9.3.1.4.1.1

              By which you mean you don’t think it’s wise for workers to stand up to bad employers or fight back against cuts to their wages and conditions in a recession.

              But of course you can’t say that in polite company, so you fall back on outdated rhetoric about unions, which are somehow separate from their members, “flexing their muscle” against workers’ interests.

              Problem is, this ain’t talkback mate. We all know the facts and we all know your game. You’re not fooling anyone “Tim Ellis”.

            • Tim Ellis 9.3.1.4.1.2

              Good for you “Daveo”.

            • felix 9.3.1.4.1.3

              Get back to work Tim you lazy, unproductive thief-as-a-servant.

  10. Jenny 10

    The CTU should step in.

  11. sacrebleu 11

    Mickysavage:
    In my opinion to suggest a stronger union movement is all that is standing between NZ and higer wages is naive. We need to accept that NZ will probably never again afford the same wages and standard of living as Australia. Oz has mineral wealth and generally a more entrepreneurial attitude.
    Too many NZers with a hands out / this country owes me a living attitude…

    Like it or not, NZ’s way forward to “economic sovereignty” needs to be led by local NZ business leadership. The Union’s role is merely to keep business honest along the way.

  12. Ianmac 12

    In this case at Open Country, is the management trying to force workers onto individual contracts?

  13. Swampy 13

    Best solution is for National to abolish the 2004 amendments to the ERA, the supposed “tidying up” changes designed to force employers into collective contracts.

  14. Jessamyn 14

    Sorry to hear that things didn’t go well between the striking workers and management of OCC in Waharoa, but I hope they will come up with a good result sooner or later.

    I strongly support to those striking workers and their whanau and friends. I live in Auckland and I wish I’d go to Waharoa to show them that they have my fully support, but I’ll be thinking of them in my heart. Good luck.

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