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Workers beat the Grinch

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 am, December 23rd, 2011 - 22 comments
Categories: Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

In a heart-warming Christmas story, 111 workers have stood strong and faced down Canterbury Meat Packers, which locked them out for 2 months to extort a 20% wage cut and make them work harder for less money. It’s not a total victory, there will be small pay cuts, but they won improved conditions and they’re back at work. United, workers win.

22 comments on “Workers beat the Grinch ”

  1. Ianupnorth 1

    Wonder if this will even make the News at 6pm on any channel?

    • ak 1.1

      Don’t be silly Ian. After only a few brief weeks of forced exposure of the alternative, the masses delivered a clear message to their rulers: you rule only by the grace of electoral rort and the promise of beads and blankets.

      So any mention of unrest must again be quashed. The chief Scribes have read the wall and are shuffling positions; their lords and Farrarsees now preparing the way of welfare reform. A plastic poverty commision for Christmas, led by the grinch. Look forward to Easter, and the resurrection of progression.

  2. Zorr 2

    This is excellent news!

  3. Olwyn 3

    Maybe not a total victory, but a real, concrete victory which is a welcome surprise under the present circumstances. Brilliant news.

  4. Deborah 4

    Unbelievably good news!

  5. millsy 5

    To all the rednecks that point their browsers here:

    The workers were *NOT* looking for extravagant pay rises or featherbedding or hour long smoko breaks or stuff like that.

    They *WERE* prepared to *SACRIFICE* some pay and conditions to help keep the company in business. Its just that the company management wanted them to give up more and more and more, without sharing the pain.

    Which sums up this financial crisis in general. Its those in the middle and at the bottom who find themselves being asked to give up the most.

    • Ari 5.1

      Yep. Workers want the business to succeed too, they just want a fair share of the proceeds too.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Now if they just wanted a say in how the business was run we’d be getting somewhere.

        • Ari

          We should definitely be pushing for labour to have 50% of the votes on company boards in the future. It works very well in Germany.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    They *WERE* prepared to *SACRIFICE* some pay and conditions to help keep the company in business.

    As I understand it, the parent company ANZCO makes a shit load of money, and the managers at the plant had a nice all expenses paid Christmas dinner a fortnight ago – not exactly the sign of a struggling operation. NZ meat prices also remain very soild on the international market.

    Basically you have a company who decided that the easiest way to make an extra dollar of profit is to take it away from their workers.

    • millsy 6.1

      “Basically you have a company who decided that the easiest way to make an extra dollar of profit is to take it away from their workers.”

      Yes, so true — my post was for the rednecks like QSF, monty, Gosman, In Vino Veritas, biscuitbarrell, etc, who thought the workers were just plain greedy. (as well as the redneck who pretends that he isnt one, Pete George – who should really take his personal phone number off his website — he is inviting every wierdo on here to harrass him.)

  7. Dv 7

    I suspect the possiblity of problems with TESCOS had a bit to do with the settlement.

    • Tom Gould 7.1

      Funny, that. I have been waiting for Key to fly in the Tesco big boys, lay on government BMWs, and fancy feeds at Premier House, and seed the chooks to blame the union for the recession and unemployment and rising debt, just like last time. He must have been distracted signing his Christmas cards?

  8. newsense 8

    But they miss out on two months of pay?

    How do they feel good going back to work for an employer like that?

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Come now, the feelings and self esteem of your serfs hardly matters, and it certainly isn’t included in the end of year financial reporting.

    • Jamie Robinson 8.2

      As a locked out worker at the plant in question, it feels good going back to a company knowing that we made the changes and that the management know that we will stand up and fight for our rights as people. Management have greeted us with a bit more respect. I think they underestimated the power of human rights and the meaning of Stand up fight back. Unbelievable support from all union wide.

      • Christina Carlyle 8.2.1

        Hearing that the workers had won and forced this most unreasonable employer to back down was the best Christmas present I could get. These workers are awesome people: they stood strong under very testing conditions and have sent a warning signal to any other bosses who might be toying with plans to lock out more workers. By staying staunch and with other unions getting behind them, the clear message is:When union rights are under attack:STAND UP:FIGHT BACK!!! Well done Jamie and colleagues!!

  9. Ari 9

    Now we just need to make more jobs available so they don’t have to work cutting up and packing dead animals that will only hurt people’s and the climate’s health to eat. Urgh.

  10. Ms X 10

    Delighted to hear the news. One day maybe, this sort of thing will not be necessary.

  11. Jenny 11

    For the longest time lockouts where unknown in this country.

    When Progressive Enterprises locked out their staff in 2006, to enforce a demand to be able to pay differing wage rates and breaking the collective agreement, most of the workforce were caught by surprise. A number of workers said that they had never even heard the term “lock-out” and before it happened to them were not even aware of the concept.

    This employer tactic was so unused up to that time, that it had become lost to common memory, only known to those with an interest in union history.

    But in recent times this tactic has been revived and is now becoming more and more commonly applied by employers.

    There have been a number of employer lock outs since the Progressive Dispute and and there are few Kiwis today (if any) who would not be aware of the concept of the employer lockout.

    Some have cited “employer militancy” as the cause.

    Some have have said the recession is fueling this employer militancy.

    But this is not a satisfactory answer.
    Even in the good times, there were employers militantly opposed to unions, but they would never even haved dreamed of resorting to the lock out weapon.

    So what has changed?

    Well for one thing – lockouts in the past were an easily defeated tactic.

    The traditional trade union response to an employer lockout is the solidarity strike.

    Faced with solidarity strikes, support companies affected affected, petitioned or pressured any militant company to end their lockout, or more often, just simply took their business elsewhere.

    Solidarity strikes made the lockout unknown in this country.

    Immediately applied, and at the first sign of a lockout, the solidarity strike is devastating and overwhelmingly effective counter tactic against lockouts. Targeting business partners, suppliers and customer companies, companies that used the lockout weapon were shunned. And lockouts were rejected as an outmoded and ineffective way of solving employment disputes.

    But since solidarity strikes were specifically banned in the National Government’s Employment Contracts Act (a stricture that remains in Labour’s Employment Relations Act) There is no longer a balance of power between unions and employers when it comes to lockouts.
    This makes it cost free to an employer to escalate a dispute by imposing a lockout, and minimally inexpensive to maintain a lockout as long as is necessary with out any fear of reprisal.

    Faced by mounting bills and employer instransigence many CMP workers were forced to sign the individual non-union agreements and returned to work.

    During the period of the lockout the Meat Workers Union lost almost half of their Rangitikei membership.

    Despite the NZ Meat Workers Union taking a court action to challenge the legality of the lockout the Employment Court ruled that under the current law, the company’s actions are completely legal.
    It is has been made very clear by the Employment Court ruling, that as the law stands, workers have no legal protection against lockouts.

    This legislated imbalance in the ERA, makes it risk free for employers to resort to lockouts. As a result as the recession deepens, rather than cut their bottom line, the easy option is for employers to force the burden of the crisis onto their workforce, demanding cuts in wages and conditions.

    This artificially imposed legal imbalance puts unions in a quandary, do unions obey the law and see their unions driven out of some workplaces and even whole industries, or do they defy the law and face the risk of massive fines and even imprisonment, by recommending or engaging in illegal solidarity actions to beat lockouts.

    For unions this is a lose lose scenario.

    On one hand accept continual defeat, loss of influence and membership, and marginalisation, or accept the cost of fines and damages as part of the cost of existence.

    In the case of the Progressive Lockout, the Combined Trade Unions resolved in defiance of the law, to recommend their affiliate unions to take solidarity actions to break the lockout. The implementation by affiliate unions of this CTU resolution swiftly ended the dispute in the workers favour, delivering a sudden and unexpected defeat to Progressive Enterprises. A victory much to the surprise of the employers and all major media commentators at the time.

    Luckily for the unions who engaged in illegal solidarity actions in support of the Progressive workforce, employers though threatening to take legal action for damages, decided to settle instead. Progressive conceded to paying equal pay rates and conditions nationally across all their work sites, (the key demand of the workers).

    But it could have gone either way.

    If lockouts become used more commonly by employers, the unions will have to respond as they come under increasing pressure from their members to defy the ERA or accept increasingly oppressive demands from militant employers imposed through lockout, or threat of lockout.

    If union solidarity strikes are illegal, shouldn’t their counter, the employer lockout be illegal also?

    If the stricture against solidarity strikes remains in law, while lockouts remain perfectly legal, the union movement will increasingly have to make the decision whether to continually accept defeat and loss of membership, or defy the law.

    If the incidence of employer lockouts continues, or even as is likely increases, will this legislative injustice continue to be tolerated by New Zealand workers?

    In the interests of fairness, the ERA needs to be urgently amended to either ban lockouts, or allow solidarity strikes.

    New Zealand unionists need to be lobbying political parties for more balanced and just employment legislation.

  12. Christina Carlyle 12

    Thanks Jenny for this very informative post. I am so surprised to learn that this wasn’t amended when the ERA replaced the ECA. Clearly it won’t happen under jonkey’s regime, and :in fact watch out for another version of the ECA from the smiling assassin.

  13. Mike 13

    It’s great they won. The sad thing is that they will never make back the 2 months lost pay for the rest of their working lives. Sad reflection on corporate priorities that it has to come to that.

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