Moerewa meat workers first to vote
Moerewa meat workers were the first in the country to tell their union what they wanted to happen next after Affco’s intended lockout of more than 700 workers at its five North Island plants.
Affco meat company has threatened to lock out more than 700 staff across the North Island after negotiations over a collective agreement collapsed.
That action has seen the New Zealand Meat Workers Union accusing Affco of trying to starve its workers into submission, and Labour and Green politicians expressing outrage.
New Zealand Meat Workers Union national president Mike Nahu was at Moerewa yesterday, when he met about 122 workers to discuss the issues and processes that have led to the lock-out, and to hold a ballot over what action the union should take.
Only about 20 workers at the Moerewa plant are not members. Moerewa is currently working two shifts, one of them split.
While Moerewa was first off the blocks, Mr Nahu said that by tomorrow evening he would have also visited the Manawatu, Whanganui, Horatiu and Wairoa plants and the vote would be completed. The union would not propose any action until then.
Affco, which is owned by Talleys Group Ltd, served notices at all eight New Zealand plants after 18 months of bickering with the union over a collective contract agreement. Only the five North Island plants have been threatened with a l ock- out tomorrow.
Affco says that notice came after five days of failed discussions with the union, and a further day with a mediator present. Those talks followed a series of challenges from the union, via the Employment Authority and Em- ployment Court, contesting Affco’s operational management.
At present, there are nine challenges still active.
The crux of the issue is the company insisting on its right to determine the flexibility and speed of the processing lines, and its accusation that the union is not sticking to proper dispute resolution protocols.
‘‘The company is fighting as to who manages Affco. Essentially, it is a struggle over management control,’’ Affco chief executive Hamish Simson said. ‘‘Management is seeking to draw a line on union influence in the workplace.’’
The statement accused the union of seeking greater workplace power and being ‘‘archaic and unrealistic’’.
Union secretary Dave Eastlake said the company was trying to starve workers into accepting changes to its collective employment agreement, giving the company total flexibility in its terms of employment.
Labour’s spokeswoman for labour issues, Darien Fenton, said the lock-out notice was another indication of worsening industrial relations in New Zealand, and likened it to the Ports of Auckland dispute.
‘ ‘ Locking out the entire workforce across the country is extreme,’’ Ms Fenton said.
She said there appeared to be a growing push by some employers to ‘‘casualise and de-unionise their workplaces’’.
Green Party industrial relations spokesperson Denise Roche said the Affco workers should not have to accept ‘‘casualisation’’ of their jobs. Bike Northland is proposing setting up a multi-sport hub on Whangarei’s Pohe Island and has approached national funding body Sparc to try to progress the plan.
Stu Bell, from Bike Northland, said Sparc had accepted an expression of interest from the sporting body for funding to explore the idea of setting up a sports hub on Pohe Island.
The first stage, if Sparc funding to employ a co-ordinator was granted, would be to bring the various sporting groups together, come up with a plan and seek funding from local and national bodies.
Representatives of Bike Northland and other groups have been working with Whangarei District Council staff to see how they could maximise the potential of Pohe Island, which is just minutes from the city centre.
Other sports and groups that have expressed an interest in being part of the sports hub include BMX, basketball, triathlon and multi-sports, orienteering and kick boxing. The Northland Rugby Union is also interested in setting up a floodlit training pitch on Pohe Island, which is the the site of the old district rubbish dump.
WDC has a management plan for Pohe Island, which sees it as an open recreation space and has identified cycling as one of the likely activities. BMX is already based on the site, while Madhatters Football Club has it’s clubroom and pitch there.
‘‘We want to help develop a vision of where Pohe Island will be in 20 to 50 years time. We see a sports hub as fitting in well with the management plan and will help get people up and active,’’ Mr Bell said.
‘‘A sport hub is a new concept, but they are doing them in other parts of the country, and one is being identified for Kaikohe’s Lindvart Park. We need to get that