More than 200 meat workers lined Wairoa Bridge today in protest against the terms of employment imposed on them by AFFCO Talley's.
Terms workers must accept if they want to keep their jobs. But the workers say the conditions are slave labour and take away all their rights.
They're all members of the NZ Meat Workers Union and they've had their collective employment agreement binned by their employer, AFFCO Talley's.
Phillip Reweti says, “The one message is Talley's give us a fair deal, that's what we want.”
Workers say they've been given a take it or leave it approach. Either accept the terms and conditions of a new individual employment agreement or leave it.
Justin Kaimoana says, “They take away our job security for a start. They can hire and fire you, seniority is like the backbone of the union and they're trying to take that away from us. We've got fallas been here 40, 50 years and they're unsure whether they're going to get a job.”
Steve Shelford says, “They bully workers into signing contracts. They say they give you fair contracts out but they're not. We've got to accept what terms they give us and that leaves us with no rights in the workplace.”
Workers say accepting the individual agreement would also mean longer hours for much less pay.
If no agreement can be reached, it means that most workers will have to leave town in search of other job opportunities.
Roberta Nicholson says, “I don't have a clue mate, but I'm sure we'll be able to go and look for one. But I don't want to leave town, I want to stay here.”
These workers say they'll take this stand for as long as it takes, whether it's days, weeks or months, until AFFCO Talley's comes to the table.
This dispute has been on-going since 2013, when the collective agreement expired and re-negotiations failed.