Union & AFFCO workers back in court over lockout

By Harata Brown

NZ Meat Workers Trade Union and AFFCO are back in the Employment Court over its long running battle around Individual Employment Agreements (IEA's).

Today Te Kāea spoke with some of the union members who travelled from Wairoa who claim to be locked out of work at their local AFFCO plant.

Union Delegate, Peter Amato has worked at AFFCO for over 18 years and sees his employment as permanent as he's only had two weeks leave for the last 2 years.

He says, "Under this new term, if you've been there for 30 years it doesn't really matter, they'll get rid of you. At some point they are just trying to get rid of the senior members anyway."

Counsel for the Union, Peter Cranney says there are two related issues to the case, whether it was unlawful for AFFCO to bargain with union members individually and whether lockouts at AFFCO were unlawful.

Union members claim they are being compelled by AFFCO to sign (IEA's) instead of working by the Union's Collective Agreement.

Dave Anderson, Locked out Union Member explains, "We've managed to get on the emergency benefit, for some of our people it came too late so they have to sign and go back to work."

Counsel for AFFCO refused to comment, but in their submissions argue that the Union's collective agreement's jurisdiction has expired. Furthermore, AFFCO claims to offer IEA's to its workers because their employment is "seasonal" and they cannot employ people who do not have a contract.

Peter Amato added, “We'd rather be working than doing this, but we are here and we're standing up for the little people and the little towns of New Zealand.”

The Employment Court will hear the case over the next two days.