200 more workers face Easter lockout

Sam Boyer April 4, 2012

Up to 200 meat workers at Affco's Rangiuru plant are set to be locked out over Easter.

National Meat Workers Union spokesman Dave Eastlake said 480 workers at eight of Affco's North Island plants would be locked out on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Between 160 and 200 workers at the Rangiuru plant, near Te Puke, have been locked out.

These numbers add to the 1000-plus workers locked out since the end of February.

Mr Eastlake said the move would save Talley's, the food processing giant which owns the Affco plants, hundreds of thousands of dollars in statutory holiday pay and the union was seeking legal advice.

Union president Mike Nahu said union members would continue to strike in solidarity with locked-out co-workers to ensure working conditions were improved.

Mediation between the company and the union is set for April 12, but neither side appears confident of a resolution.

"The union is going there positive, trying to work out a solution. But it's not a solution at any cost.

"The end goal is to settle the collective. I don't think we are being too demanding in what we want.

"The main stumbling block for us and for them is their claims ... the working terms and conditions.

"I mean, how the hell can you go to work on any given day and you never know your terms and conditions. It's like employing a builder to build a four-storey house and then expecting him to build a six-storey house for the same price in the same time," he said. Affco operations manager Rowan Ogg agreed an immediate resolution was unlikely.

"The parties are a long way apart at the moment. It'll take more than one mediation to make meaningful progress," he said.

The Easter lockouts were part of a promise he delivered to workers in a letter more than two weeks ago.

"Back in history we advised all the staff that if they went on strike there was every likelihood they would be locked out for the Friday and Monday and would not get the statutory holiday pay," he said.

"[But] they do have a choice - they can sign an individual [contract] and get back to work. But they are choosing not to do that."

He said "in excess of half" of Affco's plant workers were on individual contracts.

"And it's growing all the time."

Scotty Collings, a Rangiuru worker with the company for 22 years, is one of those locked out from his workplace. He said Affco's lockouts had made his life difficult, but leaving the collective was not an option.

"It's hard. My creditors' kids are going hungry now," he said.

"I can't pay child support anymore. I can't go anywhere because I can't afford petrol."

Mr Collings, who has his 3-year-old son in the weekends, said the lockout had made it hard to be a good dad.

"I have him every second weekend but I can't do anything with him. I can't even afford to buy him an ice-cream."