Affco workers on strike after lock out of 776

Unionised Affco meat workers are on strike today (2 March 2012) in support of 776 colleagues locked out by the company.

Pickets started at the five lockout-affected North Island meat plants from 5am.

The five plants are Affco's national headquarters, Horotiu in the Waikato, Moerewa in Northland, Feilding, Whanganui and Wairoa.

New Zealand Meatworkers Union general secretary Dave Eastlake said 1700 unionised workers would strike for the day.

He said the lockout notice did not apply to 1000 union members at the plants or another 700 members at three other Affco operations in Wiri in Auckland, Te Puke and Napier.

However company chief executive Hamish Simson said the union's numbers were on the high side. He said the potential number of strikers was 1200 - including the 776 locked out.

The plants would continue to operate during the strike and indefinite lockout, he said.

The company has previously said "significant" numbers of staff are on individual contracts.

The union served the strike notice on Affco management on Tuesday after a failed mediation meeting.

That was a day before the union held secret strike ballots which Eastlake said overwhelmingly supported strike action.

The ballots also supported a week-long work ban on training replacement labour for locked-out workers.

Eastlake said further disruption to farmers was regretted, but Affco said farmers were not impacted.