Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Talley's New Zealands worst employer

SPECIAL ISSUE on Talley’s disgusting treatment of its staff as they chop wages and employment security, just imagine how you would feel if you had no security of future income and you couldn’t get the pension or assistance via the welfare system. So I plead with you to read carefully the fact sheet, and forward it to your friends. Consider carefully its requests. Good people standing together can achieve wonders…  

As you may be aware, Talleys Affco are determined to destroy the MWU by any means and that the MWU have been and still are attempting to assist their members…Unions in NZ are legal, New Zealanders have a right to bargain collectively with employers.
Talley’s are using the old but standard practice of divide and rule…and they do that by locking out some while allowing others to work…but hundred of those being allowed to work have decided to strike to stand alongside those locked out. Below is a fact sheet that covers what is happening right now.

Talley’s/AFFCO Fact Sheet

2 May 2012

The Meat Workers Union (MWU) has over 1300 workers in AFFCO meat plants located in:  Moerewa, Horotiu (near Hamilton), Rangiuru (near Te Puke), Wairoa, Whanganui, and Feilding.  It also has a membership in two small leather processing plants in Wiri (Auckland) and Napier.
AFFCO is owned by the Talleys.  This is one of the biggest privately owned companies in the country and the Talley family have interests in meat, dairy, fish and horticulture.  Combined it employs up to 4500 New Zealand workers.  The NBR rich list has the family wealth estimated at $300 million.
On 24 February this year after only 10 hours of negotiations for a new Collective Agreement, the company gave the MWU notice of an indefinite lockout for 770 of its 1300 members leaving the remaining to continue working.  The MWU subsequently issued a number of limited days strike action for those remaining in the plants and these non-locked out workers have now been on an indefinite strike in support of those locked out in an effort to renew the collective agreement since 13th April.  As at 2 May the locked out workers have been locked out for 65 days without pay!  Some locked out workers are entitled to an emergency Winz benefit – those on strike are not.
On 1 May in an effort to split the workforce further, Talleys lifted the lock out on 300 workers leaving them subject to the union strike notice and cutting off their access to a benefit.  None of the 300 were union delegates or officials and nor did those “unlocked” have seniority in the plants. 
We estimate up to 5000 children are impacted by the lockout.
What are the issues?
Talleys /AFFCO workers are covered by a core collective agreement with site agreements determining additional terms and conditions.  The core pay rates range from $13.48 to $15.76 per hour.  On top of this workers are paid a rate based on the number of animals killed.  If the “tally” for the day is reached, wages range from $27 to $31 per hour.  The work is seasonal (2 to 11 months per year, with many short days and short weeks even during the season).
To secure wages set by tally, manning levels and tally rates are agreed.  The company wants the right to change these unilaterally stating the need to manage the plants according to changing circumstances.  The union has agreed they should manage the plant but want provisions in the agreement to continue to secure the large part of wages that are currently determined by tally and manning numbers.  They agree that AFFCO should manage but not manipulate!  The company is saying it won’t use the changes to reduce pay but will not put this in writing.
On 1 and 2 May further mediation took place.  After a relatively constructive day on 1 May, the company returned on 2 May with an entirely new collective employment agreement demanding it now be agreed.  This agreement removes all seniority and entitlement to reappointment in a new season.  It allows the company the right to dismiss union members it determines “incompatible” even if no misconduct has occurred, it removes several regular payments from agreements and makes a number of other significant changes that will reduce pay and employment security significantly.
Seniority is extremely important in seasonal work.  It means that between seasons and when work opportunities are reduced during a season (due to declining stock), those with the most service are given preference for work.  It removes any “arbitrary” decision making by employers about who they retain etc, and ensures workers are able to raise issues with their employer during the season (e.g. health and safety) without fear that they will be laid off without cause. 
Without seniority protection, between seasons workers have no guarantee that they will be re-employed.  In the case of AFFCO, the company has expressed a preference for non union members on individual agreements.  If it can ignore seniority, it can give work to non union workers and new workers ahead of those longest serving that chose to stay in the union and refuse to sign IEAs.  Season to season the company can use the threat of loss of employment to reduce and change conditions of employment at will.
The company has said it wants reduced Union presence in the plant.  It is offering workers the ability to return to work if they leave the union and sign an IEA.  The company is notoriously anti-union and has de-unionised in many its other businesses.  The Meat Workers Union believes this to be a major driver in the companies’ aggressive approach to this bargaining.
Where to from here?
There is further mediation set down for 7 and 8 May in Auckland.  There is also a Court hearing booked for 16 May to hear the unions claim that the lock out is not lawful and the employment authority has agreed to facilitation for the parties.  The workers are continuing to picket and campaign and organise community support. 
The major needs are for support at the protests and pickets and for donations of food and money.  To sustain such a large group of workers requires large amounts of regular funds.  It costs $50,000 per week to provide as little as $40 per member for food – much more is needed.
Economic pressure is also needed.  We are calling on AFFCO suppliers to send stock to other companies.  We are seeking any support around ensuring this company operates a triple bottom line including being a good employer before it has access to water and other natural resources.  We are asking customers to consider other products than those produced by the Talley Group Ltd.  We are not encouraging anyone to breach contracts with the company but where there is discretion, we are asking that it be exercised!
There is a website at  for more information. 

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