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While it’s good that the lockout threat has been lifted at the Ports of Auckland, the on-going plight of locked out meat workers in small town New Zealand must not be forgotten, says Labour’s spokesperson for labour issues Darien Fenton.
“About 1000 workers employed by Talley's AFFCO meatworks are now into their 5th week of being locked out.
“While Talley’s have agreed to attend mediation, they have also indicated their intention to lock out an additional 500 workers over the Easter period.
“Many of the Talley’s AFFCO plants are in small towns, where the freezing works provide core income for workers and their families. When these workers go without pay, the local community and economy suffer too.
“In towns like Moerewa and Wairoa where families already struggle, the local community is now having to dig deep to provide support for these families.
“We’re not talking about a highly paid or inflexible workforce in these meatworks, but Talley’s is using the blunt instrument of lockout to force these workers into changes that will have an impact on their livelihoods and their employment security.
“The Meat Workers Union has repeatedly said it is ready and willing to negotiate a fair and reasonable collective agreement.
“This lockout will see our reputation as an exporter of primary produce suffer, as we saw in the CMP Rangitikei Meatworks lockout last year, when UK retailer Waitrose expressed concern about the company’s ethical trading stance.
"The only reasonable way for this dispute to end is through good faith bargaining," said Darien Fenton.