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Mediation Fails in New Zealand Meat Worker Dispute

Saturday, August, 15, 2015

The court mandated mediation between the AFFCO freezing works and the Meat Workers Union broke down recently when AFFCO used a new law that allows employees to walk away from the process. The union is concerned members might be forced to adhere to outrageous working conditions.  For nearly two years the two parties have been trying to reach an agreement. Now, meat workers are expected to strike.


Some workers have already been asked to sign an agreement with their employer to give access to their personal medical records if they try to file a claim for an accident or illness that was caused at work. The union claims other companies plan to ask of their employees the same. Some employees were also asked to sign paperwork agreeing to not have union meetings on work sites.


At least one company justified gaining access to health records claiming he did not want to put employees at risk for further health problems by asking them to do work for which they are incapable. He stated the request “helps us to ensure that we don't place people in positions which will, or may, aggravate existing conditions."


Union representatives believe the meat companies postponed negotiations over the course of the last two year, waiting for laws to change in their favor. One believes the tipping point in the negotiations came when one meat company withdraw seniority provisions that favored long-term workers.


Now, a strike looms and more than 1000 workers across eight sites are expected to participate. They feel the goal posts continue to be moved and they can never get anywhere with negotiations. Representatives from the meat company claim the strike is disruptive and unnecessary, and that they have been willing to bargain throughout the process.