While John Key spins to prevent us knowing what he and John Banks really said at the tea party, 111 workers are into their third week of being locked out at the CMP Meatworks in Rangitikei.
The union and the company have been negotiating to renew the collective agreement at the plant since April 2011 but have not been able to reach an agreement as the company is seeking significant cuts in pay and allowances. Their stated goal is to remove 15% of the costs from the time a lamb enters the plant to it leaving, which means significant cuts of more than 20% in overall pay for the workers.
On 3 October the company issued a lock-out notices to 300 members of the meat workers union. The notice said that to return to work the workers had to agree to the employers claim for a new collective agreement incorporating the new rates of pay and proposed changes to shift organisation.
Before the lockout , the company put all the workers on annual leave for a week. During this week they contacted many workers one at a time and offered them individual agreements with the pay cuts and told them that if they signed the lock out notice would not apply to them. They were also required to resign from the union.
Over 100 workers signed without union advice and returned to work. Many were migrants who would have been afraid for their jobs. These workers now on individual agreements, and because the season is not yet in full swing the company is able to continue to operate and leave the remaining 111 workers locked out (since 19 October).
The annual income of these workers varies but on average they range from $43,000 to $46,000 with the bottom earnings as low as $23,000 and a top income of $53,800 which includes additional shifts. The workers have offered to take a 10% pay cut which is extremely significant on these low wages – but this has been rejected by the company.
Not a good situation for the workers or the community to be in . John Key should pay attention, or is this a precursor of the “balance and fairness” we could all be up for under National’s Employment Relations policy?
If you want to help these workers and their families go here.