In a three-day court ruling that concluded on 12 February, Judge Corkill said workers had been illegally locked out of the meat processing plant in the day. Affco also breached section 32 of the Employment Relations Act (2000) by not acting in good faith towards its employees, he ruled.
The New Zealand Meat Workers Trade Union hailed the court’s decision and said it had finally delivered “justice” to the 200 employees whose jobs were under threat.
Fight for your rights
“This decision is a strong one and has given heart to Wairoa Meat Workers Union members who have bravely stood up for their rights,” said Darien Fenton, the Meat Workers Trade Union national organising director.
Affco has until Tuesday 23 February to comply with the court’s ruling and re-employ the meat workers. If it fails, a compliance order will be logged against the company.
Remuneration for the employees, who were locked out of their daytime shifts since November, is also being considered by Judge Corkill, but no decision has been made on this yet.
In November 2015, the court ruled that Affco’s lock-out of employees who had refused to sign a contract for working night shifts was illegal.
Some workers at the Wairoa-based plant did sign the new contracts, but other employees with more senior roles at the meat processing plant refused to sign. This sparked several months of protracted and ultimately unsuccessful negations with Affco and the case was taken to the New Zealand’s employment court.
Affco, a Tally’s subsidiary, is one of New Zealand’s largest meat processing companies, with nine plants that specialise in beef, veal, lamb, poultry, seafood and dairy.
The company has not confirmed if it will appeal the court’s ruling.