27 Feb 2016

Meatworkers can return to work until hearing - ERA

1:09 pm on 27 February 2016

Two meatworkers fired from an AFFCO plant after going into work early to talk to union members have got their jobs back - for now.

Affco workers made the journey from Wairoa to Auckland for the hearing.

A file photo shows workers at a different AFFCO plant in December 2015. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The case is one of several ongoing legal disputes between the Meatworkers' Union and the company.

In early December, a worker at AFFCO's Rangiuru plant near Te Puke called union secretary Roberta Ratu to say union members were being harassed by supervisors and tempers were boiling over.

When Ms Ratu and delegate Charmaine Takai went to the plant before their shift to talk to members, a supervisor told them they were being suspended for breaching health and safety rules.

After an investigation meeting, they were dismissed.

They are taking their case for unjustified dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), which has ruled they can return to work until their hearing in April.

It said Ms Ratu's role as union secretary at the plant was important, and Ms Takai's reinstatement should also follow.

Meatworkers' Union campaign director Darien Fenton said the women were treated unfairly.

"They responded to calls they were getting at home. They were getting a lot of calls from people who were very upset.

"Their objective in going to the plant was to try and cool things down, tell people to do their jobs, just get on with it, and not do anything that was going to make things worse."

The women were delighted with the ERA's pre-hearing decision, she said.

AFFCO has been asked to comment.