20 Mar 2015

Workers want a voice in meat reform moves - union

2:39 pm on 20 March 2015

The Meatworkers Union says it and the more than 20,000 workers it represents want a say in any rationalisation moves that flow out of the Meat Industry Excellence study released this week.

The study provided the analysis to back up the farmer group's campaign for reforms to make the red meat sector more efficient and profitable for the companies as well as the farmers.

They would include mergers and closing plants to tackle the industry's chronic processing overcapacity. The report suggested about a third of the processing plants currently operating might need to close.

The Union's national secretary Graham Cooke said it accepted that over capacity was an issue and that plants may have to close.

But he said meat industry restructuring also had to include improved job security and conditions for the workforce.

"We do recognise the problems of over capacity. What it's doing to the industry because of its competitive nature, is creating a lot of friction between the plants in terms of short time, jobs being very insecure.

"We've got a plant in Christchurch, South Pacific Meats, where they are bringing in zero hour contracts. Now, our members don't want to see the industry heading down that path.

"So there's going to be quite a bit of debate about this whole question of over capacity. There are 23,000 meat workers, 90 percent of them are union members and they want a say in their futures," Mr Cooke said.

"We've seen in the past meat companies are closing their plants all over the country, and then another company will come along and build a brand new plant, not necessarily more technologically advanced than the plants that are closing.

"So there is a real higgledy-piggledy approach to he meat industry at the moment and it does need a united voice, and we want to be part of that New Zealand incorporated approach."

Mr Cooke said the Meatworkers Union's Jobs that Count campaign would help the workforce through any reform processed.

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