12 Nov 2015

Māori farmer's protest will affect employment: AFFCO

4:35 pm on 12 November 2015

AFFCO, the Talley's owned meat processing company, is warning that it won't need to employ as many staff if Māori farmers withhold stock from the company.

People wave balloons and banners at a protest at the Wairoa Bridge in Hawke's Bay over AFFCO employment contracts.

People wave balloons and banners at a protest at the Wairoa Bridge in Hawke's Bay over AFFCO employment contracts. Photo: SUPPLIED

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) called on local iwi and Māori farmers to withhold their sheep and beef from AFFCO in a bid to restart contract talks.

More than 250 meat workers in the northern Hawke's Bay town of Wairoa, had been locked out of work for refusing to sign individual contracts as they wanted a collective contract reinstated.

The dispute is currently before the Employment Court and a decision is expected within a week.

Iwi leaders threatened to make the same call back in 2012, which was pivotal to ending an employment dispute between AFFCO and its staff.

The CTU hopes the same will happen again.

But the plan will backfire on what the union is trying to do, AFFCO general manager Rowan Ogg said.

"What I would say, from my perspective, is the number of people we can employ depends upon the flow of livestock, and quite frankly, restricting the flow of livestock will have an impact on employment."

There is very little difference between the union's threat in 2012 and this time, he said.

"People have joined the cause and effect and we don't necessarily accept that, in other words, the fact that that threat was made wasn't the driver to have people back in negotiations, the fact was that we, as did the union, wanted to conclude a collective."

AFFCO general manager Rowan Ogg

AFFCO general manager Rowan Ogg Photo: meatexportnz.co.nz/

The company would be worried if stock was withheld, Mr Ogg said.

"We would obviously be worried if anybody wanted to withhold stock for any reason. We don't see this is a particularly sensible reason because what's being offered is fair."

The number of Māori farmer suppliers and the amount of stock they supply is commercially sensitive, he said.

Figures provided by the Council of Trade Unions show back in 2012, Māori farmers owned up to seven point three million animals.