The long running battle between the meat company AFFCO and its workers in Wairoa over signing individual contracts is before the employment court in Auckland today.
A collective agreement with the meat company expired almost two years ago and union members are fighting signing individual contracts.
Several meat workers have made the journey from Wairoa for the hearing, where the Meat Workers Union is arguing AFFCO workers have been illegally locked out from work.
However, AFFCO said before the hearing it can't employ people without a contract.
A lawyer for the Meat Workers Union, Peter Cranney, said the two issues in the case are whether it was unlawful for AFFCO to bargain with union members individually, and whether lockouts at AFFCO were unlawful.
The case is expected to run for two days.
Mr Cranney told the judges that a lockout is a very powerful economic weapon that can be linked to poverty and depravation.