21 Feb 2014

Vexing sharemilking clause to be ditched

6:27 am on 21 February 2014

Sharemilkers and their dairy farmer employers have agreed to get rid of a clause in the standard sharemilking agreement that both describe as draconian.

Jersey cows in a herringbone milking shed in Huntly.

Jersey cows in a herringbone milking shed in Huntly. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The so called "set-off" clause gives farm owners the power to instruct their dairy company to withhold up to three-quarters of the milk payment due to a sharemilker during a dispute.

It's one of a number of changes under consideration in the Federated Farmers sharemilking agreement and still has to be ratified.

But farm employer and sharemilker representatives say the clause is outdated and against common law.

Employers chair Tony Wilding says the set-off clause is only supposed to be used after conciliation of the dispute has failed and the dispute is in arbitration, but there have been too many cases of it being misused and causing unnecessary heartache.

He says if the clause is taken out of the agreement it will not mean that the farm owner cannot instruct the dairy company to pay in a different way or change the payment because the dairy company takes the instruction from the shareholder.

Mr Wilding says it will mean the owner cannot hide behind a clause under the Federated Farmers sharemilking agreement that makes that action permissible under certain rules.

"So by taking it out, they stand the full force of common law if they've taken it out in a manner which is not correct."

Federated Farmers sharemilkers' chair Neil Filer says removing the offending clause will be a great relief.

He says the clause is not used very often, although when it is used it's usually by rogues and it's not a good look for the industry to have unscrupulous people using draconian clauses to better their own ends.

The new Herd Owning Sharemilker Agreement with the offending clause removed and other changes, will be available for the 2015-16 season.