NZ’s worst employer isn’t letting the day off tomorrow stop them from bullying its employees. Management at Talley’s AFFCO Rangiuru meat processing plant have ordered staff to turn up for work tomorrow or risk being sacked. They have also weirdly claimed that if workers observe the public holiday that they are entitled to, that would be an illegal strike. No really, that’s what they reckon.
In a further twist, they have threatened to sue the Meatworkers Union if individual workers choose to take the day off. However, rather than actually talk to the MWU about it, they put that last threat in a notice to individual union members. They’re a strange lot.
Talleys is one of the first companies to flout the Mondayising of Waitangi Day law. It won’t be the last, because the National Government’s continuous weakening of the Employment Relations Act is designed to allow companies like Talley’s to brutalise their employees. I hear talk of other companies who are now moving toward the Talley’s model of wage slavery because they cannot afford to be the only players in the meat industry still trying to be good employers.
Under law changes agreed by Parliament in 2013, where Waitangi Day falls on a Saturday, as it has this year, the holiday is observed on a Monday for those who don’t normally work weekends. But Talley’s apparently regard themselves as exempt. Their understanding of employment law appears to be restricted to launching endless suits against the MWU which are for the most part frivolous, vexatious and presumably intended to bankrupt the union.
In order to maximise profits and minimise worker entitlements, the company has regularly resorted to bullying and threats, in this case, issuing legal letters to workers saying they could be disciplined and their union sued for an unlawful strike if workers exercise their rights to a paid day off tomorrow.
“The Holidays Act is clear. Employers cannot require workers to work a public holiday unless there is provision in their employment agreement. The AFFCO Talley’s expired collective agreement has no such provision” says Darien Fenton, NZMWU Director of Organising.
“AFFCO Talleys threats have left their workforce confused, angry and uncertain what to do. Efforts by the union to engage with the company have been met with no constructive response.” Fenton says.
The company’s refusal to engage with the MWU on this matter is no surprise. Good faith appears to be a foreign concept to them. Labour’s spokesperson on workplace relations, Iain Lees – Galloway was scathing, pointing out that the Employment Court had directed Talley’s to respect the provisions of the Collective Employment agreement.
“Talley’s need to understand they are not a law unto themselves. They’ve been told by the court to honour the agreement. They should do that and respect their workers’ right to a day off.” says Lees-Galloway.
He’s right. The recent Employment Court decision against Talleys is one of the strongest spankings any company has received in recent years. Yet they carry on their campaign against their workers anyway. However, to be fair, it’s not like they think their generous donations to the National Party buy them immunity. That’s not the way things work in NZ. Probably.
Given that a lot of the of the workers at Rangiuru are tangata whenua, to deny them the holiday they are entitled to on Waitangi Day is nothing short of racism. In the last few weeks, Talleys have stood three workers down for wearing union t shirts; all of them Maori. On top of that, Bertie Ratu, Charmaine Takai and George Rarahuri have been sacked. All union, all Maori.
Coincidence? You be the judge.
Enjoy your day off tomorrow, readers. Be happy you don’t work for Talleys. And, please, don’t give them your money the next time you go shopping. Buy from ethical sources instead.
Instead, donate to the victim’s of Talley’s bigotry:
The bank account: Westpac 03 0785 0337075 02 (Wairoa Freezing Workers Union/koha)
The website: Jobs That Count