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Freezing workers strike for locked out workmates

Published: 3:23PM Monday March 12, 2012 Source: ONE News

Workers at six Affco freezing works in the North Island today began a two-day strike in support of 1000 workers indefinitely locked out from the plants.

The strike affects Talley's six Affco freezing works in Moerewa, Horotiu, Rangiuru, Wairoa, Feilding and Wanganui and runs until 5am Wednesday.

Workers at the company's two meat processing plants in Wiri and Napier, which have no workers locked out, will strike in solidarity for two days from 5am Wednesday until 5am Friday.

Locked out Affco Moerewa worker Laurie Nankivell says meetings will be held with workers during the strikes to launch a phone number for donations. The phone number is 0900 LOCK OUT.

Nankivell who has eight children, including one who has also been locked out, says his family and 1,000 other locked out workers urgently need financial support.

"Talley's is trying to starve our whanau, my workmates and our communities that rely on our incomes, into submission," he said.

Nankivell said his workmates have been forced to escalate solidarity strikes because the company decided to lock them out after only 10 hours of face-to-face negotiations.

"They still haven't even bothered to respond to our last bargaining position."

Union members also started an indefinite overtime ban and work ban on training replacement labour for locked out workers from today.

'Total flexibility'

At a union meeting in Manawatu, workers were told the company wants to gain total flexibility with their working hours.

Roger Middlemass of the New Zealand Meatworkers Union told the workers: "You are locked out to compel you to do what they want."

The union says the company is trying to split its members by keeping some working and locking others outside the gates.

The two-day strike launched today is designed to pull all union members out of the freezing works.

Affco management claim they can weather the strikes and continue working. They also say their position in regard to the union remains unchanged.

It is a stalemate which is beginning to make life difficult for those out of work.

Feilding meatworker Sasa Tlitua  said: "I won't lie. I am worried yes. No one wants to stay home.":

Another Feilding meatworker, Tish Smith, said: "I just want to put food on the table. Get to work, put food on the table, provide for my family."

But some see the dispute as a major move towards restructuring of the freezing works industry, and a settlement may not come quickly.

"Affco Talleys have been planning this dispute for 18 months. So they've put a lot of effort into it and it will be difficult," Middlemass said.

 

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