Affco hearing adjourned over unspecific demands from union

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Affco’s legal battle with the New Zealand Meat and Related Trades Union over individual employment agreements has been put on hold while the union clarifies what remedies it seeks.

These remedies are due to be outlined in an Auckland Employment Court on Tuesday, when Affco’s legal representatives will argue the company’s defence.

This was scheduled to have begun on Monday, but was adjourned by three judges who said they wanted a more specific claim for remedies from the union.

Legal action was taken by the union over allegations that Affco unlawfully forced employees to accept individual contracts that imposed punitive conditions during collective bargaining processes.

The union also claimed that the contracts allowed Affco to refuse to reengage union members in new seasons, unless they accepted demands to participate in individual bargaining and sign an agreement on the employer’s terms.

250 workers initially refused to sign the contracts, but a spokesman for the union said that around 80 of those had now yielded.

The union has reportedly amended its statement of claim to include three additional plants, but the case is set to have implications for employers and workforces at all of the company’s eight North Island plants.

It will also seek the repudiation of the new contracts in favour of the workers’ expired collective contract.

Next month, Affco is due to attend another Employment Court hearing, which will allege that the company turned its back on the collective bargaining process in 2013.

According to Affco – which was the first company to apply for an end to bargaining under new legislation – the majority of its employees are now on individual contracts.

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