Oamaru employer loses major pay appeal

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An Oamaru meat processing plant is facing serious financial repercussions after the Court of Appeal refused to overturn a previous ERA decision.

In 2015, the Employment Relations Authority ordered Lean Meats to pay back years of arrears after it failed to pay rest breaks between April 1, 2009 and March 1, 2013.

A 2009 amendment to New Zealand employment law granted all full-time workers the right to two 10 minute paid breaks and one 30 minute meal break per day but Lean Meats did not change its policy and workers continued to have unpaid breaks.

After an unsuccessful appeal to the Employment Court, Lean Meats then took the case to the Court of Appeal but was once again unsuccessful, as the decision released yesterday reveals.

“We conclude that the Employment Court did not err in its finding,” stated the court in its decision. “Indeed we agree with Judge Corkill’s reasoning.”

The Court of Appeal also went on to confirm rest breaks should be paid at the same rate for which an employee would be paid to work and ordered Lean Meats to pay the union for court costs.

While Lean Meats was not available for immediate comment, Meat Workers Union Otago/Southland branch president Daryl Carran said hundreds of employees had been waiting on the decision and suggested the company may have to pay out as much as $1 million.

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