Talley's fined for bullying union members

Butcher in bloodied jacket and gloves carves the fat from an aged porterhouse (T-bone) steak.

Talley's-owned South Pacific Meats has been slapped with another fine in its ongoing stoush with the Meat Workers Union.

The Employment Relations Authority has ordered the company to pay $35,000 to a worker the union says was fired for handing out union material at the Awarua plant in Invercargill.

"Katrina Murray is a highly skilled worker, always open and honest, who was good enough to be employed in Norway meat works during the New Zealand off-season," says Daryl Carran, president of the Otago-Southland branch of the Meat Workers Union.

"She was looking after her mum, who was undergoing chemotherapy when the company wrongly claimed they could not contact her to return to work after the off-season."

Talley's subsidiary Affco -- which owns South Pacific Meats -- denied the union's claim she was fired, saying she wasn't rehired because her phone number had been disconnected. 

"When Ms Murray finally made contact with South Pacific Meats to notify her availability, the shift had started and been running for approximately three weeks and her department was fully manned," says spokesperson Andy Leonard.

"The Employment Authority has found this was unjustified dismissal," says Mr Carran.

Talley's must also pay $3700 to Cliff Kruskopk, who was warned after he pinned a union newsletter to a noticeboard.

"There's a clear message there that if you're in the union there'll be detrimental consequences, as you've seen with these two people at Awarua," says Mr Carran.

Affco said the newsletter contained "untrue, misleading and defamatory" claims. 

South Pacific Meats was recently fined $140,000 for breaches of union access requirements, but the union wants harsher penalties.

"That might be the only thing that brings Talley's to the table to sit down and work out some reasonable way of dealing with them," says Mr Carran. "So far we've failed to find it, and so has every other union that's dealt with them in the past."

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