AFFCO union members targeted -- union

AFFCO union members targeted -- union

A rift has divided an east coast town. Wairoa residents say it started in 2010, when Talley's took ownership of the AFFCO plant.

Instead of using collective agreements in line with the union, it presented workers with individual employment agreements, or IEAs.

"We've got a son, father, grandfather. Some are IEAS; some are union. There's a big rift in their family, town. There's a big rift in this whole town," says union delegate Teena Davis.

Last June, those who refused to sign the individual agreements were shut out. The union workers took AFFCO to court. They won and were reinstated.

But they told The Hui that as union members, they now feel targeted.

After Dave Anderson returned to work, he was ordered to take a drug test.

"It said I had methamphetamine in my blood stream. I don't have any of that. There's no way I would jeopardise my job."

Mr Anderson got his own test done, which came back negative. He's been reinstated with back pay.

Wairao residents say an employment dispute at the AFFCO meat processing plant has split the community. The freezing works has been a stable form of employment since 1916, but locals say that all changed when the AFFCO plant was bought by food processing giant Talley's five years ago.

The New Zealand Meat Workers Union says this is a pattern for the company.

"Talley's has a reputation that goes back years. It goes back decades actually, not only in the meat industry but also in fishing, seafood processing industry, the vegetable processing industry.

"You will find there are a litany of Employment Court decisions against this company where workers have tried to form unions," says Darien Fenton from New Zealand Meat Workers' Union.

In a statement AFFCO said: "This is not about unions or non-unions. It's about having modern terms to ensure the future of the business for all stakeholders."

The meat plant has been operating since 1916, and has provided employment for generations of local families.

The big question in Wairoa now is will future employment depend on a willingness to sign away some of the rights workers have fought so hard for.