When locals won’t work . . .

August 18, 2018

The Meatworkers’ Union isn’t happy that Alliance Group is bringing in  100 overseas workers for its Southland plants.

New Zealand Meatworkers Union said there were plenty of local workers vying for jobs that could now be going to overseas workers.

However, the company is standing firm. It said it was recruiting abroad to cover a worker shortage. . . 

The union’s Otago-Southland secretary Gary Davis said the decision would hit some Southland families hard.

The seasonal work often meant workers would finish at one plant and go to the other for additional work, Mr Davis said.

“If these people are brought in from overseas they’ll get a job there so they’ll fill in those positions.”

About 30 people could miss out on the additional work, he said. . .

Good local workers were applying to work at the plants, but they were being rejected, he said.

There was not enough education, training or support to assist more Southland workers to enter the industry, he said. . . 

The company has a different story.

Alliance Group refused to be interviewed today but in a statement, manufacturing general manager Willie Wiese said employing and upskilling New Zealanders was always their preference.

Sourcing seasonal workers remained one of its biggest challenges, despite running extensive recruitment campaigns.

Unemployment is now down to a level where most of those out of work don’t want to, or can’t, work.

Challenges in the meat industry include getting enough workers who are drug and alcohol free and who want to work the whole season.

Meat company workers earn big money for a few months and some of them decide they have earned enough part way through the season and no longer want to work full time, if at all.

The company might prefer to employ and train locals but it they won’t work it has to look for overseas workers who will.


Rural round-up

June 15, 2013

Field Days opinion poll reveals effects of the drought is seen as biggest challenge for agricultural industry:

An opinion poll of visitors to the annual Agricultural Field Days 2013 shows that 54% of respondents believe the effects of the nationwide drought are the biggest challenge facing New Zealand’s agricultural industry this year.

The Aggreko Thought Generator poll was conducted during the first three days of Field Days event. Visitors completed an iPad questionnaire hosted by Aggreko, the world leader in the supply of temporary power and temperature control solutions. The poll aimed to gauge industry sentiment around a number of topical issues. . .

Key notes: supporting rural communities:

New Zealand’s primary industries have been in the spotlight this week, with the annual Fieldays taking place at Mystery Creek near Hamilton.  I’m enjoying talking to farmers, exhibitors, and members of the public at the event today.

Fieldays is an opportunity for us to reflect on the importance of our rural communities.  Agriculture and the wider primary sector are the backbone of New Zealand’s economy.  When it succeeds, New Zealand succeeds.

National’s economic plan has real benefits for the primary sector. When we cut the company tax rate to 28 cents in the dollar in 2010, we knew this would make life easier for New Zealand businesses, including farmers. And it has. . . .

Bloody Friday – Offsetting Behaviour:

Saturday mornings, I cook pancakes. While cooking pancakes, I listen to Duncan Smith and Susan Murray’s Country Life programme on Radio New Zealand (as do all good Kiwis). It’s often a wonderful celebration of rural entrepreneurship.

I had never heard of Bloody Friday. And so I last week learned something new.

Friday, 9 June, 1978: 300 farmers released 1300 ewes onto the streets of Invercargill, herded them through the streets, then slaughtered them right there to the surprise of onlookers.

The Meatworkers’ Union had made it impossible for the farmers to get their stock to slaughter. Sheep were starving in the paddocks because the feed had run out; the farmers had planned on getting their stock to market rather earlier. . .

Bloody Friday farmers praised for bravery -Terri Russell:

 Hundreds of Southland farmers involved in the 1978 “Bloody Friday” protest were praised for their bravery at the weekend.

About 200 people gathered at the Invercargill Workingmen’s Club for the 35th anniversary of the protest, when farmers ran 1300 ewes down Dee St before slaughtering them on a Victoria Ave section.

Farmers were frustrated by industrial chaos across the meat industry, exacerbated by the worst drought much of the province had seen since 1956.

Protest leader Syd Slee said there were about 200 people at the reunion and half were involved in the protest. “We’re very proud looking back on the protest,” he said. . . .

New Leadership for Young Farmers:

Cole Groves has been voted the new Chairman for New Zealand Young Farmers. Mr Groves takes the helm after Paul Olsen who stepped down from his two-year term.

“It’s a fantastic group of people”, Mr Groves said. “It’s a big honour”.

Mr Groves previously served on the board as an elected member for two years, and he views his new appointment as an opportunity to give back to an organisation that has given him plenty.

“I’ve gotten so much out of my involvement with Young Farmers; from self-development to growing my business contacts”, commented Mr Groves. . .

Wools of NZ appoints new CEO:

Wools of New Zealand Limited is pleased to announce the appointment of Ross Townshend as its new Chief Executive Officer. The appointment follows the successful capitalisation of Wools of New Zealand completed in March of this year and is in line with the company’s strategy of putting the necessary people and processes in place to effectively run a 100% grower-owned sales and marketing company.

Mark Shadbolt, Chairman of Wools of New Zealand, said that after a rigorous selection process spanning several months the Board was delighted that Townshend, a Waikato sheep farmer and a shareholder of Wools of New Zealand, had accepted the role. . . .

Bioenergy association  statement – Woodscape:

Bioenergy Association is encouraged by the wood processing sector identification of the value of business opportunities from biofuels.

Recent research undertaken for the forestry and wood processing sector has identified that some emerging biofuel technologies can provide attractive additional revenue streams for existing businesses.

Speaking today, Mr Brian Cox, Executive Officer of the Bioenergy Association of New Zealand (BANZ) said that “BANZ welcomes the release of the Woodco research project (WoodScape) which evaluates a number of possible investment opportunities for the wood processing sector. The report shows that the emerging technologies for producing transport biofuels can be financially attractive as new enterprises. However these would be even more attractive as bolt-ons to existing business which already have the infrastructure and technical capabilities to extend into these new products.” . . .

Industry Happy to Talk About Sharing the Otago-Southland Paua Fishery:

The Otago Southland paua industry says it wants to make the most of the next few months to try to reach agreement with recreational and customary paua divers over shared access for areas of the coastline.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, has announced that consultation on commercial access would continue for areas that previously had been closed because of a health risk. . .

Release of new fish stock assessment:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released the latest comprehensive scientific assessment of the status of New Zealand’s fisheries.

“The 2013 plenary report provides us with valuable, peer-reviewed scientific information on the status of our fish stocks and fisheries” says Dr Pamela Mace, Principal Advisor Fisheries Science for MPI.

“Many of the assessments indicate there is scope for increases in current catch limits. Hoki is the “star” performer. A few short years ago, there was concern that the western stock had become depleted. Science has driven strong and decisive management action and ensured the full restoration of hoki New Zealand-wide, even surpassing management benchmarks.” . . .


Why was MWU afraid of sunlight?

November 29, 2012

A year ago Allan Barber began trying to discover the true state of the Meatworkers’ Union’s finances.

His perseverance paid off and the consolidated accounts have been posted on the Incorporated Societies’ website. There is a considerable difference between the figures in these accounts and those first submitted:

In contrast to the original set of accounts which showed the national office as having net assets of less than $1 million, the true picture incorporating all the branches shows net assets of over $5 million.

Barber says there doesn’t appear to be anything untoward in the accounts so why was the union afraid of exposing the full accounts to sunlight?


Nelson trip exercise in futility

May 10, 2012

Goodness only knows what striking meatworkers thought they’d achieve by going to Nelson to put their case to the Talley family.

It was an exercise in futility summed up by Allan Barber:

. . . this isn’t a dispute that will be resolved by the employer’s sympathy for the plight of workers who are out of work, but by constructive negotiation between the parties. This is where it gets difficult, because there doesn’t appear to be any constructive desire by the Meat Workers Union or its members to try to understand what AFFCO or its owners actually want.

The union contents itself with repeating platitudes about hard nosed, union bashing employers not being willing to make any concessions which would enable its members to get back to work. In the meantime families suffer, union members increasingly resign from the union and sign individual agreements, and the season continues without the locked out or striking workers. But it will all be over by the end of June because there won’t be any more meaningful plant throughput that can’t be handled quite easily by non union workers.

AFFCO, and make no mistake AFFCO is the employer, not the Talley family members, wants to achieve a clear, modern and flexible collective agreement which reflects today’s meat industry. The days of thirty or forty years ago when the Meat Workers Union representatives cut their teeth in the industry are long gone. Sheep numbers have more than halved, prime cattle volumes are down and the biggest single species is boner cows destined for the US grinding trade. . .

My father was a carpenter at the freezing works several decades ago when strikes were much more common.

Being on the maintenance staff he was usually not directly affected but I remember him talking about the short-sighted actions of the strikers, often losing more pay on the days they had off than they’d gain in pay increases which was often what they were striking for.

Then, though, the balance of power was in the workers’ favour. Stock numbers were high and increasing and there was pressure on killing space, especially during droughts when farms ran short of feed.

The ag-sag of the 80s and subsequent drop in stock numbers changed the balance and the AFFCO workers couldn’t have chosen a worse season to try to exert pressure on their employers.

All meat companies are having a very difficult year. Stock is in short supply and there’s a falling market which means AFFCO probably isn’t losing much by having staff on strike.

The Meatworkers Union is trying to keep last century’s work practices which are unaffordable and inappropriate in 2012.


SFF calls meeting with Silverstream meatworkers

July 17, 2008

Silver Fern Farms has called a meeting today of 300 workers at its Silverstream lamb cutting plant near Mosgiel, but the Otago Daily Times  understands the plant is not going to close.

Up to 300 people work at the North Taieri plant in the peak of the season, and while the exact nature of the meeting was not clear last night, its immediate future appeared secure.

Meatworkers union officials were in the dark as to the nature of the meeting, but were confident the former Fortex meat plant would not close. SFF chief executive Keith Cooper declined to comment.

The plant processes and packages lamb carcasses from SFF works at Waitane (near Gore), Finegand (near Balclutha) and Pareora (near Timaru) for shipment to international markets and has been fitted out with some of the latest robotic technology.

New Zealand Meat Workers Union Otago president Daryl Carran had no idea what was in store at today’s meeting.

“I’m not sure what we’re expecting. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Workers were nervous given SFF had embarked on Project Right Size, which aligned processing capacity with livestock supply and looked at the way the company did business.

The project has seen the company quit some non-strategic assets, such as part ownership of its Dunedin head office and overseas businesses and offices, and the closure of deer processing plants at Burnside and the Waikato, the Oringi sheep meat plant in the Hawkes Bay and a lambskin processing business in Balclutha.

Plant closures have so far resulted in the loss of more than 600 positions, but Mr Cooper has said the project was coming to an end.


Oringi closure first but won’t be last.

May 13, 2008

The numbers tell the story – New Zealand’s sheep population is falling. Twenty years ago we had around 60 million sheep, now ther are fewer than 40 million so it wasn’t surprising that the Meatworkers Union was supportive, at least in principle, of the Alliance proposal for a mega-merger.

 

The combination of drought and conversion to dairy or dairy support has led to a dramatic decrease in sheep numbers. That in turn means there is an over supply of killing capacity and the unions wisely decided an orderly process of reorganisation would be preferable to a disorderly one.

 

However, PPCS turned down the mega-merger proposal which would have resulted in a new company combining the two big players, Alliance and PPCS, and some smaller companies to control 80% of the country’s sheep meat trade.

 

Today’s announcement that PP is closing its Oringi processing plant near Danneverke is sudden but not surprising. It will be a blow for the workers and will have an economic and social impact on the community. It will add to uncertainty at other works too because it is very unlikely this will be the last freezing works to close in the near future.

 

The outlook for sheep farming is looking up, but numbers are still going down. Just this week a record price of $32.5 million was paid for a 3,139 hectare Waipa Valley farm. It has been used to finish sheep and beef but the new owners plan to use it for dairy grazing.  

This illustrates the gap between incomes for dairying and sheep farming and indicates there is not going to be a sudden recovery in sheep numbers.


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