Affco attempt to silence union declined

Good-faith bargaining resumes.

Affco Holdings, the meat company owned by Talley's Group, and the Meatworkers Union have resumed good faith bargaining for a new collective agreement under the auspices of a private mediator.

The resumption of talks is included in Judge Bruce Corkill's conclusions in a November 23 interlocutory judgment against Affco, which had sought an interim compliance order to stop union officials criticising the company and its associated entities. Affco had sought to restrain the union from publishing derogatory statements and to prevent a certain official from acting as the union's representative at meetings or mediations.

Affco had originally complained to the Employment Relations Authority about comments on various websites associated with the union, including tweets by union official Darien Fenton that were critical of the way Affco ran its plants and also critical of the Talley family, and Sir Peter Talley's knighthood. The ERA referred the matter to the Employment Court resulting in the judgment.

Judge Corkill in the Employment Court ruled that neither the court nor the Employment Relations Authority had jurisdiction to grant the relief sought by Affco. In his conclusion, he said it wasn't necessary for him to weigh the "competing factual assertions which the parties have made" but in case the matter went further, he "wished to hear from counsel."

The judge said he was aware that since the hearing, the parties "had agreed to resume bargaining in good faith for a new collective employment agreement, with the assistance of a private mediator. In those circumstances, it appears that events have moved on, and it may be unnecessary for the court to review a great deal of material where each party has been very critical of the other; indeed, it may be counter-productive for this to occur."

He gave the lawyers 21 days to file memoranda indicating whether the court, having indicated it didn't have jurisdiction, should "alternatively express findings as to the factual merits which arise on the material before the court; including whether there is a breach of section 4 of the act" and, if so, whether such a judgment shouldn't be issued until after mediation between the parties has concluded.