Affco granted leave to appeal ruling that seasonal workers are continuously employed
Affco NZ, the Talleys Group-controlled meat processor, has been granted leave to appeal an Employment Court ruling that the rights of seasonal workers were preserved in the off-season as if they were in continuous employment.
No date has been set for a Court of Appeal hearing. Justices Rhys Harrison, John Wild and Mark Cooper granted Affco leave to appeal on three questions of law – did the Employment Court err in finding workers were on employment contracts of indefinite duration; did the lower court err in holding that the Employment Relations Act applied even if there was no relationship between company and workers in the off-season; and did it err in holding Affco's new individual employment contract didn't comply with the law.
Leave wasn't granted on a fourth question – whether the Employment Court acted in breach of natural justice by concluding Affco had breached an obligation to act in good faith, without sufficient evidence and without giving the company an opportunity to be heard.
The appeal ruling is part of a series of legal clashes between Affco and the Meatworkers Union, which has achieved a measure of success in the Employment Court. The union's national secretary, Graham Cooke, said the win in the Employment Court had been a pyrrhic victory because Affco has continued to block access to its members at processing plants and treated them less favourably in terms of shifts and seniority.
Affco was the first under the government's new employment law to apply for an end to bargaining under amendments to the Employment Relations Act that let firms opt out of multi-employer agreements and removed the duty under good faith bargaining for both sides to reach an agreement.
The original case covered workers at Affco's Rangiuru, Imlay, and Manawatu plants but the company had accepted any finding would cover all eight of its North Island plants.