Supreme Court lets Affco appeal ruling on unlawful lockouts

Court will hear argument that news contracts were not a breach of the Employment Relations Act

The Supreme Court has given Affco New Zealand leave to appeal a ruling that it unlawfully locked out meat workers when collective bargaining was taking place.

In October 2016, the Court of Appeal turned down the meat processor's application to overturn an Employment Court ruling, saying it was "obvious that Affco's objective was to undermine or compromise the parallel process of negotiating a collective agreement which was underway with the union" in what amounted to an unlawful lockout.

The Supreme Court today said Affco could appeal on the question of whether the appeal court was correct in finding a breach of the Employment Relations Act (ERA) had occurred when Affco required seasonal workers to enter into new individual employment agreements before commencing work for the 2015/2016 season.

The court case 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. Affco was the first under the government's new employment law to apply for an end to bargaining, under amendments to the ERA which lets 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.