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Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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Meat workers union annoyed at "sickie" issue

A union representing meat workers says staff perform under tough and uncertain conditions and is disappointed at suggestions the industry is being negatively affected by deliberate "sickies".

NZPA
Tue, 20 Jul 2010

A union representing meat workers says staff perform under tough and uncertain conditions and is disappointed at suggestions the industry is being negatively affected by deliberate "sickies".

Prime Minister John Key said after announcing an extension to the 90-day probation period and other employment law changes at the weekend that concerns had been raised from the meat processing sector about workers throwing "sick days" and affecting production in the process.

The probation period, where workers can be sacked without claiming unfair dismissal, is being extended to cover all businesses and new laws will also require workers to provide proof of illness on request when they take as little as one sick day. Doctors fees would be paid by the employer.

North Island Meat Workers and Related Trades Union secretary Graham Cook said meat workers faced challenging and physically demanding conditions and he was disappointed at suggestions they were milking their sick day allocations.

"They get sick because of many factors, mainly because of the temperatures of the places, the long distances they have to travel to work," he told Radio New Zealand. "Many of them are away from home for anything up to 14 hours a day and that's in the season...when the off-season comes through they can be at work for one or two hours a day."

Mr Cook said workers also had to live with regular job terminations because of the industry's seasonal nature.

The Meat Industry Association has said when laws changed in 2004 giving workers higher sick pay, the number of those days being taken increased.

Mr Cook said he was sceptical about such figures. He said there was the odd "scallywag" in every industry, but the new laws would impact on the genuine cases.

Meat workers got only five sick days a year and that was when they had completed six months of service. The seasonal nature of the work meant the six month time-frame was often never obtained, he said.

Other employment law changes include requiring employer agreement for union visits to workplaces and allowing workers to trade in one of four annual leave weeks for cash on agreement.

Other unions have slammed the moves, but in terms of the sick day issue, National says the vast majority of employers will be sensible about forcing staff to get medical certificates and the only people likely to be targeted are those who regularly take days off work.

NZPA
Tue, 20 Jul 2010
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Meat workers union annoyed at "sickie" issue
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