Win for NZ meatworkers as court rules (again!) that Talleys lockout was unlawful

The New Zealand Meat Workers Union has scored another victory in their ongoing fight against Talleys, who you may remember we described as “the worst company in the world” – the company that literally tried to get a worker sacked for reading a newsletter.

New Zealand’s Court of Appeal has again ruled in favour of the Meat Workers Union, finding that Talleys lockout of its workers in June 2015 was unlawful. This would be the second time that a court has ruled the lockout unlawful – the New Zealand Employment Court found the lockout was illegal in a judgement handed down last November.

Talleys, an extremely profitable company with money to burn and a hatred of unions hot enough to start the fire, went to the Court of Appeals. Now, after almost a year of stalling later, their unlawful behaviour has been thrown out for a second time.

This sort of behaviour isn’t new to Talleys, a company more than happy to break the law – and more than able to pay the fines – if it means getting what it wants. After all, this is the same company that illegally donates millions of dollars to anti-worker political parties, illegally prevents union representatives from entering the workplace, and thinks women are better suited to jobs like pole-dancing than filleting fish.

Last week’s ruling by the Court put into clear terms what Talleys was trying to achieve, calling them out for attempting to “fragment the future bargaining strength of the workforce by isolating individual workers”.

“By this means it took advantage of the inherent inequality of its relationship with the seasonal workers who were members of its captive workforce, and to whom it owed existing duties to offer re-employment,” concluded the judge.

It’s a classic play by Talleys and by bosses going back hundreds of years – divide and conquer. Keep your workers fragmented, scattered and weak, and you’ll have no trouble getting what you want – which in this case was for the workers to agree to individual contracts that would have seen their pay slashed.

The national secretary of the Meat Workers Union in New Zealand, Graham Cooke, has welcomed the news, calling it a “major advance in human rights for meat workers – and a significant step forward for collective bargaining rights generally”.

Companies as aggressive and hostile as Talleys need to be resisted at every turn – especially when their incredibly poor workplace health and safety record means that lives are literally on the line. Congratulations to the New Zealand meat workers for their victory and for standing up to corporate bullying and anti-union violence.