CMP workers locked out for over two months

by Nick Scullin

On 3 October 2011, 300 members of the Meat Workers Union were issued a lock-out notice by their employer ANZCO CMP Rangitikei. CMP is a lamb-processing plant near Marton that employs around 350 staff. Since issuing the lock-out notice the company has coerced many of the members to leave the union and sign individual agreements accepting massive pay cuts for fear of being locked out. 111 union members have held strong though and have been locked out since 19 October 2011.

The workers have been locked out because the company is attempting to force them to agree to a new collective agreement that would see them accepting pay cuts of over 20 percent. The workers and union had previously offered to accept a 10 percent pay cut but this was not enough for the company that boasts an annual turnover exceeding $1.3 billion New Zealand dollars. Meanwhile, the fact that the union was willing to offer a 10 percent pay cut shows the pitiful state of the union movement in New Zealand and the dangers of the ‘partnership’ model so popular with union leaders today.

Along with massive pay cuts the company is also seeking to impose a range of objectionable provisions on the workers including a trial period, a requirement to keep working beyond the end of a shift without pay to finish tasks and instant dismissal for evidence of gang affiliation.

The company is attempting to starve these workers into accepting massive pay cuts, but you can do something about it. Redline urges its readers to support the workers financially by calling 0900 LOCKOUT to donate. Also, information can be found on the CTU’s website at http://union.org.nz/anzcolockout regarding pickets of the company and companies it supplies like McDonalds.

When workers anywhere lose battles such as this it weakens the working class as a whole. Solidarity amongst workers is the only way to stop employers from devastating workers and our families whenever they see fit. Ultimately it is the system itself, capitalism, that must be overthrown so that workers can gain control of our workplaces and lives and not be subject to the whims of the market and the bosses.

Don’t forget to check out these excellent video clips of a protest that Redline contributors Jill Brasell and Don Franks performed at, here.

4 comments

  1. The locked out union workers have put up an inspiring struggle and they deserve a win.
    Union fundraising efforts to support these workers have been good, but I don’t think that will be enough to ensure a win. At the moment, the company has the power. That can be wrested from them if solidarity industrial action is taken on other sites. That would cause all sorts of uproar, but I can’t see any other way to get a win for our side.

  2. Good point Don. On reading my article again it does read a little as though donations and help with pickets is all that is required. While those things will help, realistically solidarity strikes probably are needed in order to beat the boss.

  3. The official statement from the NZCTU says:
    “Workers at CMP were locked out after refusing to take a 20% pay cut and many other changes to their working conditions. “We did not go into this dispute expecting to stop all the cuts and the company used the most extreme and harsh measures against these workers to both secure sufficient workers on the new agreements to maintain much of its business operations and to force those workers that were locked out into a situation where they faced such severe financial impacts that the company hoped they would accept the proposed cuts. These workers showed so much strength and with the support of the union movement, fought back.” Dave Eastlake, National Secretary of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union said.

    Following negotiations yesterday a settlement was reached that has now been accepted by the workers and while some pay cuts have been agreed, these have been reduced to a level that the workers were prepared to accept. Importantly all the non cost conditions that the company sought to also remove have been put back in the new agreement and the workers will be paid a $500 payment on return to work. There are a number of other improved provisions in the agreement.

    “The workers have shown enormous heart throughout this lengthy and onerous dispute against the odds. They go back to work with pride in the resistance and solidarity they have shown and knowing that had they not, the conditions the company originally offered would now be their working conditions.”

    “While this has been hard for the workers, they are heartened by the support that has been shown by the community and the New Zealand trade union movement. Without such support the financial and emotional hardship caused by the lockout would have been harder to bear.”

    The union meat workers did indeed put up a courageous fight, but I think the support they got was less than they deserved.
    There was some good union fundraising, but that’s not enough in a big blue.
    The brief symbolic pickets outside McDonalds ( who were profiting from scab processed meat) made sure they did not disrupt the resturant’s business in any way. Instead they were restricted to calling on a huge capitalist multinational to play fair by the workers. That is like asking a rabid dog to be a good boy and roll over.
    “We did not go into this dispute expecting to stop all the cuts”, Dave Eastlake, National Secretary of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union said.
    Why not?
    The cuts were manifestly unfair, a union movement exists to stop that sort of thing, why not take the positive attitude that all the cuts should and could be stopped?
    The New Zealand union movement urgently needs to do two things.
    We need to raise our expectations and demand more for our hard work.
    To make that demand real we need to take solidarity industrial action, in disputes, whether or not its legal. Obeying the letter of the law, as we have been scrupulously doing for the last several decades, has resulted in a withered and weakened union movement. Ever since the illegal formation of the first union, under a tree in the little village of Dorset, we have made all our gains by defying the law and doing what’s right for our class.
    Until we relearn that attitude we’ll continue to be driven back bit by bit. If we continue an outlook of expecting to make concessions, workers will see unions as pointless.

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