Pay cuts reflect industry state

Pay reductions at Blue Sky Meats, accepted by meat workers this week, are a reflection of the state of the industry, the Meat Workers Union says.

In July, the Southland-based meat company described the past financial year as the "most disappointing" in its history, as it plunged from a $6.5 million profit before tax the previous year to a nearly $605,000 loss.

The previous financial year was one of the company's most successful and the change reflected the challenges of the meat industry, chairman Graham Cooney said at that time.

Yesterday, the Otago-Southland secretary of the New Zealand Meat Workers Union, Gary Davis, said boning room workers had voted in favour of cuts of between about 12% to 15%, which equated to between about $30 and $40 a day, while slaughter board workers voted for cuts of about 8% or about $28 a day.

Labourers would drop about $18 a day.

While there was a lot of opposition to the reductions - "obviously no-one likes taking a cut" - it reflected the state of the industry at the moment. Blue Sky Meats workers were still better paid than other meat workers in Otago-Southland, Mr Davis said.

The vote by workers on the slaughter board was a lot closer than those in the boning room.

There had also been restructuring with both slaughter board and boning room shifts.

He believed "more pain" was likely to be felt by other players in the industry in the next few years.

There would be notices going out this week, inviting people back to Blue Sky Meats for the new season, which looked likely to start on November 12. That would be "a relief for most people", he said.

Some workers had "left the place and gone and done other things" and, once people started returning over the next couple of weeks, then there would be "a fair idea" of how many people were excess. He estimated close to 70 jobs had been lost.




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