'Ecstatic' meat workers win payments

Silverstream meat workers heard news about their redundancy payments at a meeting at the factory...
Silverstream meat workers heard news about their redundancy payments at a meeting at the factory yesterday. Photo by Christine O'Connor.
Struggling Dunedin meat workers are ecstatic after winning a fight for more than $3 million worth of of redundancy payments from Silver Fern Farms.

The payments come after the New Zealand Meat Workers Union (NZMWU) went to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) seeking redundancy payments for up to 180 Silverstream staff after no lambs were offered for processing during their usual working season, between about December last year and about June this year.

The union won that case and NZMWU Otago Southland branch president Daryl Carran said yesterday Silver Fern Farms had chosen to pay redundancies rather than appeal the decision.

In response to questions, a spokesman for Silver Fern Farms said in a statement: ''We have made good progress toward coming to an agreement and we will be in a position to finalise the process shortly.''

Mr Carran said the workers were ''ecstatic'' at a meeting at Silverstream yesterday, where they handed over bank and tax details so they could receive the payments early next month.

Mr Carran was unsure of the exact total being paid out, but believed it would be at least $3.3 million _ the amount the company earlier said it had set aside.

Life had not been easy for many of the workers since the plant did not reopen, and the payments would give them a much needed boost, he said.

''It means that they are going to have some money to survive and look for the next opportunity in life or employment.''

Some of the workers had not managed to find work since the 2012 13 season.

More than 100 workers would get the redundancy payment and about 30 who stayed on at Finegand, near Balclutha, would be compensated because of the distance they needed to travel.

Former Silverstream worker Mark Fuller, of Dunedin, a father of two still looking for another job, said the redundancy would be ''a great help''.

''I've not had income for ages and I haven't got a job yet, so it's been very hard.''

At the ERA hearing in October last year, Silver Fern Farms argued the workers had not been made redundant and the ''seasonal layoff '' had just been extended.

ERA member Christine Hickey disagreed, saying if that interpretation was correct it would ''theoretically never be in a position in which it was required to make redundancy payments for seasonal employees''.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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