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Westland Dairy Company is investigating legal avenues to suspend milk collection from dairy farms operated within the Gloriavale community group of companies.
Gloriavale is among Westland’s largest milk suppliers, with farms around its Lake Haupiri commune.
The Employment Court last week found that three former Gloriavale members were effectively employees from age 6 until they left, working up to 70 hours a week for the benefit of the reclusive sect’s businesses.
Westland chief executive Richard Wyeth said that following the court decision, the dairy company would work through a range of issues that would be caused by abrupt cessation of milk collection from dairy farms associated with Gloriavale, such as animal welfare and environmental issues caused by milk disposal.
Dairy farms controlled by Gloriavale, like all Westland suppliers, had to comply with New Zealand employment law and standards, he said.
"Suspension of milk from farms controlled by Gloriavale will have minimal impact on Westland’s operations."
The company looked forward to the completion of proposed legislation that aimed to achieve freedom, fairness and dignity in supply chains and guidance as to what all firms could do to address and prevent modern slavery and worker exploitation in New Zealand and internationally.
"Westland Dairy Company Ltd is wholeheartedly committed to the rights of children and the freedom and dignity of everyone involved in our supply chains. We welcome the decision of the Employment Court which ... will further support New Zealand companies to protect the rights of children, employees and others across the entire supply chain."
Westland is wholly owned by Chinese dairy conglomerate Yili.
One farmer spoken to yesterday, on the condition of anonymity, one farmer suggested Gloriavale would now start paying its dairy farm workers. — Greymouth Star