open-countryOpen Country Cheese, part-owned by the notorious Talleys and tied to various National MPs via the Dairy Investment Fund and Kaimai, is fighting very dirty in an attempt to break the workers for the audacity of seeking a collective agreement with basic redundancy and transfer of undertakings protection. From Indymedia:

“There is no wage increase on the table. Workers are seeking a collective agreement which protects them from being made temporary or casual at any time. They want a say on how their rosters and hours of work can be changed so their family lives are not disrupted without notice and consultation. They want temp workers to be paid the same rate for the job after 3 months. They want temp workers to be made permanent after 11 months service. They want redundancy compensation if made redundant and they want to be paid for a meal break if they can’t leave the plant. – Most of all they want to be treated as human beings- not a commodity to be tossed aside when no longer required. They want decent jobs.”

Dairy Workers Union National Secretary James Ritchie:

“Our members at Open Country Cheese were escorted off the site today (Wednesday) 5 hours before the strike was to begin.  The Company has re- registered as a different company and is now the company that operates plants at Invercargill and Whanganui.  It is Talleys by any other name. There are various legal permutations of this and we are considering our response. Strikebreakers have been transported from Invercargill and Whanganui.”

And from Scoop:

“Talleys-owned Open Country Cheese’s insistence on running their plant without appropriate trained environmental staff is now causing serious environmental damage,” said James Ritchie, National Secretary of the Dairy Workers Union.

 36 workers are in their third day of strike action at Open Country Cheese’s Waharoa plant in Waikato, after the company has refused to negotiate a collective agreement and protect workers’ job security. Untrained staff are now operating the plant.

Today the environmental ponds overflowed with deactivated sludge and poured into the river. The sludge tanks need to be managed by trained staff and is a critical part of the manufacturing process.

Nomally the sludge is collected by trucks and spread on farms – but we found out this morning that it had been poured directly into the Waitoa river.”

This dispute is a major attack on the right to join a union and collectively bargain. The employer is openly organising strikebreakers and encouraging farmers to get involved in the dispute. This dispute has all the hallmarks of a major conflict and we will need to ensure that the workers are fully supported. Messages of support are most welcome and if you are visiting the picket and want to assist — any donations of food would be much appreciated.

There is a picket running from 5.30am to 6pm each day at (outside the Open Country Cheese plant at Waharoa just north of Matamata on the main Auckland  to Rotorua/Tauranga highway). The Dairy Workers Union will be collecting food and money. There should be a website up soon. These 40-odd workers and their families are going to be under huge pressure in the coming weeks, but together we can help them through. Let’s show Talleys and co we won’t bow down.