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Unions Get 6 Years Back Pay Against Meat Industry

Published 09 Feb 2020

The Meat Workers Union are celebrating a victory at the Court of Appeal with the confirmation that Employers in the Meat industry have to pay for the time staff prepare for work and to make good on the shortfall for the last 6 years.

Meat workers have strict safety and hygiene uniforms that are required to be worn when processing meat products. The process of putting them on and taking them off is known as 'Donning' and 'Doffing' respectively and takes several minutes.

Staff who are paid an hourly wage or 'piece rate' have not been paid for this time historically, and the union took this issue to the Employment Court at the end of 2018, particularly as Labour introduced the mandatory rest and meal break requirement, feeling that donning and doffing further encroached on this break time.

The Court found in favour of the union saying as a work related activity should be paid for, both start and end of shifts and any time spent donning and doffing for rest and meal breaks. Following an unsuccessful appeal the decision stands and the workers are also entitled to compensation for the last 6 years. To this end the parties must enter a negotiation phase which is yet to occur.

The important part to learn from this case is that it is good practice to pay staff for any time they spend at work on any work related matters if they are paid by the hour. We often field calls for business asking if staff meetings outside of hours, or performance reviews should be paid. The short answer is if staff are paid by the hour, yes they should. Smiths City in Christchurch had a similar issue in 2018 asking staff to attend morning meetings before their paid hours. All time spent on work related business must be paid for by at least the adult minimum wage rate.