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Affco seeks review after appeal denied

NZN 22/03/2017 Sophie Boot

Affco New Zealand is making another attempt to throw out a ruling that it unlawfully locked out meat workers when collective bargaining was taking place.

This time it is asking the Court of Appeal for a judicial review of the Employment Court's decision.

In November 2015, the Employment Court ruled that the rights of seasonal workers were preserved in the off-season as if they were in continuous employment.

The original case covered workers at Affco's Rangiuru, Imlay, and Manawatu plants but the company has accepted any finding would cover all eight of its North Island plants.

Last year, Affco asked the Court of Appeal to overturn that ruling, but this was rejected. Employment Court judgements can only be appealed on questions of law.

Affco's application for judicial review heard on Wednesday centres on the issue of natural justice, as it says the Employment Court made findings on matters that went beyond the agreed statement of facts and it didn't have a fair opportunity to respond to matters that court considered.

The hearing, set down for one day, is part of a series of ongoing legal clashes between Affco and the Meatworkers Union.

It was the first under the government's new employment law to apply for an end to bargaining under amendments to the Employment Relations Act which lets firms opt out of multi-employer agreements and removed the duty under good faith bargaining for both sides to reach an agreement.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court gave Affco permission to appeal the Court of Appeal's finding which upheld the Employment Court's decision.

Peter Cranney, representing the Employment Court, said Affco had failed to convince the Court of Appeal of its claim in its earlier appeal, and was attempting to have a "second bite of the cherry" in this application and to broaden the grounds for judicial review.

Affco's QC Paul Wicks said the right of judicial review under the ERA was a standalone cause of action, not necessarily flowing from the Employment Court's decision as an appeal right but a separate claim, though he accepted they could have been brought together.

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