MAF concerned vets may be liable for strike damages

26 January 2001

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is concerned that the union representing its vets has failed to advise its members that they could be personally liable for damages resulting from illegal strike action.

MAF spokesperson Grant Burney said that MAF had advised the union of its view that its proposed strike action was not legally valid, "because of a range of issues including apparent irregularities in union voting procedures".

"But our advice has been ignored, and MAF is therefore forced to seek an injunction to delay strike action until its legitimacy can be determined," Mr Burney said.

The injunction is to be lodged with the court on Monday (29 January), and strikes are scheduled to commence on 3 February.

Both vets and their union could be at risk of millions of dollars of damages if they go ahead with an illegal action which also threatens to disrupt the $1.4 billion Easter lamb export season, said Mr Burney.

Meat works cannot function without vets to verify meat for export, he said.

"And MAF is very aware of the damage the proposed strikes would do to meat processors, farmers, meat workers at risk of being laid off and the small rural communities dependant on their incomes."

Mr Burney said MAF had been advised that were the strike found to be illegal both the union and its members would be potentially liable for the millions of dollars of losses that strike action would cause. MAF was accordingly seeking the injunction.

MAF would continue to seek a mediated settlement with the union despite the threat of strike action, he said.

"But because the union has refused to withdraw or even delay strike action, even though we are in the middle of mediation, MAF is obliged to do all it can to protect the meat industry, farmers, rural communities, and its own veterinary staff."

For more information contact Gita Parsot, on 04 498 9806 or Anthony Keesing on 04 498 9882.

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