BusinessDesk: Affco complains to SFO about union as industrial dispute gets nastier

BusinessDesk: Affco complains to SFO about union as industrial dispute gets nastier

 Affco New Zealand, the meat processor locked in an industrial dispute with staff, is accusing the NZ Meat Workers & Related Trades Union of not disclosing all of its member fees in its financial accounts and has laid a complaint with the Serious Fraud Office.

The meat processor, which is wholly-owned by the Talley family, says the annual $500,000 it deducts from staff wages to pay union fees don’t appear to show up in the union’s accounts, which it claims show irregularities.

“In the last five years alone tens of millions of dollars of workers' wages have been deducted by the union across New Zealand and paid into what appears to be a black hole,” chief executive Hamish Simson said in a statement. “The union's accounts provide no level of comfort.”

Affco says its workers make up less than 10 percent of the union’s 23,000-strong membership, and they each pay $5.95 per week for an annual bill of $309 a year.

Union general secretary Dave Eastlake said the national union’s fees are based on a $51 capitation charge per member that each of the four branches pay, and that its national office doesn’t directly receive member fees.

Eastlake said they are back at mediation with Affco tomorrow, and that he’s “not worried about a sideshow about bloody accounts.”

Similar accusations made when the union consolidated were scotched after its accounts were put under a legal and accounting microscope, he said.

In the 2006 financial year, the union’s Aotearoa branch accounts broke down fee contributions based on workplaces, and Affco facilities made up $374,498, or 28 percent, of the total $1.32 million, down from the $383,161, or 30 percent, of the $1.26 million a year earlier.

The Meat Workers union has reported annual surpluses between 2000 and 2010 according to their annual reports.

Christchurch-based auditor Beck & Associates said the 2010 accounts presented the financial statements fairly and were in accordance with generally accepted accounting practice in New Zealand, but didn’t give it an unqualified opinion like it did through most of the past decade.

The meat processor and union have been at logger-heads since February when Affco locked out workers after pay negotiations broke down. The Employment Court is set to hear the union’s claim over the lockout on April 23 and April 24.

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AFFCO does not have to rush to resolve its issues since farmers have been holding back stock to eat grass for the past 4-5 months. No animals + industrial relationship fallout = not having to pay striking / locked out workers, therefore AFFCO can hold out for some more time yet especially with the animal payout having dropped dramatically too

The SFO has kicked this one to touch:
SFO not pursuing complaint against Meat Workers Union
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced today that it would not be investigating a complaint made regarding the financial affairs of the New Zealand Meat Workers & Related Trades Union Inc.
SFO Chief Executive, Adam Feeley, said that an immediate evaluation of the information provided to SFO investigators failed to disclose any evidence of fraud.
“We encourage any member of the public to contact us where they have any reasonable grounds to believe that a serious financial crime may be taking place. However, it is equally important that the resources of law enforcement agencies are not unnecessarily drawn into matters where other, more appropriate, courses of action are available.”
Mr Feeley added that any issues regarding regulatory compliance were matters for the Registrar of Incorporated Societies to consider.
The SFO has communicated this result to the complainant and to the Union.

Hi Gareth - it's hard to find financial crime anywhere when 'mark to fantasy' is upheld as a legal insolvency get out clause in all jurisdictions.