How is Fonterra allowed to stay in business when it does this? Here is our dairy monopoly, enjoying its special status as the New Zealand economic engine (while threatening that economy with botch up after botulism botch up), now employing low paid ‘slave’ labour and getting away with it.

On the Fonterra site  - fencepost jobs - jobs are advertised on farms that provide Fonterra with its milk; farm assistants are expected to work 60 hours a week, with only one day off every fortnight in some cases.

Helen Kelly, president of the CTU, has tweeted three examples here, here and here. So this isn’t just a one off. This is a culture of pushing farm labourers to the limits. 60 hours a week, no overtime and no day off - That’s illegal isn’t it? 

It’s certainly immoral. There were eighteen deaths on farms last year. Farm labourers working those conditions, it’s no surprise.

Our flagship national company should be a shining beacon of good practice. It should be showing the world how good it is to work in New Zealand and how we look after our people. If you work hard you get treated fairly and paid well. Except if you work on a Fonterra farm.

Imagine if the Nike website advertised jobs for children in the factories supplying Nike with its shoes? There would be global condemnation and Nike would be backtracking as fast as its trainers could run, in full damage control.

We were the first country in the world to legislate for a forty hour week, thanks to the carpenter Samuel Parnell who in 1840 refused to work more than eight hours when building a store for a local merchant. He successfully negotiated his working conditions, and the rest is history. Before that, it was not uncommon in nineteen century Britain to work 16 hour days with only one day off a week. 

Turns out things are worse today on a Fonterra farm; you might only get a day off once every fortnight.

Fonterra continues to behave like a large monopoly with a sense of entitlement, as if it can break the rules when it likes, and shrug off its international disasters, from DCD to melamine to botulism. And why not add to that list of cock-ups, a global reputation as the bad employer of the South?

It was given special status as our biggest dairy cooperative only because it was supposed to benefit the entire economy. How many more get-out-of-jail free cards before the culture changes?

This is a better issue for Labour to campaign on than banning trucks in the fast lane.

Comments (1)

by Raymond A Francis on April 29, 2014
Raymond A Francis

You do understand that the farms that supply milk to Fonterra are owned by individual farmers who are shareholders in Fonterra, not the other way round

When I milked cows I worked 6 months straight, with just a few afternoons off but the pay made it worthwhile


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