Smithfield Packing has announced that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has overturned a judge's order requiring it to bargain with a union at its Wilson, North Carolina facility in the US.

Employees at the plant had voted against union representation seven years ago, but in 2001 an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ordered the company to bargain with the union. The decision was overturned by the NLRB last week (5 September).

Smithfield Packing director of communications Dennis Pittman said: "This is a victory for our employees and their right to decide if they want union representation. Employees have the right to make up their own mind about unions rather than have it forced on them without their consent. The NLRB decision again confirms that questions about unionisation must be resolved by employees in secret ballot elections and not by legal manoeuvrings or public pressure."

In a statement, Smithfield invited the union to hold another election at the Wilson facility. Smithfield also said it still disagrees with some conclusions reached the labour board, but will not be appealing the decision.

"We accept the decision of the NLRB and will immediately undertake the remedies required by the labour board," Pittman said. "We welcome a new union election in our Wilson facility and call on the union to work with us to schedule a secret ballot election that will allow our employees to decide if they want union representation."