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A historical first: FIRST Union workers win fixing rule

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A historic and significant, industry-setting decision has been made by the Employment Court of New Zealand in Christchurch regarding the Employment Relations Authority’s ability to fix the provisions of a collective agreement which has been subject to a drawn-out, unsettled collective bargaining process since 2013.

The union has been bargaining for a collective agreement with Jacks Hardware and Timber Limited/Mitre 10 Dunedin and Mosgiel since 2013. The parties have been through face to face bargaining, mediation, facilitation and on-going litigation with no success of settling a collective agreement.

Last night, the Employment Court ruled it agreed with the Union that the Authority is entitled to fix the provisions of the collective agreement being bargained for, relying on s 50J of the Employment Relations Act 2000 as the company ‘breached good faith’ bargaining.

FIRST Union Southern Region Secretary Paul Watson says it’s a victory for all workers.

"It's a victory for our members who persevered and have waited a very long time to conclude collective bargaining. But it’s also a victory for all workers who find themselves exhausting all reasonable efforts to conclude collective bargaining with an unwilling employer who acts in bad faith. It’s going to strengthen collective bargaining and offer many more workers in Unions a channel to take protracted unsettled bargaining to fixing when an employer continually refuses offers."

He gives thanks to all involved.

"This decision will strengthen collective bargaining rights for Unions negotiating collective agreements on behalf of members and highlights the effectiveness of the fixing process. We must acknowledge the efforts of our legal team Peter Cranney, Grace Liu and Oliver Christeller but also the courageous evidence given by members to the court and to all of our 38 Jacks Hardware also trading as Mitre 10 members who joined the Union back in 2013 to improve their pay and conditions."

FIRST Union Solicitor Grace Liu says it’s a historical first.

"It’s effectively the first time in New Zealand that provisions of a Collective Agreement are going to be determined by the Authority. It’s the first time in New Zealand employment law history, where the union has exhausted all reasonable ways to settle a collective agreement, and then has successfully been granted an application for the authority to fix the terms of the collective agreement. It was a huge effort from all involved but in the end the result was a just one. It’s a big win."

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