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Christchurch City Council wants court ruling on communications

13 June 2005

The Christchurch City Council is seeking the right to issue factual communications to its staff during bargaining.

The Council and the Southern Local Government Officers Union were in the Employment Court for three days last week seeking clarification of the law on “Communications to Employees” during bargaining.

The issue is a test case under the Employment Relations Act, the council’s general manager Human Resources, Philippa Jones says.

“The Council considers that it is important to obtain clarification on this issue for its future relationship with staff.”

The court proceedings follow Council concerns that the union provided inaccurate and misleading information to its members from time to time during negotiations.

Ms Jones says the Council believes the information damaged its bargaining position and was intended to portray it in a bad light. To mitigate the damage, the Council responded by sending its own communication to staff members to put the record straight.

The Council argued in Court that it should be allowed to issue factual communications to its employees provided it did not undermine the bargaining or the union’s role as the employees’ representative.

“We feel the case is an important one with relevance to employers and unions generally. The Court also noted this in summing up,” Ms Jones says.

The Court reserved its decision indicating it would be some months away. Ms Jones says that the Council is confident that current negotiations with the union will continue and trusts that parties will reach a satisfactory conclusion.

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