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Court decision will make settlements harder – Chch City Council

8 September 2005

Christchurch City Council believes an Employment Court decision imposing a blanket ban on any communications by an employer to staff during bargaining will make future agreements harder to reach.
Yesterday’s (7 September) ruling by the court’s full bench is on a case stemming from actions taken during bargaining between the Council and the Southern Local Government Officers’ Union. The case was about the rights of an employer to communicate directly with union members during bargaining for a collective agreement under the Employment Relations Act 2000.
“The decision in effect means employers are gagged,” says Philippa Jones, the City Council’s human resources general manager. “We’re no longer able to counter misleading information put out to our staff by unions.
“It means that in cases where we think something a union’s saying is inaccurate, we’ll have no option but to take a case to the Employment Authority for a breach of good faith,” she says. “That means adjournments and delays.
“In a way it’s good to have this clarification. This time around it took a year to reach an agreement with this union. With this interpretation of the law, it could make future negotiations more difficult and drawn-out.
“The City Council has a good relationship with most of the unions which represent staff, but in situations where misleading information is being spread, I think it's going to make it harder to get constructive bargaining and will lead to further delays in reaching settlements,” Ms Jones says.

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