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Court of Appeal confirms employers’ rights

20 February 2007

The Court of Appeal has confirmed the employers’ right to communicate directly with employees during bargaining.

The fundamental issue at stake in the Council’s appeal was the right for employers to communicate during bargaining and on that issue the Court ruled in favour of the Council. The Council testing of this law was supported by employers throughout the country because of its significance to all employers.

The Court held that the Council has “succeeded on several of its arguments and its future conduct will not be quite as restrained as it would have been under the Employment Court’s reasoning”.

The Court’s finding is that Parliament did not intend to impose a broad general ban on all communications by an employer to employees during bargaining, and the only communications which would be in breach of the Act are those which either amount to an attempt to negotiate with employees about their terms and conditions, or which undermine or are likely to undermine the bargaining or the union’s authority in the bargaining.

In a decision released today the Court of Appeal said the Council did breach the law in 2003 and 2004. However as stated in the decision (attached for media) “it (the Council) is not really concerned with the Court’s specific findings with respect to the 2003 and 2004 communications”.

Philippa Jones, General Manager, Human Resources, Christchurch City Council welcomed the decision.  “The Court of Appeal’s decision will provide welcome relief for all employers throughout New Zealand who have been unfairly prevented from issuing communications during bargaining.  I believe that the Court of Appeal’s decision redresses the balance in bargaining, and provides a fairer platform for both parties to negotiate in good faith,” she said.

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