August 30, 2002
Court rules for Kinleith workers
Carter Holt Harvey has been ordered to halt plans to contract out work at the Kinleith pulp and paper mill while it consults the workforce.
In the first major test of the Employment Relations Act’s good faith provisions, the Employment Court has today ruled that the company must spend at least 28 days consulting workers and their unions over its desire to restructure the mill’s maintenance workforce.
The company announced in March that it intended laying off 380 maintenance workers and replacing them with the international contracting company ABB.
The legal challenge was led by the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which has 600 members at the Kinleith mill.
Union national secretary Andrew Little welcomed the court’s ruling.
“We have always believed that the existing workers can meet the company’s objectives, if only it will give them a chance,” he said.
“We have tried time and time again to get the company to talk to us about what it wants and how it can be achieved by the workers, but it has refused. This knocks it off its perch and says to all employers that their workforces are not to be treated with contempt.”
The court said that the company had acted “other than in good faith” by starting the consultation process when the contracting out plan was already well down the track; failing to give unions the information they asked for; not accepting the workers’ wish for consultation to be through their unions; and failing to consult about whether the workforce should be restructured.
Mr Little said that workers at the mill had saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two years through the team development scheme, and were confident that they could run it more efficiently than a contractor could.
The union is seeking talks with the company as soon as possible.