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Court decision will keep employees in the dark

9 September 2005

Court decision will keep employees in the dark

A recent Employment Court decision will effectively prevent employees from gaining correct information, by 'gagging' employers, says Business NZ.

The case involved a dispute between the Christchurch City Council and a union representing some of the Council's employees. During bargaining, the Council had attempted to correct what it says was misleading information put out by the union. Until now employers have believed they were allowed to correct any inaccurate or misleading information a union may have put out, by communicating directly with their union member employees.

But the Court's judgment says the Employment Relations Act makes all communication off limits once collective bargaining is started. From now on communication with union members will be allowed only if the bargaining parties start off by agreeing on a bargaining process that allows communication to happen.

Business NZ Chief Executive Phil O'Reilly says this will pose real difficulties for workers.

"It may be very difficult to gain an agreement that allows for communication during bargaining. That means any inaccurate or misleading information can't be corrected.

"If you are the employee, and your terms and conditions are being bargained over by your union and your employer in a context where one party can make misleading comments, and the other party isn't allowed to correct it - essentially, you'll be kept in the dark. That's not good workplace relations, and not in the interests of employees."


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