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EPMU Submission To TVNZ Inquiry

14 December 2005

EPMU Submission To TVNZ Inquiry

Submissions To The Finance And Expenditure Select Committee Inquiry Into Certain Matters At TVNZ

INTRODUCTION

The NZ Amalgamated Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union (EPMU) represents around 240 employees at TVNZ employed in a range of editorial, production and technical roles. They are employed in Auckland, Wellington (including Avalon) and Christchurch. The Public Service Association (PSA) also represents some TVNZ employees. The EPMU is party to two collective agreements with TVNZ, one for all non-Avalon staff and the other for Avalon.

SUMMARY OF SUBMISSION

TVNZ’s remuneration regime for most employees is convoluted, risky, unfair and inconsistent. TVNZ employees are affected by poorly informed public debate on TVNZ management and governance issues and editorial staff, in particular, can feel compromised when allegations of political interference are made or implied.

REMUNERATION ISSUES

Much public attention in the last two or three years has focussed on the significant remuneration levels paid to some high profile front-of-camera personnel. Most staff do not begrudge these personnel remuneration commensurate with the important role they play, the skills they are required to exhibit and the loss of privacy that the role entails.
The EPMU/PSA/TVNZ collective agreement states (clause 5.4):

The objective of the remuneration model is to ensure an objective, consistent and transparent system that is easily understood.

However, TVNZ’s overall approach to remuneration appears to be inconsistent. Funds are available for healthy increases to those already on high levels of remuneration but not those on more modest incomes.

Remuneration arrangements for employees represented by the unions entail:

An annually negotiated increase. A further increase at the discretion of management purportedly based on performance, “prevailing market rates, internal relativities and the financial health of TVNZ”.

Annually negotiated increases for TVNZ, including Avalon, staff over the last five years compared to the EPMU’s average negotiated pay increases for the same years are as follows:

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
TVNZ (main) 2% 1.75% 1.5% 1.5% 1.8%
Avalon 2% 2% Neg
EPMU average 2.9% 3% 3.1% 3% 4.4%

Although in many cases TVNZ staff have received increases in addition to the negotiated pay increases, the additional increases have usually been small. In reality, the discretionary pay increases are not linked to market rates or internal relativities, nor even the financial health of the business. To the extent performance is a factor, judgements tend to be highly subjective.

There is a convoluted appeal procedure for staff dissatisfied with any discretionary increase. The appeal process entails:

Raising dissatisfaction with the discretionary increase with the employee’s supervisor or senior manager or human resources manager. If this does not settle it, putting the “grievance” in writing to the relevant supervisor or senior manager. If this does not settle the matter, referring the “grievance” to an independent chair who can make a recommendation to the Chief Executive to make a decision whose decision is final.

In summary, a significant part of staff pay increases is determined by management which then has the power to determine an appeal against its own decision.

TVNZ staff do not regard the remuneration system as objective, consistent, transparent and easily understood.

IMPACT ON STAFF OF RECENT DEBATES ON MANAGEMENT AND GOVERNANCE

Like any conscientious staff of any organisation, TVNZ employees are concerned when their employer is in the public eye for the wrong reasons.

It is accepted that as a publicly (state) owned corporation, TVNZ is subject to the same scrutiny as any publicly-owned corporation. However, it is submitted there are two aspects to the public interest in TVNZ:

Firstly, as a properly functioning organisation with the public ownership interest being effectively exercised by the shareholding Ministers and by the Board. Under this aspect, there is also the public interest in the fulfilment of TVNZ’s charter obligations under its legislation (the content of the charter having been politically determined it is appropriate that it is debated by those who created it). Secondly, there is a public interest in TVNZ fulfilling its commonly accepted obligations as a public broadcaster, news gatherer and disseminator.

In relation to the latter aspect, TVNZ and its editorial staff are accountable to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and to the journalists code of ethics.

It is appropriate that Parliament provides good scrutiny of the governance of TVNZ and of the exercise by shareholding Ministers of their rights and obligations as proxy owners on behalf of the public. However, Parliament, itself, needs to be aware that the role of a public broadcaster with a news gathering and current affairs role is to provide scrutiny of, amongst other things, Parliament and its members.

Parliament, when exercising its scrutiny role over the governance of TVNZ and fulfilment of the statutory charter should not, wittingly or unwittingly, intrude into scrutinising the news gathering and current affairs function. To do so compromises the effectiveness of the broadcaster and, potentially, the professionalism of those it employs.

Andrew Little National Secretary, EPMU

14 December 2005

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