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Help for boards of trustees in employment talks

3 December 2003 Media Statement

Help for boards of trustees in employment talks

Legislation aimed at reducing the disruption for students and helping school boards of trustees during collective agreement negotiations in the state school sector was introduced to Parliament today.

"The State Sector Amendment Bill No 3 will for the first time give the State Services Commissioner the same powers as employers in industrial disputes. This power is delegated to the Secretary for Education who negotiates collective employment agreements in the state school sector,” State Services Minister Trevor Mallard said.

“The proposed law change will ensure a more equal relationship in these negotiations between the Secretary for Education and employees of boards of trustees and their union.

"Under the current law, the secretary is responsible for negotiating collective agreements for school board employees, but has no other delegated employment powers in relation to school sector bargaining.

“This means individual school boards have been in a difficult situation as they have had to decide whether or not to suspend or deduct pay from striking employees. Boards for some time have expressed the view that they feel caught in the middle because they have no control over the bargaining itself and yet they are required to take action against their employees when there is strike action over the bargaining.

“This legislation will address that problem,” Trevor Mallard said.

The proposed law changes will give the Secretary for Education the power to:
- suspend striking board employees and/or
- deduct the pay of these employees, and/or
- lock out board employees who are bargaining for a collective agreement.

"Boards will also be relieved from making school-by-school decisions about whether to pay striking employees as these employees will be treated in the same way at the same time throughout the country. This will have no impact on all other rights and responsibilities that boards have as employers.

"I believe this amendment will also reduce disruption in schools, because employees considering strike action will know that the consequences available under the Employment Relations Act for strike action will apply to them, as they do to all other employees in New Zealand.

"This has to be good news for students in the classroom, their parents and communities as they have been the ones to suffer during strike action.”

Trevor Mallard said the bill will also amend the State Sector Act so that in school merger or closure situations, the retention of employees is facilitated wherever possible to provide them with employment certainty.

This does not override the provisions in collective agreements regarding the appointment of principals.

"The amendment will also ensure that affected school board employees are not entitled to redundancy payments if they are offered equivalent employment with the continuing school, or another school in the same area,” Trevor Mallard said.

The bill will be sent to a select committee for public submissions.

ENDS

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