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What is the Metals?

What is the Metals?

The Metals and Manufacturing Industries Collective Agreement is a multi-employer collective agreement, or Meca.

It is the largest, private-sector Meca in New Zealand, covering more than 2000 workers some 214 companies (although it is instrumental in setting the wages and conditions for many thousands of other workers).

The Metals is negotiated between the country’s largest trade union, the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) representing workers, and the EMA (Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association), representing employers.

The agreement is the successor of the old Metals Trades Award, dubbed by the media the trends-setting Metals because of the influence it had over other awards under the old Labour Relations Act.

When the Employment Contracts Act came into force in 1991 and did away with national awards, the Engineers’ Union (as the EPMU then was) and some far-sighted employers decided to keep negotiating collectively. Two contracts, covering the metals industries in the North and South Islands, were developed.

The contracts were acknowledged at the time by Victoria University as setting the benchmarks for settlements in the manufacturing sector.

“The impact of the Metals Agreement will continue to influence wage matters for some time. This agreement is important, as it forms the base from which the Engineers’ Union negotiates further collective employment agreements. Flow-on effects of that agreement elsewhere within the private sector seem likely,” said the university’s Bargaining Trends and Employment Law Update.

In October 2000, the ECA was replaced by the Employment Relations Act, and the Metals was formed into a national Meca and widened to cover general manufacturing.

The Metals agreement provides for and sets recognised industry employment standards, although workers and employers at individual companies that are party to the Metals can agree to vary conditions.

A copy of the current Metals agreement (due to expire on March 7) can be found under campaigns on www.epmu.org.nz.

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