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Thumbs Up For Hospital Workers

31 August 2006, 8pm.

Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota

Thumbs Up For Hospital Workers: Court Rules Employer Can’t Force Workers To Use Their Thumb Prints

In an Employment Court judgment today, Service & Food Workers Union members employed at Wellington Hospital by OCS Limited were completely vindicated in their refusal to undertake daily thumb scanning in order to clock in and out of work.

“Cleaners are hugely relieved that they will not be forced against their will by their boss to use their thumb prints as a way of identifying them in the workplace. It is a sound judgment based on treating these workers as human beings and with the respect they deserve rather than as slaves or criminals”, says Luci Highfield, Central Region Secretary for the Service & Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota.

The Employment Court stated that OCS were required, as a good employer, to introduce the Panztel thumb scanning technology in a “planned, consultative and educative manner”, but that they failed to properly inform workers or obtain their consent. The Court went on to say that it “was not a constructive way to resolve a genuine dispute” by making an application in the Court for an injunction.

“OCS completely failed in their legal obligations to consult with the Union and its members before installing the Panztel system. They also failed in their obligations to gain agreement from the Union and consent of the workers. Rather, they sought to force the use of the thumb printing system by claiming workers were taking unlawful strike action.”

Ms Highfield states “The judgment confirms the need for genuine meaningful consultation and the recognition of the role of Union delegates in such consultation processes.”

“In addition, in this case, there were workers of many cultures involved. There was huge disquiet by our Samoan members not only with the thumbscanning itself, but with the perceived lack of trust demonstrated by OCS towards the workers as well as a lack of respect accorded to their concerns. OCS should have been open-minded enough and taken the time to listen, consider the concerns of Union members and to talk these through, rather than saying it’s going to happen and we will take you to Court to make it happen.”

The Union and its members will be looking forward to the removal of the Panztel system from the workplace.

The case is OCS Ltd v Service & Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota Inc WC 15/06 WRC 9/06


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