Employment Court decision on Council lockout
30 November 2007
Employment Court decision on Council lockout cited as a test case
In a decision issued by the Employment Court on 30 November Christchurch City Council has been found to have acted lawfully when it imposed a lockout on Dog Control Officers last year.
The union brought proceedings against the Council arguing that the lockout was unlawful because it related to a portion of the employee’s duties only, with an equivalent reduction in pay. This argument was rejected by the Court which found that an employer may ‘lockout’ part of an employee’s pay providing this is matched by a corresponding reduction in duties.
The union also unsuccessfully argued that the lockout was unlawful because it did not relate to the collective bargaining.
On this issue the Court stated:
“we are persuaded that the dominant motive for the actions taken by the Council in imposing a lockout of the DCO’s, in response to their industrial action, was to progress negotiations for the new collective agreement. In the event, the Council’s actions succeeded in bringing the parties to an arrangement which enabled a variation to that Collective Agreement to be negotiated. We therefore find that the lockout was not unlawful under s86 of the Employment Relations Act and related to bargaining in terms of s83.”
The Court rejected the union claims for compensation and damages.
The Court indicated that this was a test case under the Employment Relations Act having important consequences for all employers in terms of the right to impose lockouts affecting only part of an employee's terms and conditions of employment.