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NZ Steel drops legal action against unions

15 September, 2011

NZ Steel drops legal action against unions over use of contractors at Glenbrook steel mill

A High Court case against the EPMU and other unions at the Glenbrook steel mill has been dropped by NZ Steel, a subsidiary of Australian-owned Bluescope Steel, days after a new collective agreement was agreed to at the company that includes limits on the use of contractors.

NZ Steel claimed in its court case that having to consult the unions on the use of contractors and paying contractors no less than NZ Steel workers are paid for the same work was against the Commerce Act because it meant contracting firms could not compete on the price of labour.

"This was always only ever an ideological claim and totally ignored the fact that the clause has been in the collective agreement for over 20 years and the steel mill has seen some of the most stable industrial relations and profitable results for years," says EPMU National Secretary, Bill Newson.

"This legal claim represented a very nasty turn by this employer and we were determined to defeat it because the only people who have ever complained about collective agreements being uncompetitive were the extremists like the Business Round Table."

EPMU national executive member and union negotiating team member, Mark Palmer, says the workforce held out on the contractors' clause to the end and came to a compromise on the way it will be managed in one plant for a limited period.

"The company knew we weren't going to give up the clause because it is so important in keeping up the value of wages and after throwing everything at us, we've prevailed," Mark Palmer said. "It's great to see them withdraw the court case but it will take a while to rebuild some of the trust that's been lost."


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