The Employment Court has agreed with the NZPFU position that firefighters should be paid 1.5 times the overtime rate for the hours worked on overtime on a public holiday. FENZ has only been paying 1.5 times the ordinary hourly rate resulting in firefighters working overtime on public holidays only being paid the same as those working their usual hours and not on overtime.
The Employment Court Decision (download here) is the second Decision to agree with the NZPFU claim that the correct rate for the calculation of the relevant daily pay is the overtime rate when working overtime on a public holiday. The Employment Relations Authority had also agreed with the NZPFU in its Decision in August 2022. FENZ appealed that Decision and the matter was heard in the Employment Court in May 2023.
FENZ’s case relied on a 2013 agreement when a stepped overtime rate was agreed to eventually reach 1.5 times for all overtime hours in 2019. The NZPFU claimed that agreement was not consistent with the Holidays Act as it did not provide 1.5 times the relevant hourly rate (overtime rate) to be paid for hours worked on a public holiday.
FENZ provided evidence showing the difference would cost FENZ more than $924,292 a year at current overtime rates on a public holiday. That is money owed to firefighters who should have been paid that rate at the time they worked the overtime on a public holiday. The full cost is unknown as will have to be calculated on the different rates of overtime that applied over the years.
The current collective agreement settled in December 2022 recognised this matter was before the Court and includes the note “Ongoing litigation continues relating to overtime on a Public Holiday but the rates in this document reflect the CEA provisions and will be changed by the Parties if required as an outcome of the litigation and will be published accordingly.”
The NZPFU will expect FENZ to rectify the tables in the collective agreement immediately, and undertake the necessary calculations to provide the backpay of outstanding wages for those that worked overtime on a public holiday and were only paid 1.5 hours regardless of the overtime rate. This will require different calculations depending on the rate of overtime at the time the hours on the public holiday were worked.
FENZ can only appeal to the Court of Appeal if granted leave to do so.
The 2020 notice on the Employment Relations Decision can be read https://www.nzpfu.org.nz/news/nzpfu-wins-public-holiday-payment-dispute/