Strength in unity and safety in numbers is not just a slogan – it is the reality. It is through the collective voice of unions that working conditions have evolved over generations, and national protections and standards (such as those in the Holidays Act, Health and Safety at Work Act, Employment Relations Act etc) enacted.
At the workplace, the Union is the collective voice of its membership, to negotiate and speak with the employer to achieve safer and enhanced working lives. The greater the voice, the stronger the voice. Through the union we support each other to protect, preserve and enhance our members’ working lives and therefore their lives generally.
For some of our members this is the first time they have joined a union and been part of collective bargaining. For others, the notice initiating bargaining with an intention to negotiate a broader coverage clause is new. So we thought it was a great opportunity to set out some of the key points.
Collective agreements are negotiated by the employer and the registered union. Each collective agreement has a coverage clause that stipulates the scope of work, types of jobs and employees that can be covered by the collective agreement. In order to be covered by a collective agreement the employee’s work must come with the coverage of the collective and be a member of the union that negotiated it.
Your collective agreement is the articulation of your terms and conditions and also the protection of your terms and conditions of employment through the negotiation and enforcement by your union. Your Local, Branch and National representatives spend countless hours protecting your rights at work, participating in committees and working groups, meeting with all levels of management, and advocating on behalf of the collective membership as well as individuals needing assistance. Your health, safety and wellbeing permeates every aspect of your working life and is paramount and is a part of everything your union does.
In accordance with the NZPFU Rules, anyone employed by FENZ are eligible to become members of the union. (Other workers employed in any other occupation outside FENZ can also be members of the union but subject to the approval of the Union Committee.)
- The large majority of our membership are covered by the current collective agreement.
- We have members whose substantive position is covered by the collective agreement and have been seconded into positions that are not covered. Some have been in these seconded positions for many years but in reality have not been able to negotiate the terms and conditions specific to their seconded position.
- We have members in a range of roles that are not covered by the current collective agreement coverage clause and are on individual agreements. They would like to have their positions covered by the collective agreement.
- We regularly have requests from those eligible to be a member of the NZPFU who see the benefit of their position being included in the NZPFU collective agreement.
The NZPFU initiated bargaining on the 3rd May 2021 (notice attached) which includes the intention to extend the coverage clause to reflect the career path of our members and the establishment of new positions as a result of FENZ’s restructure.
There are a range of positions listed in the notice of intention to bargain. The proposed enhancement of the coverage strengthens the collective and the voice of the membership throughout the workplace. Some of the additional positions are the natural progression for our membership as their career path. Other positions reflect the work that our members already do either in seconded positions or on individual employment agreements. Some of the positions reflect the changes within FENZ including new positions created.
There are many benefits to the broadening the coverage of a collective agreement.
- The negotiation of terms and conditions of employment into a collective agreement benefit the individuals through the protections of the collective and union membership.
- The negotiation of a coverage clause that covers more work and positions benefit the others covered by the collective through the enhanced strength and unity.
- It provides for consistency of core terms and conditions across the workplace and enables specific terms and conditions for designated positions. Where the various positions within the collective have a direct relationship with one another the negotiations can ensure consistency where appropriate and ensure the rights and obligations of all (including the employer) are well defined.
- It can ensure the clear articulation of work and roles to prevent employees being expected to take on more work or tasks without recognition, and to prevent employees being used to undermine the roles of other employees.
- It prevents union members being vulnerable to individual terms and conditions of employment when they progress (either on a temporary or permanent basis) through various roles during their career, or to gain broader experience.
- It ensures the union has representation and a voice across all levels of the workplace.
- It provides all union members with a voice on all matters that impact directly or indirectly on their work and workplace.
There are challenges when we represent different groups of employees, but those challenges exist whether or not the members are all covered by the same collective agreement. To broaden the scope of the collective agreement is not changing the eligibility of the union membership – it is enabling members who work in other positions to have their work covered by the collective agreement, and for others employees who do that work to join the union in order to be covered by that collective agreement.
A challenge all unions face are the situations where members are in conflict or in dispute with one another. Workplaces and workplace relationships can be complex. Situations where union members take issue with other union members in the workplace occur regardless of collective agreement coverage. Sometimes those members are in the same role, sometimes they are in different roles with different responsibilities in the workplace (including levels of seniority). All of those scenarios can occur now. The role of the union is to ensure that the employer manages these issues appropriately and consistently with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. We advocate to the protect the rights of those involved, but also to ensure the rights of the collective are not undermined through those processes. Those challenges exist regardless of the change of the coverage clause, and do not undermine the benefits of a collective agreement that covers different jobs and work.
The enhancement of the coverage strengthens the collective and the voice of the membership throughout the workplace.
We will have another NCOM/Locals conference call next week to update and discuss the process of bargaining.