In a decision issued late yesterday, the full Court of the Employment Court has found in favour of the NZPFU’s claim that its members are entitled to take another working day off for each public holiday worked.
The decision means that all members are now owed significant numbers of days off, which have been unlawfully denied to them since 1 April 2004, when the new Holidays legislation came into force.
The full Court (comprising Judges Travis and Shaw and Chief Judge Colgan) rejected the employer’s arguments. Mr. Bill Wilson QC and Geoff Davenport of Broadmore Barnett had argued that the 14 days leave in 160 currently received were all “working days”, and that all 14 were being used by the employer to satisfy its obligation to give alternative days off to Union members who work on public holidays.
The full Court preferred the argument of the Union’s solicitors, Peter Cranney and Anthea Connor from Oakley Moran.
The Court held that the 14 days in 160 were not working days, and that the employer must grant additional days. Significantly, the Court also rejected the employer’s argument that public holidays begin at 8am in the Fire Service. The decision means that any member who has worked between 0001 and 2400 hours on any public holiday since 1 April 2004 is entitled to a full day off in recompense.
There are also provisions in the new Holidays Act which may allow some of those to be “sold” to the employer for a cash payment, although the details of this will need negotiation with the Fire Service
Given that the Fire Service has 28 days in which to determine whether to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal, no implementation of the decision is likely until that timeframe has expired.
The Union is currently consulting its lawyers, and no doubt will meet the Fire Service shortly. Further details of what precisely the decision means, and its implementation will be provided as soon as possible once these discussions have been concluded.
Colmar Brunton Survey
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