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Different types of employment agreements and arrangements

Collective employment agreements for union members

What is a collective employment agreement?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 31–59

Collective agreements cover two or more employees and are negotiated by the employer and a union on the employees’ behalf (see: “Union rights”). A collective agreement can include more than one employer and more than one union.

When will I be covered by a collective agreement?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 56

To be covered by a collective agreement, your role must come within the scope of the agreement, you must be a member of the union that negotiated it and your employer must be a party to the agreement.

If you’re a new employee and you’re covered by a collective agreement, your minimum terms and conditions of employment will be those set out in the agreement. Employees on an collective agreement can also negotiate more favourable terms for themselves.

What must be in a collective employment agreement?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 52–54, 69OJ  Holidays Act 2003, s 52

A collective employment agreement must be in writing and must be signed by each union and employer that is a party to it.

The agreement can contain whatever terms the parties to the agreement have agreed on. However, it must include the following terms:

  • Coverage – a clause stating what work or which group of employees the agreement covers
  • Wage rates – the wage or salary rates payable to the employees covered by the agreement
  • Rates for public holidays – a clause requiring employees to be paid at least time and a half if they work public holidays
  • Services for resolving problems – a plain-language explanation of the services available for resolving employment relationship problems
  • Amendments – a clause setting out how the agreement can be changed
  • Expiry – a clause stating the date when the agreement ends (expires) or specifying an event that will bring the agreement to an end (see: “How collective agreements come to an end” below)
  • Protection in restructures – for most industries, a clause stating how the employer will protect the employees if the business is restructured. This doesn’t include industries like cleaning and catering services where workers have special legal protections because they’re particularly vulnerable to restructuring (see: “Migrants and other vulnerable workers”).

A collective employment agreement can’t include any terms that are contrary to the law or inconsistent with the Employment Relations Act.

How collective agreements come to an end

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 52(3)

A collective employment agreement comes to an end on the expiry date or time stated in the agreement, or three years after the agreement begins, whichever of those dates or events comes first.

If the union or the employer initiates bargaining before the agreement expires, it continues in force for up to 12 months, or until it’s replaced within the 12-month period with a new collective agreement.

How employers and unions negotiate collective employment agreements

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 4, 31- 35

Employers and unions must deal with each other in good faith when negotiating collective agreements – this includes not misleading or deceiving each other.

During negotiations employers and unions are also required, as part of the duty of good faith, to:

  • do their best to agree on an effective bargaining process, and
  • meet together, and discuss, consider and respond to each other’s proposals, and
  • keep bargaining, even if they’ve reached a deadlock on one particular issue, in order to try to reach agreement on the other issues, and
  • come to a collective agreement unless there’s a genuine reason not to, based on reasonable grounds (an employer won’t have a “genuine reason” just because they disagree in principle with collective bargaining, as opposed to having individual agreements only), and
  • respect the role of each other’s representative (if there is one) and bargain only through the representative, and
  • provide the other side with the information necessary to support their claims or responses.

Employment New Zealand has a guide to good faith collective bargaining online, here (or, go to employment.govt.nz and search “code of good faith”).

Did this answer your question?

Starting and leaving a job

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of information on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Starting a job: www.employment.govt.nz/starting-employment/
Leaving a job: www.employment.govt.nz/ending-employment/

Te Kauae Kaimahi/
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimahi is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

Website: www.union.org.nz
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz
Phone: (04) 385 1334

New Zealand Prostitutes Collective

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective is a nationwide organisation run by sex workers for sex workers. They provide information and services for people who are doing sex work or thinking about doing sex work.

Website: www.nzpc.org.nz
Email: info@nzpc.org.nz
Phone: 04 382 8791
Instagram: www.instagram.com/_nzpc/

Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG)

UNEMIG or Union Network of Migrants is an association of migrant workers within FIRST Union.

Website: www.unemig.org.nz
Email: unemig@firstunion.org.nz 
Phone: 0800 863 477

Migrant Workers Association

The Migrant Workers Association NZ fights for migrant workers’ rights and against injustice and exploitation in the workplace.

Website: migrantworkers.org.nz
Email: help@migrantworkers.org.nz
Phone: 0800 863 477
Facebook: www.facebook.com/migrantworkersassociationaotearoa/

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