Different types of employment agreements and arrangements
Collective employment agreements for union members
What is a collective employment agreement?
When will I be covered by a collective agreement?
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?
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
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
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.