The strengthening of unions and collective bargaining

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 is now law, and many of the changes relate to union rights and collective bargaining. Some of these changes became effective on 12 December 2018 and some will come into force in a few months’ time.   So what are these changes and are you ready for them?

The key changes to strengthen the position of unions under the new legislation are:

  1. Union representatives can now enter the workplace without consent, provided the employees are covered under, or bargaining towards, a collective agreement (effective now).
  1. Businesses must now enter into bargaining for a multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) if asked to join by a union (effective now).
  1. A union can initiate bargaining 20 days ahead of an employer (effective now).
  1. Pay deductions can no longer be made for partial strikes (effective now).
  1. The 30-day rule will be restored: new employees who are not union members but whose work is covered by a collective agreement will need to be employed under terms consistent with that collective agreement for the first 30 days of employment (effective 6 May 2019).
  1. An active choice form must be given to these employees 10 days after they start their employment which indicates if they wish to join the union or not and employers must pass on information about the role and function of unions to prospective employees (effective 6 May 2019).
  1. The duty to conclude bargaining has been restored (effective 6 May 2019).
  1. Pay rates must be provided for in a collective agreement (and an indication of how pay will increase) (effective 6 May 2019).
  1. Employers will need to allow for reasonable paid time for union delegates to undertake their union activities (effective 6 May 2019).
  1. Employees will have extended protections against discrimination on the basis of their union membership status (this covers both union members, and ‘intending’ union members) (effective 12 June 2019).

The Act also includes some other changes that will affect your employment practices (such as prescribed meal and rest breaks and making trial periods unlawful for employers with 20 or more employees). We recommend a careful review of your employment documentation to ensure it will comply with these new laws.

Workplace Law team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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