Industrial Update - disputes and restructures

While the PSA always focuses on working constructively with employers, sometimes that just isn’t reciprocated. Sitting on different sides of the negotiation table can lead to disagreements.

Our priority first and foremost is to stand up for the rights of our members, and sometimes this can mean a long dispute that ends up in court.

A couple of recent cases highlight just why being a union member is so important, and just what a legal win can mean for working conditions of our members.

Inland Revenue’s restructure

With new technology on the horizon, Inland Revenue (IR) is restructuring in what it’s calling a “Business Transformation”. One of the biggest components of this is reducing the number of staff by as much as 25%. Ahead of these mass redundancies, IR are standardising job descriptions, broadening fields of responsibility and flattening career progression paths in a move that affects over 4000 jobs.

This is unlikely to be the last restructure that staff face before the new technology is implemented; in fact it’s likely that there will be several steps. To add insult to injury, IR wanted to incorporate psychometric testing – often compared to astrology for HR – into the selection processes.

IR’s insistence on including psychometric testing as a part of the restructure is particularly tasteless, putting workers through unneeded stress with a test of dubious scientific merit or application. The PSA has maintained that the imposition of psychometric testing at IR as a part of people re-applying for essentially their same role was unlawful. We are also concerned that the introduction of the testing was done without consultation, breached IR’s Tiriti o Waitangi obligations and that these types of tests discriminate against persons with disabilities.

We filed proceedings with the Employment Court, seeking determinations that the requirement to undergo these assessments was unlawful. The case will be heard in May next year. In the meantime, IR has scrapped the use of these tests for now.

It’s been a stressful time for members at IR, but collective bargaining is now underway. We stand together with them.

Bargaining pay at the New Zealand Defence Force

Ensuring that pay is a part of collective negotiations helps provide transparency and clarity to members. It recognises that the exchange of labour for pay is at the heart of the employment relationship.

The PSA has been in collective agreement negotiations with NZDF since May 2016, but we have faced a refusal by NZDF to bargain wages. NZDF invited the union to be ‘consulted’ about a pay system, on the proviso that this take place outside of bargaining and that all decisions would be controlled entirely by NZDF. We said no, and filed a claim in the Employment Relations Authority for pay to be included in bargaining. Our claim was successful.

The Authority agreed with us and in October the NZDF was ordered by the Employment Relations Authority to collectively bargain pay with us. NZDF wanted to keep pay out of discussions, but members were looking forward to pay finally being up for discussion as a part of bargaining.

Our members do important work for the New Zealand Defence Force – we represent the security guards, cleaners, cooks and other civilian roles. Many of them have not had a pay increase in many years, and we are looking forward to settling a collective agreement with NZDF, hopefully in the near future, which includes collectively bargained pay rates.