NIWA science workers end 17-month industrial dispute

Union members at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research finally have a new collective agreement after 17 months of bargaining and nationwide industrial action.

The Public Service Association says its members at NIWA are relieved the dispute is over and proud to have taken a stand.

"We were ready to strike a second time, but we had a breakthrough at mediation the day before action was scheduled," says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.

"Nobody at a Crown Research Institute had ever gone on strike before our members did in November. It took collective action to get a result, and this should indicate there is a growing mood for change throughout the CRI sector."

The dispute centred on three issues; pay transparency, overtime for part-time staff and the passing on of gains won by union members to non-union staff.

NIWA has agreed to annually publish remuneration charts for all staff, detailing how their pay compares to trends in the job market.

A joint working group will be formed to resolve the overtime issue, including representatives from NIWA management and the PSA membership at Northland Marine Research Centre.

The PSA and NIWA have agreed that all future union specific benefits will not be passed on to non-union members without PSA approval, excluding changes in remuneration.

"After spending so much time at loggerheads, we’re glad to have reached agreement on the specific contentious issues. It was always difficult to explain why these relatively minor issues led to such a major dispute, and we argue the real problem was an undermining attitude from NIWA’s senior management toward the union and collective bargaining," says Mr Barclay.

"There has clearly been a shift in attitude on their end, which allowed our members to get a deal across the line this week as opposed to a year ago. We can all now move forward with a more positive relationship and make NIWA a better place to work."