Blame the Ref
Welcome to 2012 everybody. We are sure you’re all attacking your work with renewed vigour after the break. In a slow period for news, we thought we’d share a join-the-dots exercise with you that intrigued some of us late last year…
A little off the radar amidst the national frenzy surrounding the Rugby Union World Cup in September last year, those of us who also enjoy Rugby
League revelled in the Warriors surge toward the pinnacle of achievement in the ‘other code’, the NRL Grand Final. As the drama of the preliminary finals series
games unfolded the Warriors seemed to be suffering a higher penalty count than their opponents in a number of games. Coach Ivan Cleary remonstrated at length in the media and with the NRL refereeing authorities that this clearly indicated a bias against the Auckland team on the part of Australian rugby league referees. It must have occurred to even the most devoted Warriors fan that another explanation for an enduring lop-sided penalty count was at least possible – “Ivan, could it be that our boys… well… simply infringe more often than the other teams?”…
…The September 23 issue of the National Business Review (NBR) carried a front page article reporting on an Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) analysis of data collected from Employment Relations Authority (ERA) personal grievance (PG) case outcomes. The Alasdair Thompson pay equity debacle having faded from collective memory, the EMA was ready to push its ‘red tape stifles business’ barrow again with a general election pending. The analysis examined 591 PG cases heard in 2010, we assume that year’s total number of cases though this is not clear from the article. It was claimed that in 59% of these cases the ERA found in the employee’s favour; in 41% of cases the employer won.
The NBR knows its readership, wears its heart on its elegant pinstripe sleeve, and doesn’t pull its punches. ‘ERA decisions are stacked against employers and the imbalance is costing business money’ rang the opening sentence. The article would have readers believe that NZ businesses are on the verge of crisis as a result of employees’ exercising their statutory right of appeal to the ERA in employment relationship problems. EMA spokesman David Lowe complained of ‘technicalities invading the process of common sense justice’, and perceived complexity causing fear amongst employers. “With so many process hurdles to jump, missing one can result in a PG. The whole notion of improving your business (is) something you would put off unless you really had to do it. The way we want NZ to head that’s not really what we want” Mr Lowe whined.
Firstly, this electioneering soap box rant disingenuously disregards the fact that this so called data was collected for a period preceding April 2011’s changes to legislation which made substance over process more dominant in the justifiability of PG claims. One might expect the ERA to find against employee claims nowadays that rest solely on an employer’s minor procedural shortcomings, and a quite different % outcome split may result for 591 PG’s heard in 2011. Mr Lowe mumbled it was
“too soon to form a view” on this point. Not that fair employment relationship process formerly posed particular difficulty for a vast majority of employers. In the NBR article the EMA drew particular attention to the trials posed by ‘legal hurdles’ to making staff redundant in business restructuring. Curious, then, that in the allegedly employee-biased pre April 1 2011 judicial environment only 84 of the PG claims heard related to redundancy (54 found in the employees favour), in a volatile year for business restructuring. It would appear most employers handled redundancy processes judiciously.
And secondly, issues of selective data collection aside, does a 59/41 penalty count really prove a biased, archaic, and bureaucratic refereeing system that suffocates business initiative? Or maybe “David, could it be your boys……. well…… simply infringe more often?”
Despite NZ employers having to endure the burden of this legislated employee protection, according to the latest World Bank rankings NZ still tops the table as the easiest country in which to start a business and is the 3rd easiest in which to conduct business for the fourth year running.
News – such as it is
The time of year obviously affects progress. We move ever closer toward an offer from employers for the DHB and NZBS MECA to take to members in these labs and will keep those concerned informed by separate correspondence. At Aotea Pathology Wellington progress has been slow also in part due to diary clash and in part due to the size of the task of wording an agreement to cover all members. A meeting with employers in early February failed to conclude negotiations and we await the setting of another date to continue.
Canterbury Community Pathology
The new sole provider, Southern Community Laboratories, has chosen new premises near the Airport; building alteration work and fit out continues, with an April 2nd start date for operation. Medlab South employees have been given preference in applications for available positions in the new laboratory and interviews have been concluded. Offers of employment are expected to follow soon. Existing NZMLWU members at SCL Christchurch asked us to extend a message for their imminent new ex MLSouth workmates “We are looking forward to meeting and working alongside our new colleagues from MLSouth in the new venture”. Well said, but before they will have the opportunity, we have to sort out what Medlab South is doing. Redundancy notification by Medlab South to the Union should have occurred early February, but didn’t and the clock is still running… So despite the Medlab South CDHB contract expiring on 31 March and SCL stating they intend to employ new staff effective 2 April, Medlab South will still employ all their staff to at least mid-April and possibly longer.
Rumours are now circulating to the effect that Medlab South and its parent company, Sonic, are trying to avoid redundancy payment. We have asked for an explanation and put Medlab South on notice that legal action may result if we do not hear back from them in both a timely and sufficiently explanatory manner.
The office has a number of these at varying stages of process, LabPlus level 3 reorganisation and Wellington Hospital Microbiology proposal prominent amongst them. Again the holiday hiatus leaves us little to report to our wider membership at present. The Northland DHB’s community pathology ‘alliance’ project remains in the hands of one or other or several of the DHB’s Project, Steering, or Working groups. The end date for the current NPL community contract is in the middle of this year. The ground has yet to be broken for the new laboratory building at Whangarei hospital which has a December 2012 completion date. News on progress with analysis for the Wellington regionalisation study has dried up also.
This is approaching fast. If your department doesn’t have a delegate, or if you are thinking about becoming one, now is the time to let us know. This training is held biennially providing delegates with valuable skills and resources to help members tackle employment issues, and it’s important that all delegates attend. Your employers have been notified, and there is provision in your CEA to allow you to attend on paid leave. Any problems please contact the NZMLWU office. Workshops, guest speakers and other preparations are well under way. The 1st day has been set aside for new delegates, and the not so new that want refreshing. More information will follow shortly.
Delegate’s Column: Lloyd Rigby
Hi. I’m Lloyd Rigby, Northern Area National Executive Representative.
I live in Auckland and work for the NZ Blood Service in the National Reference Laboratory, and as such I have a dual role as an Auckland Area rep and NZBS rep. I am married to an accountant with one dughter in her final year at school, and the other two at university. It’s a busy household and work life balance is important to me. I have worked in labs since 1973. I trained in Dunedin and then went to Papua New Cuinea for two years before moving to Auckland where I have held various posts in NZBS and Auckland DHB’s since 1983. I joined the NZMLWU at its inception, have been a delegate since 1996 and on the Executive for a number of years. It has been a challenging recent past for DHB lab and NZBS members of our union. The industrial action we undertook at our last MECA negotiations tested our resolve and was not always easy, and wounded some. I’d like to think that those who weathered that storm have come out of it as a stronger group. We must recognise the importance of our standing together for what we want to achieve.
Restructures and rationalisations will possibly disrupt further our personal futures, and our profession as a whole. The threat of such disruption daily discourages many in our field but there is help at hand: with a strong united presence we can effectively represent the interests of members and our profession. On behalf of the NZMLWU National Executive I wish everyone all the best for the New Year and hope against hope for a more settled environment in 2012.