Union Access Provisions
Based on the most recent figures released by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) total Union Membership sat at 357,120 individuals. This represents 17.7% of the total work force with membership being spread across 122 separate Union Organisations. The 10 largest Unions cover 291,226 of the total unionised workforce with a high percentage of these staff being within the wider Government sector (Public Servants, Police, Nurses and Teachers).
Currently s20A of the ERA 2000 requires a Union Official who wishes to visit a worksite (even where membership does not currently exist) to provide not less than 24 hours’ notice of the intention to visit. The Employer, on receiving such notice has 24 hours to respond to the request, otherwise the request is deemed to have been accepted.
Under the currently proposed amendments to the Act, if passed, the need to provide notice will be removed with new wording added stating “nothing allows an Employer to unreasonably deny a representative of a Union access to a workplace”.
Therefore, subject to usual visitor entry provisions and specific Health and Safety considerations, the Union Official will then be able to freely walk around the worksite speaking to Employees while they work. Such conversations will no doubt focus on the (perceived) benefits of Union Membership.
While it would seem practical to make a meeting room available and to alert all staff to the presence of the Union Representative, allowing staff to visit the room without ‘loss of pay’ if they are interested, the Unions have already signalled that they would see this as ‘restrictive action’ with them reinforcing their right to ‘walk the floor’ and speak to individuals on a one-on-one basis.
The only apparent deterrent to such disruption appears to be the individual Employee advising the Union that they are not interested.
With such new legislations pending we are expecting a significant increase in the number of Collective Agreements being negotiated within small to medium sized businesses over the next two to three years.
If you have never had experience in dealing with Unions within the workplace we strongly recommend that you contact us if you receive an approach from a Union. We can assist in all matters associated the Union Access, Union Rights and Collective Bargaining and Collective Agreements.