Where a union represents employees in a workplace they may negotiate a collective agreement. Bargaining for a collective employment agreement can cover a range of issues, but it must include the coverage of the agreement, either by the work performed or the workers involved; and, the term of the agreement.
The Employment Relations Act 2000 recognises that there is no one way to bargain. Every bargaining situation is different, and it is normal that parties will have different views on how to proceed and what is required for their circumstances. However, the Act includes some requirements for parties, including that parties must use their best endeavours to reach a bargaining process arrangement that outlines how bargaining should proceed. The employer and employee must bargain in good faith with each other.
Advice and assistance on the process are available from the Department of Labour. Getting advice early can often avoid disputes later.
The Collective Bargaining resource assists advocates for employers and employees to engage in collective bargaining.
The Department’s Partnership Resource Centre offers training on interest-based bargaining. This can help both parties to work towards a collective agreement that reflects both the separate and joint business and union strategies for the workplace.
If problems arise in bargaining, parties may access the support of Department’s mediation services. Where there are sustained breaches of good faith, there are processes available through the Employment Relations Authority to investigate the breaches and settle an agreement.