Strikebreakers court decision welcomed by Business NZ
Business NZ has welcomed a Supreme Court decision that employers could use replacement workers during a strike.The previous decision by the Appeal Court had found Air Nelson had breached the Employment Relations Act by assigning the work of striking Engin
Business NZ has welcomed a Supreme Court decision that employers could use replacement workers during a strike.
The previous decision by the Appeal Court had found Air Nelson had breached the Employment Relations Act by assigning the work of striking Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) employees to contract workers.
The Act says such work may only be done by other employees if they are not brought in to do the work of the striking employee.
The Appeal Court had viewed this work as the particular work the striking employee would have been performing if not on strike.
But the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment issued yesterday, viewed it as meaning the type of work usually done by that employee, and since the contract workers did the work routinely, it held that they were not being asked to do the work of a striking employee, but their own.
The Supreme Court said viewing the work as a strict definition of particular tasks would be prohibitory towards employers and would tilt the balance too much in favour of unions.
Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said requiring prohibitive definitions of tasks in workplaces would simply make New Zealand businesses uncompetitive and he welcomed the Supreme Court's commonsense ruling.
But the EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said the Supreme Court's decision was impractical, confusing and "likely to be ignored at the coalface".
"Judicial elites like the Supreme Court majority in this case wouldn't know the first thing about the reality of industrial disputes and this is reflected in their decision when they say employers and workers will have to act in good faith when deciding how to apply the law," he said.
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