TVNZ's collective agreement breach

Published 6 June 2024 | 2 min read

TVNZ recently found itself in hot water for breaching its collective agreement, sparking significant concern among employees and setting a cautionary tale for employers across New Zealand. The broadcaster’s failure to properly consult with staff before proposing redundancies and show cancellations led to a legal battle culminating in the Employment Court upholding a ruling against TVNZ.

Lack of consultation

The situation deteriorated further as it became clear that TVNZ had not engaged in genuine consultation with its employees before making drastic decisions.

Despite holding Te Paerangi in July 2023 and Ideas Week in August 2023, which TVNZ argued were part of their consultation process, the court found these initiatives insufficient.

TVNZ's executives were aware by November of the need to slash $10 million in costs, yet this critical information was withheld from the union and employees, violating clause 10.1.1 of the collective agreement.

This clause mandates the active participation of staff in organisational development and changes in workplace practices.

Employment Court’s decision

The Employment Court's decision was clear and pointed:

  • TVNZ breached clause 10.1.1 of the collective agreement by failing to engage in proper consultation.
  • The so-called consultation initiatives did not meet the participatory obligations required by the agreement.
  • A compliance order was issued, giving TVNZ 20 working days to adhere to the collective agreement's stipulations.

The court's ruling not only upheld the earlier decision by the Employment Relations
Authority (ERA) but also underscored the importance of genuine employee engagement in organisational decisions.

Future benefits of compliance

While the ruling is a setback for TVNZ, it paves the way for more robust and meaningful engagement between employers and employees.

Adhering to the collective agreement will foster a more inclusive and cooperative workplace environment. This can lead to improved morale, higher productivity, and a more sustainable approach to organisational changes.

How can we proactively avoid similar issues?

To ensure compliance you can take several proactive steps:

  1. Engage early and often: Involve employees early in the decision-making process, especially when significant changes are anticipated. Regular updates and open forums can help maintain transparency.
  2. Strengthen union relations: Build a strong working relationship with unions. Regular meetings and honest dialogue can preempt many issues before they escalate.
  3. Training and awareness: Ensure that all levels of management understand the requirements of collective agreements and the importance of genuine consultation.
  4. Feedback mechanisms: Implement robust feedback mechanisms where employees can voice concerns and suggestions. This can help in identifying potential issues early and addressing them collaboratively.
  5. Compliance audits: Conduct regular audits to ensure all practices comply with collective agreements and employment laws. This proactive approach can prevent breaches and foster a culture of compliance.

By taking these steps, Kiwi employers can create a more engaged, productive, and harmonious workplace, ensuring that the mistakes made by TVNZ serve as a valuable learning experience rather than a repeated misstep.

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