Strike by Fishery Officers
Thursday, October 28, 2004
This media advisory makes the position of the Ministry of Fisheries position clear on the question of the threatened strike of some Fishery Officers due to take place tomorrow – Friday 29 October 2004.
NUPE (the National Union for Public Employees) appears to have identified four grounds for their strike:
1. Collective Agreement
The Collective Agreement expired in February 2003. NUPE has, over the last 20 months raised at various times extraneous issues that in the Ministry’s view are not actually relevant to the Collective as to why it cannot be ratified. These issues have included a proposal to create a new position of Senior Fishery Officer and, of course, the matter of defensive equipment about which the Union undertook a one-day work-to-rule in July this year and which is now out of the hands of the Ministry following its recommendations to Government.
In August of this year NUPE tabled a range of matters it wanted considered as part of the Collective Agreement negotiations. The Ministry responded promptly within less than 10 days accepting some but not all of NUPE’s proposals. Those not accepted are outlined in this Media Advisory and include a claim for increased pay, introduction of a Senior Fishery Officer position and issues concerning defensive equipment. The Ministry is eager to resolve any outstanding issues and ratify the Collective for at least another two years in line with its provisions.
2. Introduction of the position of Senior Fishery Officer
NUPE has sought to have a new category of Fishery Officer (at a higher rate of pay) created by the Ministry. In 2003 the Ministry commissioned a review by an independent human resources company – HayGroup). No substantive duties for such a position were identified that are not currently being carried out by other Ministry staff and so the proposal was not adopted. This situation has not changed.
3. Wage increases
Fishery Officers have received wage increases over the last three years that are significantly greater than the average of wage increases for New Zealanders in general. In addition, in 2003 the HayGroup, as part of its review, reconsidered the duties of Fisheries Surveillance Officers and Investigators to establish whether the jobs had become more extensive or complex. Their conclusion was that they had not changed sufficiently to justify alteration to the current pay scales for the positions. The Ministry accepted this finding and regards the question of pay rates as having been fully investigated and dealt with. All Ministry staff, including Fisheries Surveillance Officers and Investigators will, of course, qualify for market movement increases in the current year, as they do every year.
4. Review of Compliance Group
Quite separately from the industrial matters outlined above, the Ministry has undertaken during 2004 a review of its Compliance Group, which includes Fisheries Surveillance Officers and Investigators, to better align it with the Ministry’s strategic direction. This is intended to achieve greater operational flexibility and the best use of resources. This review is being conducted in an open and transparent manner and conforms to procedures outlined in the Collective Employment Agreement. A set of proposals has been developed and provided to all staff in the Compliance Group for consultation. Almost all compliance staff have contributed submissions, many of a very high quality, and the Ministry is working through those submissions and considering its policies in light of this information. No decisions have been made, nor will they be made until the review process is fully completed. The Ministry has not pre-determined the outcome of this review and is proceeding with an open mind.
The Ministry is open to further negotiate any aspect of the Collective that requires updating except those areas where decisions have already been made, such as pay rates. The question of the creation of a Senior Fishery Officer position and the content of the Fisheries Surveillance Officers and Investigators positions were independently assessed, as outlined above, and decisions made over a year ago. These officers have received significant wage rate increases in recognition of market movement and individual levels of performance. The review of compliance operations is still in train and there is no pre-determination.
On the immediate question of the strike and mediation, the Ministry has been equally consistent in its position. The Ministry did not agree to attend a mediation session hastily arranged by the NUPE earlier this week because the Ministry was provided with one working day of notice. NUPE is accusing the Ministry of a lack of good faith in bargaining which, under current industrial law is a serious allegation and the Ministry requires time to prepare what amounts to a legal case. The Ministry has sought a new date for mediation which is set down for November 3, 2004.
The Ministry believes the threatened strike has created confusion around the issues and that matters would be a lot simpler if the review of the Compliance Group was completed, and the Collective Agreement negotiated and ratified. All other issues have been dealt with as outlined. If NUPE has further issues then these are not clear to the Ministry.
Fewer than half of the Ministry’s warranted enforcement staff is expected to strike.