The Road Transport Forum’s Te ara ki tua Road to success training initiative team have identified an issue when setting up contacts with potential employers, that the employers are unfamiliar with the process around union access to workplaces.

To help employers to have some level of understanding of the legislative requirements we have sourced information from Employment NZs website; – the New Zealand government’s website for employment related legislation.

This website has lot of useful guidance and information but if users are not confident about applying the advice and depending on the circumstances, it may be preferable to seek formal legal advice from a suitably qualified legal practitioner.

The following information does not constitute legal advice. It’s simply a very truncated explanation of the relevant sections of the Employment Relations Act 2000 providing a limited insight into the general provisions relating to union access to workplaces.

Process to access workplaces

A union representative wanting to come into a workplace must come at reasonable times when any employee is employed to work.

Since recent law changes came into effect in late 2018, a union representative does not need to obtain consent from an employer before entering a workplace if there is either:

• a collective agreement is in force that covers work done by employees at that workplace; or
• a collective agreement is being bargained for that covers work done by employees at that workplace.

Where either of the above doesn’t apply then the previous rules still apply — union representatives must obtain the consent of an employer or representative of an employer before entering any workplace.

An employer cannot unreasonably withhold consent for a request to enter, and must respond to the request by the working day after the date of the request. Consent is treated as having been obtained if an employer does not respond to a request within two working days after the date of the request.

Where consent is not required, the current conditions on entry still apply. They will only be able to enter for certain purposes, during business hours and must follow health, safety and security procedures. On arrival, a union representative will need to make a reasonable attempt to find the employer or, if they are unable to, they will need to provide a written statement with the date, time and reason for their visit.

Conduct of union representatives in the workplace

Union officials must act in a reasonable way in the workplace. Union representatives must:

• act reasonably, having regard to normal business operations

• comply with any existing reasonable health, safety and security procedures

• notify the employer or occupier of the reason for coming in, provide evidence of their identity and authority to represent the union. If the employer or occupier isn’t there or can’t be found (despite reasonable efforts), the union representative must leave a written notice saying who they are, the union they represent, date, time and purpose of entry. (Evidence of identity will often be required for all visitors anyway for security and health and safety requirements).