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2 February 2001
The Employment Court today (2 February) granted an interim injunction, to prevent strike action by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Verification Agency vets, until after a substantive hearing on February 8 and 9.
Chief Judge Goddard said strike notices in essential industries that effected the public interest were required by the Employment Relations Act (ERA) to be issued not more than 28 days before the commencement of strike action, but that notices in this case had been issued 29 and 30 days before proposed strike action.
He therefore ruled in favour of MAF on this point and said he would deal with other matters in the substantive hearing next week.
Chief Judge Goddard said however that he found 'logically attractive' MAF's argument that the date of registration of the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) preceded the 2 October coming into force of the ERA and the registration was therefore a nullity.
It was possible, he said, that Parliament might have to revisit the law with a view to validating the acts of unions registered prior to October 2.
MAF also argued that: · The union's strike notices were vague; · The list of names of striking workers provided by the union included some no longer employed by MAF and some already under an existing collective employment contract and therefore prohibited from striking; · The union was an incorporated society, and was therefore required to follow its own rules, and those rules did not allow for the e-mail voting which occurred.
Chief Judge Goddard said he would address these and other issues in the substantive hearing next week.
MAF Group Manager Operations Grant Burney said the interim injunction 'allowed a much-welcome window of opportunity' for NUPE and MAF to focus on the mediation process.