Smelter to appeal decision

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014

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New Zealand Aluminium Smelters bosses are appealing an Employment Court's decision that they say will cost the business millions.

In May last year, 64 Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) members won an Employment Relations Authority case they took against NZ Aluminium Smelters concerning the accrual of 'lieu days' for 12-hour shift workers.

The company appealed the decision and a two-day hearing was held in December. The appeal was overturned last month.

Tiwai Pt smelter bosses will now lodge an application to the Court of Appeal before June 13.

NZAS chief executive and general manger Gretta Stephens said appealing the decision made good business sense.

"I am aware this case has not gone unnoticed by the Government and other businesses. We are a fair employer that has been challenged on an unintended technical interpretation of a single sentence in a complex contractual setting."

NZAS believed the judge made an appealable error by disregarding the circumstances accompanying the introduction of the 12-hour shifts, instead focusing his attention on a single sentence in the contracts relating to additional leave for shift workers in lieu of statutory holidays, she said.

"It was generally agreed NZAS was concerned the change should not result in any additional cost to its business. The impact of the judgement would result in more than $20 million additional cost to NZAS."

The amount had increased because of salary movements since NZAS' previous calculation of $19m at the end of 2013, Stephens said.

EPMU director of organising Alan Clarence said smelter bosses were dragging workers through the mill on the issue.

The issue was about leave entitlements and not about costs, which it seemed to be suggesting, he said.

"Yes there would be costs but not all would be paid straight away. NZAS is scaremongering."

The appeal would drag the issue out longer for disappointed workers, he said.

"Workers have rights and entitlements and this is simply a case of NZAS not upholding them."

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