Management at the Tiwai Pt aluminum smelter in New Zealand claim they may have to pay workers up to NZ$19 million ($17.3 million) in lieu day payments if an Employment Relations Authority ruling is upheld.
Stuff.co.nz reports that the company is appealing the Authority’s May ruling in favour of 64 workers from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) who claimed they didn’t receive the correct amount of payments for public holidays.
In the 1990s, the plant changed shifts from eight hours to 12 hours. However, the company continued to only pay employees eight hours of paid leave for public holidays.
According to the union’s argument, they should have been receiving 12 hours paid leave for the public holidays, not eight hours.
The appeal is currently underway. During the final day, smelter lawyer Pheroze Jagose said it was made clear when management agreed to implement 12-hour shifts there would be no changes to other aspects of employment, including leave entitlement.
However, according to the union members' lawyer, Greg Lloyd, no evidence had been presented during the appeal that showed there was an "express reference" to lieu day entitlements before employees had voted on changing the shifts.
The presiding Judge Tony Couch said the decision on the appeal requires thought and he would release his decision in writing as soon as possible.
NewstalkZB reports that EPMU director of organising Alan Clarence has disputed the claim that the company will have to pay workers up to NZ$20 million if the appeal is unsuccessful.
He claimed that that figure assumes that the backpay will be made to all employees, not just union members.
"As it was found that they had to pay out on this, or make a change in favour of the members or union, they would extend that out to people who weren't in the union," Clarence said.