New Zealand School Trustees Association
Memorandum to Boards: 2012/5
School: CC Colin Davies (school number 99969)
Chair: (via email email@example.com)
(where no email is indicated then the memo is sent via principal/school)
Principal: (via email )
(please advise any changes to above addresses)
From: Colin Davies (Manager Service Delivery NZSTA firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 29 May 2012
Subject: Paid Union Meetings (PUMs) and Requirements to Keep School Open
Background: Earlier this month the NZEI advised boards of their intention to hold PUMs in June for those teachers covered by the Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement and those covered by the Primary Principals’ Collective Agreement.
The NZEI have arranged meetings to be held at times to minimise impact on schools, for teachers this is between 3.30 and 5 pm i.e. during non-contact time though at a time when teachers are normally engaged in professional tasks. The principals will normally be meeting from 8 am to minimise the impact on the schools operation.
We have now been advised that the PPTA are about to give notice to boards, where they have members, that they will be holding PUMs for a broader range of their membership Secondary/Area/Manual Training Centres. The bulk of these PUMs will be held between 12/13/14 June 2012. It is unclear at present at what times and locations. It is timely therefore to remind you on what the rules are around PUMs.
Purpose: This memo outlines:
- what the requirements are on the union(s) when seeking the time
- what the requirements are on boards to provide the time
Key points: These meetings are provided for under Section 26 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA). Union members are entitled to attend up to two paid union meetings during any year and the ERA (s26) sets a number of rules around these meetings. The Education Act 1989 has additional requirements on boards. In some cases the relevant collective agreement contains provisions.
Just a reminder that boards cannot close for instruction due to PUMs, the union(s) must make arrangements with the employer as may be necessary to ensure that the school remains open for instruction during any union meeting (including arranging sufficient union members to remain available to enable operations to continue if required).
Union/Employee legal responsibilities:
(a) The union must give the board at least 14 days notice of the date/time of the meeting.
(b) The union must make arrangements with the employer as may be necessary to ensure that the school remains open for instruction during any union meeting (including arranging sufficient union members to remain available to enable operations to continue if required).
(c) Employees are required to return to work as soon as practicable at the end of the meeting, but the employer is not obliged to pay any union member for a period longer than 2 hours in respect of any meeting (which will normally include travel time to and from the meeting).
(d) The union must provide the employer with a list of members who attended the meeting and also advise the duration of the meeting itself.
Boards' legal responsibilities: The board is required to:
(a) Provide union members with the opportunity to attend the union meetings.
(b) Pay the union member their “ordinary pay” for the period (see below).
(c) Keep the school open for instruction.
(d) Ensure the safety of the students and staff.
(e) Where the meeting occurs during the normal working hours of the employee then they are entitled to be paid ordinary wages for that time up to the 2 hours maximum.
Boards are not required to pay employees for attending meetings outside their normal hours or for days of the week on which they do not normally work. Part time employees, for instance, cannot claim payment for attending a union meeting on a day on which they would not normally be employed.
Boards are not required to meet any of the expenses associated with the meeting
Open for Instruction: Whilst the union is required to ensure the school’s operation is not unduly affected, the board needs to act in good faith in terms of these requirements, this does not mean maintaining the school’s operation at usual levels and there may be other options.
Under Section 65A of the Education Act 1989 (the Act), the Minister of Education prescribes the number of half days on which schools must be open for instruction. (A half day is defined in Section 65B as at least two hours before, or after, noon).
Under Section 65E of the Act “the board may at any time, because of epidemic, flood, fire or other emergency, close the school” for instruction. If satisfied that this closure was necessary the Secretary for Education may, by written notice to the board, reduce the number of half days for which the school would otherwise be required to be open. The board has uthority to close the school for instruction for the above reasons.
A paid union meeting does not create an emergency in terms of Section 65E of the Act. Therefore the school should not be closed for instruction in these circumstances. If it is, the Secretary for Education may require the lost half days to be made up.
The board has a legal requirement to ensure that the school is open for instruction for the required number of half days unless the Secretary for Education has approved otherwise.
The Flexibility of dates: The Minister has gazetted a notice setting out when schools may exercise flexibility to open for instruction. This flexibility of dates is to allow schools to accommodate local events more easily. A board of trustees may close a school for teacher-only days, local gala or show days, and in-service training days. Where a board exercises this flexibility and closes the school, boards must ensure that schools are open for instruction for the prescribed number of half-days in 2012. This flexibility is restricted to these events it does not include PUMs.
Partial Closure: There is no provision in the Act for closure of part of a school. The school is either open or closed for instruction. Every enrolled student is required to attend school whenever the school is open for instruction, and every board must take all reasonable steps to ensure that such students do attend. (Section 25, the Act.).
Practical application: In most situations it is expected that appropriate arrangements can be made. A common element in the collective agreements is the requirement that:
“The union must make such arrangements with the employer as may be necessary to ensure that the school remains open for instruction during any union meeting, including, where appropriate, an arrangement for sufficient union members to remain available during the meeting to enable the school to remain open for instruction.”
Where it is impossible to provide full instruction the board needs to take a practical approach to this.
There will be a variety of different circumstances applying to schools. Much will be dependent on whether:
(a) staff who are not members of the union are available to cover the work.
(b) you have other staff who can cover (which may include union members as per above).
(c) the union meeting is in the early morning or late afternoon.
All efforts should be taken to ensure that students have proper supervision. If this cannot be provided the board may feel obliged to advise parents to keep students at home for this period, although the school is kept open for instruction. Obviously the individual circumstances of parents/caregivers in your community is a factor to take into account.
See also the Ministry of Education website for further information on PUMs.
If in doubt discuss with your NZSTA Industrial adviser or the NZSTA Helpdesk on 0800STAhelp (0800 782 435) email@example.com.