Global wholesale food giant Bidfood has been told it must start bargaining with the union after breaching New Zealand's employment laws.

The Employment Relations Authority has released a determination that found Bidfood New Zealand Limited had failed to notify its employees FIRST union had started bargaining and had also refused to start bargaining with the union.

Under New Zealand law a company must negotiate with a union once it has initiated bargaining.

FIRST Union sought a determination from the ERA after the company ignored a letter from the union saying it wanted to negotiate a collected agreement.


However the company argued that the notice was invalid because it had been sent to the manager of the Auckland branch and not the national office and there had been a misunderstanding of who it involved.

But authority member Eleanor Robinson found the union was within its grounds to enter bargaining and that once Bidfood realised it affected other regions it should have notified those staff members too.

She ordered Bidfood to now notify the relevant employees they were entering into bargaining and to meet with the union to consider and respond to proposals. Costs were reserved.

FIRST Union Transport Logistics and Manufacturing Secretary Jared Abbott said he was pleased with the decision and hoped the company would comply with New Zealand's employment laws going forward.

"Our members have been waiting since May for the bargaining to commence. At least now they know they were in the right and that the company will have to comply with the law."

"It's a shame we have to take court action over obvious things like this, but our union is willing to take these fights to ensure all workers are treated fairly by the cowboy employers giving businesses a bad name"

Bidfood is the largest specialist food service distributor in New Zealand and employs more than 1600 people, according to its website.