A dispute between a Northland wood processing giant and its unionised members over alleged unauthorised deduction of their annual leave during lockdown has ended up in front of the Employment Relations Authority.
The stoush between E tū, which represents about 150 of the 214 employees of Carter Holt Harvey laminated veneer lumber (LVL) plant at Marsden Pt, was originally set down for mediation but that did not eventuate.
E tū claims CHH breached the Holidays Act by debiting leave entitlements of about two weeks for each union member during lockdown without prior consultation or agreement.
The company declined to comment.
CHH is going through a restructure and intends to cull 164 jobs— more than two-thirds of its workforce— as part of a plan to abandon export sales and focus on domestic supply only.
It blames the restructure on the unprofitable export side of the LVL business, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the production and sales volume.
E tū initially raised a personal grievance with the company in a letter dated July 12.
It's Northland representative Annie Tothill said the union's lawyer filed a statement of problem with the authority on Tuesday this week.
"The remedy we're seeking is reinstatement of the annual leave. We've had several goes to try to convince the company that it is legally in the wrong and we don't accept its argument, it doesn't accept ours so there's an impasse.
"But it's very clear in the Holidays Act that you can't take out leave without their agreement or consent. This was not a holiday, it was a government-imposed lockdown," Tothill said.
LVL plant workers and CHH to go to mediation
Results of redundancy at LVL plant days away
The ERA is yet to allocate a hearing date.
In her letter to CHH last month, Tothill said her members felt being ripped off, undermined, deceived, robbed, cheated, devalued, stripped of their rights, ignored and unappreciated by CHH.
Tothill said other employers faced with the same urgency of the pandemic acknowledged their employees' right to be consulted about if and how leave may be accessed.
E tū is seeking the reinstatement of all annual leave, including alternate and lieu days, and long service leave with the cost to be met by the company.
For those who will lose their jobs, the union wants CHH to pay the same value of the leave debited as compensation under the Employment Relations Act.
Additional compensation is sought for humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to feelings.
The plant presently runs 24 hours, seven days a week using renewable plantation pine to make laminated veneer lumber, which is an engineered wood product typically used as structural members for lintels, beams, mid-floors and roofs across residential and commercial building projects.