A case study on taking an interest based approach to Collective Bargaining - July 2016
Wellington Water was established in September 2014 and was formed by the merger of Greater Wellington Regional Council’s water supply group with Capacity Infrastructure Services, which was owned by Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington city councils. The merger happened on 19 September 2014.
The five local authorities are joint and equal owners of Wellington Water. A representative from each authority sits on the regional Water Committee that provides overall leadership and direction for the company.
The company is governed by a board of independent directors.
Wellington Water operates two Collective Agreements, one with the Public Service Association (PSA) and Central Amalgamated Workers Union (CAWU) that applied to the former Capacity Infrastructure Services staff and a second with the Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union (EPMU) that applied to those former Greater Wellington Regional Council staff who moved across into Wellington Water. In 2015 both these collective agreements came up for renegotiation around the same time and the unions wanted to retain the separate agreements.
Juliet Cross, Manager of People and Capability, who had recently joined Wellington Water, contacted McKone Consultancy to assist with the collective negotiations as Director Tony McKone had assisted the former Capacity Infrastructure Services in their last bargaining round in 2014.
Juliet was keen to involve McKone Consultancy in the 2015 bargaining as that gave Wellington Water some continuity on what had taken place in the 2014 bargaining round. It also meant that as Tony McKone already had a working relationship with the unions, McKone Consultancy's presence at the bargaining table was not going to be seen as confrontational or disruptive to the bargaining process.
Wellington Water’s negotiations proceeded with both the employer and union parties taking an interest based approach to bargaining. McKone Consultancy facilitated the progress of negotiations by keeping a shared record of agreements reached and logging outstanding items. This enable the parties to focus on meaningful and constructive discussion whilst keeping track of their respective interests. This was particularly important for Wellington Water as it was negotiating two separate Collective Agreements at the same time.
By keeping a good record of agreements reached during both sets of bargaining, once a final settlement was reached for both Collective Agreements, McKone Consultancy was able to quickly draft up the new revised Collective Agreements, and provide summaries of the changes to those documents that the Wellington Water bargaining team was able to take to management for approval of the terms of settlement. The unions too were able to use these same documents to explain the changes to their members and ratify the new Collective Agreements.
The outcome achieved was two new Collective Agreement and more importantly a strengthening of the relationship between Wellington Water and its three unions, CAWU, EPMU (now E Tu) and the PSA.
The Joint unions welcomed the use of McKone Consultancy for historical consistency and recognised the integrity, and honest and pragmatic approach that allowed an interest based approach to the 2015 bargaining rounds