Employers Associations and Trade Unions in New Zealand

Collective rights

The ERA recognises the right to organise into trade unions, have that right recognised by the employer, and legally withdraw work. A key objective of the ERA is to promote unions and collective bargaining.

Consistent with this objective, the ERA specifically recognises unions as the only lawful representative of employees’ collective interests. Collective agreements can only be concluded by a union and an employer.

To take advantage of the rights the ERA offers to unions, they must be registered as an incorporated society and follow certain procedural criteria. Significantly, the union must also be independent of, and be constituted and operate at “arm’s length from” any employer.

Amendments in 2015 will remove the requirement that previously existed for parties bargaining for a collective agreement to conclude a collective agreement unless there is a genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds, not to.

Strikes and lockouts

The ERA sets out circumstances in which strikes and lockouts are lawful or unlawful. Participation in a strike or a lockout under the ERA will be unlawful if it occurs while a binding collective agreement is in force.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in New Zealand, please contact Don Mackinnon, Partner at SBM Legal ( at
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