Claims NZ Post using zero hours contracts denied

New Zealand Post has denied claims it uses zero hours contracts for some workers and that it is not honouring some contractual entitlements.

The state owned enterprise says on call workers are expected to be ''reasonably available'' when required for shifts.

The Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union says New Zealand Post is ''in essence'' using zero hours contracts, and a Dunedin worker who declined to be named said on call posties were sometimes penalised by losing hours if they were not available.

The fast food industry recently moved away from zero hours contracts after a storm of publicity, although just what constitutes a zero hours contract has been in dispute.

''You talk to the team leaders [about moving to a temporary contract] and they go: `We've got to talk to management', and it's just kind of fobbed off.

''If you don't do what [they] want, if you say I'm unavailable that day or anything like that, then they're just like: `We won't give you any hours','' the worker claimed.

Workers were entitled to become temporary employees after engagements of more than two weeks, and to sick pay and annual leave after three months, but these were not being honoured, it was claimed. It was common for on call posties to work six days a week.

The company stopped hiring permanent staff to prepare for the reduction in mail delivery times in July and associated restructuring, the worker said.

On call delivery posties sometimes waited an hour or so for their sorted mail and were not paid for the wait time ''even though they've rung you and told you you have to be there''.

In a statement, a New Zealand Post spokesman said the company was not aware of ''any concerns like this'', and the worker should raise it with their team leader or union delegate.

New Zealand Post had a pool of about 20 on call and temporary staff in Dunedin. On call staff worked an average of 20 hours a week; some worked 37.4 hours, and ''sometimes they can work extra hours'', the spokesman said.

In an earlier statement, Employment Relations, Safety and Wellbeing head Parvez Akbar said: ''New Zealand Post does not hire on call posties on zero hours contracts.

''Their employment arrangements, which were negotiated with the unions as part of our Collective Employment Agreement, are different on a number of points.

''Our on call employees are required to be reasonably available. They have an ongoing relationship with the company and after three months' service are eligible for paid sick leave and annual leave.

''On calls become temporary employees for engagements lasting more than two weeks.''

The spokesman said the company had been ''upfront'' that people hired ''in the lead up'' to the delivery reduction would be on ''fixed term contracts until we get a better understanding of the shape of the workforce needed after July''.

The company is in the midst of restructuring to prepare for the reduced service. EPMU national industry organiser (postal and logistics) Joe Gallagher said the contracts were a zero hours ''in essence'', but workers had a ''semi permanent relationship'' with the company. Mr Gallagher could not be contacted yesterday to respond to the worker's concerns about entitlements.

When interviewed earlier this month, Mr Gallagher said the contracts were ''a bit more structured'' than some on call contracts.

He warned the postie workforce faced further pain as New Zealand Post was ''exploring all options'' for further cost cutting.

''Do I think this is the end of it?''Not under the National Government,'' Mr Gallagher said.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

 

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