New Zealand Defence Force civilians have gone on strike over pay.
About 30 people from Linton Military Camp and Ohakea Air Force base attended the strike in The Square in Palmerston North on Thursday, including logistics staff, catering, security guards and IT workers.
Public Service Association organiser Nick Kelly suggested it could be inferred from an email sent out to members that they were not entitled to strike and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would be told who turned up to work.
But the Defence Force says staff were not told they could not strike, and it says no names were passed on to the ministry.
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Kelly said some members had not had a pay rise since 2014.
The union had started fresh negotiations with the Defence Force in August 2016 and he said he believed the NZDF had stopped negotiations because it wanted to be in control.
“It feels like it’s a control thing. They would rather just dictate the rate of pay, so that’s what they are doing.”
A New Zealand Defence Force spokesman said they had not refused to negotiate.
On Wednesday, the day before the strike, they offered a pay increase as part of negotiations and the PSA agreed to continue negotiations.
The Defence Force says a letter and email sent out did not tell staff they were not entitled to strike.
The email said all employees would be required to perform their regular duties. It went on to say that those who didn’t would be treated as being on strike.
A Defence Force spokesman said of the letter: “It says the NZDF requires non-striking staff to perform their regular duties.”
The email referred to all staff, however.
“Only employees who perform their regular duties are noted as not participating in the strike on the list that will be sent to the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment,” the email also says.
But the spokesman said no names were being passed on to the ministry.
Kelly said they hoped the strike would keep putting pressure on the NZDF.
“We’re trying to get this in the public domain.
“People would be shocked to hear a government agency is treating their staff like this and the wider issue around bargaining pay.”
The NZDF spokesman said employment relations regulations meant employers were required to provide a detailed list of information to the ministry’s chief executive in relation to strikes or lockouts, which did not include names.
A man at the strike, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, had worked at Linton Military Camp since 2014.
He said it was time to stand up with everyone else and see some fairness in their pay.
“We feed and we protect the people who protect our country.
“So they can spend more time looking after us.”
Labour’s defence spokesman and Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway said he thought it was appalling the strike even had to occur.
He had lodged a member’s bill to clarify the Employment Relation Act in relation to collective agreements to make it clear pay rates were essential to collective bargaining.
“What the Defence Force is doing is undermining our employment legislation and the fact the Government is letting them get away with this is disappointing.”
Lees-Galloway also took issue with the letter sent to PSA members.
“The letter they sent out was extremely intimidating, the likes of which I haven’t actually seen before by any employer in New Zealand.”