Following a failure in wage talks, some 100 NZ Bus workers in Wellington walked off the job yesterday in what was expected to be a one-day protest.
However, their boss retaliated with a lockout notice, and the union sought an order from the judge.
The Council of Trade Unions said today’s ruling was a major relief for drivers after a day in court.
The decision has also been praised by the Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Judge Bruce Corkill said he was satisfied the plaintiffs had, on an interim basis, an arguable case that the lockout notices did not comply with relevant provisions of the Employment Relations Act.
“The form of the order will be that until further order of the court, the defendants are prohibited from locking out employees in reliance on the two notices served by the defendants dated 22 April 2021.
“I was advised that were the court to reach this conclusion, the defendants will use their best endeavours to comply with the court’s judgement at the earliest opportunity.
“I am told that services that might be provided tomorrow may be incomplete and uncertain, and that normal services will resume on Monday.”
The judgement said both parties had been invited to a private mediation service next week.
“I strongly urge them to engage in that process in good faith.”
Judge Corkill said the interests of the public were taken into account when making his decision.
Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said NZ Bus was “hoping to starve the bus drivers into submission with this lockout, but this decision has for now stopped them in their tracks”.
“We still need sanity to prevail and for NZ Bus to accept the offer by the council to fund an increase in base rates, leave the other important protections alone, and settle a new collective agreement.”
Victory for common sense – council
The Greater Wellington Regional Council is calling the court ruling a victory for common sense.
Its chair Daran Ponter said the decision will pave the way for more positive negotiations in the coming weeks without leaving thousands of Wellingtonians in the lurch.
The general manager of the council’s transport arm, Scott Gallacher, said it provides relief for passengers who could have been seriously impacted by ongoing lockouts.
He said passengers can now be assured drivers will be reporting for duty and transport services will be back in action.