Under Section 20 of the Employment Relations Act 2000, a union has a legal right to access any workplace to recruit new members, and communicate with and service existing members. Solidarity Union endeavours to do this in a professional and efficient manner, and has given these guidelines to field organisers to aid this process:
1. Upon arriving at a site, the organiser should inform the shift manager or owner that they are on the premises, and that they wish to access their members and/or talk to non-union workers about the union.
2. The organiser should then arrange with the manager to carry out this process in as efficient a manner as possible. It is to the advantage of both organiser and manager that as many workers are met as quickly and as punctually as possible. For these reasons, organisers try to contact sites at off-peak times. Organisers have many sites to visit every day, and thus wish to minimise ³dead time² waiting around at sites. In return, they keep contact time with workers to ³a reasonable duration² per person, as required under the Employment Relations Act.
3. Organisers also communicate with union members and non-union workers through the union newsletter. This can help speed up the communication process by avoiding the need to see every worker individually. Sites should have an agreement to leave a union newsletter folder on the staff noticeboard or some other visible place.
4. Meetings with workers should take place in a quiet area of the site away from loud machinery and other distractions. It should also be as private as conditions allow. Names of workers should never be shouted out by either managers or organisers. Meeting with the union is part of any worker¹s democratic and legal rights, and needs to be respected as such. An organiser requires table space to lay out union bulletins and other union material.
5. When all workers in the site have been visited, the shift manager should inform the organiser of this fact. Workers who do not wish to join the union on this visit need to inform an organiser of this fact themselves, face-to-face this cannot be conveyed by a manager or employer. An organiser who has not contacted all union members and non-union workers may leave union newsletters and forms with a site delegate.
6. A meeting with a site delegate that is slightly longer than the time usually spent with other workers can shorten or eliminate contact time with those other workers. That is good for both the employer and the union.
7. Organisers should thank the shift manager or employer for their co-operation at the end of a site visit. Organisers, workers and managers are under pressure and have deadlines to meet these protocols try to make this process as punctual and efficient as possible.
8. In the event of any organiser encountering hostility, obstruction or unprofessional conduct at a site, they are to immediately contact the Solidarity Union secretary with a report. If there is major obstruction or a violation of the union¹s right to visit, the organiser will withdraw and the matter will go straight to the union¹s legal team. Solidarity Union has a strict policy of follow-up on all violations of our access rights to workplaces under Section 20 of the Employment Relations Act. Those found guilty of obstruction are liable for individual fines of up to $10,000 in addition to their company being fined up to $5,000. Solidarity Union prefers to resolve any confrontation without recourse to legal processes through discussions with a manager. Such situations can arise because of a lack of knowledge about a union¹s legal rights on a site not covered by any union before.