Ministry of Education taken to court over job losses

The dismissal of a significant number of staff at the Ministry of Education may breach collective agreements.

On Tuesday 4 June, the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA) filed a case against the Ministry of Education (MoE) with the Employment Relations Authority concerning recent job cuts.  

The union claims the MoE is breaking the terms of their collective agreement, which states the Ministry has an obligation to help find other roles for staff it lays off.  

“This is not an action we have taken lightly,” said Duane Leo, National Secretary for PSA.  

Read the latest print edition of School News HERE

“[It] comes after we attended mediation on Thursday which ended with no commitment from the Ministry to comply with the collective agreement.” 

The union claims one of the principal breaches is the Ministry’s obligation to redeploy affected workers. This would be on a case-by-case basis, with a commitment to retraining where possible.  

Assistant Secretary for PSA Fleur Fitzsimmons added this breach is “simply unacceptable… 

“These are humane provisions in the collective agreement designed to make best use of talented education experts.” 

Fitzsimmons added that the staff being dismissed at MoE included former teachers and curriculum experts.  

“Work is available, and people should be supported into it.” 

Leo says the move breaches some “relevant, clear” principles of the collective agreement, including Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations, kotahitanga (unity) and whakamana (empowerment), among others.  

The PSA says the job cuts breach several principles of their collective agreement. A similar case was recent won by the E tū union against TVNZ. Image by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash.

Other breaches of the collective agreement include the requirement for PSA to be consulted on cost-cutting exercises. Leo says the clause is not unlike other collective agreement clauses like the TVNZ and E tū agreement. E tū recently won its case against TVNZ with the Employment Relations Authority, which forced TVNZ back into consultation with affected workers.  

Prior to the case being filed with the Employment Relations Authority, independent mediations had been held between MoE and PSA.  

PSA criticises contractor proposals 

Leo and Fitzsimmons added that the government’s indication it would hire contractors was “not right”. 

The PSA has been seeking legal advice since May. Then-National Secretary Kerry Davies said “It is just wrong that in the middle of an unprecedented series of job cuts the Ministry is hiring contractors instead of using the skills of those already on the Ministry payroll. 

“For a government obsessed with cutting spending, it’s appalling that it thinks hiring contractors makes sense when people who can do that work are losing their jobs. 

“How can the Minister of Education allow this to happen when the Government made so much noise about clamping down on contractors?”  

Fitzsimmons added MoE’s reliance on contractors was “hypocritical.. 

“Given the breadth and depth of these brutal cuts it’s clear that very soon ministries will be forced to bring back contractors just as happened under the last National-led government. The Government should be upfront about how many contractors it will need to do the work of dismissed public servants in all agencies.”  

The Ministry of Education has been contacted for comment.

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She has been covering education in New Zealand since 2022.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back to top button
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x