Housing Allowance Dispute / Main Collective Agreement Negotiations (Update 6/2014)

housing_allowanceThis in an update on the current status of the national Housing Allowance dispute as well as the Main Collective Agreement negotiations.

Negotiations to finalise collective bargaining on the Main Collective Agreement, which includes the Housing Allowance, took place on 14 August 2014 and was conducted under the auspices of a facilitator, Mr Pat Stone.

IMATU proposed, at the commencement of negotiations, that parties should implement the areas of agreement on the Main Collective Agreement and, in respect of those areas where there is no agreement, the status quo should remain. In respect of the Housing Allowance, IMATU proposed a progressive increase over several financial years. This was the same proposal we communicated to SALGA at the end of last year.

IMATU also reminded the parties that the finalisation of the Main Collective Agreement is ultimately dependant on whether the parties can resolve the following main sticking points:

• The Scope of the Agreement
• The Duration of the Agreement; and
• IMATU’s proposal for an increased Housing Allowance

In respect of the Scope of the Agreement, SALGA previously sought to exclude all Municipal Entities from the Scope of the Main Collective Agreement. This was vigorously opposed by IMATU on the grounds that Municipal Entities cannot be seen as separate from the Local Government sector. SALGA however eventually withdrew their demands in this respect and the matter was resolved.

In respect of the Duration of the Agreement, SALGA once again sought to get a concession that would allow them to cancel the agreement at will and with reasonable notice once the normal 5 year period for collective agreements have expired. IMATU made it clear that such a proposal is reckless and irresponsible as any cancellation of the Main Collective Agreement, at the whim of any party, will have disastrous consequences for the whole sector. As far as IMATU is concerned, SALGA’s only purpose in seeking this concession is to gain an unfair advantage in future collective bargaining processes. The issue could not be resolved as both parties remained firm on their positions in this respect.

In respect of IMATU’s demand for an increased Housing Allowance, a proposal was made to establish a working group to investigate all aspects of Housing Assistance in Local Government. However, due to SALGA’s refusal to commit itself to a monetary increase at this stage, it was not possible to get an agreement from both trade unions on this proposal. Therefore the matter remains unresolved. It was noted that IMATU has referred the matter to arbitration and that we intend to proceed with it.

In the end, the parties could not finalise the Main Collective Agreement negotiations during this round of talks and it was agreed that all parties will reconsider their positions and revert to the SALGBC within 30 days.

Regions will be kept informed as the matter progresses.