Under the Employment Relations Act 2000, collective bargaining can only take place through a registered trade union such as APEX. Under this law, a union can decide whether it wants its collective agreement to cover more than one employer, hence the MECA. The decision whether or not to negotiate a MECA will first be made by a vote of the union members. All members of a union covered by the coverage clause in the collective agreement have the opportunity to vote. Each group of workers employed by an employer votes on whether their employer should be associated with the MECA. Once this is complete, the union will enter into negotiations with the employers, for which the employees voted to integrate them into the MECA. A CEA or global employment contract is the term used to describe a situation in which several staff members are bound by an identical contract, i.e. they are bound by the same conditions and are entitled to the same contractual rights. In New Zealand, collective agreements are recognised as binding and enforceable agreements under the Employment Act 2000.
Collective agreements are classified according to the composition of the parties and will come in two forms: either MECA or SECA (see below). As a worker, you are bound either to an EIA (also known as an individual employment contract, the parties to which are the individual worker and the employer (not the union), or to a CEA. There are a number of benefits related to the collective nature of employment contracts, particularly strength and security in numbers. Prior to the Employment Contracts Act, MECAs (or their equivalent) were daily and, in the health sector, probably the primary form of the employment contract or award, as they were called at the time. Multi-employer agreements in one form or another have been, for a hundred years, the dominant medium on which working conditions have been negotiated since the introduction of New Zealand`s first industrial legislation, the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1894. First of all, a bit of industrial history: the Labour Relations Act (1987) preceded the Employment Contracts Act (1991), which in turn was replaced by our current Employment Relations Act (2000). What makes APEX unique is that each professional category is autonomous and takes care of the direction and instructions of its own members.