E tū is calling for changes to the Holidays Act following a court decision recognising the whangai relationship of an NZ Steel worker.
E tū member, Awa Minhinnick took a case to the Employment Relations Authority after NZ Steel refused him three days of bereavement leave to attend the tangi in January of his whangai brother, Arnold Kaihau.
The collective agreement between NZ Steel and E tū allows three days of bereavement leave after the death of an “immediate” relative including siblings.
NZ Steel didn’t accept Arnold was Awa’s sibling, allowing Awa just one day of bereavement leave, forcing him to use two days leave to attend Arnold’s tangi.
However, the Authority has ruled that under the collective agreement, Arnold was indeed Awa’s sibling, albeit through a whangai adoption.
E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says the ruling is a victory for common sense.
However, he says NZ Steel has simply applied the letter of the law on whangai relationships, which are not legally recognised.
He says key legislation such as the Holidays Act needs to be changed to recognise tikanga, and the value of Maori whanau arrangements.
“NZ Steel decided to decline this leave based on laws which are out-dated, because they don’t recognise the status of whangai relationships. Those laws need to be re-written to provide clarity,” says Joe.
“It shouldn’t be left to companies, which don’t understand the cultural significance of this.”
E tū’s Rununga Convenor, Sharryn Barton has welcomed the ruling.
“We’ve won and that’s good. But I’m surprised in this day and age that companies are still struggling with these concepts. Whangai family relationships are common knowledge and people accept Maori families are different and that they’re valid,” she says.
“I’m really proud E tū sought to enlighten this employer on this issue.”