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After the negotiations

When the bargaining parties have reached agreement, their agreement must be ratified and signed before it is a collective employment agreement.

The end is in sight when parties are reaching settlement but they need to make sure that a collective agreement is formed so their hard work negotiating isn’t wasted. To do this:

  • the agreement has to be ratified, signed and implemented and
  • because of good faith, the parties can’t do anything to deceive or mislead each other – depending on the circumstances, this might not include:
    • reneging on agreed positions such as agreements during the course of negotiations and agreement to endorse proposals for settlement
    • refusing to sign a negotiated settlement.

There is also an opportunity for participants in the process to debrief and record things learnt from the experience.

Agreed terms of settlement

When an agreement is reached at the table it is still only a proposal until the parties have ratified it. The agreed proposal should be put in writing and signed by all parties. This is called a terms of settlement. You can use our terms of settlement template as the basis for this.

Terms of settlement template [RTF 54KB]

If you have problems with the process around reaching settlement you can use the Employment Mediation Services.

Ratification and signing

The collective agreement must be ratified by the union members who are covered by the coverage clause before it can have effect.

Unions have a ratification process to decide how their members will agree to the collective agreement; this includes the percentage of votes needed to ratify the collective agreement and how the vote will be conducted (eg a vote of 50%+1 of the members covered by the agreement). This process will already have been set and the parties advised at the beginning of collective bargaining. The ratification requirements and the ratification process are for each individual union to decide on and these may be set out in the union's rules or constitution.

A copy of the whole agreement must be available to employees when they meet to decide whether or not to ratify it.

If the collective agreement isn't ratified by the union members

If the collective agreement isn't ratified, the proposed agreement will not be final or binding on employers, employees or unions. This may mean bargaining has to continue around the unresolved issues.

Record keeping

Employers and unions need to keep a signed copy of the collective employment agreement and provide a copy to employees when they request it.

The employer must also give the collective employment agreement to new employees who are not union members and whose work is covered by the agreement. 

Submitting a collective agreement to MBIE

Once a collective agreement is signed and ratified, as soon as practicable, employers and unions must send to the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE):

  • a copy of the agreement
  • any other document referred to in, or incorporated into, the collective agreement (unless publicly available)
  • details of the number of employees covered by the collective agreement and the negotiated wage movement (% increase) for statistical purposes.

Please send your collective agreement and reference documents to MBIE using the Workplace Online Portal. 

Workplace Online Portal (external link)

Debriefing after collective bargaining

Debriefing is a way to learn from experience and then for next time to avoid or minimise problems that come up in collective bargaining. This can take place just with your bargaining team or with both bargaining teams sharing experiences across the table. Setting time aside to debrief can make sure mistakes aren’t repeated and new knowledge is recorded by the organisation.

It can be useful for your bargaining team to get together to consider what worked, what didn’t and what you should do differently next time. Effective debriefing:

  • reflects and evaluates problems and roadblocks that occurred along the way, and celebrates successes
  • helps to build on the ‘good’ and recognise and address the ‘bad’
  • turns experience into learning and knowledge, and records it for the organisation
  • helps give everyone closure
  • draws on ideas for the future while they’re fresh in the mind.

There are many ways to debrief. You could do a quick survey by email or hold a meeting with the parties at the end of the bargaining. You can use the following as a basis for discussion:

  • What was useful?
  • What was distracting, unhelpful, made things difficult?
  • Did you meet expected timeframes and if not, why not?
  • What obstacles and surprises confronted you?
  • How could the process be more effective next time?
  • What would you like to see happen next time, how could you make it happen?
  • What preparation, communication and training could improve the next time?

You can use our resources to help you draft a debriefing process, such as our learning by debriefing template and implementation checklist.

You can also consider using this opportunity for a discussion about the type of workplace culture you want in the future. You can use our building a desired culture template as a starting point for your team.

Putting the agreement into place

When the collective employment agreement has been signed, it needs to be put into effect in the workplace. An agreement reached in bargaining becomes enforceable in law and there are different ways to make sure that everyone is aware of the new rights and obligations responsibilities the agreement contains.

If your agreement contains many new provisions you may want to set a time to review the progress of the agreement to help problems from escalating before the next round of bargaining.

If this is the first agreement for your workplace then you must make sure that you arrange for union fees to be deducted from union members’ salary or wages and paid to the union, (unless this has been bargained out of the collective agreement).

Employers may commit a breach of good faith if they pass on to non-union individual employees terms and conditions agreed to with a union if there is both the intent and effect of undermining the collective agreement.

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Page last revised: 02 March 2023

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