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What the Employment Relations Act requires

The ERA requires a union to be an incorporated society, to be independent from employers, and to have a set of rules that comply with the requirements of the ERA.


Independence from employers

A union must be independent of, and be constituted and operate at arms length, from any employer.

The Registrar may examine applications for registration as a union to determine whether or not an applicant is independent of any employer. If an applicant is not independent of any employer, the Registrar must decline to register it as a union.

Employer support for the formation and/or registration of a union will not, in itself, prevent registration. The Registrar will consider all relevant circumstances including the nature and purpose of employer support and any employer influence over the nature or scope of the union's activities.


Union rules

A union's rules or constitution set out what the purpose of the union is and how it will operate. Union rules will vary depending on the nature of the union. A large national union will need a far more complex set of rules than will a small workplace-based union.

The ERA requires that a union's rules:

  • include an object (or purpose) of promoting members' collective employment interests
  • are:
    • not unreasonable
    • democratic
    • not unfairly discriminatory or unfairly prejudicial
    • not contrary to law.
  • Contain a provision relating to the process for holding a secret ballot for the purposes of the ERA.


Last updated 12 September 2013


Contact the Registrar of Unions

New Zealand Companies Office
Private Bag 92061
Victoria Street West
Auckland 1141

Freephone | 0800 20 90 20



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