Restarting redundancy process would cause significant disruption for TVNZ

TVNZ’s chief operating officer says any decision for the company to restart its redundancy process would cause disruption for its news teams and some staff members who have “moved on”.

A two-day hearing at the Employment Relations Authority, investigating whether TVNZ had breached its duties during job losses, concluded this afternoon.

Final submissions were heard from E tū union and TVNZ today and a determination is due on Friday.

E tū took the case against TVNZ, arguing the company did not follow the consultation requirements under their collective agreement.

The union wanted to see the broadcaster restart its redundancy process and “work properly” with staff to shape the future for the organisation.

The hearing comes about two months after TVNZ’s announcement to cut 68 roles – more than 40 roles involve union members.

Cancelled programmes Fair Go and Sunday – as well as the midday and late night news bulletins will end by the middle of May.

TVNZ chief operating officer Brent McAnulty – who was interim chief executive until January 2024 – was the last to give evidence at the hearing, after the ERA heard from several senior leaders on Monday.

When asked by authority member Peter Fuiava what the consequences would be for TVNZ if it were asked to redo redundancy processes so that it complied with the agreement for Fair Go and Sunday staff, McAnulty said it would cause significant disruption.

“If that’s the decision of the authority, we will abide, but it would come at a lot of disruption to those shows and also the entire news team.

“I do know some people involved in those shows, reluctantly looking to move on, others in other areas have left the business… it would be upsetting for a few people who’ve said to me they want to move on,

“Even dragging this out has caused them concern,” he said.

McAnulty said there were people in other parts of the business whose roles were connected to the shows, who were hoping to move on – but he also acknowledged that not everyone felt that way.

He said the possibility of having to restart the process would come at a cost to people emotionally.

Under examination by TVNZ’s lawyer June Hardacre, McAnulty said if TVNZ had to sustain a period of re-employment for affected staff, there would be no guarantee for the same level of advertising support for those shows.

He said the company was currently projecting to be $30 million down in revenue by the end of this financial year in June, and that any re-employment would worsen its financial position.

McAnulty told the hearing that he had been consistent in telling staff throughout 2023 that costs needed to be reduced.

He said an email he sent to staff in July 2023 affirmed the company’s financial woes and the need to cut discretionary spending, travel, and internal entertainment costs.

McAnulty said the company had also pulled other levers – such as reducing marketing costs and hiring restrictions – before it came to the last resort of staff cuts.

He said the quarterly financial report up to September last year had indicated the situation was worsening.

Under cross-examination, McAnulty confirmed he did not inform the union or news staff when he became aware in November/December of the $10m cuts needed – and of the possibility shows would get cut.

He said no decisions were made at the time, and that he was hopeful advertising revenue would increase after Christmas.

When asked whether he had looked at the requirements for change management under the collective agreement during these processes, or if any members of the executive team had raised it with him, he said no.

Final submissions

In final submissions made by E tū lawyer Simon Mitchell KC, he said that TVNZ did not engage with staff as it developed its plans around how a reduction in revenues could be addressed.

He said this was a breach of TVNZ’s duty under the collective agreement to involve staff in the “developmental stages of decision making” relating to change processes.

Mitchell argued that “ideas week” sessions in 2023 – which solicited ideas from staff for the company’s transition – did not amount to active participation of staff, and that staff were kept in the dark until the announcement to cut jobs in March.

He is seeking a compliance order to prevent the redundancies until TVNZ revisits the process to comply with the collective agreement.

Meanwhile, Hardacre said TVNZ had engaged staff through its transformation project – Te Paerangi – and “ideas week” sessions which involved staff to reimagine the future of the organisation.

She said the collective agreement did not require TVNZ to “co-design” proposals with staff, and neither did it prevent TVNZ setting the parameters around what engagement looked like.

Hardacre said to “go back and ask people to talk again, is not practical,” and added that it was not clear whether this would yield any different result.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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