The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce have been through the gruelling process of successfully defending itself, through the Employment Relations Authority. The case related to an ex-employee, alleging the Chamber had failed to act in good faith and did not provide a safe workplace. The alleged issues arose after the 22 February 2011 earthquake, when CECC staff were working from my home, in Holmwood Road under less than ideal conditions like many other Christchurch businesses post-earthquake.
The full summary of the ERA findings just released two years after the alleged allegations can been seen . Defending these allegations has been resource hungry, arduous, emotionally taxing and expensive. While CECC has been completely exonerated and in fact praised for a lot of the actions we took immediately post-earthquake, we will still end up out of pocket, as a completely innocent party. A proportion of the legal fees incurred, will remain a cost to CECC and of course the resources we have expended defending what have been found to be spurious allegations, can never be recovered.
There is something fundamentally wrong here, a view of which I am sure is shared by many of our members. Why should a completely innocent party, totally exonerated from all charges, end up with significant costs by going through a process to prove its innocence? The easy option for us, would have been to agree on a cash settlement, early on in the process. As an employers’ organisation we refused to do that, because we knew we were innocent and simply settling, to get the allegations out of the way, was morally indefensible and bowing to the failings of an inadequate system.
We now want to do what we can to address this frustration. It has been the curse of employers for many years. We want to see whether or not we can, in future, ensure full compensation of costs, for entities who are put through a process to have to prove their innocence and proven to be without blame. The process is flawed and it needs to be changed. Please let me know if you share my views.