Eclecticism versus Purity: Mediation Styles Used in New Zealand Employment Disputes

AuthorGrant Morris
Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
C R Q, vol. 33, no. 2, Winter 2015 203
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the Association for Confl ict Resolution
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21153
Eclecticism versus Purity: Mediation Styles Used
inNew Zealand Employment Disputes
Grant Morris
Most employment mediation in New Zealand is carried out by Reso-
lution Services under the Employment Relations Act 2000.  is article
focuses on mediation styles. According to policy and statute, what styles are
claimed to be used? According to mediators, what styles are actually used?
What are the repercussions of these fi ndings? Resolution Services’ eclectic
approach to mediation styles is both consciously practiced and eff ective.
However, this approach means that parties have little idea which style to
expect and that mediators are mixing and matching styles which, accord-
ing to the style creators, are not supposed to be mixed and matched.
Mediation is one of the most common ways to resolve employment
disputes in New Zealand. Most of this mediation is carried out by
the Resolution Services branch of the Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment (MBIE). Resolution Services includes a team of employ-
ment mediators who resolve disputes using the regime established by the
Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA). Some of these mediators also
work in the areas of tenancy, unit titles (condominium-type ownership
disputes), and weather tightness (disputes over leaky buildings), but there
remains a clearly identifi able group of mediators focusing primarily on
employment disputes.  is article focuses on the styles of mediation that
this team uses.  e study asked the following questions:
According to offi cial government policy, what styles are claimed to
be used?
According to the actual mediators, what styles are actually used?
What are the repercussions of these fi ndings?
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
It is important to test the accuracy of government statements to make
sure policy is being followed in practice.  is is particularly vital for users
so they know what approaches to expect. In 2012 I published an article
looking at interest-based negotiation in the Treaty of Waitangi settlement
process (Morris 2012).  e treaty is New Zealand’s founding document,
signed between the indigenous Maori and the British Crown in 1840. It
was argued that the style of negotiation actually used is substantially diff er-
ent from that claimed by the government.  is article uses similar meth-
odology but comes to a diff erent conclusion. In employment mediation,
the styles of mediation actually used are the same as, or very similar to,
those claimed by the government.  is is partly due to the very broad,
and somewhat vague, instructions provided by government policy in this
area.  e ERA eff ectively allows any style of mediation, although there is
an emphasis on facilitative and evaluative styles. Government policy docu-
ments promote a facilitative style but clearly state that an evaluative style is
also appropriate.  e government’s objectives in this area also suggest the
encouragement of a settlement style.  is approach raises the question as
to whether the government should be more prescriptive in setting a par-
ticular style, thus providing users with more information in advance.  e
evidence suggests that the current broad approach is working successfully.
In fact, I conclude that the MBIE employment team is probably the most
self-aware and capable mediation unit in New Zealand.
is article uses government policy documents, previous scholarly
work, a survey, and targeted qualitative interviews to answer the key ques-
tions. Reference is also made to overseas experience and relevant theoretical
literature on mediation styles.
e methodology used in this project was based on a combination of sur-
veys and interviews carried out in late 2013 and early 2014. All thirty-two
MBIE employment mediators were given the opportunity to complete
a survey consisting of six questions relating to mediation styles used in
New Zealand employment disputes.  ese questions consisted of ranking
options and providing additional comments. Seventeen mediators com-
pleted the survey, resulting in a response rate of 53 percent (similar to the
Maryland mediation study rate of 57 percent; Charkoudian et al. 2009).
is rate is high enough for meaningful conclusions to be made about
the styles of mediation used. MBIE mediators are spread throughout New

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