Hundreds of smelter workers at Tiwai are in line to share in a multi-million dollar payout after a Court of Appeal ruling on in-lieu payments for public holidays, the E Tū union says.
Since 1992, workers on individual employment agreements at New Zealand Aluminium Smelters working 12-hour shifts have only received in-lieu payments of eight hours for statutory holidays.
The union argued workers should receive 12 hours' pay, which was upheld by both the Employment Relations Authority, the Employment Court, and the Court of Appeal.
Its regional organiser, Trevor Hobbs, said yesterday's Supreme Court's ruling - declining leave for the company to appeal - was vindication for the union after a four-year legal battle.
"There is nowhere else for them to go.
"All the way through, the company said 'we're right and you're wrong'. Well, now it's been proved that we were right and they were wrong," he said.
Those still working for the company would receive leave allocations of up to six months, and workers who had left would be eligible for cash payouts.
"We hope non-union members who will also benefit from the decision will become members, which is the best way to protect their rights."
In a written statement, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters chief executive Gretta Stephens said she welcomed the "certainty the Supreme Court's decision has given us".
"Right now we are committed to working with our employees to finalise this matter as soon as possible."
Earlier, she said the company's appeal aimed to confirm the correct legal interpretation of the 1981 Holidays Act.
The company disagreed that employees were entitled to accrue a lieu day if they had actually had the public holiday off work.