Ports of Auckland Management Bear Responsibility For Port Dispute

Maritime Union of New Zealand National President Garry Parsloe says management have failed to successfully negotiate with their employees and had no one to blame but themselves for the situation at the Port.

"After a week of inflammatory claims and public attacks on the integrity of his employees, Ports of Auckland Limited CEO Tony Gibson can boast of one accomplishment only - alienating his workforce."

He says that port workers being locked out by POAL management would be losing pay, but Local 13 MUNZ members understood the long term importance of maintaining terms and conditions at the Port.

The three-year Collective Agreement between the Maritime Union of New Zealand Local 13 and the Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL) expired on 30 September 2011.

Mr Parsloe says there are several substantial issues around terms and conditions which are behind the dispute, which had been concealed by Ports of Auckland management.

"If management were serious about solving the dispute, they'd be addressing the issues instead of grandstanding in the media."

One major point of contention was ongoing attempts by management to contract out the jobs of port workers, he says.

During the second year of the agreement (2010), the Port Company attempted to contract out ITF affiliated Dockers employment in the lash, straddle driving and container crane operations.

In August and September of 2010 the Port Company issued redundancy notices to MUNZ members working in the shuttle operation. Shuttles are trailer units that move containers between Fergusson and Bledisloe container terminals. It should be noted that the shuttle operation is carried out within the confines of the port area, wharf to wharf.

POAL contracted out the shuttle operation to a Company called Conlinxx which is a subsidiary joint venture between the POAL and NZL of which the Port Company owns 90% of the shares. Port Company employees also act as directors on the Conlinxx Board of Directors.

The Conlinxx operation is predominately a non-union operation which includes a high proportion of owner drivers.

The Port Company sold three of its trailer units and following an interim agreement with the Union the remaining two units were to be worked by MUNZ members. What unfolded was at best, a spasmodic operation of Union driven trailer units on a Monday to Friday basis of 1st shift only.

In talks to renew the Collective Agreement the Port Company has definitively stated that the contracted shuttle operation will remain despite the Union claim for this worked to be returned to union members.

As the Collective Agreement had expired the Union was in a position to take industrial action to support its claim for the return of the shuttle work.

At a stopwork meeting, rank and file membership unanimously instructed the Local 13 Officials to issue the Port Company with a two day strike notice to support their claim.

The Port Company responded by issuing a Lockout notice for two days in retaliation.

The second main area of the dispute was bad faith by the management who were offering higher hourly rates to workers on Individual Employment Agreements.

Management has justified its actions for a higher hourly rate by saying the rate in the Individual Agreements is a 'Total Remuneration Package' that effectively cashes up superannuation, meal monies and health insurance.

These conditions are conditions that have been won by the Union in previous struggles.

Local 13 is challenging the company on Good Faith bargaining, as the offer of a higher hourly rate undermines the Collective Agreement and the bargaining process.

"In recent weeks the Port Company has made much to do about their Company values, so the Union fails to see how an employer who offers a monetary incentive to leave the Union at the expense of a retirement plan can masquerade as a caring employer."

The cashing up of superannuation entitlements along with other conditions is a sinister attempt to influence workers and establish vulnerable dependent employees in the workplace, says Mr Parsloe.

Mr Parsloe says the efforts were a transparent attempt to deunionize the workforce, with the intention of eventually tearing down hard won terms and conditions of employment.

He says at the end of the day the majority of workers in the Ports of Auckland chose to be members of the Maritime Union.

"Every time Mr Gibson opens his mouth and abuses the Union, he is abusing his workforce, the same workforce that delivered high
productivity in a round the clock industrial environment at the Ports of Auckland."

"This CEO claims to respect his workforce but has spent the last week attacking their integrity in the news media."

"He says he is concerned about the effect of stoppages on customers before Christmas, then proceeds to lock out the workforce for two days."

"He says he wants a resolution but continues to engage in bad faith actions."

In short, what the Union wants is simply to maintain hard won terms and conditions, and a unionized workforce.

The agenda of the POAL management continues to be one of radical undermining of terms and conditions through clearly anti-union measures such as contracting out and offering preferential treatment to some employees.

The Ports of Auckland management lock out of workers commences 12.01am Saturday 3 December and concludes 10.30 pm on Sunday 4 December 2011.

The first strike period is from 10.30 pm on Thursday 1 December 2011 until 10.30 pm on Friday 2 December 2011, then from 10.30 pm on Sunday 4 December 2011 until 10.30 pm on Monday 5 December 2011.

The second strike is for the period commencing 10.30 pm on Thursday 8 December 2011 until 10.30 pm Saturday 10 December 2011.

Ports of Auckland's second lockout is for the 48 hours immediately following and will extend the stoppage until 10.30 pm Monday 12 December 2011.