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Ports of Auckland look for way around strike

Wednesday 18th January 2012

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Ports of Auckland management and Maritime Union officials are negotiating the terms of a stop-work meeting in a bid to head off the sixth strike at the transport hub.

Port management put forward the offer after union president Garry Parsloe said they would call off the strike if members had the opportunity to meet and discuss ramifications of redundancies in anticipation of the ports continued commitment to outside contracting. The 24-hour strike is set to start at 7am on Jan. 31.

“We wrote to the Union yesterday, reminding them that under the collective agreement they are entitled to hold four paid stop work meetings each year and we have had no response” port spokeswoman Catherine Etheredge said in a written statement. “Given that we are consulting on a proposal regarding contracting out it is appropriate that they do have a meeting and we would encourage them to do so”.

The protracted dispute between the wharfies and port management has struggled to break the impasse over plans to introduce flexible rosters that the union says will lead to a casualised workforce and loss of guaranteed hours for full-time staff. When shipping line Maersk and Fonterra Cooperative Group moved $47 million of custom to Tauranga they both blamed the labour dispute.

Union president Parsloe said the union wants “three or four hours to let everyone know what is going on and what the redundancies mean,” but he wants to make sure all members can attend the meeting before he calls off the strike.

“If we can get that, then we’ll call off the strike, have the meeting, and go back to work afterwards,” he said.

Ports of Auckland issued a request for proposal to several contract companies last week, with responses due back by the end of January.

Parsloe says if redundancies go ahead he doesn’t know where ports will find an equally skilled workforce and warns that a high number will likely leave New Zealand.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who say they would take that redundancy money and go to Australia taking that experience,” he said. “These are people who, through the council, the public have spent a lot of money training.”

Ports spokeswoman Etheredge said the port is confident of attracting an able work force quickly, but has set up significant contingency plans for the transition.

“Third party contractors already operate the conventional (non-container terminal) port facilities” she said. “We are already receiving many indications and enquiries from staff and members of the public regarding positions with contracting companies”.

Etheredge said port management would prefer to secure a collective agreement with staff


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