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Ports of Auckland sacks striking wharfies, outsources stevedoring services

Wednesday 7th March 2012 10 Comments

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Ports of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest container port, will make 292 workers redundant and outsource its stevedoring services, saying existing labour contracts have eroded its competitive and caused it to lose business.

The port plans to contract with three stevedore companies for its Fergusson and Bledisloe container terminal operations, it said in a statement.

“We’ve weighted up all the options and we believe this is the best decision for the future of the port,” said Tony Gibson, chief executive. “The decision will reassure the wider market and customers that we plan to achieve a sustainable lift in the port’s competitiveness as soon as possible.”

Gibson said the redundant workers will be encouraged to apply for new positions with the contractors.

The Maritime Union has vowed to fight on and its dispute has already garnered support from unionized workers at other ports and from international port worker groups.

“This is by no means the end of our campaign for secure work,” said Garry Parsloe, president of the Maritime Union. “We call on Mayor Len Brown to not let this happen on his watch in his time as leaders of this city and owner of the port.”

Brown said he is restrained by legislation from intervening, the NZ Herald reported.

Earlier this week the union gave 14 days notice of another week of strike action to begin on March 16, which would only have been lifted if a settlement was reached. That would make four weeks of continuous action, on top of several earlier strikes and a lock-out by port management.

The dispute has cost the port contracts with shipping line Maersk and dairy exporter Fonterra Cooperative Group, who have shifted some services to Port of Tauranga and Port of Napier.

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Comments from our readers

On 7 March 2012 at 11:15 am terry said:
take away the P from Parsloe and you have got your answer
On 7 March 2012 at 2:36 pm MC said:
When are the unions going to wake up that this type of industrial action is not going to result in jobs for their wroker going forward. In fact it may be a benefit to Aucklands water front by freeing up a lot a valuable land to help revitalise the CBD with more offices and appartment blocks (good quality only this time please)creating an eveen greater concentration of people and thus improve the vibrancy when Auckland ports are closed.
On 7 March 2012 at 3:11 pm Pappy said:
Once again the wharfies and unions are holding the country to ransom. They already get paid a fortune for relatively unskilled work. Definitely power of an old stronghold at work. Thankfully, we're not as bad as Aussie and their productivity crushing unions BUT - look around Wharfies! Everyone's getting less hours, worse conditions, and less security given the world crisis! Angry about the rich getting richer? Then stop working for the man and go take some entrepreneurial risks for yourselves! Looks like you have a ready made opportunity to do that with your fat redundancy packages (in some cases 200-300K), but no you'll get your insecure jobs back in the guise of a contract until the next hoohah is hatched up by the union short pants brigade! Or maybe improve your prospects by doing a 4 year degree in education and a few years teaching experience... oh but wait... then you'll only be getting a portion of what you're earning now! That, and being responsible for the lives of our future money makers, rather than just big chunks of steel. Get a life and pull together for the country!
On 7 March 2012 at 5:24 pm crightie said:
could not agree more with PAPPY,when will people learn that unions on the whole are a waste of time [just making money for the idiots who run them,who dont know what work is]...all they seem to be able to do is say we need more money for doing less..great if you can get boys your days are over,people just dont want to know,either you work to earn or you dont work..the choice is yours..get rid of unions & just work hard,you will be rewarded
On 8 March 2012 at 9:01 am John said:
I have heard from a reasonably reliable source that a wharf crane with union workers will do not more unloading than 26 containers an hour. The contract workers would routinely do 36 on the same crane. Which is more in line with Tauranga port performance. It does not take to much thought when you add the cost of the crane and the cost of the delay to the ship to realise the millions the union's approach is costing to various parties. I also understand that the union refuses to have men available when a ship arrives - if a ship arrives in the middle of the night. Again unlike Tauranga.
On 8 March 2012 at 11:10 pm isiah said:
hope the govt concentrates in energizing the economy and trade. hope it focuses on domestic growth which will encourage savings business reduce unemployment reduce inflation and help reduce deficits. hope he makes government enterprises earn profits to help generate surpluses. hope it encourages and new zealanders to buy new zealand products. otherwise the balance of trade will always be on deficit as imports will affect foreign exchange and increase foreign debts. before cuts and cuts and cuts in the public remember that public servant salaries are lower than private employees. public servants are there for a vision and hopefully a reasonable livelihood. takeaway this and he commitment of the public servants where will new zealand be. note that migrants shy away from new zealand. even canada is now better than nz. are we selling ourselves to foreigners? yes we will attain our surplus by selling supposedly ducks that should lay golden eggs? why is it that if private persons run the government entities it profits. why should it remain public and run it like private so that the profit remains in new zealand. remember that foreign owner's loyalty is to its foreign land. where does this leave us --- being removed of the profits which should generate more funds internally. in effect is this not effectively encouraging the siphoning of business out of new zealand? hope continuous business is the vision for new zealand and not only gaining back the surplus. remember that if there is no food on the table due to job losses there will be more crimes. the moral values will be converted to physical or survival values to the point of sacrificing the innate value of new zealand which is sustainable life. this would lead to corruption in the long run. corruption builds into the blood stream and in the values of the individuals and the more it would be difficult to remedy the situation. why do you think developing countries have a hard time developing? corruption, survival values are now into play. sell the public national entities and properties, cause the loss of jobs, perpetuate poverty and new zealand will be going in this path to be a developing country. why not copy what china is doing? or india? why are they improving and we are going down? is it because we have subcontracted our jobs to them? why then could not new zealand government help enterprises instead use kiwi labor. are the taxes so difficult? why can china reduce its cost and new zealand can't? maybe nz should develop a way of subsidising certain labor costs to reduce product or service costs and compete with china's products? are we too lose with our imports that our local business are not protected or buffered? is the free trade really beneficial? up to what extent? instead of killing the people is there a way of thinking out of the box? are the government solutions only quick fixes? will the quick fix only do more harm? will a restructuring of government loans tie up with a long term plan for recovery instead? hope this could shed light. imagine selling the auckland port which even symbolises the identity of the country? is nz too desperate? being thinkers and wide readers and wisdom doctors with phds and masteral degrees could we learn from our winning colleague countries?
On 9 March 2012 at 11:13 am carpe deum said:
We live at Tauranga so are happy to see our EFFICIENT port benefit from this situation However- when are the union workers of Auckiland Port going to realise that the whole world has changed around them while they have cruised along in their wee cocoon of gertainty- THIS IS 21st Century- JUST GET OVER IT -World Global Crisis has happened.Do what the rest of us have done- make better choices of what to spen what $ we have on the important things and cut your garment according to you cloth
On 12 March 2012 at 6:54 pm John said:
Why do I get the impression that all comments favourable to the unions are being moderated out.
On 13 March 2012 at 9:13 am Editor said:
@John - Not the case....just no-one yet standing up for them.
On 18 March 2012 at 9:19 am Ed said:
The dispute is not about pay but about Ports of Auckland (wholly owned by Auckland City Council) changing these jobs into completely on call/casual work, with no guaranteed or reliable hours. The $91,000/yr for 26 hour weeks claim has been shown up as a flat out lie meant to turn other hardworking Kiwis against the port workers. Ports of Auckland have paid hundreds of millions in dividends to the council/community over the past decade alone - a few hundred workers getting paid a reliable wage are NOT going to break the bank.
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