NEW ZEALAND – Despite some very strong language by both sides over the deteriorating labour situation at the Ports of Auckland there is some hope as both sides will attend a mediation session later today. The employment of non unionised labour to ensure freight continues to pass through the port has angered the stevedores who wish to negotiate new employment terms causing a month of strife.
On Thursday last week union transport representatives described the port management’s lockout decision as “unbelievable, unlawful and practically suicidal” with International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) president Paddy Crumlin saying at a meeting of the organisation’s Fair Practices Committee :
“It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. Do Richard Pearson and Tony Gibson have a death wish for this port? Just when a negotiated settlement was within reach they have trampled on those hopes and issued a lock out notice.
“The thugs in this dispute are in the boardroom at POAL: slinging out workers, locking out workers, trying to bring in strike breakers from outside New Zealand to replace a willing and skilled workforce. Gibson and Pearson beggar belief. It’s like they want to turn this port into a disaster area. We are today calling on our members to use all lawful means to convince Auckland’s mayor and council to step in and replace those in the POAL board responsible for these actions with members who are willing to run this important asset properly for the benefit of the city of Auckland and its citizens.”
“We are also forming an international crisis mission to investigate the management-engineered crisis in POAL and meet with the city’s mayor, as well as further investigating the use of labour supply companies to break strikes and drive down conditions in the ports industry in New Zealand and internationally. Today’s decision by POAL’s chairman and CEO to crush the hopes and chances of a solution that was so close just yesterday has shown that they are not fit to be running this enterprise. The port of Auckland is community owned. That community has been sold out. Even those who have supported the management so far are now realising that they are defending the indefensible.”
Now it seems the Ports Authorities are saying that they may allow some union workers back this week following a meeting last Friday and union rhetoric seems to have reduced whilst the ‘wharfies’ representatives await the decision of the Employment Court which is hearing the case today. The Court has the power to declare the management’s action illegal after it declared it was to make around three hundred stevedores redundant and contract the work out to non union company labour.
Photo: ITF boss Paddy Crumlin holds up the FPC's resolution for action