Home > Dollars & Sense, Social Issues, The Body Politic > Propaganda as an industrial dispute weapon?

Propaganda as an industrial dispute weapon?

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Whilst the Labour Party is taking great pains to keep an impartial, neutral position on the port dispute in Auckland – the PoAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) shows no such inclination toward restrained behaviour.

According to a recent report by Fairfax Media, PoAL has taken another step to ratcheting up the dispute with a new (and somewhat bizarre) propaganda tactic,

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Full Story

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A casual check of two right wing blogs – one with strong National Party connections – yielded the following result,

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Source

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Source

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Sending out a Press Release on the progress of negotiations is one thing.

But for a company such as PoAL to send information specifically to right wing blogs, that publish material from employers on a no-questions-asked basis,  is something relatively new to our industrial scene.

This is obviously a propaganda campaign – though one wonders what might be the purpose of such a campaign. Considering that probably 99% of Auckland ratepayers have never heard of “Kiwiblog”, and even fewer  “Cactus Kate” – feeding those two bloggers might appear to be somewhat of a pointless exercise.

Unless, of course, they are expecting David Farrar to parrot that information on his column in the NZ Herald? (And what would “Cactus Kate” do with her “Ports of Auckland Fact Sheet”?)

This should give cause for concern for PoAL’s shareholders – in this case the Auckland City Council (through it’s holding company, Auckland Council Investments Limited).

Whatever actions taken by the PoAL Board and especially it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, will ultimately reflect on the Auckland City Council, and it’s mayor, Len Brown.

At this point, I am wondering what Auckland councillors and mayor are thinking, knowing that their company is engaging in some weird propaganda exercise with two right-wing bloggers? Actually, do they even know?!

Is this professional behaviour from a Chief Executive who commands a $750,000 annual salary (+ perks) – eight times the figure allegedly paid to maritime workers?

PoAL’s behaviour suggests that there is not a shred of “goodwill” on their part to resolve the port dispute with it’s workers. Any such suggestion would be laughable. Instead, the propaganda campaign marks nothing less than open warfare designed to undermine their Union, and by default, the entire employer-employee negotiations.

Not exactly the best way to engender good relations, loyalty, or productivity from staff?!

Whilst David Shearer and Len Brown have adopted a “hands-off” stance, to allow both parties to come to a resolution, it appears that PoAL have no hesitation in “getting down and dirty” in this fight. Which means that whilst the port workers are effectively on their own – the Right are mounting a more and more agressive campaign, and bringing in every ally they can muster.

Some might say this is “class war”. And to be honest, it appears more and more that way every passing day.

This is not resolution – this is escalation.

Who will PoAL call upon next?

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Sent to Mayor Len Brown

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Len Brown <len.brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM
subject:    Port Dispute – Escalation?

Sir,

As you may or may not be aware, Ports of Auckland Ltd have taken to sending information to right wing blogs – namely “Kiwiblog” and “Cactus Kate” – regarding an alleged Ernst & Young “audit” of PoAL employees salaries.

This audit was released only to right wing bloggers (as far as I am aware), and not to the media.

Questions arising from PoAL’s actions,

1. Were you and Council members aware that PoAL was engaging in the release of such an inflammatory report to selected recipients?

2. Is it policy from Auckland Council that ratepayer-owned businesses engage in such provocative and unprofessional behaviour, in the midst of an industrial dispute?

3. Do you, and Council, believe that such provocative behaviour is indicative of “goodwill bargaining” by employers?

4. Does Auckland Council endorse these tactics from PoAL?

5. What was the purpose of PoAL releasing this “audit” to right-wing bloggers?

6. After this release of information, do you and Council still have confidence in PoAL chief Excecutive, Tony Gibson, who appears to be engaging in escalation rather than negotiation?

In case you have not see the material I am referring to, the relevant information is here: https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/propaganda-as-an-industrial-dispute-weapon/

It is my assessment that Mr Gibson’s position of PoAL chief executive has become untenable, as he has alienated his workforce and resorted to tactics that are inflammatory. His actions in sending material to rightwing bloggers cannot be considered anything except highly provocative. One must question Mr Gibson’s  judgement in engaging in such unprofessional behaviour.

As mayor and leader of Auckland, responsibility for resolving this confrontation devolves to you, Mr Brown. Mr Gibson seems unable (or unwilling, for reasons known only to himself) to resolve this dispute.

It is time, sir, for you to take immediate and decisive action.

It is time for Mr Gibson to step down as CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd.

It is time for a new CEO to be appointed – one who can engage with maritime workers and act constructively to resolve this dispute.

Regards,
– Frank Macskasy
Blogger
Frankly Speaking

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from:    Mayor Len Brown Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 9:05 PM
subject:    Thank you for contacting Mayor Len Brown

On behalf of Mayor Len Brown, thank you for your email.

The Mayor receives a large volume of correspondence and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

Kind regards,
Office of the Mayor
Auckland Council – Te Kaunihera O Tamāki Makaurau

http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
Follow Len Brown on Facebook & Twitter

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After a month, the following reply is received from Mayor Brown’s office,

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from:    Mayor Len Brown Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 11:56 AM
subject:    RE: Port Dispute – Escalation?
    

Dear Frank,

Thank you for contacting Mayor Len Brown regarding the current dispute at the Ports of Auckland. I am responding on his behalf and please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you.

Mayor Brown’s position is to continue to encourage both sides of the dispute to return to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith on the collective agreement.

Both sides are aware of the need for a sustainable settlement because the Port is essential to the Auckland economy and delivers ratepayers a return on their investment. The two sides need to find a solution and this cannot be imposed on them from outside.

Mayor Brown supports retaining the port in public ownership and not privatising it, which means it is important that the port work as efficiently and effectively as possible for the people of Auckland.

Ports of Auckland Ltd is an independent company that is run and managed by its own board. It is not appropriate for Mayor Brown to step in on every industrial dispute as it is the two sides that need to come to agreement.

However, Mayor Brown remains concerned about the ongoing impact of the dispute on the Auckland economy, the return to Auckland Council and the working relationships on the wharves. He will continue to encourage both sides to enter mediation and resolve the dispute in a sustainable manner.

Kind Regards,
Donna Lovejoy | Mayoral Correspondence
Office of the Mayor, Auckland Council
Level 1, Town Hall, Queen Street, Auckland
Visit our website:  http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

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It is disappointing that Len Brown’s response addressed none of the points I raised and answered none of the questions.

If Len Brown believes that he is safe by sitting on the fence,  he should consider Humpty Dumpty’s fate. Deserting your constituents who voted for you is not a particularly smart thing to do.

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Additional

Chris Trotter: The Auckland Ports Dispute – An Open Letter To David Shearer

Chris Trotter: Equal and Opposite

Matt McCarten: It’s time to step up, Mr Mayor

Maritime Union: Ports of Auckland management “fact sheet” short on facts

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  1. Gunner
    26 January 2012 at 2:31 pm

    It pisses me of that other New Zealanders think that this is about wharfies living high on the hog. It’s not that at all .it’s about losing our full time jobs and being casualised.

    If our jobs go then other workers could end up like us. Think about THAT people!

  2. Cactus Kate
    26 January 2012 at 7:20 pm

    You are joking? As I said in my last post the Union have used propaganda for years. Unanswered. Hell even the Fairfax reporter was busted for cut pasting the Maritime Union press release by Jenny Keown.

    If no one reads Farrar, mine and Slaters blogs then surely you wouldn’t care so much?

    I am sent press releases daily from all sorts of organisations. Some even from left wingers. There is no secret in the fact I chased POAL for this story first and received numbers from them. Funnily enough after that initial dialogue they have passed me more information that is all publicly available if lefties and MSM got off their arses and did their job.

    If I was a journalist you would think nothing of it. I asked a PR department for something, I receive it and publish a story.

    It is also no secret I don’t like Unions, never have and never will. So what? It’s quite clear you have a bias in favour of them. I don’t whine when you write that way.

    Unions have been waging war with their Bosses over msm and the Internet for years.

    It is pot, kettle black whining and crying like little bitches when they get their own back.

    The fact Farrar, Slater and I are being referred to in MUNZ press releases just shows we are doing a bloody good job of upsetting them and I couldn’t be happier.

    And ask Darien Fenton next time she’s on the picket line if Labour are not involved. Of course they are. Shearer has been busted with Parsloe already.

  3. 26 January 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Firstly, welcome to my blog, Kate…

    Some points you’ve made;

    “Hell even the Fairfax reporter was busted for cut pasting the Maritime Union press release by Jenny Keown.”

    No, that is not being “busted” at all. If you understand how Press Releases are made and used by the recipient, you’ll understand that, generally, a press release is written in the format of a news story. One of the first things they teach publicists is to write a Press Release in such a way as to minimise the amount of re-writing that the recipient (generally, a journo) has to do.

    As someone who has written many Press Releases in my life, for various organisations, I fully understand the style of writing and their purpose.

    So, no, the Fairfax reporter wasn’t “busted”. S/he was doing what journos do all the time. (Go talk to a few media people, if you doubt this.)

    “If no one reads Farrar, mine and Slaters blogs then surely you wouldn’t care so much?”

    I read many Blogs. Whether I “care” depends on what I’m reading and any relevance/humour they might hold for me.

    “Funnily enough after that initial dialogue they have passed me more information that is all publicly available if lefties and MSM got off their arses and did their job….”

    Interesting. Catherine Etheredge initially also passed information to “The Standard” regarding maritime workers’ pay-rates.

    Why didn’t PoAL pass the same “Fact Sheet” to them (“The Standard“), as well as you and David Farrar?

    Why was it sent only to right wing blogs, and not to left-wing blogs and to the mainstream media?

    Pertinent questions, do you think?

    “It is also no secret I don’t like Unions, never have and never will. So what? It’s quite clear you have a bias in favour of them. I don’t whine when you write that way.”

    Indeed, I do support trade unions. Ever since I went on my first “Solidarnosc” street march in Wellington, alongside the Polish Association; the Engineers Union; and several thousand other people.

    Trade Unions give voice to their members, who otherwise would be exploited by employers and/or government officials.

    By the way, do you also “not like” employers’ associations; political parties; manufacturing/retailers associations; professional associations; and other organisations that join together to form special-interest lobby groups?

    “Unions have been waging war with their Bosses over msm and the Internet for years.”

    And vice versa. I doubt there are many who would disagree with that statement, in terms of employer-employee, union-company conflict.

    Though as I pointed out, the use of the “Fact Sheet” sent to specific, targetted, individuals appears to be something new.

    “And ask Darien Fenton next time she’s on the picket line if Labour are not involved.”

    As is National MP, Jamie Lee-Ross involved.

    “Shearer has been busted with Parsloe already.”

    “Busted”? In what way?

    “The fact Farrar, Slater and I are being referred to in MUNZ press releases just shows we are doing a bloody good job of upsetting them and I couldn’t be happier.”

    I think I’d be a whole lot happier if the PoAL chief executive and the Union arrived at a mutually agreeable resolution that benefitted both parties – rather that Tony Gibson engaging in what I see as unprofessional and provactive behaviour.

    Then again, if Gibson’s agenda is to destroy the Union’s ability to represent it’s members on the Ports of Auckland – then his behaviour is well-planned and executed to cause maximum disruption. Which is quite possible, since PoAL has recently hired former CEO Jon Mayson, who was responsible for the casualisation of Port of Tauranga’s workforce.

    Anyway, such is my 5 cents + gst worth, on this issue…

  4. Priss
    27 January 2012 at 10:33 am

    Wow Frank you really got a reaction didn’t you? You’ve really stepped on some toes! Keep it up!

  5. Karen Corban
    6 February 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I don’t know who “Cactus Kate” is but I see her comments on many different sites. She says “It is also no secret I don’t like Unions, never have and never will” and “The fact Farrar, Slater and I are being referred to in MUNZ press releases just shows we are doing a bloody good job of upsetting them and I couldn’t be happier.

    So just because she “doesn’t like unions'” she is on some kind of vendetta spreading bullshit company information and contributing to the attack on families incomes and work conditions. Why? All I can think of is she does it to try and create some kind of profile for herself, and feeds off the attention she receives. If that is the case its very self indulgent behaviour. what are you fighting for Catcus Kate – fame? The families of the wharfies, we’re fighting for our children, for some kind of lifestyle, for family time and some work life balance.

    If we were on $91,000 a year and my partner only worked 26 hours then we would get to see him a lot, I wouldn’t need to work as well, he could attend school and sports events and we would probably have a very nice life. But thats not our reality.

    The reality of your little crusade in assisting the company’s campaign to discredit its workers so it can reduce working conditions and workers incomes is this:

    1. plebe (192) Says:
    December 2nd, 2011 at 7:23 pm
    They should be dragged out and shot in front of their families and possibly catus kate.

    1. grumpyoldhori (2,080) Says:
    December 2nd, 2011 at 8:42 pm
    A lot of us lefties would be happy to see those scum known as wharfies drowned along with fucking mouth pieces.
    Those cnuts ave never done a fucking thing to help the poorly paid yet they are the first ones to scream for fucking help.
    My dream is wharfies along with finance types leaping from buildings, shoot them, fuck that I want them to suffer.

    • Scanner
    What is this piece of shit carrying a placard for, he doesn’t even work there, totally fucking irrelevant.
    At least we now know what shit looks like when you stack it high enough and dry it in the sun, just another card carrying union bully that probably stood (if he hadn’t been fired) to get a very large redundancy when all his dopey mats get the sack.

    Some comments from right wing blogs like Cactus Kates attacking wharfies which apparantly makes her happy!!!

    I’ve also seen a copy of a contentious letter which a MUNZ member wrote and was sacked for on certain blog sites, which I can only assume came from Catherine Etheridge also. While I dont condone the behaviour of the letter writer, I think it is unethical and frankly outrageous that a this letter has been forwarded to blog sites that will push the POA agenda. If it was forwarded by Cathering Etheridge then it shows low morals and calibre of POA management and it is an issue that urgently needs to be looked at by Auckland City Council.

    You continue to push your own agenda “catcus kate”, but realise that this is not a game, real people are being negatively affected by this dispute. And its not the ones earning $750k a year.

    • Tom Sawyer
      6 February 2012 at 5:51 pm

      +1

    • 6 February 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you, Karen, for sharing your side of this issue with us.

      If there is one thing I would say about the comments you reposted here; they constitute hate-speech from a hard-core extremist element that is only too common on the internet. Anonymity seems to embolden such sad, deranged, individuals.. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if several messages may well be from the same sick individual.)

      As to what motivates such hate, I’ve no idea. One would have to go deep into the disturbed minds of such individuals. No thanks. Obviously, though, these people harbour an enmity that is easily channelled by various internet Fora.

      Most New Zealanders, though, are much more fair-minded and once they understand that these workers are ordinary folk who stand to have their incomes reduced; impacting on their families; become more empathetic to striking workers.

      The fact that some right wing nutters resort to such hate-speech indicates to me that they feel greatly threatened by their fellow New Zealanders. Instead of their hysterical threats of violence, it’s a shame they can’t express themselves more coherently. Perhaps they can’t.

      This Blog supports the striking martime workers (and other striking workers at Canterbury Meat Packers’ (CMP) Rangitikei plant in Marton) and their struggles to keep their jobs and put food on the tables of their families.

      Go hard, fellow Kiwis, go hard.

  6. Karen Corban
    7 February 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Frank, I agree these comments probably should be dismissed as the ravings of a few deranged individuals. I guess the point I was trying to make was that I think this kind of hatred is deliberately stirred up to fuel prejudices and create stereotyping simply to push a certain agenda – in this case POAs. And this is what some of these bloggers do, for no other reason from what I can see, than to create some sort of profile for themselves.

    Two of these comments were taken from David Farrers blog, and the fact that he doesnt bother to moderate them to me is the same as condoning them, and I think that is irresponsible. Also the personal attacks on some individual POA workers on particular blogs is cesspit level behaviour.

    Obviously its difficult to be unemotional in these circumstances!, but thank you for your support for all the workers who are fighting to keep reasonable work conditions and pay in this country.

  7. 7 February 2012 at 10:34 pm

    On David Farrar’s blog? Interesting. I would’ve guessed it was from Whaleoil or similar. If that’s the standard that Farrar permits on his blog – I guess it’s his right if he wants it to become a cesspit.

    I can understand how “its difficult to be unemotional in these circumstances”. God knows how I’d feel in a similar situation.

    You can rest assured, Karen, that I’ll do what I can to be supportive. We need to get this country back to some measure of fairness and decency for workers and their families. Otherwise, I don’t know what sort of society we’ll end up with – but it won’t be pleasant.

    If I can publish anything that might be of help, count me in.

  8. Elsa
    29 February 2012 at 2:51 am

    Well, After reading the consistently sound, well researched, honesty from Frank I notice from comments that this has again brought out the roaches from the ice age. Their comments aren’t worth the time it takes to read this tripe Frank, roaches are always about and seem to delight in destructive, abusive behaviours, sick, very sick. Keep up the great work Frank and as you say “It is disappointing that Len Brown’s response addressed none of the points I raised and answered none of the questions” Geez does Mayor Brown need reminding of his job description and, wonder if Humpty would sit on the fence if his pay was cut??? They can’t even reply in a timely manner and no reply from Brown himself, this is so typical. Thanks again Frank 🙂

  9. Elsa
    29 February 2012 at 3:54 am

    Well have looked at Cactus Kates blog, huge chip on her shoulders and she’s such a prickly bitch, nasty, vindictive prickly bitch.

  10. ALH84001
    29 February 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Cactus Kate :

    You are joking? As I said in my last post the Union have used propaganda for years. Unanswered. Hell even the Fairfax reporter was busted for cut pasting the Maritime Union press release by Jenny Keown.

    If no one reads Farrar, mine and Slaters blogs then surely you wouldn’t care so much?

    I am sent press releases daily from all sorts of organisations. Some even from left wingers. There is no secret in the fact I chased POAL for this story first and received numbers from them. Funnily enough after that initial dialogue they have passed me more information that is all publicly available if lefties and MSM got off their arses and did their job.

    If I was a journalist you would think nothing of it. I asked a PR department for something, I receive it and publish a story.

    It is also no secret I don’t like Unions, never have and never will. So what? It’s quite clear you have a bias in favour of them. I don’t whine when you write that way.

    Unions have been waging war with their Bosses over msm and the Internet for years.

    It is pot, kettle black whining and crying like little bitches when they get their own back.

    The fact Farrar, Slater and I are being referred to in MUNZ press releases just shows we are doing a bloody good job of upsetting them and I couldn’t be happier.

    And ask Darien Fenton next time she’s on the picket line if Labour are not involved. Of course they are. Shearer has been busted with Parsloe already.

    How the hell do you sleep at nights lady?

  11. ALH84001
    29 February 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Elsa :

    Well have looked at Cactus Kates blog, huge chip on her shoulders and she’s such a prickly bitch, nasty, vindictive prickly bitch.

    Yeah I looked. Made my stomach turn.

  1. 6 March 2012 at 12:14 am

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