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Archive for 10 March 2012

A Slave By Any Other Name (#Rua)

10 March 2012 1 comment

Further from my Analysis of Farrar’s opinion piece on abuse of Indonesian seamen on Foreign Chartered Vessels;  A Slave By Any Other Name,

#1

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Exploitation of workers: bad

Safeguards for workers: good

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#2

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Exploitation of workers: ok

Safeguards for workers: meh

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Just clearing up Mr Farrar’s position on workers rights;  job security;  decent conditions; and fair pay.

Ok, carry on.

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Rua)

10 March 2012 2 comments

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Full Page advertisement in NZ Herald – three days in a row!

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If anyone remains in doubt that there is a Class War against Auckland port workers, by Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL), then doubt-no-more.

For three days in a row, POAL has purchased full page advertisements in the NZ Herald – one one of the most expensive forms of newspaper advertising in the country.

This is on top of their factually dodgy “Fact Sheet” which contains at least one outright lie; Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports.

One wonder how the Board and CEO (Tony Gibson) can get away spending tens of thousands of dollars of company money on these adverts? This is revenue from POAL that should either have been used to upgrade the company; pay the workers’ salaries; or paid to Auckland City Council as a dividend.

Is this legal?

Is it acceptable use of company money?

And what does Auckland City Council and Len Brown have to say about POAL money being used in this manner?

I’ve stated this before, and will repeat it again; POAL CEO Tony Gibson and Board, are out of control.

Auckland City Council must reign in this rogue management – or sack them and appoint a new Board of Directors, and new CEO.

And if Auckland City Council and Len Brown decide that the Board and CEO must be relieved of their duties – then no ‘golden parachute‘!

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1.  Sack the Board and CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd!

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2.  Appoint a new Board and CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd!

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3.  Reinstate the sacked maritime workers!

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4.  Engage in meaningful negotiations!

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5.  Len Brown: End this farce now!

 

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Additional

Ports of Auckland protest action reaches Sydney

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Tahi)

10 March 2012 2 comments

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In the battle for hearts and minds of Aucklanders and other New Zealanders; to win support for their respective cause; both the Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) and port workers through their Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ), have published on-line web-pages of fact sheets.

The POAL “fact Sheet” demands a measure of scrutiny. The details are reprinted here in full,

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1. What action has the Port announced it will be taking?

Ports of Auckland has decided to move to a competitive stevedoring model for the provision of all stevedoring services at the Port. This follows an in-depth consultation process and evaluation of options for materially increased productivity at the Port.

2. Will this be the first time that the Port has contracted in stevedoring?

No. The Port has used externally employed stevedores in several areas of its operation in the past (cargo/container marshalling, cruise ship operations and multi-cargo). Those services have proven to be safe, secure, productive and commercially attractive.

3. What will change as a result of the action being taken?

Ports of Auckland will now continue consultation with employees and unions about the implementation of this decision. It is likely that stevedores who work as Port employees will be offered redundancy from their existing positions. However, they will have the opportunity to apply for new positions with the stevedoring companies.

4. What makes competitive stevedoring superior to the way the Port has been working in the past?

Competitive stevedoring has been used at the best performing ports for many years. It is a proven strategy to achieve much needed flexibility and higher levels of labour utilisation vital to providing business continuity, improved customer service and a successful long-term operation.

As the Productivity Commission (see http://www.productivity.govt.nz) noted in its recent report, most New Zealand ports are facing similar challenges with a need to lift productivity and labour flexibility.

5. Who are the contractors?

We are unable to disclose the parties we are negotiating with for commercial reasons. We are continuing to negotiate with several parties, with a view to appointing three competing stevedoring companies on, or about the 9 March.

6. What benefits will competitive stevedoring deliver?

Companies with a key focus on stevedoring will operate at the Port. This will guarantee access to a flexible, innovative and competitive workforce and will mean the Port can significantly reduce unsustainable labour cost inefficiencies through materially higher labour utilisation rates.

This in turn allows the Port to move forward with its aspirations to deliver a better service to its customers, become a best-performing port in the Asia-Pacific region, and much improved returns to Aucklanders on their investment in the Port.

7. How soon can competitive stevedoring begin to be implemented?

The Port will appoint contractor companies shortly which will be responsible for supplying all of the stevedoring labour needed.

The Port expects that with a continuous improvement programme in place it will become a best-practice port in the Asia-Pacific region over the next two years.

With the significant productivity improvements seen from non-Union staff at the Port in recent weeks the Port is confident this aspirational goal can be achieved.

8. So what productivity gains have you been able to achieve with a flexible roster?

At present, due to the strike by MUNZ members, the terminal stevedoring work is being completed by non-Union staff. These stevedores are all employed on a more flexible basis than that set out in the current collective agreement with MUNZ. Due to the increased flexibility and utilisation rate, these stevedores are breaking productivity records previously achieved at the Port.

9. How will the competitive stevedoring work in practice?

We anticipate that the Port will allocate schedules of work for up to four weeks in advance to each of the stevedoring companies. Each company will then be individually responsible for managing their respective workforce to carry out that work in line with stringent operational standards including health and safety.

10. How long will it take for competitive stevedoring to deliver improved productivity benefits?

Once implemented the Port confidently expects competitive stevedoring will deliver significantly improved productivity benefits within a 12-month period. With the significant productivity improvements seen from staff at the Port during the current strike the Port is confident this aspirational goal can be achieved.

11. How many staff will be affected by this decision?

Up to 292 employees, mainly stevedores, will be immediately affected by the decision. Although stevedoring staff will have the opportunity to apply for new positions with the stevedoring companies.

12. Why has the decision-making process taken this amount of time?

In January the Port announced it would consult with staff, the Union and prospective stevedoring companies, while at the same time continuing its negotiations with MUNZ on the Collective Agreement. As the proposal involves a significant restructuring at the Port, the company wanted to ensure it was considering all points of view before making such an important decision. It is required by employment legislation and legal precedent to undertake a rigorous and lengthy process of consultation and evaluation before making any decision.

13. Is the competitive stevedoring model being introduced for Auckland the same as the one at Port of Tauranga?

Yes, it is substantially the same.

14. So, is greater health and safety risk a problem under this model?

No. Competing stevedoring companies in Auckland will be required to adhere to Ports of Auckland’s rigorous health and safety protocols; and will also have their own policies and procedures, which will result in better health and safety procedures.

15. Isn’t this the decision you were planning to make all along?

No, we’ve made it clear all along that our intention was to work collaboratively with our staff and the Union to find performance improvements which would address productivity issues at the Port.

The Port has a right to introduce competing stevedores under the expired Collective Agreement with MUNZ. If we had thought we would be unable to reach a satisfactory solution through collective bargaining, we could have made the decision before the current agreement expired.

16. Why has this not happened earlier?

At one level, the new governance structure in Auckland has resulted in a greater commercial focus on the Port’s performance, and a recognition of the Port’s significant role in the regional economy. At another level, the global financial crisis has resulted in changes in the structure and expectations of the global shipping industry, which has highlighted issues with the Port’s efficiency and service delivery. This was confirmed by the loss of the Maersk Southern Star service in December 2011. A step change is needed for the Port to remain competitive.

17. Will competitive stevedoring result in ‘casualisation’?

No. By definition casualisation only occurs when employment shifts the balance of full-time, part-time and casual positions. We anticipate that stevedoring companies’ labour requirements will continue to be for mostly full-time permanent roles as at present.

18. Is this about privatisation?

No. This decision is focussed solely on securing Ports of Auckland’s future, to delivering an appropriate return to Aucklanders on their current investment, and ensuring the Port continues to make a positive contribution to the Auckland economy well into the future.

The Mayor has made it clear publicly the Port is not for sale. Any major decision like this would be up to Auckland Council to decide.

19. Does this mean the Port will proceed with the expansion plans people are talking about?

Under the Auckland Planning process the Port has only been looking to preserve its existing development envelope, nothing more. The Port is comfortable with the proposed wording for the Auckland Plan and the Council’s decision to conduct a review of the Port’s role.

In fact lifting current labour productivity by a conservative 20% would give us the equivalent of two new berths, allowing the Port to accommodate five extra ship calls each week.

Improving labour utilisation is only one of the priority changes we intend to make. Implementation of new technologies, and better co-ordination across upper North Island ports will support greatly improved competitiveness and performance across the supply chain.

20. How was the union informed about the proposal for this new way of working?

The Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) received a letter from Ports of Auckland about the proposal on 9 January 2012 and our first consultation meeting to present details about the proposal to MUNZ was on 20 January. The purpose of that meeting – as stated in a Ports of Auckland media release at the time – was to enable MUNZ to facilitate meaningful consultation with its members on the potential impacts of the proposal. Ports of Auckland and MUNZ have subsequently met on several occasions as part of this process.

21. Was detailed information about the proposal provided to the union?

Yes. During direct consultation with union representatives a range of documents were provided to allow the union to fully inform its members.

22. Will implementation of this change have an impact on other staff at the Port?

Yes. Over the coming months we will complete a full organisation review to ensure we realise substantial and lasting changes in operating and financial efficiencies. That review will also impact a large number of staff working in corporate, administration and operational areas at the Port. They too might find jobs in the new structure.

23. So how will the process work from here?

The competing stevedore companies will be confirmed on, or about 9 March, with a likelihood of commencing operations in late April.

We will begin a process of consultation on redundancies with affected staff from 9 March. This will focus on the finer details, including who is affected, what their options will be, and the support we will provide them through the process.

Affected staff will have the opportunity to apply for new positions with the stevedoring companies, and the Port will be doing what it can to facilitate staff applying for new positions, and provide employee assistance and support through the process.

Source

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Two glaring points stand out immediatly from the above “Fact Sheet”,

One:

3. What will change as a result of the action being taken?

Ports of Auckland will now continue consultation with employees and unions about the implementation of this decision. It is likely that stevedores who work as Port employees will be offered redundancy from their existing positions. However, they will have the opportunity to apply for new positions with the stevedoring companies.

Specifically;  “It is likely that stevedores who work as Port employees will be offered redundancy from their existing positions“.

The wording of that statement is nothing less than an outright lie. Port workers were not “offered redundancy” – POAL forced redundancy upon nearly 300 workers,

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Full Story

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As the Herald story details, port workers were not “offered” redundancy – with Ports of Auckland Chairman Richard Pearson saying,

This decision has not been made lightly, but we believe it is vital to ensuring a successful and sustainable future for the Port, including protecting jobs over the long term.”

One wonders how ‘factual’ the rest of their ‘Fact’ Sheet actually is. It certainly damages POAL’s credibility to present their version of the  ‘truth’  to the public.

Which begs the question; what is POAL telling their shareholder, the Auckland City Council?

Two:

POAL released previous “factsheets”  claiming that maritime workers were being paid $91,000 p.a.

Yet, POAL’s own figures (see table “Hourly Rates” above) clearly states that the hourly rate for a stevedore is $27.26 an hour.

This translate to,

$27.26 x 40 hours = $1,090.40 per week (before tax).

$1,090.40 per week  x 52 weeks = $56,700.80 p.a. (before tax).

With overtime, meal allowances, shift allowances, port workers can certainly earn more. Then again, unloading a ship at 3am in the morning, in the middle of winter, with a cold southerly blasting across the country – whilst the rest of us are snugged up in bed with the electric blanket on full throttle, kind of puts things into perspective.

By contrast, Statistics NZ states,

Between the June 2010 and June 2011 quarters:

Median weekly income for those receiving income from wages and salaries was $800 (up 4.0 percent)

It is interesting that the salaries of Board members and CEO Tony Gibson is  not disclosed in the above table of Hourly Rates. In fact, Gibson is paid $750,000 p.a. for his job. That’s $14,423.08 per week (gross), or, $360 an hour.

Gibson responds,

Frankly, I don’t do this for the money. I do it because I’m very passionate about the organisation and change, and I think we can really make a difference.”

If Gibson doesn’t ‘do this for the money‘, he must be doing it for pure enjoyment?

Making nearly 300 workers redundant and contracting their jobs out to scab labour – yeah, that’s worth a belly-laugh. You’re a regular comedian,  Tony.

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Previous Blogposts

A job! A job! My kingdom for a job!

A media release I would love to see from Len Brown

A Slave By Any Other Name

Workers lose their jobs – Day of Shame!

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From the Magnificent – to the Malevolent; Human Nature at it’s best/worst.

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In  the 3 December 2007 edition of  ‘Time’, Jeffrey Kluger, made this observation,

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We’re a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness. We nurse one another, romance one another, weep for one another. Ever since science taught us how, we willingly tear the very organs from our bodies and give them to one another. And at the same time, we slaughter one another. The past 15 years of human history are the temporal equivalent of those subatomic particles that are created in accelerators and vanish in a trillionth of a second, but in that fleeting instant, we’ve visited untold horrors on ourselves—in Mogadishu, Rwanda, Chechnya, Darfur, Beslan, Baghdad, Pakistan, London, Madrid, Lebanon, Israel, New York City, Abu Ghraib, Oklahoma City, an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania—all of the crimes committed by the highest, wisest, most principled species the planet has produced. That we’re also the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched species is our shame—and our paradox.”

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As most of us acknowledge, Kluger is quite right. Human beings are capable of the most heart-rending cruelty – and the most compassionate acts of love and selflessness. It’s hard to credit that we all belong to the same species, Homo Sapiens-Sapiens.

Today, I found two perfect examples of the incredible human capacity for cruelty and caring – not to ourselves – but to other species that co-habit this little blue-green planet.

Firstly, the Malevolent.

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“A man has been banned from owning an animal for 10 years for keeping an elderly dog in such poor condition it died within minutes of SPCA intervention.

It is one of two cases of Aucklanders being brought to justice for abusing pets this week.

Harley Love appeared in the Waitakere District Court yesterday charged with keeping an “animal alive when it is in such a condition that it is suffering unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress”.

The 21-year-old was charged after an SPCA Auckland inspector was called to his Glen Eden home in January and found a 17-year-old German shepherd-type dog collapsed on the back deck.

The SPCA said the dog, named “Troy”, was very thin, covered in patches of live fleas and maggots and was lying in its own excrement.” 

Full Story

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And then this, the Magnificent,

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“The video shows dolphins appearing out of nowhere and suddenly beaching en masse on the Rio de Janeiro state coastline. They were apparently caught in a strong ocean current.

Stunned beachgoers in swimming trunks at first look on as the dolphins high-pitched squeals are heard. But within seconds, people quickly race into the surf to help the dolphins.

Dozens of people are seen swimming into the ocean and dragging the mammals by their tails in an effort to get them back into deeper waters.

And the effort this past Monday was successful. After all the dolphins were rescued, the crowd of dolphin-savers and onlookers broke into cheers.”

Source

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But perhaps the most significant event of heroism was this story, back in 1982. I first heard it thirty years ago, and the thought of the man in the river has stayed with me ever since,

On 13 January, 1982, an Air Florida Boeing 727 plunges into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., killing 78 people. The crash, caused by bad weather, took place only two miles from the White House.

The Air Florida flight took off from Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, with 74 passengers and 5 crew members on board. The plane had flown into Washington from Miami in the early afternoon and was supposed to return to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, after a short stop. However, snow in Washington temporarily closed the airport. When it reopened, the plane was de-iced with chemical anti-freeze, but the plane still had difficulty moving away from the gate due to the ice. When it eventually made it to the airport’s only usable runway, it was forced to wait 45 minutes for clearance to take off.

Not wanting to further delay the flight, the pilot, Larry Wheaton, did not return for more de-icing, and worse, failed to turn on the plane’s own de-icing system. In fact, the pilot and co-pilot discussed the situation, and the co-pilot said “It’s a losing battle trying to de-ice these things. It gives you a false sense of security, that’s all it does.” During the delay, however, ice was accumulating on the wings, and by the time the plane reached the end of the runway, it was able to achieve only a few hundred feet of altitude.

Thirty seconds later, the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River, less than a mile away from the runway. Seven vehicles traveling on the bridge were struck by the 727 and the plane fell into the freezing water. It was later determined that 73 of the people on board the plane died from the impact, leaving only six survivors in the river. In addition, four motorists died in the crash.

Terrible traffic in Washington that day made it difficult for rescue workers to reach the scene. Witnesses didn’t know what to do to assist the survivors who were stuck in the freezing river. Finally, a police helicopter arrived and began assisting the survivors in a very risky operation.

Two people in particular emerged as heroes during the rescue: Arland Williams and Lenny Skutnik. Known as the “sixth passenger,” Williams survived the crash, and passed lifelines on to others rather than take one for himself. He ended up being the only plane passenger to die from drowning. When one of the survivors to whom Williams had passed a lifeline was unable to hold on to it, Skutnik, who was watching the unfolding tragedy, jumped into the water and swam to rescue her. Both Skutnik and Williams (along with bystander Roger Olian) received the Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving Medal. The bridge was later renamed the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.”

Source

Human beings… with  our minds and hearts,  we are capable of such magnificent acts of goodness.

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