Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Port Dispute Updates

Port Dispute Updates

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15 March

From Save Our Port.Com,

Ports of Auckland workers will be boosted by several displays of support and solidarity this weekend, the Maritime Union said today.

And  on Saturday, workers will enjoy a very relevant musical show.

Chris Prowse, the musician behind the Trouble on the Waterfront album and show which was used to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Waterfront Dispute, will perform at Teal Park around 11am on Sunday.

On Thursday, Bishop Muru Walters of Wellington visited the Teal Park camp along with members of the Anglican Social Justice Commission.

Earlier this week Bishop Walters had said “I am a bishop from the north. When people in the north hurt, I hurt.   When their security is put under threat, so is mine. I will stand in solidarity with the workers on the picket line. We need to remember that people are the most important thing: the security of families and especially children.”

Maritime Union National President Garry Parsloe said Ports workers deeply appreciated the support and solidarity shown by people across Auckland, other parts of New Zealand, and from workers’ unions internationally.”

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Meanwhile,

The Ports of Auckland has agreed not to take any further action over redundancies ahead of a meeting next week.

The port has agreed with the Employment Court not to take further steps in the redundancy process or engage with contractors until after a judicial settlement conference is held on Monday.

The Maritime Union had gone to the court claiming Ports of Auckland had not followed the correct process when deciding to make 292 workers redundant.” – Port agrees to pause redundancies

This is a reasurring position by POAL management. Hopefully cooler, saner heads have prevailed within POAL’s Board and management team.

In reality, I suspect that pressure brought to bear on POAL is having some effect on otherwise intransigent employer. (Little wonder that Board Chairman Richard Pearson has taken over from CEO Tony Gibson, as the “front person” for the company. Notice how all media contacts are now with Pearson? Normally, it is CEOs that front for an organisation – not Board members nor chairpeople.)

The public rally on 10 March,  with an estimated 5,000 attending, must have sent shock waves through POAL  and the Mayor’s office, who suddenly decided to intervene and offer to mediate.  Still uncompromising, POAL was not prepared to do it’s part,  and POAL chairman, Richard Pearson said:

It’s all over. We’ve made the decision.”

Mr Pearson may have spoken too soon.

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On the same day, the port dispute was firmly on Auckland Council’s agenda at an Extraordinary Meeting.  The “hot”  issues were POAL’s decision to sack 292 Port workers, and the mysterious “12%” ROE figure that was being bandied about.

Note: It’s intriguing that even Gary Swift, CEO of Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL) was unable to explain to Cr Richard Northey just precisely where the “12%” figure had originated from.

In a memo to Mr Swift,  dated 20 January, Cr Richard Northey wrote,

What was the origin and the justification for the above KPI [12%]? The Accountability and Performance Committee on 9 November [2011] was assured that this was an appropriate stretch target, but where did it originate from, and what was the basis and evidence for choosing that number?”

Mr Swift replied, in a memo dated 27 January,

I’m not exactly sure where the return on equity [ROE] target of 12% originated. I know that the current rate of return was universally considered to be far too low and I recall discussions with the Mayor  along those lines as well. The current rate of return is about  6% and a suitable stretch target was that it be doubled. I think Doug McKay may have suggested 12% when he met with the POAL Board. The origin is less important than whether it was achievable.  In discussions  with POAL we asked them whether it was possible and what would have to change to achieve it.

Which is not just intriguing – but critical to this issue, as Board members and Management are performance-assessed on “KPIs” – Key Performance Indicators.  How can a Board member or Management be assessed against a ROE (Return on Equity) – if that figure’s provenance or legal standing – cannot be established?!

Stating that “the origin is less important than whether it was achievable” is a nonsense. Of course it is important! It the responsibility of the Auckland Council to set target goals. Council Organisations (CO) and Council Controlled Organisations (CCO) Boards cannot pluck figures out of thin air and implement shonkey numbers as policy!

Sections 90 and 91 of  Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 state fairly clearly the powers of Auckland Council to make policy to “identify or define any strategic assets in relation to each substantive council-controlled organisation and set out any requirements in relation to the organisation’s management of those assets, including the process by which the organisation may approve major transactions in relation to them” (Section 90/2/e) .

Cr Richard Northey also moved, seconded by Cr Casey,  that,

a) That the attached correspondence between the Chairperson of the Accountability and Performance Committee and the Chief Executive of Auckland Council Investments Limited in January 2012 be received.

b) That the Governing Body endorse the attached statement on the Port dispute made by the Chairperson of the Accountability and Performance Committee at its meeting held on 9 February 2012.

c) That the resolutions from the Albert/Eden, Waitemata and Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Boards be received.

d) That the Governing Body express to the Ports of Auckland and to the Maritime Union:

i) its strong desire for an immediate return to good faith bargaining aimed at the achievement of a fair collective agreement that further significantly improves port efficiency, and

ii) its opposition to the redundancy and contracting out of 292 port workforce positions as proposed.

( Cr Northey withdrew parts d) i) and ii) with the agreement of the meeting, following legal advice on the role and powers of the Council.)

Cr Casey amended Cr Northey’s motion with this addition,

That the 12% return on equity from Ports of Auckland be reviewed at the earliest opportunity by the Accountability and Performance Committee, at the latest by its meeting of 4 April 2012.

Even though the  motion had been gutted, and the amendment regarding the “12%”  called only for a “review” – it was defeated by five votes to eleven;

For:

Councillors: Dr Cathy Casey
Alf Filipaina
Mike Lee
Richard Northey
Wayne Walker

Against:

Mayor: Len Brown
Councillors:Cameron Brewer
Hon Chris Fletcher
Ann Hartley
Penny Hulse
Des Morrison
Calum Penrose
Dick Quax
Sharon Stewart
Penny Webster
George Wood

Little wonder that Brian Rudman, writing in the NZ Herald, summed up the decision of the Council thusly,

Rhetoric to one side, you have to agree. Auckland’s rulers surrendered power to the unelected yesterday with hardly a whimper.”

Even more incredible was to follow, when the Mayor then put the original motion again, this time  in two parts:

a) That the attached correspondence between the Chairperson of the Accountability
and Performance Committee and the Chief Executive of Auckland Council
Investments Limited in January 2012 be received.

That was carried.

The next part,

b) That the Governing Body endorse the attached statement on the Port dispute made
by the Chairperson of the Accountability and Performance Committee at its meeting
held on 9 February 2012.

… was defeated, 6 votes to 10.  Having moved the motion, Len Brown then voted against it. Silly buggers or what?!

For:

Councillors: Dr Cathy Casey
Alf Filipaina
Penny Hulse
Mike Lee
Richard Northey
Wayne Walker
Against:

Mayor: Len Brown
Councillors: Cameron Brewer
Hon Chris Fletcher
Ann Hartley
Des Morrison
Calum Penrose
Dick Quax
Sharon Stewart
Penny Webster
George Wood

This bit is important. It relates to a report made bt Cr Richard Northey, from the Accountability and Performance Committee , which he chairs. Specifically, the defeated motion refers to a meeting of his Committee held  on 9 February 2012. See document here on page 15. The report states, in part,

“… The Port Company should make every effort to achieve a good new collective agreement because of the potential damage to the Auckland economy that could well result from acting to contract out the workforce.

[abridged]

… “I support the Port Company seeking to make work practices of the Port more flexible to make an already efficient Port of Auckland more efficient and effective. However, keeping a directly employed and fully engaged workforce is preferred because it materially  contributes to that objective much more than contracting it out. “

The full document is worth reading.

That is the report that 10 councillors (including the mayor) voted against. ‘Dem words in Cr Northey’s report – dey must be powerful ju-ju magic, to have rejected it’.

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16 March

A fund-raising event was held in Wellington on Friday evening. Primarily a social gathering, the 200+ who attended were addressed by CTU Secretary, Peter Conway.

Peter spoke with a calm, but confident voice and thanked people for coming to the fund-raiser. He said events like these, to support striking workers whose jobs were under threat,  was a “time when our values are tested“. He acknowledged that we were living in tough times but fundraisers were critical when faced with a well-resourced, determined, and often quite nasty opposition.

He added that for the most part, “workers are not at war with their employers – like some are” and that whilst this government had increased taxes for workers and beneficiaries – that the taxcuts had benefitted mostly the rich.

Peter referred to the manner in which industrial disputes were being fought, and that there was a “dirty” campaign to smear Helen Kelly and others, through certain internet websites. He added that Gary Parslow from the Maritime Union was working hard on behalf of his union members – and had not had a day of or weekend in three months.

Peter added that the good news was that a $2,000 dollar donation had been made to the Meatworkers Union in their fight against Talleys, and that morale on picket lines was still strong. He said we had to fight this, because casualisation would end up with “hours of work being txt-messaged to you – that’s where it’s heading“.

This blogger contributed to the collection-bucket being passed around – which was being filled generously by those in attendance.

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Nick Kelly, addressing the gathering.

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Delegates from striking Oceania Rest Home workers addressing the gathering. Morale was high, and workers were prepared for strike action on Monday, throughout the country.

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17 March

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And just in case the striking Port workers needed a morale boost, it came in the form of visiting Aussie rugby league players from  the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, who visited Ports of Auckland workers to show their support.

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Bulldogs on ports of auckland picket line.

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They also handed over a cheque for $20,000 to assist the workers’ fighting fund.  As some have remarked, Rugby League is the working man’s (and woman’s!) game!

NZ Maritime Union national president Garry Parsloe said,

It was great. They’re all the way over from Australia and came and stood beside working class people that are getting bashed around by their employer.”

Also on the picket line in Auckland, a couple of familiar faces,

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Bulldogs and actors on Ports of Auckland picket line.

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And yesterday, that tireless champion of New Zealand workers, Helen Kelly, was out and about on St Patrick’s Day! The power of the Irish be with ye, lassie!
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Upcoming

OCEANIA NATIONWIDE STOPWORKS

BE FAIR TO THOSE WHO CARE!

Hundreds and hundreds of SFWU and NZNO members from over 50 Oceania rest homes held nationwide stopworks on 14 March. In Auckland our members marched on Oceania Head Office.  Members overwhelmingly endorsed further strike action. More strike action is planned for 19 March.

Support our members standing up for fair pay and quality care. Look out for details of how you can support pickets on 19 March.

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What You can do to help:

Every little bit mounts up into an irresistable power – People Power!

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Petition

Ports of Auckland workers are under attack from casualization and contracting out. Port workers have a right to secure employment. We want management to return to negotiations with the workers to agree on an outcome providing for secure employment and a productive and successful Port operation that benefits Aucklanders.”

Sign Petition Here

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Donate to the Fighting Fund,

Internet/Bank Depost:

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has established a fund for supporters of the Save Our Port campaign to make donations to. This is a major dispute and any assistance you can give is appreciated.

Bank of New Zealand account 02-0560-0450165-004

Account name MUNZ NATFIGHTINGFUND

Please make a note of your name and/or organization if you wish to when making your deposit.

If you wish to confirm your donation please email us with the details.

Via 0900 Automatic $5 donation (+ 50 cents charge)

0900 6877 678

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Buy a T-Shirt!

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We have a limited number of Save Our Port t-shirts left – Men’s sizes S, M, L and XL, $25 each – email julie.fairey@gmail.com to get yours.

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Stay staunch, folks – justice is on your side!

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