Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Paul Holmes, Port workers, and pay questions

Paul Holmes, Port workers, and pay questions

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A few days ago,  in a column in the NZ Herald, broadcaster Paul Holmes passed judgement on the dispute between Port workers and their bosses, Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). Holmes found in favour of the bosses, stating,

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Also for Q+A I had cause to really brief up on Auckland’s waterfront dispute and two of the leading protagonists came in on the programme last Sunday morning, the union president, Garry Parsloe, and the Ports of Auckland chairman, Richard Pearson.

Both were engaging men. And isn’t that an interesting thing? I hardly ever meet anyone I don’t like. Everyone wants the best for their people. Trouble is that people’s views of what’s best differ so widely. Causes trouble.

Anyway, I formed the view that the ports company have not been ungenerous in their offers to the union. In fact, even Auckland Mayor Len Brown himself agreed that the company’s first offer made early last September should have been accepted.

The offer would have rolled over the collective agreement and given the workers a 2.5 per cent pay increase each year for three years. There were several offers but early on the company decided it could no longer tolerate its workers getting paid for sitting around doing nothing.

I do not believe the union when it says that it’s a lie that the workers earn in excess of $90,000 for an average 26 hours work. Ports of Auckland had Ernst and Young audit the figures. And that’s something you notice about the ports’ conduct throughout the dispute. They’ve done things very thoroughly.

The union’s argument that its people ceasing to be permanent staff would mean that their families couldn’t plan things was obliterated by the company’s offer to roster the men for 160 hours a month, and the roster delivered a month ahead. For the life of me, I can’t see what’s wrong with that.

I think the union was dyed in the wool. I think they didn’t read the signs. Before they knew it, it was all over. Nearly 300 men were made redundant, just like that. End of story. I think there were some hardliners who’ve buggered things up for everyone. Hysteria is never a good thing.

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I find Holmes’ jaundiced views  on this issue highly ironic.

Aside from the fact that he has uncritically swallowed the POAL claim that Port worker’s are paid ” in excess of $90,000 for an average 26 hours work ” based on an Ernst & Young “audit” (of which we have been given only a summary, and not the full report on how that figure was calculated) – Holmes should have good cause to feel greater empathy for the much-maligned striking workers.

From February 2001,

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Evening Post - 2 February 2001

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Evening Post - 12 February 2001

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Paul Holmes had every right to feel aggrieved. The storm of angry criticism  over his salary amounted to little more than a moral panic from ‘armchair knitters’ – members of the public who had little better to do than chide a public figure for a perceived ‘sin’.  Most of the criticism was based on the misconception that Paul Holmes’s salary was paid out of taxpayers’ money.

He was actually paid out of advertising revenue and sponsorship  from various businesses that wanted their corporate name, products, and services associated with the highly rating ‘Holmes‘ programme at the time.

I recall writing several letters-to-editor on this issue. Even celebrities, I felt, deserved a measure of common sense and public criticism of Paul Holmes for being paid $770,000-$780,000 was unfair, unwarranted, counter to my understanding of the Kiwi ethos of giving people a fair go.

Back to the Future…

So for Paul Holmes to join in with the POAL to put the boot in to port workers is disappointing. Of all people, he should be painfully aware of what it’s like to be judged harshly, in a very public way, by people who don’t have the facts at hand.

There is an old saying which I try to live by (despite my own personal  mistakes in my life);  “There, but for the grace of god, go I“.

Paul seems to have forgotten that simple truism.

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= fs =

  1. Little Joe
    20 March 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Frank – I thought you were a socialist who opposed high salaries for the rich? That’s the impression I get from reading your stuff.

  2. 20 March 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Little Joe :

    Frank – I thought you were a socialist who opposed high salaries for the rich? That’s the impression I get from reading your stuff.

    Firstly welcome to my blog, Little Joe.

    I’m sorry that you get the “impression” that I oppose high salaries per se. That’s not quite true. What I DO oppose is high income earners and high nett-worth individuals not paying their fair share in taxes. As Warren Buffett said, “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. “; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=3

    Part of the problem world-wide, as in New Zealand, is that since the late 1970s and early 1980s, taxes have been cut for the rich; social services cut; taxes increased for those on low and middle incomes; and the wealth/income gap has steadily grown.

    The “trickle down” theory has not only been shown to be a sham – but wealth is steadily accumulating upward. This is not good for the world economy, nor for societies.

    And I prefer to describe myself as a social democrat, and not a socialist. (Though the way this government is going, I may well reposition myself further to the left.)

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