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Posts Tagged ‘Maritime Union’

2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – toru

8 January 2018 2 comments

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Jamiebaby want Yum-Yums!!

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As  Parliament recently debated the new government’s Families Package Bill, some National MPs were increasingly upset that Urgency had briefly taken the debate into their precious lunch period;

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Jamie Lee-Ross became hysterical at the prospect of his ‘lunchies’ being delayed, and screamed at the Parliamentary Chair, Adrian Rurawhe;

“ Point of order, point of order, I have a right to raise a point of order, I have a right to raise a point of order, point of order. This is outrageous, I have a right to raise a point of order. We have gone past 1 o’clock. It is in the Standing Orders of this Parliament, that there is the break for the lunch break.”

As blogger  “Micky Savage” aptly put it for The Standard;

“ But with a late showing Moore’s antics were put to one side and National’s Jami Lee-Ross is this week’s doofus of the week. He earned this prize after putting on a huge hissy fit in Parliament after his lunch hour was delayed by 5 minutes. Refusing to accept Jacinda Ardern’s hope for a bi partisan effort to address child poverty is bad enough, trying to stonewall the enacting bill’s passage through the house was even worse, but throwing a temper tantrum because your lunch hour has been slightly delayed takes the cake.

Watch the video and marvel at the intensity of the temper tantrum thrown by him in raising the point of order. If my three year old behaved like this I would be embarrassed.”

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The  irony should not be lost on us all that the Families Package Bill – once passed – would help lift an estimated 88,000 families out of the trap that is poverty.  This trap being one of neo-liberalism’s most vile legacies.

385,000 families would receive an extra $75 a week for groceries, power, accommodation, and other necessities that make the difference between living in dignity – or desperation.

If successful, this one single policy will be a crowning achievement for Labour, NZ First, and the Green Party. The coalition would have done more in a couple of months what National failed to achieve in nine years.

It is true that National MPs’s lunch was indeed delayed. But only because of their own constant filibustering, to stall passage of the bill, as reported by Fairfax’s Laura Walters;

Rurawhe stopped MPs from delivering their points of order because he believed they were “repetitive and trivial”, and were being used by MPs to re-litigate the same points, in an effort to filibuster the Families Package (Income and Tax Benefits) Bill.

The obscenity of this ploy is hard to overlook; right-wing MPs obstructing a bill to alleviate poverty and then complaining their lunch was being delayed.

This is the soulless nature of the National Party. They are prepared to play political games and indulge in childish petty point-scoring – even though  it obstructs efforts to alleviate poverty in this country.

Even more scandalous is that no one in the mainstream media (including the much vaunted Radio NZ) has picked up this crass and utterly selfish abuse of parliamentary process.

But an even more twisted irony is Jamie Lee-Ross complaining about an industrial relations matter; a lunch break. More than one commentator on Fairfax, The Standard, and elsewhere have pointed out Lee-Ross’s hypocrisy on this issue. From  Fairfax’s comments section;

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From the Youtube comments;

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And from The Standard;

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And they’re all correct.  Jami-Lee Ross has a vindictive, hostile view of trade unions.In January 2012, Ross was scathing of the Maritime Union in it’s dispute with Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL);

This is in fact a story of the Maritime Union biting the hand that feeds them. It is a story of industrial action that, if left to go on much longer, could have disastrous consequences for the Ports of Auckland…

[…]

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

In 2013, during the POAL-Maritime Union dispute,  Ross admitted that he had been colluding with Ports of Auckland management to draft his proposed  strike-breaking legislative amendment, the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill.The Bill would have permitted scab labour to be hired to replace striking workers.

On TV3’s The Nation on 22 June 2013, Ross confirmed that he had been in talks with employers during the height of the industrial dispute between the POAL and MUNZ (Maritime Union);

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The questioning from Rachel Smalley elicited revelations that Ross has discussed his Bill with Ports of Auckland, in direct response to the strike at the time;

@3.26, Smalley asked Ross,

Where does this Bill have it’s origins? 

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… is it on the wharves of the Ports of Auckland, is that where it’s origins lie?

Ross  deflected, obviously realising that his collusion with POAL management had been uncovered. @4.00 Smalley repeated her direct questioning, not willing to let Ross off-the-hook with mealy-mouthed platitudes about “protecting low paid workers” and “freedom of choice” bullshit;

Have you discussed this Bill with the Ports of Auckland?

Caught in the vice of her softly-spoken questions, Ross admitted the obvious;

Oh a long time ago, ah, that was an issue that was raised…

[…]

… Oh might have been when the industrial dispute was in full swing. ”

When asked by Smalley , “What was the Port’s input into the Bill?“, Ross confirmed  POAL’s involvement;

The Ports indicated that during a strike like every organisation that is affected by a strike they’re unable to keep their business going, in the same manner that able to before.

It is hardly a mystery that National and big business connive together to suppress union activity in industrial relations. For the first time, though, New Zealanders watched  a Tory MP admit admit this collusion, in full public view. (For which Ross probably received a right royal bollicking from his Ministerial superiors.)

Unsurprisingly, as it became clear that Ross’s Bill was weaponised legislation,with the aim of curtailing union influence, it was defeated on it’s first Reading in November 2013.

However, National’s successor to Ross’s doomed Bill – the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 – passed through all stages of Parliament and made law by Assent by November 2014.

As well as the notorious  “Continuity of employment – Part 6A” section (which denied guaranteed continuity of employment for workers if a small/medium business changed ownership), the  new provisions attacked workers’ conditions such as meal breaks. The power to reduce or remove meal breaks was handed to the employer on a…well… plate.

Even MoBIE could not sugar-coat the “flexibility” of the so-called “reforms” and it became clear that employers could dictate when and how (if at all) employers had meal breaks;

The changes say:

  • when employers can make reasonable restrictions on rest and meal breaks
  • employers can specify when breaks are taken, if employees and employers cannot agree on when and how long breaks should be
  • that an employer is exempt from giving breaks – when employees agree to reasonable compensation or where the employer cannot reasonably give the employee rest and meal breaks

Given National’s anti-union legislation where bosses now call the shots on meal breaks, it appears that  the new work environment is not to Jamie-Lee Ross’ liking. He wants his dinner and was prepared to throw a full-blown screaming ‘tanty’ to get it.

But as ‘Mickeysavage’ pointed out on The Standard;

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Let’s not forget that the legislation being debated at the time was Labour’s Family Package – a package estimated to lift an estimated 88,000 families out of poverty.

It would mean thousands of children having more food to eat; not going to school hungry; able to learn better in the classroom; able to get ahead in life, and be given a decent chance to succeed.

But National was too busy playing political games – “filibustering”. Not only were they delaying their own dinner break – they were prepared to deny impoverished families additional income. This is the depths to which National’s members of Parliament are prepared to go: politicking at the expense of the poor.

But not to panic, folks.

Jamie-Lee Ross eventually had a very nice meal.

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References

IRD:  Families Package Bill introduced

Radio NZ:  Delayed lunch break brings out hangry MPs

Fairfax media:  Long days and busy schedules start to get to MPs

NZ Herald:  Tempers flare in Parliament as families’ package debate drags out

Youtube:  Families Package (Income Tax and Benefits) Bill- Committee Stage- Part 1 – Video 53

Scoop media:  Union biting the hand that feeds – Jamie Lee-Ross

Parliament: Bills Digest – Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill 2013 (Member’s Bill)

Youtube: Ports behind bill

Parliament:  Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill

MoBIE:   Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (March 2015)

Parliament: Employment Relations Amendment Bill [Act]

Parliament:  Continuity of employment – Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act

Parliament: Employment Relations Amendment Bill [Act] – Rest and Meal Breaks

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Doofus of the week – Jami Lee-Ross

Previous related blogposts

Harbour battles & casual fear

Confirmed: National welcomes low-wage economy

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 January 2018.

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John Key’s track record on raising wages – 3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

11 November 2012 5 comments

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Continued from: John Key’s track record on raising wages – 2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

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3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

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“The average income has been about $90,000, so it hasn’t been a badly-paid place. But the problem is flexibility when ships arrive and when staff get called out, how they can cope with that.” – John Key, 12 March 2012

See: Jackson pulls back from port comments

Putting aside from the myth of  POAL maritime workers earning $90,000 – so what?

Even if it were true (which is doubtful) – POAL has never released the workings of how they arrived at that sum, despite requests), isn’t such a good wage precisely what Dear Leader was advocating in his quotes above?

POAL management sought to reduce costs;  casualise their workforce; and compete with Ports of Tauranga for shipping business. Unfortunately, competing on costs would, by necessity, involve driving down wages.

There is also a high degree of price-fixing by shipping cartels, as was pointed out by the Productivity Commision in April,

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Full story

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Rather than supporting the workers, Dear Leader bought into a situation where international shipping companies were playing New Zealand ports off against each other, to gain the  lowest possible port-charges.  Even local company, Fonterra, was playing the game.

Here we have a situation where New Zealand workers were enjoying high wages – something John Key insists he supports – and yet he was effectively allowing international corporations to create circumstances where those wages could eventually be cut and driven down.

As with the “Hobbit Law”, our Dear Leader appears to pay more heed to the demands of international corporate interests than to fulfilling his pledges to raise wages.

Precisely how does this raise wages, as per Dear Leader’s promises?

Next chapter: 4. Rest Home Workers

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#rima)

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Last night…

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Source

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In the NZ Herald,  Port chairman Richard Pearson said,

Judge Travis had encouraged the company to return to mediation and it would do so in good faith. The only thing that has changed is that the judge has encouraged the parties to have one more crack at mediation. That is it.”

One could practically hear a collective sigh of relief from the citizens of Auckland; port workers would be back at work; and POAL would return to mediation.

Brilliant!

Common sense prevails!

People were practically dancing in the streets!!

But then, by this morning,  an industrial “atomic bomb” was detonated,

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Full Story

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It should be noted that, as in the case of a Union required by law to give two weeks notice of  a strike, an employer must also give two weeks notice of any intention to lock-out workers. No ifs, no buts, no maybes; that’s the law.

It is one thing for POAL to issue a two weeks notice to port workers. That is lawful (though not terribly wise).

It is also another thing for an employer to lock-out workers immediatly, as seems to be happening. That is illegal. It is just as illegal as a strike without notice, as happened recently in Wellington.

It is also hardly a sign of good faith bargaining, as Labour Party employment issues spokeswoman Darien Fenton said today,

Any good faith bargaining was impossible with a lockout notice looming. That action is in defiance of an agreement reached just yesterday with the Employment Court that good faith negotiations would resume with the Maritime Union.”

On this issue, it appears that POAL management have mis-calculated. The Union has every right to seek legal remedies through the Courts, and indications are, that the Maritime Union will do so.

This incident should give considerable cause for concern to the Auckland Council. It has been more and more apparent recently that POAL management are practically out of control, and are pursuing an agenda of their own.

That agenda became more apparent with the shock revelations uncovered by the NZ Herald that a POAL manager is also  a director of another company – and has been recruiting non-union contract-labour to work on the ports,

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Full Story

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This is no longer an industrial dispute – this has the odour of conflict of interests at best, or corruption at worst.

The Auckland Council has every right to be concerned.

Someone may be planning to personally profit from the dispute and de-unionisation of Ports of Auckland.

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The Green Party’s media statement on this issue sums matters up perfectly,

Auckland Mayor Len Brown must step into the ports dispute now that workers have been locked out, the Green Party says.

The Maritime Union says Ports of Auckland has illegally issued striking workers a lockout notice, a day after the parties were convinced by a judge to head back to mediation.

“The Ports of Auckland’s decision to lock out the union workers is in direct defiance of the settlement reached between Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union in the Employment Court,” Greens industrial relations spokeswoman Denise Roche said.

This lockout notice is yet another example of the bad faith bargaining by the Ports of Auckland management.”” – Source

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The Employment Relations Act 2000 is quite specific in stating that an employer cannot replace striking workers,

” 97. Performance of duties of striking or locked out employees
  • (1) This section applies if there is a lockout or lawful strike.

    (2) An employer may employ or engage another person to perform the work of a striking or locked out employee only in accordance with subsection (3) or subsection (4).

    (3) An employer may employ another person to perform the work of a striking or locked out employee if the person—

    • (a) is already employed by the employer at the time the strike or lockout commences; and

    • (b) is not employed principally for the purpose of performing the work of a striking or locked out employee; and

    • (c) agrees to perform the work.

    (4) An employer may employ or engage another person to perform the work of a striking or locked out employee if—

    • (a) there are reasonable grounds for believing it is necessary for the work to be performed for reasons of safety or health; and

    • (b) the person is employed or engaged to perform the work only to the extent necessary for reasons of safety or health.

    (5) A person who performs the work of a striking or locked out employee in accordance with subsection (3) or subsection (4) must not perform that work for any longer than the duration of the strike or lockout.

    (6) An employer who fails to comply with this section is liable to a penalty imposed by the Authority under this Act in respect of each person who performs the work concerned.”

It would appear that by hiring new port workers, the POAL are clearly breaking the law. It remains to be seen if management can flout the law with impunity. If so, why shouldn’t Unions?

Perhaps  the previous Labour Government did not go far enough, when they enacted the Employment Relations Act to replace the odious and largely discredited Employment Contracts Act.

Perhaps it it time to remove the law preventing other Unions from supporting those who are on strike.

After all, the right to strike – to withdraw one’s labour –  is a fundamental human right. The West openly supported the Polish Solidarity Free Trade Union movement in the 1980s – especially the right to strike.

If employers such as AFFCO, POAL, et al, are prepared to lock-out workers in a methodical agenda to smash unionisation of their workers – then obviously the law is ineffectual.

When a new Labour-led government takes office, this blogger will be making representations on the following issues;

  • That the Employment Relations Act be strengthened,
  • That Unions be free to give industrial support to fellow striking Unions,
  • That representatives from the Labour Department and other Third Parties  be permitted to attend industrial negotiations, as impartial observers,
  • And that City Councils and other local bodies are given more direct control over Council Controlled Organisations CCOs) than they do at present

This will be a matter of urgency for a new incoming Labour-led Government. Union-busting cannot be allowed in this country.

Anyone in doubt as to POAL’s duplicity may wish to listen to this interview earlier today,

Radio NZ: Listen to more from Richard Pearson on Checkpoint

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Additional

Ports negotiator alleged to have sought workers

Other Blog Posts

Chris Trotter: Only People Power Can Save Our Ports

Tumeke: PoA u-turn over manufactured crisis

No Right Turn:  Psychopathic management in action

Socialist Aotearoa: There is Blood in the water

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Paul Holmes, Port workers, and pay questions

20 March 2012 2 comments

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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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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,

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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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Appeal to Solidarnosc!

8 March 2012 2 comments

An appeal to our Polish cuzzies,to support Auckland’s port workers,

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Attack on New Zealand Trade Union – Can you assist?

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Date: Thursday, 8 March, 2012 3:44 PM

From:  “Frank Macskasy” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>

To: zagr@solidarnosc.org.pl

Subject: Attack on New Zealand Trade Union – Can you assist?

Fraternal greetings from New Zealand!

As throughout the world, New Zealand is experiencing it’s own share of industrial conflict.We have experienced lock-outs of workers at meat-processing plants (http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/business/6523789/Affco-to-lockout-more-workers); strikes by aged-care workers who are on low wages(http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/6536400/Resident-joins-resthome-workers-on-strike); and just recently, 300 maritime workers were sacked by their employer, Ports of Auckland Ltd – a company that is owned by the Auckland City Council (http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/business/6537074/Fight-on-as-Auckland-wharfies-made-redundant).

https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/workers-lose-their-jobs-day-of-shame/

The employers (POAL, Ports of Auckland Ltd) is attempting to smash the maritime union’s presence on the Port and is attempting to casualise the workforce and contract out the work to private stevedoring companies.

This would effectively reduce wages and destroy unionised representation on the wharves in Auckland City.

In 1981, when Solidarnosc was under attack by the Kremlin’s puppets, New Zealanders rallied to help the people of Poland. When General Jaruzelski declared martial law, New Zealanders marched in support of Polish workers – with an estimated 10,000 people taking part in Wellington City.

We ask that Solidarnosc offer some measure of support to striking maritime workers who have lost their jobs, and that you ask the Mayor of Auckland (Len Brown) and the Prime Minister of New Zealand (John Key) to intercede to save these workers’ jobs;

Len Brown
Mayor of Auckland
Len.Brown@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

John Key
Prime Minister of New Zealand
john.key@parliament.govt.nz

Any moral support that you can provide will be greatly appreciated and will contain great symbolism, considering New Zealand’s support for Solidarnosc in the 1980s.

In solidarity with our Polish cousins,
-Frank Macskasy

Blogger, “Frankly Speaking”
fmacskasy.wordpress.com

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Propaganda as an industrial dispute weapon?

27 February 2012 14 comments

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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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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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Why wharfies are striking – in their own words (+ photos)

Simon Oosterman

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Articles and photos by Simon Oosterman. Hi-res photos are available here. Please feel free to distribute.

The media have given plenty of space to Ports of Auckland management, but nobody has canvassed the opinions of those most affected by the company’s decisions, the workers. Here we get behind the news to the men, their wives and the children affected by the Ports of Auckland actions and proposals.

For the background to the dispute read the Maritime Union of New Zealand and Council of Trade Union fact sheet and the Port of Auckland’s industrial dispute updates.

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The Thorton family: “They want drones when we are actually parents”

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FAIR ROSTERING: From the left – Max Thorton (5), Shaun (43), Nina (4), Amy (5), Leah (37) and Ben (9). Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Shaun Thorton, 43, drives a straddle at the Ports of Auckland where he has worked for 18 years. He met his wife Leah at the port where she worked before becoming a fulltime mum looking after their four kids: Ben (9), twins Max and Amy (5) and Nina (4).

“We want predictability so we can have a family life,” he says. “We only get one weekend off every third weekend meaning I work 35 weekends in the year. I’m striking for the kids.”

Leah interrupts: “and for the marriage”.

“Shaun’s work is a nightmare for me and the kids,” she says. “Dad only went to two soccer games last year and couldn’t come to the preschool Christmas party. We’ve learnt to live with it but it’s far from perfect.”

“It’s clear from the ports casualisation plan that they want drones, when we are actually parents. You can’t sustain a family as a casual and deal with the everyday stuff parents have to put up with. One of our kids has a chronic illness and another is getting progressively deaf in one ear. I should be able to count on partner to help out with hospital visits and specialist’s visits.

“Everyone complains about irresponsible teenagers going out on town and they wonder where their parents are. They are hereThe Wallace family: “It’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too” and in other unsociable jobs. The only other option to this work is working on the minimum wage.

“It astounds me that they are trying to increase productivity by ruining our work life balance – do they want people sleeping on the job?” she says. “Can I complain to the company about not having annual leave or sick days?”

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The Wallace family: “It’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too”

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FAMILY TIME: From centre left – Mark Wallace, Ashley (9), Rebecca (7) and Katrina. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Mark Wallace is a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He worked his way up from a casual to a permanent crane driver over 18 years. Mark and wife Katrina have two children, Ashley (9) and Rebecca (7).

“I’m trying to protect my family life,” he says. “The company wants the right to tell me at midnight, eight hours before a shift, that I don’t have the shift anymore. How can I plan a family life around that?”

“The company goes on about caring for its employees, but they treat us like shit. We’ve given them the best container rates ever. If they really cared about us, we’d be inside working. We had to strike at Christmas just to get time off with our kids.”

Katrina, is a self-employed dress-maker who works from home.

“I brought the kids down to the picket show solidarity with my husband,” she says. “But it’s not just husbands affected, it’s our families too. The company’s proposed changes would be hard for me and the kids. I couldn’t take on huge jobs because I wouldn’t know day-to-day what Mark would be doing. I wouldn’t even be able to count on him to pick up the kids from school.”

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The Witehira family: “Keeping family time is more important than a pay rise”

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POWER TO THE FAMILY: Jermaine Witehira (31), Jayda (1), Karine (2), Gabrielle (5) and Destiny. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Jermaine Witehira, 31, got his first ever job at the Ports of Auckland where he has been working as a stevedore for 14 years. Jermaine and wife Destiny have three children, Gabrielle (5), Karine (2) and Jayda (1)

“I’m doing this for my family and my mates,” he says. “A 10% pay rise isn’t worth the new casual roster system – family time is more important than a pay rise.

“The company says we earn $91k a year – I‘ve never earned that in the 14 years I’ve been here. I get around $64k but I have to work 24 hours overtime and that costs my family.”

Destiny says Jermaine doesn’t see his kids because he leaves for work at 5:30am and gets back at 11:30pm.

“Being a young family is hard enough, but with his hours it feels like I’m a solo mum,” she says. “If the company gets what it wants I’ll have to put my kids in day care and get a job. The thing is that the job would probably only just cover day care costs and I’d have to find a job that worked around casual hours.”

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Brandon Cherrington

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FAMILY PICKET: Brandon Cherrington and his 1 1/2 year old daughter. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Brandon Cherrington, 38, has worked at the Ports of Auckland for 1½ years. He is a permanent part-timer and is only guaranteed 24 hours a week. Brandon has a 1½ year old daughter.

“This strike is all about our families,” he says. “We are here supporting the boys to keep and improve our conditions. With the company’s [proposed] new flexibility, they want us to be on call and I won’t be able to plan activities with my daughter anymore.”

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Shaun Osbourne

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JOB SECURITY: Casual worker Shaun Osbourne on the picket line. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Shaun Osbourne works at the Ports of Auckland. Because he is a casual employee, he hasn’t had a single guaranteed hour in the eight years he has worked there.

“My shifts are allocated the day before I go to work,’ he says. “I could get anywhere between eight and 48 hours a week which could be in the morning, afternoon or graveyard or a combination of the shifts. I won’t be crossing over. We’ve got to make sure permanent workers don’t end up like us casuals.”

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Wayne Wolfe

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FACTS: Wayne Wolfe has done his research. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Wayne Wolfe, 58, works as a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He has worked on the ports for 35 years. Wayne has three adult children and two grandchildren, including a two-week old baby. Wayne is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“Many of these young fellas are casuals and have had busted up marriages because of their casualised hours,” he says. “When I first joined, conditions were brilliant and I am doing my best to leave it that way.”

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Ron Bell

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PICKET: Local 13 member Ron Bell (53). Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Ron Bell, 53, is a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland. He will have worked on the waterfront for 31 years this coming April and has been union since he was 17. He has four daughters Jac (20), Katherine (18) and twins Samantha and Amanda (15). He is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“I just want our guys to keep their jobs on decent hours and not get shat on waiting by the phone 24 hours a day,” he says. “People before us made our conditions what they are today and they should stay that way.”

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Ken Ziegler

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STAUNCH: Ken Ziegler standing tall. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Ken Ziegler, 49, has worked as a stevedore at the Ports of Auckland for 12 years. Ken is the main provider for his son Carlos (10). He is an executive member of Local 13 of the Maritime Union.

“It’s really simple,” he says. “The company is trying to casualise the entire workforce to keep labour costs down.”

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Napo Kuru

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SOLIDARITY: Casual Napo Kuru stands with permanent workers. Photo: Simon Oosterman

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Napo Kuru, 27, has worked as a casual lasher at the Ports of Auckland for four years.

“I’m on $16 an hour as a casual and can get anywhere between 16 and 30 hours a week,” he says. “We have the same fight as the permanent boys. They want everyone to be cheap which will drive down everyone’s pay.”

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Additional photos

Simon Oosterman

Related blog items

At gunpoint, maybe?

Harbour battles & casual fear

Support workers & their families

Facebook: Support Ports of Auckland Workers

The Standard:  Meet the wharfies and their families

Facebook: Maritime Union of New Zealand

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Harbour battles & casual fear

13 January 2012 2 comments

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Why is newbie National MP, Jamie Lee-Ross, getting involved in pay negotiations that don’t concern him personally?

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Full Story
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Ports of Auckland is not a state Owned enterprise. Therefore, Mr Lee-Ross has as much to do with that company and it’s employer-employee negotiations as he might with any other company in the country.

Is he intending to comment on the next wages-negotiation between Fulton Hogan and it’s staff? Fletcher construction and it’s employees? Perhaps he might feel inclined to comment on Wattie-Heinz negotiations with their workers?

While we’re about it; Mr Lee-Ross has a very generous tax-payer funded salary; with free travel perks; and a gold-plated superannuation fund that tax-payers (again) subsidise.

His  salary comes to $141,800 – quite generous for these recessionary times. In fact, on 17 November last year, it was increased from $134,800, and back-dated to 1 July 2011.

In which case, so what if maritime union workers are well remunerated? They do a hard, dangerous, dirty job – one that most of us would think twice before doing. Being highly paid is also National Party policy, as John Key outlined in 2008;

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We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Perhaps Mr Lee-Ross is unaware that the Maritime Union appears to be fulfilling National Party policy?

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With a full-blown propaganda war now in effect between the Ports of Auckland management; right wing politicians; and various reactionary groupies on one side, and the Union, workers, their families,  and  supporters on the other – the first casualty has indeed been truth.

Specifically, the amount earned by maritime union members. First of all, I would point out that the wages paid to maritime workers is actually irrelevant.

It’s really no one’s business what Port of Auckland’s employees are paid. That is a matter between bosses and workers.

After all, how many other New Zealanders would really welcome the glare of public scrutiny on their incomes? (Especially self-employed – many of whom have a tradition of doing “cashies”, which they fail to declare to the IRD.)

The spotlight on maritime workers’ incomes seems to have emanated from the Ports of Auckland, CEO, Tony Gibson, who said,
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“…the average wage for a stevedore is more than $90,000 a year and the lowest rate is $17.12 an hour.” – Source

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Catherine Etheredge, Port of Auckland’s Senior Manager Communications, posted this statement on The Standard,

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I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.” – Source
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Yet, at least one blog-poster at “The Standard”  noticed a discrepancy in Ms Etheredge’s statement, and questioned her figures,

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I’m not sure this bit adds up – would appreciate someone to check my math 🙂 .

For 123 workers to be 53% of the workforce, that gives a work population of 232. But for 43 individuals to be 28% of the workforce, the population is 153. I assume there’s a typo in there somewhere. If 43 workers are indeed on more than $100k out of a population of 232, then that means an actual top-echelon level of 18% of the workforce.

And I’m not familiar with the organisational structure on the port – does this average include only personnel with no personnel that report to them, or does is include the shift leaders or even a tier above small-team supervision?” – Source

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It is further worth noting that Ms Etheredge states,

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This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital…

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“Not covering its cost of capital“? Yet, according to the National Business Review, Ports of Auckland posted a $24.9 million profit in  the year to June – up 2.1% on the previous year.

And in October 2010, Managing director Jens Madsen said that “overall container volumes in the three months to September 30 were up nearly 8% on the same period last year“.

The Maritime Union states,

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A stevedores guarantee for 40 hours per week is $1,090.40 = $56,700.80 per annum @ 260 shifts per year.  To earn the money being quoted by Mr Gibson, stevedores would have to complete an extra 1,377 hours.  Stevedores are required to work days or nights, weekends, public holidays – basically any shifts 24/7 often 16 hour shifts.” – Source

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Helen Kelly, from the CTU says on the same blog-page,

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The first position was that Port workers earn an average of $91,000 for a 26 hour week. This was widely publicised and is now being so seriously challenged they have been flushed out to provide the correct information.

Now it appears the $91,000 is for a 49 hour week and this includes superannuation, medical insurance etc. Assuming the superannuation is 7% then $6,370 of this is a super subsidy, leaving an avearage annual salary of $84,000. Given these “average” workers are working 22.5% more hours than a “normal working week” of 40 hours, then $20,475 of this salary can be considered payment for the extra working hours.

This leaves an avearage wage of $64,155 which includes medical insurance.

The union says a stevedores guarantee for 40 hours per week is $1,090.40 = $56,700.80 per annum @ 260 shifts per year. Regardless, the position has changed dramatically since the Ports first shots rasing questions about the other information they are using to disguise the agenda to make permanent workers into casuals.

It would be great if the Port could provide the avearage salary of the 20% of casuals workers they employ at the port by hours worked?” – Source
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The figures quoted by the Ports of Auckland appear to have been somewhat “massaged” – ie, presented in such a way as to present the best possible “message” for management. Of course, it is difficult to verify what the workers are paid without sighting payslips.

But the wording of Ms Etheredges statement and her reference to “average”, indicates that there is more to this matter than we’ve been told.

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But this isn’t even about a wage-increase – that is a mis-representation by the Ports of Auckland – as the 10% wage-increase was an offer from MANAGEMENT to the Union, in return for casualising the work-force. As the Maritime Union stated,

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The union position is clear. It does not want the 10%; it wants secure, ordered and transparent rosters for its members.”  – Source

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Casualisation would mean that instead of having a 40-hour job (which most New Zealanders aspire to), it  would be part-time, and on-call. Workers would be  sitting at home, waiting for a phone call to come to work.

No one can raise a family; put food on the table; and pay a mortgage with a “McDonalds”-style casual-job.

Jamie Lee-Ross states,

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Every Aucklander has a stake in the Ports of Auckland. It is not a privately owned company. Nor is it listed on any stock exchange. Each and every share in the company is owned by the Auckland Council on behalf of 1.4 million Auckland residents and ratepayers. The destruction in value in one of our city’s largest public assets is alarming and has to be of concern to us all. ” – Source

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Three points:

1. Whilst ratepayers most certainly do own the Ports of Auckland, there is no risk to them, nor the shareholding Auckland City Council.

Ports of Auckland posted a $24.9 million profit in  the year to June 2011. So it is a self-funding operation, and quite a profitable one at that.

2. It is disturbing that Jamie Lee-Ross is not as concerned about the “destruction in value” of jobs. Maritime workers face losing their full-time jobs, and instead turned into casual workers.

How can a workers raise their family when they don’t know what they’ll be earning from day to day; week to week?

3. It’s nice to see a National MP recognising the fact that Ports of Auckland is owned by the people of Auckland. Hopefully, Mr Lee-Ross will remember this when his government colleagues vote to sell the first state owned enterprise, Mighty River Power – which is also owned by the people.

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Despite John Key’s pledge in 2008, it seems clear that National and their business fellow-travellers are content to see wages cut.

Bill English stated as much on “Q+A”, on  10 April 2011, when he seemed to express satisfaction that New Zealand’s wages were more “competitive”, by around 30%, to Australia’s,

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BILL Well, it’s a way of competing, isn’t it?  I mean, if we want to grow this economy, we need the capital – more capital per worker – and we’re competing for people as well.

GUYON So it’s part of our strategy to have wages 30% below Australia?

BILL Well, they are, and we need to get on with competing for Australia.  So if you take an area like tourism, we are competing with Australia.  We’re trying to get Australians here instead of spending their tourist dollar in Australia.

GUYON But is it a good thing?

BILL Well, it is a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

GUYON So let’s get this straight – it’s a good thing for New Zealand that our wages are 30% below Australia?

BILL No, it’s not a good thing, but it is a fact.  We want to close that gap up, and one way to close that gap up is to compete, just like our sports teams are doing.  This weekend we’ve had rugby league, netball, basketball teams, and rugby teams out there competing with Australia.  That’s lifting the standard.  They’re closing up the gap.

GUYON But you said it was an advantage, Minister.

BILL Well, at the moment, if I go to Australia and talk to Australians, I want to put to them a positive case for investment in New Zealand, because while we are saving more, we’re not saving more fast enough to get the capital that we need to close the gap with Australia.  So Australia already has 40 billion of investment in New Zealand.  If we could attract more Australian companies, activities here, that would help us create the jobs and lift incomes.

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Bill English seems to want it both ways; lift wages – but yet keep wages “competitive” with Australia. I guess one day he might make up his mind.

De-unionisation is currently proceeding throughout the country. Another industrial dispute is at CMP Rangitikei where contract negotiations between the ANZCO-owned plant and the NZ Meat Workers Union has resulted in one hundred and eleven  workers locked out at their  plant when they resisted pay cuts of up to 20% and reductions in conditions.
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Full Story

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There is a silent war going on in this country. It is a war to destroy any and all  remaining unionised-protection for workers and to increase “flexibility” and “competitiveness”. Such moves will have the consequences of driving down wages even further, and which will increase business profits, and dividends for shareholders. Tough luck, I guess, if it’s done at the expense of staff.

Businesspeople and shareholders: two of National’s core constituents.

Little wonder that employment confidence has taken a steep nose-dive,
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Full Story

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One thing should be perfectly clear to every worker in this country; if a strongly unionised workforce such as Ports of Auckland workers, and ANZCO freezing workers,  can have their employment conditions arbitrarily changed, and casualised against their wishes – the question on everyone’s mind must be, “Who is next in line? Is it me?”

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As well as attempting to drive down labour costs by destroying the Maritime Union, there appears to be another, lesser-known agenda at work in the backrooms of various “movers and shakers” – privatisation.

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Full Story

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Note that the above article came out on the same day as the NBR published a report, “Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher“.

It would appear that this is not just a battle for the control of worker’s pay and conditions – but for the  Ports of Auckland itself.

As the National Business Review reports  stated, the Ports of Auckland is a growing, highly-profitable business.

The attack on Maritime port workers by PoA management is, I believe, designed to achieve a single goal, exploiting several methods,

  • Attack workers’ rights and conditions; create chaos on the waterfront; paint the Union as “lazy greedies”; and stir up Auckland ratepayers’ anger, until they’ve had enough and want the Ports of Auckland sold off. Result: easy privatisation of a very valuable asset.
  • Change the current, permanent, workforce into a casualised workforce. Result: reduce wage costs for new, private owners.
  • Drive the Maritime Union of the Ports of Auckland. Result: greater casualisation if the workforce; lower wages even further; eliminate all workers’ protection.

This, I believe is the real agenda.

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Previous blog story

At gunpoint, maybe?

Sources

Scoop: Union Biting the hand that feeds

National Party MP: Jami-Lee Ross – Biography

John Key  SPEECH: 2008,  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

TVNZ Q+A: Guyon Espiner interviews Bill English (transcript)

Wanganui Chronicle: Overseas labour concerns union

NZ Herald:  Sentiment on work prospects gloomy

NBR:  Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher

NBR: Plea for ratepayers to give up port control

NBR: Increased traffic at Ports of Auckland

NBR:  Ports of Auckland profits hold steady

Additional

Scoop: POAL documents show senior management running own agenda

Chris Trotter:  The Auckland Ports Dispute: An Injury To All

Chris Trotter:  Port bosses sensitive to show of union power

Tumeke: The Manufactured Crisis at Ports of Auckland and why did Len Brown walk into it?

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