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

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National MP -  Jami-Lee Ross - The Nation - TV3 - 23 June 2013 - strikebreaking bill

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National MP (Botany), Jami-Lee Ross, has  admitted that he has colluded with POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd) bosses to draft his proposed  strike-breaking amendment, the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill. On TV3’s The Nation on 22 June, 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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Source: Youtube – Ports behind bill

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At 0:50, Rachel Smalley asks Ross,

“Do the Employers and Manufacturers Association support it?”

Ross’s answer was not at all truthful, and his response was utterly mis-leading. Smalley has to point out to him that the Employers and Manufacturers in fact do not support Ross’s Bill.

This is the first indication that Ross is prepared to ‘spin’ lack of support or outright opposition, in a sly, dishonest fashion.  Smalley, who is aware of the Employers and Manufacturers Association position, corrects him,

“I don’t think they support it though, do they, which is quite interesting.”

In fact, the Employers and Manufacturers Association said in a media statement, that “while its principles are worth exploring it could prove very divisive.”

Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Balloted Bill possibly a bridge too far

The same media release went on to slate Ross’s Bill,

“New Zealand communities place a high value on fairness and the Bill could have consequences that would be considered unfair.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

When even employers start perceiving a piece of anti-union legislisation as unfair, then that speaks volumes.   Employers are not stupid. They understand that it only takes one unjust law  to make workers more militant. That, in turn would generate increased support for a much-weakened trade union movement in this country.

At 1:40, Smalley asked,

“Does the NZ Initiative support it?”

Ross again evaded giving a straight answer, and Smalley pointed out to him that even the right-wing think-tank is dubious about the worth of the Bill.

Then at 2:18, Ross gets to the nub of the matter,

“There’s the potential  once the economy really picks up again that we could seeing a whole lot more strikes.”

Ross’s statement is his first candid admission that the raison d’être of  his Bill is not the “fairness”, “balance” or “choice” that he has been espousing.

Ross’s  sole agenda is to crack down on strikes.  Ross is targetting the most fundamental rights of  human beings;

  1. to work together collectively, for mutual benefit
  2. to with-hold labour when workers deem it necessary

Working together collectively is not just a worker’s prerogative. Collective action is also used by employers who have their own groupings,

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Business NZ

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employers and manufacturing association

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Wellington chamber of commerce

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Ross’s next admission was political dynamite. At 3:26, Rachel Smalley asked Ross,

“Where does this Bill have it’s origins?”

Ross deflected with waffle about “the rights of New Zealand”.

Smalley persisted,

“Or is it on the wharves of the ports of Auckland, is that where it’s origins lie?”

Ross side-stepped by remarking that “a drawn out strike can have a quite a  big impact on the wider economy“.

Then, at 4:00, Smalley asked the million-dollar question,

“Have you discussed this Bill with Ports of Auckland [Ltd]?”

At last, Ross could not evade the questioning and admitted,

A long time ago. That was an issue that was raised.”

Smalley asked,

“How long ago?”

Ross replied,

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

This blogger has a fairly good idea when Ross and Ports of Auckland Ltd bosses had their little “chat”: around

On 11 January 2012, Jami-Lee Ross wrote this anti-union  opinion piece for Scoop Media,

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union-biting-the-hand-that-feeds - header

The latest development in the protracted Ports of Auckland industrial dispute must give all parties to the issue pause for thought. Continued industrial action would adversely affect the Port even further and could undermine the Maritime Union’s very reason for being.

The announcement by Fonterra recently that it is moving the company’s business from Auckland to Tauranga and Napier was a blow for the Queen City. While the negotiations between the Maritime Union and Ports of Auckland management may be a distant and removed matter for the average Aucklander, they must know the issue is now one of a fight for their port’s survival.

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.

I don’t use the term “destruction in value” lightly. It is a strong term, but one that is appropriate for this issue. Just as losing the business of Maersk in December was no laughing matter, losing Fonterra can not be ignored. At a reported weekly trade value of $27million, annualised the loss of Fonterra’s custom represents around $1.4 billion of export business.

But numbers aside, it is obvious that losing the trade of New Zealand’s largest company, only a month after losing the business of one of the worlds largest shipping lines, has to be a wakeup call. Yet sadly for the Maritime Union, it isn’t. Sadly for port workers and Aucklanders alike, the Maritime Union continues to be unphased.

This isn’t a story of a greedy corporate hammering the little guy. This isn’t a story of a David versus Goliath battle where workers are being ripped off or paid a pittance. Few could call poverty on an average annual wage for a wharfie understood to be north of $90,000, with a proposed 10 percent hourly rate increase and performance bonuses of up to 20 percent, sitting on the table. To the average person on the street, the latest Ports of Auckland offer to the Union would almost seem generous.

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.

For commercial users, it is a simple matter of certainty and continuity Union action, and the threat of further strikes, have put a serious dent in the Ports of Auckland’s ability to provide their bread and butter services Customers are now voting with their feet. The value of Ports of Auckland and the value of the investment that every Aucklander has in the company will continue to suffer if resolution to this matter is not swift.

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

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.

As the fight for Auckland’s waterfront reaches the tipping point, for ratepayers and workers alike this present stand off must come to an end. The city’s $600 million port investment and worker’s jobs are now on the line. Also on the line is the country’s acceptance of the role of trade unions. It can not be tolerable or acceptable for a union to demonstrate continued disregard for the economic consequences of their actions.

*Jami-Lee Ross is the Member of Parliament for Botany. He was formerly a member of the Auckland and Manukau City Councils.

Acknowledgement: Scoop Media – Union biting the hand that feeds

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Four months after his statement,  Jamie Lee Ross spoke in support of the  Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill, allowing secret ballot’s before workers decided to take strike action.

Ross put it thusly,

“Today is liberation day. Today is liberation day for New Zealand workers who are members of unions that have not yet embraced the democratic principles of holding a secret ballot when strike action is being considered. I say it is a shame that members of the Opposition are not supporting this bill, the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  Hansards, Parliament

Ross further advocated for secret ballots prior to strike action,

If members want to stand in this House and say that they do support the concept of secret ballots, which is what a number of speeches have been saying in both the first and second readings—and we have heard it a few times this afternoon as well—and that they think it is a good thing that a number of unions already have secret ballot provisions in their rules, then they should go the step further and support this bill, and do the right thing by giving workers the freedom that they deserve.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  IBID

(Irony of ironies,  all MPs votes on legislation are a matter of  public record, and recorded in Hansards. There is no secret ballot when MPs vote.)

The Bill passed and became law on 14 May 2012

So what was the relevance between the law that Ross supported and the Ports of Auckland dispute? It seems that the POAL dispute was weighing heavily on the MP’s  mind during the third reading of this Bill,

I want to also touch on the Ports of Auckland for a moment, because I think it is important that we talk a little bit about what has become the key and well-known industrial dispute this year. It is fair to say that the Ports of Auckland dispute probably would not have got as bad as it did if there was the opportunity for those Ports of Auckland workers to have a secret ballot for their strike.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  IBID

It should also be noted that the Employment Relations (Secret Ballot for Strikes) Amendment Bill was a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by National backbench MP, Tau Henare – also noted for his hostility toward the trade union movement.

As is the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill – sponsored by Jami-Lee Ross.

The government, it seems, does not want to get it’s hands dirty with Union-smashing legislation. Dear Leader John Key made his feelings abundantly clear in March 2012 when he played the positive-sounding propagandist mouth-piece for POAL bosses,

“I think they went through a genuine good faith process,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

The company believed it was losing business, primarily to the Port of Tauranga, because it wasn’t competitive.

“Their view is unless they change, it will be death by a thousand cuts.”

Demand from the council for a 12 per cent return from the company within five years, up from a current 6 per cent, had not lead to the dispute, Key said.

The port had struggled with financial problems for some time and cash flow issues had forced it to sell Queens Wharf to the Government.

“Unless that’s an efficient workplace, unless it’s competitive, ultimately they will continue to lose business.”

The company was trying to make savings at the port to protect all its jobs, he said,

“And I guess they have moved to this issue where they want to go to outsourcing.”

The company needed to find almost 300 workers and would take people with experience.

“I suspect quite a lot of the people who have been made redundant will actually reapply and funnily enough get their job back just through a different vehicle… the conditions will be different.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Jackson pulls back from port comments

So how involved was the Ports of Auckland Ltd bosses in  motivating, encouraging, or actively sponsoring  Ross to write his strike-breaking Bill?

Rachel Smalley put that question to Ross in the same interview. At 4:28 she asked,

“What was the Port’s input into the Bill?

Ross replied,

“The Ports [of Auckland Ltd] indicated that during a strike like every organisation that is affected by a strike, they’re unable to keep their business going…”

So the bosses at POAL indicated  to Ross that they  were  unable to keep their business going – and the MP for Botany duly obliged with a Bill that he fully admits POAL mananagement had input into.

This is commonly known as collusion.

What makes it all the much worse is that POAL is a publicly-owned company (by Auckland ratepayers) – and it’s own management acted against the interests of the community, as if it were some predatory trans-national corporation.

Indeed, that is precisely how Ports of Auckland Ltd management have behaved during the long-running industrial dispute;

  • 12 January 2012 – Leaked POAL papers showed that  management were running their own agenda  “of ramping up the current industrial dispute while saying they want to resolve it.The draft management plan sets out a comprehensive contracting out plan, disparages the ports owners and board of directors, and predetermines there is no intention of seeking a negotiated solution.”  (source)
  • 22 March 2012 – Ports workers were served a lockout notice from Ports of Auckland LTD management just hours before a vote to bring to an end  strike action. (source)
  • 22 March 2012 – A POAL manager involved in  negotiations with the  Maritime Union was linked to a company, Pacific Crew Holdings Ltd, recruiting non-unionised wharfies  for a new company,  registered with the Companies Office only a month earlier. (source)
  • 27 March 2012 – Employment Relations Authority issued a judgement in favour of Maritime Union not to harass workers; not to make union member redundant;  not to hire scab labour; not to engage Drake New Zealand Ltd or Allied Workforce Ltd or any other person to perform the work of striking/locked-out employees; not to pressure union members to sign contracts with Drake or Allied Workforce, etc. (source)
  • 12 April 2012 – POAL bosses admitted leaking private details of a port worker to a right wing blogger. The maritime worker  had lost his wife to cancer. The blogger was closely connected to POAL, and may have been paid for writing pro-management propaganda on his blog. (source)
  • 13 August 2012 – Maritime Union outlined cases of bullying by POAL management,  ”every time somebody coughs there is a disciplinary hearing, they are attacking people continuously, making their lives miserable. There are people getting disciplined for all sorts of things, – it’s ridiculous for infinitesimal little things. They [workers] think it’s part of their [management] campaign to undermine the workforce to try and get them a little bit weakened so they will agree to what is put to them.”  (source)

It should be obvious to all by now that POAL management had no intention whatsoever of negotiating with the Maritime Union in good faith, as the Employment Relations Act requires.

It was also suggested that POAL management were setting up the Ports company for eventual privatisation (see: NBR – Plea for ratepayers to give up port control).  Rationalising a workforce is usually a precursor to a  privatisation agenda.

Whether or not Jami-Lee Ross’s strike breaking Bill becomes law is by no means guaranteed. Even if National finds the couple of votes needed to pass it into law, this blogger has no doubt that an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government will consign it to the rubbish bin of political history. Where it rightly belongs with other laws that threaten the livelihoods of New Zealanders and their families.

Make no mistake, this Bill has nothing to do with “fairness”, “balance”, or “choice” , etc.

This Bill has only one goal; to force workers not to strike, by fear-threat of losing their jobs and replaced by strike-breaking scab labour. With unemployment at 146,000 unemployed according to a recent Household Labour Force Survey, there would be many desperate to get into a job – even if it meant displacing a striking worker. This is the dog-eat-dog world of the “Free” Market, and which Jami-Lee Ross wants to aggravate for the ordinary working man and woman.

It is fairly clear that Jami-Lee Ross and Ports of Auckland Ltd management have colluded  to draft this Bill.

It is further clear that POAL had this Bill in mind to break the authority of the Maritime Union to negotiate on behalf of it’s members.

And it’s further clear that POAL had in mind this strike-breaking Bill as part of it’s over-arching agenda.

For Jami-Lee Ross, he is in a no-lose situation. If his Bill becomes law, he cements his reputation as a willing tool of the employers to do their bidding. (Much like Simon Lusk advocated in his far right plan to make MPs beholding to donors. See: National turns on hard right advisor)

And if the Bill fails, he still builds a reputation as a right wing politician willing to work with fiscal conservatives; employers; and any others who advance the neo-liberal agenda.

Jami-Lee Ross – willing servant of  bosses; conservatives; and cashed-up donors.

Finally,

“Going on strike cannot be easy. It can be financially and morally devastating.” –  Jami-Lee Ross, 9 May 2012,

Acknowledgement:  Hansards, Parliament

Yes, indeed. Very “financially and morally devastating“. Especially if Mr Ross get’s his way.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 July 2013.

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References

Scoop Media: Union biting the hand that feeds (11 Jan 2012)

Fairfax Media:  Port workers claim bullying continues (13 Aug 2012)

Fairfax Media: Bosses bypass new era (11 Nov 2012)

Fairfax Media: Kiwi bosses’ attitude repels expats (15 Dec 2012)

Fairfax Media:  Unionist slams ‘assault on workers’ (27 April 2013)

Scoop Media: Balloted Bill possibly a bridge too far  (14 June 2013)

Youtube: Ports behind bill (22 June 2013)

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road:  The Right To Say – “No.”

Waitakere News: National’s generic press release for introduction of new bill

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Surveillance laws, Strikebreaking, & Subversive groups

30 June 2013 9 comments

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Big Brother Inc

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“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – say  those who attempt to justify the  increasing surveillance power of State’s, multi-nationals, and internet “webcorps” like Facebook and Google.

I find that usually these people fall into three categories;

  1. the incredibly naive, who believe that their government loves them. Because Big Brother loves you.
  2. the incredibly fearful, who see terrorists under their beds, in the closet, out on the street behind a tree…
  3. the incredibly partisan – who identify so closely with  their  Party-of-choice, that that will give it wholehearted trust whilst  in office. But will then condemn an opposition Party’s use of State surveillance power once they win government.

The SIS was formed in 1956 – during the height of the Cold War. It was a perilous time in our history, when two super power blocs faced off against each other. Armed with colossal numbers of atomic weaponry, Planet Earth stood on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. Cockroaches bided their time to inherit.

Twentyone years later, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) was created in 1977 at the behest of  then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. Super power rivalry and  a volatile mix of Middle East tensions created an environment where intelligence-gathering became as vital as  actual military (if not more so).

Prime Ministers of the day promised, hand on heart, that each organisation would be carefully controlled and their activities monitored.

A year earlier, the police Wanganui Computer centre had opened, holding  information for the  New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority and the justice department,

‘Big Brother is watching’? The New Zealand government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Act raised questions about the state’s ability to gather information on its citizens.

[…]Critics were unconvinced. Civil libertarians likened it to something from George Orwell’s 1984 and mounted numerous protests against the system. The ultimate protest occurred in November 1982, when 22-year-old anarchist Neil Roberts was apparently blown up by his own gelignite bomb as he tried to breach security at the computer centre.

Acknowledgement:  NZ On-Line History – Wanganui Computer legislation passed

By 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end and the “runner up” in the rivalry between superpowers- the Soviet Bloc –  fell apart. The Berlin Wall came down. The Iron Curtain parted. Eastern European nations jumped on the NATO bandwagon. And the  CCCP (USSR) now lives on only in history books and far-flung space probes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, and further out in deep space.

But you wouldn’t think it, as the West – including little old laid-back New Zealand – ratcheted up the power of the State. After the televised terror of 9/11, who could say ‘no’ to more and more surveillance; security; spying; and other governmental powers?

In October 2002, the Clark-led Labour government enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act  2002. The Police website referred to this legislation as,

The TSA establishes a legal framework for the suppression of terrorism. In particular, it is the mechanism by which New Zealand gives effect to the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) mandatory resolutions requiring UN member states to take certain steps to suppress terrorism. An important feature of this framework is the Prime Minister’s power under the TSA to designate individuals or groups as terrorist or associated entities. Designation can be on an “interim” (s 20 TSA) or “final” (s 22 TSA) basis.

Acknowledgement: NZ Police – New Zealand’s designated terrorist individuals and organisations

It should be noted that the definition of who/what is a terrorist entity was left up to individual governments to make,

Secondly, and by contrast, while UNSC Resolution 1373 obliges New Zealand (inter alia) to outlaw the financing of, participation in and recruitment to, terrorist entities, it does not specifically identify those entities. The Resolution effectively leaves it to Member States to identify the entities against which they should act.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Some 21 groups  around the world are currently listed as “terrorist” organisations.  One of those 21 organisations is the Kurdistan Workers Party/ Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (“PKK”), which is seeking a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The PKK is currently in negotiations with the Turkish government. If it is a “terrorist” organisation, then the Turks are negotiating with terrorists.

Perhaps the best known example of  “terrorist-come-statesman”  is Nelson Mandela who served as President of the  African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.  The ANC was banned in 1960 and Mandela served 27 years in prison.

Once upon a time,  Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the ANC as a terrorist organisation,

“The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land‘. ” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987

Now the ANC is the legitimate government of South Africa  and Nelson Mandela is revered as one of the greatest statesmen the 20th Century has ever produced.

Such is the difficulty with branding a group as “terrorist”.  It is a political statement – and that is the problem. One person’s  terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

The government attempted to employ the Terrorism Suppression Act once, and once only –  subsequent to  the Urewera Raid on Monday, 15 October 2007. For the first time, something out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” crossed over from fantasy, into harsh reality,

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Urewera Raids

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Imagine welcoming a Time Traveler from New Zealand 1971 to 2007 with the above scene. Would s/he think that New Zealand had fallen under the harsh rule of a military-fascist dictatorship? That somewhere in the intervening time-period, a coup d’état had overthrown a democratically-elected government, and we were living under a Chilean-style regime?

However, the confusing nature of the law was such that charges were dropped against most of the 18 arrested. Only four proceeded to trial.

Eventually, none  were charged with “terrorism”, the Act iself being described by  Solicitor General Collins as “complex and incoherent”, and “almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances”.

The Act, however, remains in force.

Since then, as if in some bizarre “Space Race” with Labour, the Key-led National Government decided to trump the Terrorism Suppression Act with the Search And Surveillance Act 2012.

As the NZ Herald reported on 1 October, last year,

The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – New police search and surveillance law in force

The report went on to state,

Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm]  Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.

“Either emergencies, where life might be at risk, or where the destruction of evidence might occur in very serious circumstances,” he said.

“My own interpretation is this is very common sense legislation which provides us reasonable means to carry out our functions.”

He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers.

Acknowledgement: IBID

“He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers“.

Well, Burgess would say that, wouldn’t he?

Does anyone remotely believe that Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess would say the opposite, like this,

“Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess saw the changes as a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers, which would move New Zealand society further into the realms of a Surveillance Society where State power over-rode the right to privacy.

“We already have sufficient powers to catch burglars, drunk drivers, and drug pushers”, he said.”

Show me a senior police office who would say something like that, and I will show you a Little Green Man  from Mars. (He’s living in my basement and the little bugger has drunk most of my bourbon. Not that it has much effect on him…)

Eight months after the Search & Surveillance Bill was enacted, this bombshell hit the news;

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Illegal spying - 85 Kiwis watched - Fairfax Media - Andrea Vance - Kitteridge Report

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched

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Despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which states –

Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

– the myth is perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.

So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?

No.

Instead National has amended the law – in effect  legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new  Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

National is also enacting the new amendment  – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person  who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.

But you wouldn’t think so.

Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,

  • There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” –  John Key, 15 April 2013
  • …covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” – John Key, 15 April 2013
  • This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013

When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,

I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)

And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,

He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”

He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Not one, as Key admitted,

Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB  .”

If this had happened thirty or fourty  years ago, when New Zealanders were seemingly far more conciousness of the threat of growing Orwellian state power, there would have been mass protests in the streets.

New Zealanders seem to have either fallen into a deep trance, or have grown tired in resisting the remorseless advance of the State.

Is this the country that marched, en masse, to prevent a racist rugby team from touring, in 1981?

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anti tour marchers

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What happened to us?

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On top of becoming a Surveillance State, National is also winding back the rights of workers to negotiate with employers, and the right to strike,

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Employment reforms 'sinister' - Labour

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

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In a series of  tweet-exchanges, National MP, Jamie-Lee Ross explained his purpose of the Bill,

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jamie lee ross - twitter conversation - 14 june 2013

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Jamie-Lee Ross is simply repeating the line from National’s spin-doctors. His repetition of “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is garbage of course.

You will most likely keep hearing Ross’s refrain, “restore a balance between employers and employees” more and more as the Bill progresses through the House.

The only “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is for employers to get rid of striking workers and replace them with a more compliant, subservient  workforce who will accept lower wages and lesser working conditions.

As CTU President, Helen Kelley explained on The Standard,

1. Notice for strikes.

Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.

2. A strike tax

The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.

3. Restrictions on the right to strike

The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.

There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.

40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.

Acknowledgement: The Standard – Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws

Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) summed it up with simple clarity,

“ The latest piece of legislation actually goes further than what applied in the 1990s.

It’s already very difficult, in an era of reasonably high unemployment and very low economic activity, for workers to test their employers for fairer wage outcomes.

It’s an answer to a problem we don’t have. We don’t have a problem with high wages, we don’t have a problem with industrial chaos .”

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

This is a direct reaction to the industrial dispute at the Ports of Auckland which faced off  Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) against Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). It is a dispute which MUNZ pursued (and won!) through legal channels such as the Employment  Court, and also won in the Court of Public Opinion.

Meanwhile, the employers, POAL, broke employment laws; negotiated in bad faith; leaked sensitive employee information to a foul-mouthed, deranged right-wing blogger; and spread dis-information to the media and public. It was a nasty, vicious, under-handed battle.

The country saw it for what it was, and understood that the POAL and it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, and Board were directly responsible.

Eventually, on 29 March last year, the Employment Court found in favour of the Maritime Union and forced POAL back to the bargaining table.  Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for the Right. A defeat that could not stand – Unions could not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to make our labourforce more “flexible”.

Having lost the battle in both Courts and with the Public,  rightwing politicians and employers  are now wanting retribution. But more than that, the Right Wing want the law changed so that workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed. In fact, they want the right to strike to become a thing of the past.

No worker will dare strike if they risk losing their jobs to strike-breakers.

It is no coincidence that Jamie-Lee Ross is the author of this repressive legislation. Because Mr Ross was also involved on the fringes in  the ports of Auckland dispute.

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union-biting-the-hand-that-feeds

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz – Union biting the hand that feeds

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So it seems that Jamie-Lee Ross has evidently been tasked with “reforming”  New Zealand’s current labour laws. By “reforming”, I mean to change the law in such a way that a Union could never again challenge – and defeat – an employer.

This is what Mr Ross’s Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill is all about.

I just wish Mr Ross was more upfront with the true intent of his Bill. It’s a strike-breaker. End of story.

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And next on the Dark Agenda, curtailment of peoples’ right to protest that might interfere with corporate activity.

I refer, of course, to another National MP – Minister Simon Bridges – who enacted a new law through Parliament – one with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“ (see: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview).

On 3 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A, there was this exchange between Bridges and Jessica Mutch,

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Notice that Bridges has dressed up increased suppression of dissent and protest as a “safety” issue. He refers to “ stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous act” and because of the dangers associated with doing that [protesting]“.

National’s spin doctors have created the meme to be repeated ad nauseum; this is a “safety” issue and not a civil rights issue.

I think most New Zealanders are not taken in by that bit of daft fiction.

It is little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, brutish, authoritarian  government that is afraid of it’s own people.

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National’s increased surveillance powers could come in very handy for a left wing government. First of all, National’s stooge – Ian Fletcher – will have to be replaced by someone more “sympathetic” to a left-wing government.

Someone with strong left-wing credentials, and who is willing to crack down on right-wing subversive elements in New Zealand.

Subversive right wing groups that threaten the safety of New Zealand citizens – an which can now be more easily surveilled. Groups and individuals such as,

  • ACT
  • National Party
  • New Zealand Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable)
  • Family First
  • NBR
  • Karl Du Fresne
  • Michael Laws
  • Cameron Slater
  • David Farrar
  • Business NZ
  • Crosby Textor

And probably a few others  I’ve forgotten to list.

The new US-based company, Palantir, that has set up office in Wellington and is currently seeking an Embedded Analyst with the NZ  Government, could be useful to monitor and keep track of these subversives. They have a known track record for anti-social, and undermining economic activities in this country.

National also intends to strengthen data-sharing between government departments such as IRD, WINZ, etc (see: Govt considers new ‘big data’ hub). This will be handy to evaluate possible tax evasion for any of these groups.

Of course, if the GCSB/SIS can’t find anything illegal, we can always scrutinise their internet history. Check out what websites they’ve been visiting. Something, anything, dodgy. Preferably involving illegal sex acts. Then leak it to a friendly left-wing blogger to publish. (see: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union)

Yes, indeed, increasing powers and laws that allow a crack-down on dissent could prove very handy for the “far left” Labour-Green government that John Key warns us is coming.

No doubt the Righties will be screaming blue-murder about infringing their privacy. Their identities and comments will be noted. And added to their files. (see:  “The Spies Are Welcome To Mine”: A Fantasy)

There is no more privacy.

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Conclusion

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The rise of the Police surveillance state…

Crushing Union opposition…

Placing heavy restrictions on protest activity…

These are the hallmarks of a government that is exerting firm control  over society and willing to flex it’s “muscle” to have it’s own way. It is a phenomenon that seems to be occurring around the world, with even The Bastion Of Democracy, the USA, now a fully-fledged Surveillance State (but with capitalist trappings).

Through growing  surveillance,  National is watching those “persons of interest” who are likely to interfere with their agenda. Such people can be environmental activists, intellectuals, unionists,  civil rights advocates, left wing bloggers, et al. People who are vigilant on behalf of all New Zealanders – yes, even those on the Right.

Though Ross’s Bill, National will reduce Union power to such a degree that businesses and investors will no longer have to put up with disruption to their incomes and profits. Workers and their representatives will effectively be silenced.

And if anyone disrupts corporate activity such as deep-sea prospecting/drilling, then the State can crack down on protesters with harsh financial penalties and dire  threats of imprisonment.

This is a government, my fellow New Zealanders, that is no longer willing to tolerate dissent. Especially if it threatens their agenda.

Recently, at the Green Party conference, Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon. Notoriously, Muldoon had little patience with those who crossed him or opposed his views.

Norman got it partly right. Actually,  this entire government is Muldoonist in the way it is building up Executive power. Power  with which to  intimidate  opposition. Key is merely the affable, smiling face of that intimidating government. He is the “likeable uncle” behind whom is the full power of the State, and an Executive willing to use it, regardless of consequences or notions of human rights.)

The questions now demanding an answer;

  1. Are National voters comfortable with the accumulation of power by the State?
  2. How will National voters view such extraordinary power being wielded by a left-wing government?
  3. Will an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government committ to reversing these autocratic laws?

There was mass-hysteria when the media got hold of the ridiculous  story that Labour was going to “interfere” with shower heads. Charges of “nanny state” flew like wool in a shearing shed (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state). Of course it was nothing more than a beat-up by National and it’s friendly media.

But it seemed to have stuck in the public consciousness, and Labour became synonymous with the so-called “Nanny State”.

Never mind Nanny. Big Brother is the one to watch out for. He’ll certainly be watching us.

Oh, how we Baby Boomers – who lived through the 1960s and 70s – have seemingly forgotten our distrust of the State.

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neil roberts - we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity

Neil Roberts
1960 – 1982

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2013.

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Guest Author: This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Occupy NZ Media #BTB #ShowAndTell Coverage

Occupy Savvy

21 July 2012

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(This post is now complete. Please share far and wide. Thank you so much for supporting citizen journalism. All credit to Occupy New Zealand Media team. Redstar’s livestream footage of this event is available here.)

Saturday 21st July 2012 was another awesome day for NZ students; who used the opportunity of the ruling National Party Conference hosted at SkyCity Casino (yes, THAT Sky City…) to push their message that education cuts, privatisation and forced austerity measures were NOT going to be taken lying down.

They did a brilliant job of organising this public event, which had many new features including NLG-style Legal Observers, free ‘Red Square’ pins for everyone and a welcoming crew that approached & chatted with members of the public throughout the day. The level of thought that had gone into the event really impressed us.

Below is a People’s Media mash-up of photos, tweets & our experiences on the ground. Non-commercial organisations (ie. other Occupy pages, citizen journalists, charities, organisations who openly endorse/support Occupy) are welcome to reprint/reblog/download/share any of the images below but we ask that you please credit Occupy New Zealand Media Team/Occupy Savvy. As usual the “big crowd” photos are about halfway down the post.

Kia ora koutou. It is a privilege to present this to you Aotearoa.

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These guys were the first thing I saw heading into Britomart. The mat was roll-up & they would jump into the intersection when the pedestrian crossing turned green – roll out the mat – drop a freestyle to some old school b-boy blaring from their beatbox and then roll it back up & jump back out when the lights turned green. So cool.

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These girls came straight up to me with big smiles and a free red square pin before I could even get to where the march was assembling.

Having such a friendly welcoming/outreach crew definitely made the difference, as I saw more and more members of the public enticed off the sidewalks and into the march proper.

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The sound truck from last Saturday’s Aotearoa Is Not For Sale march made a reappearance, except instead of King Kapisi on the back, it was bearing a coffin!

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Initially the police presence appeared minimal – probably a dozen cops. We found out later why so few were at Britomart… when we got to Sky City Convention Centre.

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Looking towards the port, where the beleaguered MUNZ workers spent much of the last year fighting for basic work conditions and respect from their well-heeled employers.

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They had this road truck follow them around dropping road cones opening & closing roads.

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The march begins to form – with the familiar BLOCKADE THE BUDGET banner from the last Blockade The Budget student protest, which suffered mass arrests and police assaults on peacefully protesting students and faculty at Auckland University.

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Our Occu-Mama & Occupy Media member Lyn repping Socialist Aotearoa. She is an inspirational wahine toa who is one of the 8 arbitrarily-selected members of Occupy Auckland to be personally persecuted and mercilessly prosecuted (at ridiculous ratepayer expense) by Auckland Council. (Who we prefer to refer to as Auckland Corporatouncil!)

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^^^ Take a good look at the above photo. It was one of the most telling & hilarious parts of the event. We slipped in behind the Socialist Aotearoa banner with Lyn (despite the fact I’m actually not a socialist, S.A. have done a lot to support Occupy in NZ) and was immediately descended upon by the above reporter & cameraman for TV1 News. “Can we interview you?” They asked. “Sure” we said. “But we’re just going to grab a quick pic of you first.” Camera already out, within a microsecond the shot was taken. The reporter surprised & amused – the cameraman not even slightly amused. They asked us a few questions and we answered eloquently and fluidly enough that the reporter was surprised and exclaimed, “thanks, that was great!” while the cameraman scowled bitterly at us. They disappeared off for a quick huddle and then reappeared. The dinosaur cameraman demanded that we re-shoot the piece due to having had sunglasses on (it was 1pm). We politely refused and got told that the footage “wouldn’t be used then”. Why is this significant? Wait and see what happens with these two further down this post.

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People begin to move onto the street as the march begins to fill up.

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It soon becomes apparent that there are vastly more people in the middle of the street than there are on the pavement.

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A lone motorbike cop in front of the march assembly.

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People turn to face a small stage where speakers address the crowd and the street theatre commences.

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School children hold up signs representing different types of employees and students effected by austerity measures and education cuts, then a man with a huge pair of fake scissors jumps out and literally cuts their signs in half. Pre-planned, they all laugh.

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Naomi – performed a passionate piece of spoken word poetry, beautifully.

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Jai Bentley-Payne spoke on behalf of the students, warning us “Austerity is a SCAM!!!”. We quoted him on livetweet on #BTB and #Showandtell hashtags as well as the Canadian student movement hashtags #ggi #casseroles #manifecours and within minutes, his quote was retweeted around the world by students in solidarity globally.

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And finally – we were off. The march up from the bottom of Queen Street begins.

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There was all different kinds of New Zealanders marching; of every colour, shape and background.

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“They Take Our Education – We Take The Streets!”

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The giant red solidarity square was out again – which the kids loved playing under.

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John Key….. is a duck? LOL.

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One of the greatest things about today was the brand spanking new student-provided legal observers. This is something sorely lacking at previous protests mainly due to the lack of NLG-type organisation in New Zealand to support democratic peaceful protesters. Looks like thanks to the students, this is changing. Kia ora students!

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This iconic Auckland intersection (Victoria & Queen) once again occupied by the public – for the second time in eight days.

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5000 post-grad students are estimated to be unable to continue study due to changes made by the ruling National Party and the austerity measures they are imposing upon education (and other public sectors).

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The “Fuck The Rich” guy was back and very pleased when we told him our photo of his sign at last Saturday’s Aotearoa Is Not For Sale march was picked up by a Spanish-language online newspaper with 94,000 likes on their page. Pretty impressive.

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I guess this is what they call civil disobedience! Though really, its exercise. The exercising of our democratic rights!

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The mood quickly turns from jubilant to appropriately solemn as students bear the coffin all the way up Victoria Street from Queen Street as a funeral march plays.

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Protesters observe a minute of silence but their signs speak on regardless.

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We finally make it to Sky City Conference Centre….. and arrive at a shocking sight. Police officers wall the inside of the entrance two deep. People stand around with literally mouths hanging open at the wanton display of force. Yet still it is only a fraction of what will later greet us outside the casino itself.

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Despite the police presence, protesters put signs and stickers up on the glass and the coffin is carried up to the entrance.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Occupy Savvy 21 July 2012 Auckland  National Party Conference 2012 Skycity

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Occupy Savvy 21 July 2012 Auckland  National Party Conference 2012 Skycity

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The crowd begin to chant enthusiastically. Most of the chants are recorded on the livetweet which can be found on Twitter

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At first we thought they might be there to enforce the No Smoking policy…

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Until we saw these guys.

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As we clearly were not going to be able to enter the convention centre, off we went around the block, the long way to Sky City Casino. Completely unawares of what awaited us.

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As we hit Federal Street, we realised the bottom over-street Skywalk was filled with Casino executives and the top Skywalk was filled with cops. Being towards the back, it took a few minutes to realise what was blocking the march at the front line…

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It was awesome to see random members of the public out walking their dogs join the march… wonder what he thought of what was in front of him…

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Tried to get closer to the front to find out why no one was able to move any further…

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Passing ASB bank on Federal Street the cops were shoulder to shoulder but we still had no idea what lay ahead of the march…

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As we reached this point the jackets in front of the march gave us some indication of what was ahead..

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The police were walling off the road in Federal Street which explained why the march had ceased moving – however – we were not at all prepared for the sight of what was behind that first wall of police… take note of the far right cop in the above picture for a reference point…

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The woman pictured to the bottom right wasn’t a cop or a protester. She was actually a member of the public who found herself stuck and couldn’t get through. We politely asked the police if they could please let her through as she wasn’t with us and was genuinely being prevented from accessing public space. They initially refused outright but after we insisted they should have an officer escort her through they relented and did so. Then – to our shock – remember Mr. grumpy dinosaur mainstream media cameraman? Well he showed up to our immediate left and says to the cops “let me through for a shot.” To our utter astonishment the police immediately stand aside and allow him through the line.

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We were flabbergasted and immediately request to also be allowed through to take some shots to which we were told “that is for media only”. When we identified ourselves as media, the police supervisor told us “STAY WHERE YOU ARE” in an extremely rude and abrupt manner. We were puzzled – wondering why mainstream media could access the blocked area but not citizen journalists? Then we realise what the mainstream media camera was seeing from back there. Or more importantly – what it wasn’t.

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From where they filmed – they couldn’t see the cops above them. They couldn’t see the cops behind them. They couldn’t see the barricaded forcibly closed street nor that all of the aforementioned collectively stopped the march from proceeding, ending and dissipating as quickly as planned by organisers. It soon became clear that they were tailoring their vantagepoint.

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Apparently it wasn’t only MSM that got free access to behind police lines. There were also Sky City staff – assumedly supervisors – taking holiday snaps behind the front line. Not sure why they have more rights than the citizen journalists who were prevented from entering – would love to put in an official letter to the NZ Police to find out why corporate staff have greater access and rights when in the middle of a public street photographing a democratic protest, than our public independent media do? Ridiculous.

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Perhaps blinded by the sight of so many flourescent vests, after some spirited chanting of “Army of the rich, enemy of the poor!” at the hundreds of police present, the march turns around and heads back to the Convention Centre; where there had seemed so many cops; but now seemed few by comparison!!

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Even though by that point we were all using the sidewalk… the police preferred the road and trailed us all the way back to the convention centre…

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…helpfully again lining the streets all the way around…

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…and again blocking the entrance. Awesome.

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The protest was officially called and we were really happy to meet this cheery lady and get this great pic of her Aotearoa Is Not For Sale t-shirt. Shout out to everyone who attended and supported today. Good on you for braving the intimidation tactics and having your say.

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Leaving the site of the protest we had one last bizarre experience – we noticed a huge blacked out SUV parked across the pavement with two Sky City employees guarding it. As it is an unusual sight to see a vehicle parked on the pavement, with not a single police officer ticketing it, we stopped and took a photo. At which point the supervisor on the right hand side started to have a complete fit at us, demanding “NO PHOTOS, NO PHOTOS”. Before we could even begin to respond several members of the public interjected, with one screaming at him that he had no right to prevent the public taking photographs on public streets and essentially, who did he think he was for attempting to interfere with us. We asked him whose car it was and he snapped “it’s MY car”… because quite obviously Sky City supervisors park blacked out SUV’s across the pavement then guard them personally, with staff security guards also present? We don’t think so, buddy :)

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We spotted some pretty awesome signs throughout the day. Below is a collection of them. Thank you to everyone for being so friendly and happily having your signs photographed.

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Auckland Action Against Poverty are hosting tomorrow’s protest at the same location – click here for the Facebook event details.

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Unite Union have been a big supporter of Occupy, Aotearoa Is Not For Sale, and the student movement.

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Socialist Aotearoa, another huge supporter of Occupy and other protest movements in NZ.

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Taking the piss out of the National slogan: “Shit policies = Shit edacation. National 4 a Brighta Futur”

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Students have scrawled micro-messages to John Key all over their main “Blockade The Budget” banner.

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Some of the language is pretty colourful and spirited but the message is clear. Invest in the future of New Zealand. Not finance companies and privatisation of public assets.

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A pissed-off parent has their say.

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A serious question…

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Are you listening, “Mr” Key? No doubt your lackeys are…

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Students are often under-appreciated by our government, who like to depict them as lazy.

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This entry was posted in Occupy Auckland, Occupy Citizen Journalists, Occupy Events, Occupy Facebook, Occupy Journalism, Occupy Legal, Occupy Media, Occupy MSM Propoganda, Occupy New Zealand, Occupy Pics, Occupy Police, Occupy Social Media, Occupy Solidarity, Occupy Testimony, Occupy Twitter.

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Copyright

All images on this page are used by permission from Occupy Savvy. For permission, please contact   Occupy Savvy at content@mediasavvy.co.nz.

Acknowledgement

Reprinted with kind permission from  Occupy Savvy

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Employment Court Upholds Maritime Union Injunction!

29 March 2012 6 comments

Announced today, the Employment Court has judged in favour of the Maritime Court, seeking an injunction against Ports of Employment Ltd’s  plans to contract out 297 jobs currently held by union workers,

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MARITIME UNION OF NEW ZEALAND INC V PORTS OF AUCKLAND LIMITED

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NZEmpC AK [2012]
NZEmpC 54 [27 March 2012]

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IN THE EMPLOYMENT COURT
AUCKLAND

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[2012] NZEmpC 54
ARC 13/12
ARC 17/12

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IN THE MATTER OF an application for declaration, proceedings removed from Employment Relations Authority
AND IN THE MATTER OF applications for interim injunctions
BETWEEN MARITIME UNION OF NEW ZEALAND INC Plaintiff
AND PORTS OF AUCKLAND LIMITED Defendant

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Hearing: 27 March 2012 (Heard at Auckland)
Counsel: Mr Carruthers QC, Mr Cranney and Mr Mitchell, counsel for plaintiff Mr Haigh QC, Mr McIlraith and Ms Dunn, counsel for defendant
Judgment: 27 March 2012
Reasons: 29 March 2012

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REASONS FOR ORAL INTERLOCUTORY JUDGMENT
OF JUDGE B S TRAVIS

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[1] These are my reasons for issuing interim injunctions on 27 March 2012 in the following terms:

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(i) The defendant will take no further steps to advance or implement the proposal to make the plaintiff’s members redundant.
(ii) The defendant will not dismiss the plaintiff’s members.
(iii) The defendant will not employ or engage Drake New Zealand Ltd or Allied Workforce Ltd or any other person to perform the work of striking or locked-out employees in breach of s 97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000.
(iv) The defendant will instruct Drake New Zealand Ltd and Allied Workforce Ltd and any other contractor employed or engaged by the defendant to cease any form of advertising, training or recruitment or any form of preparation for those activities on behalf of the defendant or otherwise.
(v) The defendant will not make any statement to, or which could, encourage any union member to seek or accept employment with the contractors identified in (iv) above.
(vi) In the event that the defendant intends to employ or engage any other person to perform work covered by the collective agreement in dispute, it will give the plaintiff 48 hours’ notice to enable the plaintiff to apply for relief.
[8] The defendant will not take any further steps in relation to applications for voluntary redundancy until 5pm on Friday 30 March 2012 or further order of the Court.

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[2] The plaintiff union (MUNZ) has made two applications for interim injunctions against the defendant. The first in time was filed on 13 March 2012 and sought interlocutory injunctions, in broad terms, to prevent the defendant, Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL), from proceeding to contract out stevedoring and other work at the ports of Auckland (the contracting out injunctions). The contracting out injunctions were set down for hearing on 22 March. They were then adjourned on the basis of undertakings offered to the Court by the defendant, which were accepted by the plaintiff on 21 March, and are recorded in a minute of 22 March. It was agreed that the interlocutory application for the contracting out injunctions could be brought on at short notice by either party.

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[3] The plaintiff union applied on 23 March to bring on the contracting out injunctions for hearing. This was on the grounds that the undertakings offered to the Court by the defendant and recorded in the minute of 22 March had been breached. The plaintiff sought more effective oversight by the Court of the defendant’s conduct. The injunction application was therefore set down for hearing on Tuesday 27 March.

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[4] At that hearing, the defendant consented to the plaintiff’s application but the Court was required to be satisfied that it had the jurisdiction to issue the interim injunctions and that this was a proper case for the exercise of its discretion. Mr Carruthers, counsel for the plaintiff, provided his written submissions to the Court and the defendant. These contained references to a schedule of documents from the bundles of documents obtained on disclosure and filed in Court by the plaintiff. It was agreed that I should not have regard to those documents until the defendant had had the opportunity to respond to them, which it would do by midday on Thursday 29 March. As I shall indicate, I was satisfied from the balance of Mr Carruthers’s submissions that this was a proper case for the issuance of the interim injunctions as consented to by the defendant.

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[5] The second application for interlocutory injunctions was to restrain what were allegedly unlawful lockouts imposed by the defendant on 22 March (the lockout injunctions). That application was filed on 23 March and agreed to be heard at the same time as the contracting out injunctions. The second application was adjourned by consent until Friday 30 March 2012 on the basis of the defendant’s offer to pay all permanent and P24 union employees (a category covered by the expired collective agreement) who were available for work, for the period from 3pm on Thursday 22 March when the strike notices were lifted, for their guaranteed shifts under the expired collective agreement, until 3pm on Friday 30 March 2012. To determine which union employees were available for work, those union members would need to present themselves at 3pm on Thursday 29 March 2012 at a place within one kilometre of the Port nominated by the defendant, and which was to be advised to the plaintiff by 9am on Wednesday 28 March.

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Factual background

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[6] The factual background which I am about to set out is not, for the most part, in dispute and is based on the current pleadings. It should be noted, however, that although leave may be required to do so, as the substantive matter has been set down, either party may apply to amend its pleadings so the admissions on which I have relied for present purposes only, may not be those on which the substantive proceedings are heard.

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[7] Three classic tests are to be applied to the question of whether an interlocutory injunction should issue. The first is whether the plaintiff has an arguable case. The second test is where the balance of convenience lies between the parties before the substantive matter can be heard and determined. Because the grant of interim relief is discretionary, the third test requires the Court to stand back from the detail of the first two tests and to ask where the overall justice of the case lies at the interlocutory stage.

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[8] The plaintiff is a registered union. The defendant was established under the Port Companies Act 1988 and operates the port at Auckland. The defendant employs approximately 297 of the plaintiff’s members (the union members), of whom approximately 235 are employed as stevedores. Others are engineers and tradespersons. The plaintiff and the defendant are engaged in collective bargaining to settle a new collective agreement to replace the collective agreement which expired on 30 September 2011. The expired agreement continues in force, pursuant to s 53 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 (the Act). The bargaining commenced on 6 September 2011.

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[9] One of the issues discussed, but yet to be settled in the bargaining, is a proposal by the plaintiff that work covered by the new collective agreement not be contracted out during the term of the agreement. The expired collective agreement contains a clause which deals with contracting out but there is a dispute as to whether it has been properly complied with by the defendant.

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[10] On 9 January 2012, it is alleged that the defendant issued a public press statement and advised the plaintiff that the defendant proposed the introduction of a contracting out model which might lead to the redundancy of the union members (the contracting out proposal). All subsequent dates refer to events in 2012.

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[11] On 7 March, the defendant informed the plaintiff that it had decided to implement the contracting out proposal and stated that this would result in the termination of the union members’ employment and their reengagement with new employers (the contractors) from whom proposals were being sought by the defendant. The defendant referred to a six week period of consultation prior to the
defendant issuing notices of termination. The defendant alleges that stevedores employed by it, including the union’s members, have the opportunity to apply for employment with the selected contractors, that it has consulted with the union on these matters and alleges that the union has refused to engage on these issues. These matters are in dispute.

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[12] On 9 March, it is alleged that the plaintiff received a media release from the defendant which stated that it had signed contracts with Drake New Zealand Limited (Drake) and Allied Workforce Limited (AWF) following its decision “to introduce competitive stevedoring at its Fergusson and Bledisloe Container Terminal operations” and that a further press release naming the third company that would be working with the defendant was expected shortly.

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[13] The affidavits filed in support of the interim injunction stated that the union has received no information as to the terms of the contracts between the defendant and the selected contractors. The affidavits also deposed that the union understands that its members are going to be encouraged to make applications for positions with the new contractors. In support of those allegations, references were made to statements made by the chairman of the defendant, Richard Pearson, in the media in which he was alleged to have said that the union members needed to apply for jobs with the new contractors.

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[14] Affidavits from three union members have deposed that they are permanent stevedores who have been employed by the defendant for up to 15 years, have economic commitments to their family and are torn between wanting a collective agreement between their union and the defendant and their concerns that they might have no option but to apply for employment with the contractors. The affidavit of Russell Mayn, the secretary/treasurer of the Auckland branch of the plaintiff union, has expressed the view that the union membership will be torn between the need to keep working even with contractors and their wish to be employed under a collective agreement and that since the announcement of 9 January, the collective bargaining has been undermined by the threat of the contracting out proposal. Mr Mayn also deposes that the active recruitment of stevedores for the contracting companies would allow such employees to be engaged to perform the work of striking workers
during the strikes which, at the time the affidavits were sworn, were currently in place and were to continue. The strike notices were withdrawn on 22 March.

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[15] On 21 March, the agreement referred to above (at [2]) was reached between the parties which allowed the application for the lockout injunctions to be adjourned sine die to be brought on at short notice, if sought by either party. It also allowed for the substantive hearing, set down to commence on 26 March for five days, to be adjourned sine die on the same basis. This agreement was reached on the basis of the undertakings given by the defendant in the following terms:

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The defendant makes the following undertakings for a period of one month from Thursday 22 March 2012 and thereafter by agreement or further order of the Court:

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(i) The defendant will take no further steps to implement the proposal to make the plaintiff’s members redundant.
(ii) The defendant will not dismiss the plaintiff’s members.
(iii) The defendant will not employ or engage Drake Personnel Limited or Allied Workforce Limited, or any other person to perform the work of striking employees in breach of s 97 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 and will take steps to instruct Drake Personnel Limited, Allied Workforce Limited and any other potential contractor not to undertake any recruitment or training related to the contracting out of work at Ports of Auckland.
(iv) In the event that the defendant intends to employ or engage any other person to perform work covered by the collective agreement in dispute, it will give the plaintiff 48 hours’ notice to enable the plaintiff to apply for relief.

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[16] The plaintiff’s affidavits set out statements allegedly made by Mr Pearson on 22 March in radio and television interviews to the effect that there had been “no U-turn. You could call it a route deviation if you have to”. He also allegedly stated on television on 22 March that the defendant was:
… encouraging our staff that’s on strike still to come and apply for jobs with the contractors. So there’s no change there. The board, we’ve made no change in our view, of the benefits of contracting and it’s the right decision for the Port.

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[17] Other examples are given, including an interview allegedly given at 7.16am on 22 March on Newstalk ZB Auckland during the Mike Hosking Breakfast programme, in answer to a question as to whether there had been a U-turn, Mr Pearson stated:
… we are encouraging our staff that are actually still on strike, if they want to apply for jobs at the Port, come and apply, there’s no change to that process at all.

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[18] The plaintiff also provided an affidavit which detailed enquiries allegedly made of Drake and AWF which suggested that the staff of those companies, responding to enquiries on 21 and 22 March, were unaware of any instruction from the defendant to cease recruitment of staff for work at the defendant’s premises. I note that Mr Haigh, counsel for the defendant, gave an undertaking in open Court on 27 March confirming that the defendant had instructed both Drake and AWF to cease any form of advertising, training or recruitment or any form of preparation for those activities on behalf of the defendant, as it had undertaken so to do. I unhesitatingly accepted Mr Haigh’s undertaking, as did Mr Carruthers.

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[19] At around midday on 22 March, the members of the union voted to end their strike currently in place, which was to end on 23 March, and voted to end the two week strike that would have commenced on 23 March and have concluded on 6 April 2012. The union immediately wrote to the defendant advising it that the strikes ended immediately and that it was the union’s expectation “that members will be rostered from second shift today commencing at 3pm.”

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[20] Mr Mayn deposes that the union members had an expectation that some members would be able to return to work at the commencement of the second shift at 3pm on 22 March. He also deposes that since that time, members of the union have not been allowed to return to work and that the defendant invited the plaintiff to attend a meeting to discuss the issue on 23 March. He also deposes that at around midday on 22 March, the defendant served a lockout notice on the plaintiff advising of a complete and continuous discontinuance of employment from 12.01 am on 6 April until its demands were complied with.

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[21] The issues relating to the lockout notice and the defendant’s alleged refusal to allow the union employees to return to work on 22 March will be dealt with in the hearing on 30 March.

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Arguable case

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[22] Counsel for the defendant has advised the Court that, whilst the defendant does not accept that it has breached any of the undertakings recorded in the Court minute of 22 March, it nevertheless consented to the orders sought by the plaintiff in the contracting out injunctions.

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[23] The plaintiff has indicated that it intended to amend its application, in relation to the contracting out injunction, to seek a further order that the defendant not progress any voluntary redundancies. This is based on a letter allegedly sent to members of the union on 23 March by Mr Gibson (Chief Executive of POAL), which refers to the handling of enquiries from employees seeking voluntary severance. Without objection, the plaintiff has been granted leave to amend its contracting out injunctions application to include reference to the allegations about voluntary severance and this matter will be dealt with on 30 March. In the meantime the situation will be covered by the last interim injunction set out in [1] above.

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[24] I find that there is a seriously arguable case that the actions of the defendant in allegedly threatening to and then deciding to contract out the work on which the union employees were engaged under the expired collective agreement whilst collective bargaining was on foot for a new collective agreement was likely to undermine and arguably has undermined the bargaining. It will also, arguably, undermine the bargaining in the future. It is therefore seriously arguable that those actions have breached s 32(1)(d)(iii) of the Act. This section provides that the duty of good faith in s 4 of the Act requires a union and an employer bargaining for a collective agreement to do a number of things. These include the requirement in subsection (d)(iii) that the union and the employer:
must not undermine or do anything that is likely to undermine the bargaining or the authority of the other in the bargaining.

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[25] It is contended by the plaintiff that the proposal and the decision to contract out have caused a fear of dismissals among union members and has created pressure on their families and thereby undermined the bargaining for the new collective. There is evidence in the affidavits before the Court which makes this arguable.
[26] Mr Carruthers’s submissions noted that the issue of mass dismissals of the workforce during bargaining has been addressed only briefly in the s 32(1)(d)(iii) context and was left open by Chief Judge Colgan in Eastern Bay Independent Industrial Workers Union 1995 Inc v Norske Skog Tasman Ltd.1 It was not raised in New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering Printing & Manufacturing Union Inc v Carter Holt Harvey Ltd2 and he submitted that the restructuring in that case was allowed to continue in parallel with bargaining because contracting out was, unlike the present case, not an issue in the bargaining.

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[27] Mr Carruthers submitted that, even under the Employment Contracts Act 1991, mass dismissals for bargaining purposes had been found to be unlawful in McCulloch v New Zealand Fire Service Commission3 and New Zealand Seafarers’ Union Inc v Silver Fern Shipping Ltd (No 2).4

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[28] Next, it has been contended that the dismissal proposals constituted an unlawful lockout. I consider that this is less seriously arguable because there appears to be a lack of the demands which are required to bring the defendant’s alleged actions within the definition of “lock out” in s 82(1)(b)(ii) of the Act.

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[29] It is also contended that the dismissal proposals are contrary to the obligation imposed by s 4(1A)(b) of the Act which requires the defendant to be active and constructive in maintaining a productive employment relationship with the union members of the plaintiff. It is contended that the decision to initiate mass dismissals of the entire bargaining unit was contrary to that duty. There is also an allegation that the defendant has failed to provide information concerning the contracting out proposals in breach of s 4(1A) before any decision was made.

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1 [2010] NZEmpC 165 at [11].
2 [2002] 1 ERNZ 597.
3 [1998] 3 ERNZ 378.
4 [1998] 3 ERNZ 786.

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[30] Finally, there is an issue that by progressing the dismissal proposal and engaging the contractors, their employees will be performing the work of striking employees in breach of s 97 of the Act. That will be equally arguable, even though the strike has ceased, if the dismissal proposals are pursued while the threatened lockouts apply. I find that all these issues are arguable and they will be dealt with in the substantive hearing commencing on 16 May.

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[31] As to the balance of convenience, if the dismissal proposals were allowed to proceed before the issues can be substantively resolved, this arguably would have irretrievable consequences for those dismissed employees. The injunctions sought apply until the substantive hearing and may delay the defendant exercising its contractual rights (which are also in issue). However, to permit the exercise of those rights, which are in dispute in the interim because of statutory requirements, could cause irreversible damage to the plaintiff’s members. I note, in this regard, that the substantive issues would have been addressed in the week commencing 26 March but for the undertakings which arguably have been breached. The Court could have provided an earlier fixture in the week commencing 23 April, but counsel for the defendant advised that the defendant was not available. The date finally allocated was suitable for the parties. In all the circumstances, I was satisfied that the balance of convenience favoured the granting of the injunctive relief sought, in the form to which the defendant consented.

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[32] Standing back from the detail, I was also persuaded that the overall justice of the case required that the defendant be prevented from exercising its dismissal proposals until its right to be able to do so, in light of the statutory requirements, is dealt with by the substantive hearing.

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B S Travis
Judge

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Judgment signed at 11.00am on 29 March 2012

Source

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__________

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Clearly, Judge Travis is thouroughly unimpressed with the behaviour of POAL and has issured his judgement accordingly.

It is reassuring that the Employment Relations Act works in favour of workers and employers cannot ride roughshod over their employees.

Long may this continue.

Nek step: sack the board and CEO of POAL. Their incompetance has cost Auckland millions in lost income.  The Auckland Council must address this vital issue, or themselves be accused of gross dereliction of duty.

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* * *

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Acknowledgement

Helen Kelly

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= fs =

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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* * *

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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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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Wha)

13 March 2012 2 comments

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POAL management met with maritime workers and their union reps in Len Brown’s office yesterday, with the mayor mediating. The meeting  lasted supposedly for three hours – after which the protagonists emerged.

POAL announced no change in their position; the  sackings of 292 port workers would not be rescinded and casualisation and contracting out would proceed as planned.

POAL Board  chairman,  Pearson stated emphatically,

The collective negotiations are over. We’re now into implementing the decision. The contractors have already been engaged and they are recruiting.

“Where I feel the mayor could help in the mediation is to try and get the staff that are out on strike to apply for jobs with the contractors because we understand that there’s a sinister element in the union that’s preventing the individual employees to make that decision.” – Radio NZ

Pearson’s melodramatic reference to “a sinister element in the union ” would be laughable, if 292 families were not impacted by POAL’s intransigence,

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POAL management’s intransigence could be egoism at work from Broad Chairman Richard Pearson and CEO Tony Gibson – except there is much more to it than that.

POAL have consistantly stated that the casualisation and contracting out of their workforce was predicated on the port performing badly and needing to improve it’s comopetiveness. As  port CEO Tony Gibson said,

We’ve weighed up all the options and we believe this is the best decision for the future of the Port. Auckland enjoys significant natural advantages, including its proximity to New Zealand’s largest market, where 60% of exports, and 70% of import business takes place. Until now we have been constrained by practices which have reduced the Port’s competitiveness, and in recent months industrial action, which has lost us significant business.”

POAL Board chairman Richard Pearson said on TVNZ’s Q+A,

Well, from my perspective, Paul, I came into this situation, and I’ve been 37 years in the container port business and ports all around the world. I have never seen such a waste of resource going on here. I have never seen a situation where you pay someone for 43 hours and they work 26. I’ve never seen a situation where ships wait to come in to start waiting for the start of a shift. You know, that’s like aeroplanes flying around waiting for-

Paul, Australasia’s not the benchmark for good container-port operations around the world, with all due respect, okay? As I’ve said to you, I have never seen such a potential asset like we’ve got at Auckland that could actually run better... [abridged] ” – Ibid

Paul, we’ve got them going. They’re working. 25 years Tauranga’s been working on this model, and it’s been working well. And during that time, we’ve lost 12% of our market to Tauranga. We can’t wait. We have to make this change now, and we have to make it quickly. ” – Ibid

POAL’s webpage, “Questions & Answers: Changes at Ports of Auckland“,  puts great emphasis on increased productivity and competitiveness.

Gibson and Pearson seem to be alarmed – almost in panic – at POAL’s  ‘lack of productivity’.

Which is curious.

Because recent official government reports paint a completely different picture,

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ministry of transport container pruductivity at nz ports october 2011

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The report states, in part,

New Zealand ports had differing results in 2009 and 2010, reflecting the differing situations for each
port. Tauranga performed well for crane, ship and vessel rates, while Auckland and Otago had vessel
rates comparable with Tauranga. The trends over the last two calendar years show that crane rates at
New Zealand ports on average have been static, but ship and vessel rates on average have grown
about four percent per annum. The container productivity of New Zealand ports appears at least
comparable with, and in some cases better than, Australian and other international ports.”

Auckland and Otago’s vessel rates are relatively higher than their crane rates. Container
terminal productivity tends to be higher when a ship loads and unloads more containers.
These ports have had regular calls from larger container ships (that is, ships with capacity for
4,100 containers). Consequently, these ports tend to use relatively more crane time4 than
other ports to load and unload containers from ships.”

Comparisons with Australian ports

Table 3 below compares New Zealand and Australian ports in 2010. Table 4 below compares
trends over 2009 and 2010 for national-average crane, ship and vessel rates. Some
conclusions are as follows.
• The national-average crane rate for New Zealand ports is slightly behind the nationalaverage
for Australian ports.
• The national-average ship and vessel rates for New Zealand ports are ahead of the
national-average for Australian ports.
• Crane rates in both countries are largely unchanged over the period.
• Ship and vessel rates in both countries are increasing (average growth rates in both
countries are about four percent per annum). The growth appears to be due to ports
using relatively more crane time than in previous years. This may be related to the
average size of container ships increasing in recent years.
• Comparing across all these ports, there is no apparent evidence that productivity
increases with larger total volumes of containers at ports (‘economies of scale’).”

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Conclusions

There is a mixture of container productivity results for New Zealand’s six main container ports,
reflecting the differing situations for each port. Overall, the top three container operations
appear to be Auckland, Tauranga and Otago. The trend over the last two years is for national average
crane productivity to be static, but national-average ship and vessel productivity to
grow about four percent per annum. This growth seems to be due to ports using relatively
more crane time than in previous years, which may be related to an increasing average size
of container ships.”

Just to emphasise the point; “Overall, the top three container operations

Which – yet again – shows up POAL management to be  somewhat ‘loose‘ with the truth.

One cannot but help come to the conclusion that Ports of Auckland is a reasonably efficient operation.

Profit-wise, it is also performing well, judging by NBR reports,

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Imports drive Ports of Auckland profit higher

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Increased traffic at Ports of Auckland

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Ports of Auckland profits hold steady

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Instead, it appears that the agenda to destroy the union and impose casualisation is a deliberate plan to drive down wages.  It seems to be a response to Auckland City Council’s demand to increase their rate of return from 6% to 12%. As Len Brown said on TVNZ’s Q+A on 11 March,

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PAUL Well, how firm are you on this?  Have you laid down the law on the 12%?

LEN  We have given it to them in our statement of corporate intent.  Right at the start of the year, I went down to the port, met all the workers and the employees and the company directors down there and said, ‘Right, this is what we’re expecting from the port.’  And we had an hour’s Q & A-
 
PAUL This is what we’re expecting.  Is this-?  I mean, were you laying the law about the return you want in five years – 12%?
 
LEN  We were laying down the law in terms of what we expected from the port in terms of its return and in terms of its performance generally.

PAUL Where did you get the 12%?

LEN  So, the 12% was an estimate, a view that certainly I’ve been working on for right through the last sort of 18 months, two years.  It was view that was discussed our own table with the officers, with our own council-
 
PAUL So it’s a guess?  It’s a good guess?

LEN  No, it’s an estimate.
 
PAUL (laughs)
 
LEN  This is what we think we should be aiming to achieve.  And so we went back to the company and said, ‘Okay, this where we think you should be.  What is your advice back to us?’  Their advice was, ‘Give us five years and we believe that we can receive that.’

PAUL Well, excuse me, look at this.  Okay, 12%, that’s your estimate – guesstimate.  Tauranga returns 6.8%, Lyttelton 8.6%, Sydney 6.7%, Melbourne 3.1%, Auckland 6% — 6.3% after tax.

LEN  So not just about return either-
 
PAUL Where’s the 12% being made anywhere?

LEN  It’s about competitiveness against other ports.  So we are losing share against Tauranga.  We are competing flat out against Brisbane, in particular, and Sydney.  It was our desire that we wanted the port to be much much stronger in terms of its– “

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So there we have it. The drive for greater profit.

Paid for out of the wages of ordinary workers.

Does this seem remotely fair to anyone? (ACT supporters need not respond to this question.)

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On the social networking ‘battlefront’,  supporters of  POAL have set up their own Facebook page,

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ports of auckland facebook page

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Meanwhile,  POAL (Ports of Auckland Ltd)  continues to waste ratepayers’ money on full-page and half-page ads in our daily newspapers.

This propaganda piece appeared in the Business Section of the NZ Herald today,

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By “sheer coincidence” the ad was placed opposite an advertisement appealing to  port workers to abandon the picket line and contact either of the  two recruiting companies.

This is not just a gross mis-use of company funds – it is an abuse of economic power. This is a clear example of why trade unions are still very much  a necessity.

With trade unions to monitor workers’ rights and conditions, companies are able to  wield considerable power in any dispute.

(Acknowledgement to Cathy Casey.)

Interestingly, POAL states on their website that “We do not have any vacancies at the Ports of Auckland at this stage“,

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292 port workers would be happy to hear that.

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*** Update ***

Union seeks injunction to halt wharfie dismissals

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= fs =

Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Toru)

12 March 2012 5 comments

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"Collective contract? You'll take what you're given, sonny-jim, or I'll plug ya full'o'neoliberal lead!"

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With the recent propagandising undertaken by Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) , using ratepayer’s money, I thought it might be timely to actually put some earnings into perspective.

The following figures are all taken  from various sources, and collated for your perusal and consideration.

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Incomes for Various

(All figures gross)

WHO?

HOW MUCH PER YEAR

HOW MUCH PER HOUR

NOTES
Graeme Hart, NZ’s richest man

?

?

Current worth: NZ$7 billion
Paul Reynolds, Telecom CEO

$1,750,000

$841.35

* To year ending June 2009* Not including $5,303,000 in bonuses, allowances, & perks
Prime Minister John Key

$411,510

$197.84

Not including perks & allowances
Cabinet Ministers

$257,800

$123.94

Not including perks & allowances
Members of Parliament

$141,800

$68.17

Not including perks & allowances
POAL CEO Tony Gibson

$750,000

$360.58

Not including perks & allowances
POAL Board Directors

$70,833 (ea.)

$34.05

Total fees; $425,000 p.a. divided by 6 Directors. (Part time positions)
POAL Stevedores

$56,700

$27.26

* Not including allowances
Australian Stevedores

Grade1: NZ$40,414 (A$31,429)

Grade6: NZ$60,528 (A$47,070)

Grade1: NZ$19.43 (A$15.11)

Grade6: NZ$29.10 (A$22.63)

* Figures in NZ dollars (Australian dollars) Oanda Currency Converter Rate A1:NZ1.286

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All figures based on sources below.

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Sources

NZ Herald:  NZ’s richest man rises up Forbes Rich List

NBR:  How Paul Reynolds’ pay stacks up against the competition

NZ Herald:  Two men and a port in a storm

Members of Parliament Salaries payable under section 16 of Civil List Act 1979

Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) 2010-2011 Financial Report (p18)

Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) The Facts

Australian Stevedoring Industry Award 2010

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Previous Blogposts

Workers lose their jobs – Day of Shame!

A media release I would love to see from Len Brown

Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports

Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Rua)

10 March – Today was a True Labour Day!

Ratbags, Rightwingers, and other assorted Rogues!

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= fs =