The Maritime Union Of New Zealand (MUNZ) is involved in a bitter dispute with Ports of Auckland (POAL) management. At the centre of the dispute is an attempt by the POAL management to bust the union and casualise the workforce, as part of a drive towards privatisation. If the POAL management succeed in busting the union it will have serious implications for all workers in New Zealand.
Casualisation of work will be forced through in port after port and industry after industry. This is a serious attack on organised labour as workers rights will be ripped up due to casualisation of the workforce. Workers will have no rights to such things as a guaranteed working week, sick and holiday entitlements as the employers have an agenda of a 'race to the bottom' as far as pay and conditions go in order to make more profit.
MUNZ members on the picket lines: Photo MUNZ
After several one and two day strikes over the Christmas holiday period , MUNZ is now involved in a seven day partial strike that sees unionised labour (300 workers) refusing to work containers offloaded by outsourced POAL company Conlinxx.
If PAOL management refuse to come back to the negotiating table to discuss and agree an amicable collective agreement the union has given notice of two concurrent seven day strikes to start immediately after the present weeks action has finished.
The above strike notices are in response to POAL management stating that they will sack all port workers and that they will then be taken on as contractors on a casualised basis. It isn't surprising that the bosses are trying to make an example of MUNZ as it is a strong fighting militant union. The bosses are hoping by defeating and making an example of MUNZ that this will seriously undermine any fightback from the rest of the union movement against casualisation. The bosses will be in for a shock on this point with workers' anger building up in all workplaces against continuing austerity and cuts !
Already the CTU has fully supported the dispute, along with the full support of the International Transport Workers' Federation. Unlike the 1951 Watersiders lockout this dispute has the necessary solidarity to be built upon to win.
To date the POAL mis-information put out in the media by management is one of over paid unionists earning over $100,000. This couldn't be further from the truth. The wages of wharfies is around $56,000 a year. As the President of MUNZ, Garry Parsloe, stated to earn the amount of money the management were talking about, workers would need to take mattresses to work with them as they'd never be at home! The fact that the CEO of POAL earns $750,000 is never mentioned!
Another piece of POAL mis-information was that the Maersk shipping line has pulled out of POAL to Tauranga. This is incorrect as one only as to look at the weekly Shipping Gazette to note that Maersk still dock and offload at POAL. It appears that the CEO Tony Gibson , a former manager for Maersk, doesn't want to let the facts get in the way of busting the union!
POAL is owned by Auckland Council on behalf of Aucklanders. When the “super city” came in to existence, the then Minister of Local Govt , ACTs Rodney Hide, appointed all the board members for the council owned POAL. This was stacked up with individuals whose aim is to undermine the POAL. Fundamentally the dispute isn't about productivity or return on investment to Auckland ratepayers as POAL is an highly productive port and returns 9% gross or 6% net profit to the council and is competitive by international standards. To achieve such productivity POAL has a highly skilled workforce, something the POAL conveniently forget in their mis-information!
For the government appointed directors it appears that the dispute is about wresting control of POAL from local government so that it can be privatised and the waterfront can be opened up to carpet bagging property speculators. The problem for the directors and management is that the Maritime Union is standing in the way of this. Hence the dispute.
Additionally, privatisation of New Zealand's ports is part of the government's agenda too as the recently announced discussion document that the government is keenly interested in shows.
Solidarity is building across Auckland and the rest of the country for MUNZ. MUNZ has made the correct move to engage all the families of the striking wharfies into the decision making around the dispute. As one wife of a striking worker put it “If you think I am letting my husband wait every day for a phone call to see if he has work and for how long - 3 hours or what ever they offer. Then they have another thing coming”. This comment sums up the mood and is an important development that women are being actively involved in the dispute.
MUNZ family. Photo: Simon Oosterman
The CTU under the auspices of the Save Our Ports campaign have organised petitions and meetings across Auckland and this has been backed by the Labour Party. This is a welcome development. After the initial onslaught in the right-wing media about the dispute projecting an anti-union mood, MUNZ and the CTU are beginning to win the war of words on the dispute. This can be seen by two factors. One is that striking families are being portrayed more sympathetically in the media, and secondly the POAL lawyers are pursuing legal action to stop MUNZ from producing material in defence of their struggle. This is what MUNZ President Garry Parsloe means when he says POAL are engaging in the most reprehensive and repugnant campaign against workers.
MUNZ President, Garry Parsloe summed up the above when he said “.. it appears that in New Zealand it is a crime to have a decent job, and the employers and the ruling class hate to see this... the ruling class have their laws, courts and their hired media, all we can rely on is our class solidarity.
Socialist Appeal could not agree more with Garry Parsloe. It is working class solidarity that will defeat these brutal attacks on Auckland Wharfies.
Socialist Appeal says:
Support the Martime Union's struggle against casualisation and privatisation;
No to casualisation of labour
No to privatisation
Get involved in Save our Port's campaign
Nationalisation of New Zealand's ports under workers control and management.
An injury to one is an injury to all
For more information go to www.saveourport.com
Extract from Save Our Port's Website
Setting the record straight: the facts
We are the workers of the Ports of Auckland. We are not troublemakers trying to hold the city to ransom as we have been painted by Ports of Auckland management. We are mums, dads, sons and daughters, just like you. We want to set the record straight so you, the people who own this port, can make an informed decision on whether or not you choose to support us.
Our current employment agreement provides the flexibility the port needs without compromising safety or job security.
port of Auckland is a 24/7 operation that needs a wide range of
skills as well as employment flexibility. Our current employment
agreement provides this without compromising safety or job security.
It enables the Port to employ:
• 53% permanent full time workers entitled to 40 hours of work, day or night,
• 27% permanent workers only guaranteed 24 hrs work per week,
• 20% casual workers guaranteed no work at all, giving the Port huge flexibility.
The agreement is designed to provide a mix of stable, reliable work — yet still meets the needs of a port where shipping can be unpredictable. It expired on September 30, 2011.
Management is demanding we sign contracts that take away any guaranteed weekly hours; or be made redundant and our jobs outsourced.
We won’t know whether we’ll be sent home after three hours or told to work a 12-hour shift; or have any work at all. No worker in their right mind would agree to his. That’s not negotiation. It’s bullying in the name of the people of Auckland.
Management has quoted ridiculous figures about what we earn.
The dispute isn’t about pay, it’s about protecting our job security and our remaining family time. The truth is that casual workers are paid $14.25 an hour and permanent workers get $27.26 an hour.
There are no penal rates, service pay or overtime rate. We work changing shifts, night and day, every day of the week. Permanent workers only get one guaranteed weekend off in every three weeks (also the only time we are guaranteed two consecutive days off) and have to work every other weekend. The work is hard, skilled and dangerous. Its not family friendly, but at least we have some guaranteed hours of work.
Management has offered us a 10% pay rise over 30 months to accept casualisation. We only asked for 2.5% over 12 months and job security. That’s not much when the cost of living increased by 4.6% in the year to when our agreement expired.
Media spin makes it look like the port is losing money.
It’s not. Ports of Auckland is a successful, productive and profitable modern port. It returns Auckland ratepayers 6% after tax and 9% before tax. Hard work has made your port profitable in a tough global economic environment.
Port management are misleading the public
If the port isn’t productive, why did we break one of the company’s productivity records?
Last September Ports of Auckland congratulated us for achieving record hourly container moves and put on a BBQ. Now a few months later it wants to sack us all. The company walked away from negotiations despite our agreement to help improve productivity further and cut our hours or work longer to meet irregular ship arrivals. Something doesn’t add up.
Why is the port’s management continually refusing to bargain in good faith? Why does it seem to be forcing an industrial dispute? History tells us this is typically a sign of a planned privatisation.
A Government Commission has just published a report that calls for our ports to be privatised.
This is not a coincidence. Are we yet another planned asset sale? Management doesn’t seem to want us to reach an agreement. By ‘failing to agree’ and then sacking us, the Ports get to use contractors on the Port – privatising the service provision to ships.
Ports of Auckland belongs to the people of Auckland and should remain a public asset that benefits all of us.
As a representative of our community, it should be an employer that treats its workers with fairness and respect.
The port wants to create a competitive environment so contractors are forced to undercut each other and drive down our wages.
Workers’ and contractors’ pay and conditions are the first things to be cut to save costs. Contracted workers have few of the health and safety protections of directly employed workers. We’ve got a really good safety record that we want to protect.
Ports of Auckland management are spending your money on their political agenda and PR campaign.
We just want to be treated fairly. Ultimately the agenda here is to remove our collective voice at work – our union – which is the major legal obstacle to privatisation. Together in our union, we helped Aucklanders stop the port being privatised the last time and with your help and support we can do it again.