|Image via Wikipedia|
The showdown between workers and bosses on the Auckland’s wharves has finally arrived. The sacking of all the wharfies today ensures that this industrial dispute has just become the most confrontational of our times. There will now be all sorts of court action – by employers to prevent other workers supporting their Auckland colleagues with strike action, and by the Maritime Union to challenge the Ports of Auckland restructuring process – but the real action will be decided by raw industrial muscle. Which side has the most industrial strength?
Radio New Zealand reports that Auckland has been declared a ‘port of convenience’ which marks it for international unions as one of the worst ports in the world for industrial relations and employer behaviour – see: RNZ’s Industrial action spreading to another port. Time is money, as they say, and delays caused by support action at other ports will already be costing shipping companies caught up in the dispute – see: Mathew Dearnaley’s Ships caught in dispute depart with goods to keep to their schedules and Kurt Bayer’s Christchurch port workers to strike in solidarity.
Time is running out for a negotiated settlement and the stakes really couldn’t be higher for the union, its members and the management of the Ports of Auckland. Politically, this will rapidly increase the pressure on Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Seeing him standing on the sidelines and watching the Council-owned company lay into the union will infuriate the political networks that got him elected – listen, for example, the CTU’s Helen Kelly on RNZ this morning complaining that Brown has ‘had his time to get his shit together on this, and he’s let us down’. See also, TVNZ’s Len Brown accused of 'absolutely disgusting' attitude. On top of that there seems to be broader concern in Auckland about the management of the ports company, not just in terms of industrial relations, but also its expansion plans.
If the dispute is ‘class war’, then some Auckland employers haven’t got the memo. Jenny Keown reports that a union and business coalition, including Mainfreight, Bell Gully, and Simpson Grierson is asking to meet with Brown and has drafted a charter for the ports that includes more progressive environmental and labour relations – see: Union, business groups meet over Auckland port.
John Minto looks at the broader trend of employer demands for greater flexibility and contracting out in Workers made to pay the price. Minto currently works for Unite union, which represents fast food and hospitality workers who have worked for many years under the conditions being proposed at the Ports of Auckland. He warns that ‘There is a lot at stake on the Auckland port. It's not just 300 permanent jobs because other employers are watching carefully to see if they can use the same approach to add more to their profits at the expense of workers’.
- Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: March 7 (nzherald.co.nz)
- NZ Politics Daily: 7 March (liberation.typepad.com)
- Port sacks striking workers (nzherald.co.nz)
- Auckland port expansion plan put on hold (nzherald.co.nz)
- Five Leadership Mistakes Of The Galactic Empire - Forbes (voakl.net)
- NZH Reports POAL Expansion On Hold - For Now (voakl.net)
- Having a stake makes a difference (homepaddock.wordpress.com)
- Possible Port of Auckland Relocations (voakl.net)
- Auckland Architecture Association on Port of Auckland (voakl.net)
- Port of Auckland Index (voakl.net)