After months on the side-line, David Shearer and Len Brown have been forced to choose a side in the Ports of Auckland dispute by the irrational and unreasonable behaviour of the Ports management (not to mention a fair amount of public pressure). Shearer has come out against casualisation and marched with the workers in Saturday. Brown has offered mediation between the parties.
The chairman of the Port, Richard Pearson, has refused Brown’s approach. Ignoring Brown’s offer to mediate and, instead, saying he can ‘help’ by telling the stevedores to sign up with the contracting companies is an incredible act of disrespect. It’s like the head of an SOE publicly telling the PM to go fuck himself. It also reveals that the Port is having difficulty getting the numbers to sign up to the contractors that it needs.
I think the Port management can’t work out why the workers haven’t folded yet. This just proves how incompetent they are. With their strike fund and assistance from donations by thousands of ordinary New Zealanders (make yours here), the workers can afford to hold out for some time yet. It’s not easy for those workers but that’s the strength the union brings them, the strength to endure these kind of corporate bully tactics.
But how long can the Port afford to hold out? Before the continuous strike began, it had lost $25m in business – about 15% of annual turnover. Since then, how many more millions have gone down the drain? Something on the order of $3m a week. How much in future costs do they face from legal costs, redundancies (if they are even able to sack the workers), and ongoing loss of business.
There’s a fair chance that the workers are going to win the up-coming legal action, given the clear evidence that the management has been trying to invoke a crisis leading to casualisation from Day 1, and has never been acting in good faith.
If I was the council, I would be spitting tacks at the cost the incompetent Port management has imposed on Auckland. And, if I was Brown, I would be telling Pearson that he and the rest of the board appointed by the government when they created the Supercity are sacked. It’s time Ports of Auckland was run by people who are competent and have the interests of Auckland at heart, rather an an ideological, outmoded fixation with union breaking.