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It’s safe to get off the fence now, Len

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, March 31st, 2012 - 50 comments
Categories: business, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

The PoAL management looks as incompetent and divided as the Nats after their ‘bullet-proof’ contracting out plans were shot down by the Employment Court and a director resigned publicly admonishment management’s strategy.

Time to use that bully pulpit, Len. The workers have won this fight themselves – but you can make the end of the battle come quicker. Say you have no confidence in Pearson and Gibson, demand they drop their plans which have cost the council a fortune much already, and get the port back to work.

You can even go along to the workers’ victory party and pretend that you were on their side all along, rather than being a fair weather friend who only discovered which side you were on once the workers had won the battle themselves. You and Shearer can share a taxi.

50 comments on “It’s safe to get off the fence now, Len ”

  1. well said JH.

    Brown’s only hope of redemption is to sack Pearson and Gibson.

    last chance to show us whose side you’re on Len 

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      I’m pretty sure that Len has already shown us which side he is on.

    • Slap shot 1.2

      That would be bad. Give them a chance to negotiate. The union is in a very strong position, and will likely now get a better deal. Then everyone can move on and get on with their jobs.

      Never humiliate a defeated opponent. Nothing good comes of it in the end. Winning is an occasion for a pint and a cheer, not gloating. The union has kept the moral high ground so far. Why throw that away? If Pearson and Gibson are to be sacked, then let it be quietly and after a decent interval. Right now it is time for the union to be the bigger man, as they say. There are a great many people who have come to a better opinion of trades unionism because of this dispute. Let’s keep them on side.

      • muzza 1.2.1

        Well said ….

        PS – Brown has shown which side he is on…he will not be making a vocal statement other than, when this is all sorted out, that he was please both sides came to an agreement!

        LB has either wilted under duress, or this is what he always was…brothers in arms the lot of them, IMO!

      • mickysavage 1.2.2

        What could help is the appointment of a progressive pro worker director to the board.  Someone like Mike Williams.  There are very few of these around though …

        • Colonial Viper 1.2.2.1

          Rewrite POAL constitution as per Ben Clark’s suggestion and have a couple of worker-directors on the Board.

        • ghostwhowalksnz 1.2.2.2

          They did have one, Nigel Haworth . Professor of Human Resource Development at UA.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.3

        Keeping incompetent directors/CEOs on just because you don’t want to embarrass them isn’t a good idea. It just gives them more time to make more mistakes that will cost even more to fix.

        • Akldnut 1.2.3.1

          It would be noble to keep them on until all the hoo-haa dies and then let them slip quietly into oblivion if it weren’t for the fact that they are such manipulating, callous lying pricks. (gosh I just described tha majority of Torys).

          Public stockade, whipped and lashed, tarred and feathered, drawn and quartered I say!

    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.3

      What part of the holding company structure and the legislation Hide put in to protect the Council replacing the PoAL directors dont you understand ? I think Hide modelled it on the Green party election processes.

  2. tc 2

    The fence has left scars Brown will struggle to recover from, like Key and co he’s traded off a working class upbringing and then betrayed it but unlike the hollwmen backed Key he lacks the CT machine to spin away from it.
    Fletcher, Brewer and co would be pleased at this turn of events, making Brown look ineffective when he would’ve backed a winner as it may hand the right back the mayoralty.

  3. prism 3

    I noticed Rob Campbell has stepped down from PoL. On radio reports his union connection was mentioned. I looked at a report on 1984 and Lange’s short day followed by Douglas et al. These are quotes about the changes.

    Economist Peter Harris, who led the charge for the unions against what became known as Rogernomics….Rob Campbell, who at the time worked for the unions alongside Harris as an opponent of Rogernomics but later became a cheer leader, said the labour movement had expected a traditional Labour programme.
    (But the programme was revolutionary.)
    It transformed an economy from what Lange described as operating like a Polish shipyard into one of the most deregulated free market economies the industrialised world has known.

    Link – http://www.sharechat.co.nz/article/07c29b10/opinion-the-rogernomics-revolution-20-years-on.html

    So the present PoL dispute has connections way back. The ports were known to be tightly controlled and it was thought they got better wages and conditions than was reasonable. There didn’t seem to be a way to work with union to modernise, control costs and improve handling rates. It seems that business has now achieved that, has a well functioning port, so why contract out and lose steady jobs that people can build a life around?

  4. ianmac 4

    It would be interesting to see exactly where the Mayor stands legally in such disputes. Wasn’t the idea to prevent the Mayor from interfering in any way with the Industrial matters – keep at arms length?

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      No doubt you are right. Because the neolibs love it when business interests have sole rule over the corporate domain, without the inconvenience of democratic or community interests having a say.

    • Eddie 4.2

      he has little institutional power – he has one vote on the council, which would have to direct the council’s investment company ACIL to act against the POAL board or face the sack. But he is mayor of all auckland too – that’s a lot of political power when he speaks, which is what teddy roosevelt was talking about when he talked about the bully (ie good) pulpit.

  5. Craig Glen Eden 5

    Browns a disgrace I had high hopes for him but this whole situation has shown him up for what he is, one word, gutless.I cant wait to see him out at some event, I will tell him face to face what I think and no political bullshit will be accepted for the contempt he has shown for working people.

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    It is past the last chance saloon for Len. The next ‘Lenslide’ will be his slide out of office. So the supercity will be looking a split mayoral contest as per usual.

    Does Len realise that his compliance with POAL/ACIL union busting will earn him no favours from Wellington? Joycie’s roading lobby is still going to freeze out him and the inner city loop.

  7. lefty 7

    Its now time to start working on a genuine left ticket for Mayor for the next elections.
    Cathy Casey or Mike Lee are the most obvious candidates for the position – they both have the advantage of not being associated with Labour and its serial sell outs of the working class as well as being intelligent, competent and principled.

  8. captain hook 8

    on the surface this is a classic left/right debate but scratch the surface and it is about corporate interests taking away any freedoms they can.
    if there are winners there must be losers and these people are psychopaths using the industrial apparautus to to work out their camouflaged propensities on an unsuspecting populace by creating losers.
    creepy stuff.

  9. Jenny 9

    Mayor Brown has backed a bunch of right wing losers, to do as they saw fit. This ignominy will always be his.

    Can he redeem himself?

    I don’t know.

    But I agree that Mayor Brown at the very least, should now take some responsible remedial action.

  10. Kevin Welsh 10

    Independent Left ticket for Auckland and Cunliffe/Little for Labour. Ticks all the boxes for me.

  11. Jeremy 11

    why didn’t the union just accept a 2.5% increase at current terms?

    • Eddie 11.1

      because that’s not what they were offered, that’s what they were offering and the port management rejected it.

      They were offered reduced hours without guaranteed shifts in exchange for a 10% hourly increase – which equated to a 20% annual pay cut.

      • Jeremy 11.1.1

        From NBR:
        “After unsuccessful negotiations, during which the union rejected a 2.5% wage increase with a rollover of the existing CEA and no changes to the terms and conditions, PoAL made 292 jobs redundant – including 235 union members – and introduced competitive stevedoring at its Bledisloe and Fergusson container terminals.”

        • KJT 11.1.1.1

          Where their work would be contracted out. Which meant permanent employees on decent wages could be replaced with temporary contract labour undercutting their terms and conditions.

          Resulting over time for large pay drops for all wharfies.

          Havn’t you figured out what it is about yet. POAL was working to bypass the collective agreement and employment law protection by contracting out.
          Something that has now happened to far to many of New Zealand’s workers.

          • Jeremy 11.1.1.1.1

            So you are telling me that the port company needs permission from the union to contract out work? or that the union is holding the port company to ransom?

            • Eddie 11.1.1.1.1.1

              The port must act within the law. That means it must bargain in good faith, it must reach a collective agreement if at all possible, it mustn’t lock out without two weeks’ notice – all things it failed to do.

              • Jeremy

                I’m aware of this good faith bargaining. It doesn’t change the questions however. I’m satisfied Len Brown has met both parties I trust his judgement.

        • Eddie 11.1.1.2

          That’s a typo by NBR. The previous sentence is the employer’s offer which the workers rejected, the sentence you quote is actually the union offer, which the employer rejected.

          All the other material shows that the union offered 2.5% with no changes to conditions, the port offered 10% with contracting out.

  12. Fortran 12

    MUNZ won the battle – great.

    But the War – um – I doubt it.

    • felix 12.1

      Yeah, you’re probably right. I mean you’ve been right about everything else so far.

  13. Darien Fenton 13

    “You and Shearer can share a taxi”

    14 Labour MPs plus David Shearer who spoke at the rally? Only political leader to speak at the rally? Only political leader I’ve seen at the picket apart from Hone?

    • IrishBill 13.1

      I agree with Darien. I think Labour has shown support and I don’t think that politicising this dispute would have been strategically useful – all it would have done would have made it more likely that government would get involved (as they had planned to until PoAL made it too toxic to touch) and they wouldn’t have done the workers any favours by doing so.

      I said a few weeks ago that PoAL was on the ropes and they’ve certainly taken a beating since, but right now the union still has to get a deal before this is a win.

      • Ad 13.1.1

        Who doesn’t know that Darien Fenton had to beg, plead, and drag that Shearer kicking and screaming to the protest to show any solidarity at all.

        “I don’t think politicizing this dispute would have been strategically useful…”
        I would put it to you that this has been political for some time.

        Simply imagine what would have happened if Shearer had actually shown leadership on this with the Union from the start. National would be defending on yet another front.

        Right now National are fighting on the ACC front, none of which Labour can take credit for.

        At some point the Labour leadership has to grow a set of principles and defend them. If protecting organized Labour isn’t one of them, then the Labour Party should fold up its tent and go home.

    • JH 13.2

      Fair enough. I admit you guys got on board with the workers, if belatedly. And that delayed support probably wasn’t a bad thing in terms of winning the battle for the workers because early Labour involvement would have triggered government action.

      The concern is just whether Labour’s delayed reaction was due to that kind of strategic thought or just that Shearer really didn’t know which side he wanted to be on.

      • Anne 13.2.1

        The concern is just whether Labour’s delayed reaction was due to that kind of strategic thought or just that Shearer really didn’t know which side he wanted to be on.

        I recall a photo (think it was originally on Slater’s blogsite – he had been following them?) of Parsloe and Shearer walking together on a street deep in conversation. This was in the early days of the dispute. Not long afterwards Parsloe was interviewed and he commented to the effect that it was the view of the union that it would be better if Labour stayed on the side-lines.

        That suggests to me it was a strategic position both parties had agreed to..

  14. Vicks 14

    + 1
    Damn right Darien and Shearer made it clear that he was opposed to casualisation at the brginning of this dispute. Misleading people into accepting that it was otherwise JH is no better than what the RWNJ get up to and screams of a whole other agenda. Move on.

  15. Craig Glen Eden 15

    While Im not a Shearer supporter I have to defend him because as DF has said above he did front at the Rally and while the greens had people there, there was no greens co leaders so its a bit rich to attack Shearer for being unsupportive.

  16. Jenny 16

    Will Mayor Len Brown do anything at all?

    Is the current mayor trying to turn the Auckland super city mayoralty into a purely ceremonial role?

    Something akin to the British monarchy, or the Irish President, perhaps?

    Someone to attend official ceremonies and cut ribbons etc?

    Is this what we want?

    And if it is, should he get paid so much?

    • David H 16.1

      “Will Mayor Len Brown do anything at all?”

      Such as??? Fall on his Sword. And beg the peoples forgiveness, would do for starters.

  17. Uturn 17

    I expected Shearer to flex some political muscle, if he has any, and use his position to give a clear voice to the working people against that group that are just like POAL board – our incumbent government. His job is not to imitate normal MPs with words of personal support, or hide away like a mayor who prefers his job to doing his job.

    Leaders have far more power and if they get involved in an issue and try to say they have no power, then say their power wouldn’t help, then they may as well have stayed home. No one was convinced Shearer couldn’t help, it was a manufactured political line to buy him time in his career. Back then, the price that was going to be paid for Shearer’s career was not only the livelihoods of the wharfies, but if their defence failed, the livelihoods of the workers of any other company that followed a similar casualisation suit. The union could have been broken, with people now beginning the spiral down into losing homes and family life balances. Passing round the bottle just before the final battle – a battle yet to win – and kidding ourselves he’s really on the side of the workers is just plain dumb.

    Talk of not embarrassing an opponent that was about to starve and destroy families is equally silly. Would you release diseased wild dogs back into the community, once you’d caught them, too? The least you’d do is contain them, warn people about them, show them for what they are so they could be identified. If that hurt their feelings of needing the freedom to freely destroy, then what a shame. No amount of hugs and moral high ground will protect against the nature of greed. Greed never gives up.

    Hiding behind unproven claims that “it wouldn’t help”, to reluctantly do as little as possible to give people a voice at the highest level, choosing instead to consider showing up at a picket as a true measure of a leader’s resources, is a betrayal. I agree with James Henderson: Shearer and Len should get in a taxi together, head out south, to the airport. To bad if it means a few Labour MPs need to consider the uncomfortable truth about where their allegiance lies.

    • the sprout 17.1

      well said uturn

    • Vicks 17.2

      Shearers response was perfectly appropriate and his message was clear. The only rabid dogs I can see are the ones contributing ranting posts like yours Uturn!!! So if you are going to bite someone – bite someone deserving like the nact snots who set up the supershitty otherwise put your damn muzzle back on.

  18. coolas 18

    As this dispute was always about POAL busting the union, all politicians who expect the support of workers should have come out clearly on the side of MUNZ. For fuck’s sake. There’s a battle going on here. Casualisation of labour reduces workers to a resource given less respect than money. Only through organised labour can worker’s rights be preserved and enhanced. Maybe we have to go through this shit to see the pendulum swing. Workers on the Board would be an ‘elegant’ conclusion to this. And Len’s the man who can do it, or, at least support the idea.

  19. JamesGeorge 19

    Putting the ethics of the situation to one side for a minute, Len Brown has shown us exactly what an incompetent politician he is.
    When Brown first confronted this issue he had a pretty clear cut choice to make. One pick would give him a win win situation, the other, a lose lose.
    Guess what? Brown chose the lose lose. By siding with the POAL tories Brown put himself in a situation that must leave him damaged no matter what the outcome. If the neo-liberals had won Gibson & Co would get all the credit from Wellington for fighting the good fight and Brown would be ignored by the tories. The humanists of Auckland on the other hand would hold Brown responsible for the demise of one of the last strong trade unions, leaving Brown seeming like a quisling & a scab.
    If the neo-cons lost as they certainly seem to have, Brown gets regarded with contempt by humanists and labourites alike. If only because he chose to be on the wrong side when one of the greatest victories for working NZers this century went down. Meanwhile the Tories in Wellington and their Auckland acolytes have a handy scapegoat for their loss -Brown. He won’t be getting any favours outta Wellington; in transport or anything else.

    Conversely if Brown had publicly spoken out for the wharfies from the get go he would have been in a win win situation. If the wharfies win he’d be regarded as being an integral part of the biggest victory for organised labour in NZ this century. If the wharfies lost, Brown could have blamed every decision that went against Auckland emanating outta Wellington on the Nats petty vindictiveness for him being on the wrong side.

    That would not have hurt him electorally either. By the time we all get to pick our council again jonkey and his band of 1% bumkissers will be on the nose with the vast majority of Auckland’s voters. Meaning many voters who may not usually vote for a labour mayor would also vote for Brown because Brown had identified as a opponent of soul killing inhumane capitalism. Their vote being a way of letting Wellington know how they felt about having a government that puts the interests of ordinary kiwis last.

    The RWC transportation mess where Brown let himself get manouvered into being scapegoated, the one who screwed the pooch, should have told us what a ‘scared of tories’ little naif Brown really is deep down.

    Now I’m gonna get back the the Unthanks marathon I’ve been grooving on since I heard the wharfies’ great news. Grinning to myself thinking no matter how much the herald n the other fishwraps try n play this down, more than a few smart young people will have realised that the me me me meme fails in the face of real solidarity from a committed band of comrades.

  20. Jackal 20

    Will Len Brown save face?

    Len Brown still has the chance to save face by taking control of the situation and ensuring that the dispute between POAL and MUNZ is resolved…

  21. Carol 21

    Oh, Len, you’re doing it all wrong, supporting the dubious side on contentious issues… trying to curry favour with the more conservative and centrist voters… Now you express some moral outrage, but wide of the mark. Where were you when the unaccountable POAL has been trying to act undemocratically and without consultation with ratepayers and residents?…… from insult to injury:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10795919

    Auckland Mayor Len Brown has spoken of his fury at being kept in the dark over a deal to give highly-prized coastal land to Maori.

    Brown says the government briefings on the deal to give $13.8 million of land in Devonport to Ngati Whatua did not “cut the mustard”.

    His comments came after it emerged at least two councillors were told of the deal a year ago – but a secrecy arrangement bound them to keep the mayor in the dark.
    […]
    “A confidential briefing for the Hauraki Gulf Forum – an autonomous body – does not cut the mustard.”

    The document setting out the April 2011 briefing was accepted at the forum – which has seven Auckland Council delegates – by councillors Mike Lee and Wayne Walker.

    It stated: “While we believe it is important to ensure the forum is consulted on this matter, it is imperative that this matter is treated as confidential and not discussed outside the forum’s meeting.”

    Lee said he was opposed to public land being used for settlements but that his feelings on the subject were not strong enough to break the confidentiality obligation.

    Forum members come from three government ministries, six councils and local iwi. Christine Fletcher, Sandra Coney, Mike Lee, Denise Roche, Paul Downey, Des Morrison and Wayne Walker were Auckland Council’s members. Roche and Coney had left by the time the secret briefing occurred.

    But there seems to be different interpretations as to whether the lland deal involves “prime coastal real estate”.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6673729/Angry-residents-threaten-to-take-over-naval-base

    Furious Devenport residents are threatening to occupy a naval base in a move usually used by Maori to draw attention to disputed land.

    The public stoush is over a 3.2 hectare chunk of Auckland land, valued at $30 million, promised to Ngati Whatua in a Deed of Settlement in November.
    […]
    Furious Devenport residents are threatening to occupy a naval base in a move usually used by Maori to draw attention to disputed land.

    The public stoush is over a 3.2 hectare chunk of Auckland land, valued at $30 million, promised to Ngati Whatua in a Deed of Settlement in November.
    […]
    Ngati Whatua spokesman Ngarimu Blair said there is a misconception the deal involves the coastal area, sports field and surrounding reserve.

    “We’re not buying that. We never were. We’re only talking about the navy barracks, the sheds, carpark areas and building which we are purchasing and is set well back from the coast.”

    The RNZ Navy, which leases the land, will be offered a minimum lease of 15 years under the agreement.

    Adjoining Takapuna Reserve and Narrow Neck Beach – totalling 11.9ha and covering the shoreline – remains in the public’s possession and unaffected by the deal.

    Plans are also under way to formalise a public walkway on the eastern strip of the base. Currently the navy can revoke access at three months’ notice.

    “We’re the last people to restrict public access to great pieces of land on the harbour or river. We did the same thing for our land at Bastion Point,” Blair said. “We’re very sensitive to these issues.”

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