The Port of Auckland’s refusal to let the stevedores return to work now that they have lifted their strike notice is a lock-out. There are specific legal requirements around strikes and lock-outs at ports and other essential services – notice must be given in writing and with 14 days’ notice. The Port’s lock-out is illegal. And it’s costing Auckland millions.
I’ve collated the relevant provisions of the Employment Relations Act (82(1)(a)(iv), 91(1)(b)(i), 91(2)(a), 83(b)(i), 91(3)(a)(i), and Schedule 1 Part A 7) into a single passage
Lockout means an act that is the act of an employer in refusing or failing to engage employees for any work for which the employer usually employs employees. No employer engaged in an essential service may lock out any employees who are employed in the essential service the proposed lockout will affect the public interest, including (without limitation) public safety or health; and the proposed lockout relates to bargaining for a collective agreement that will bind each of the employees concerned without having given to the employees’ union or unions and to the chief executive, within 28 days before the date of commencement of the lockout, notice in writing of the employer’s intention to lock out; and before the date specified in the notice as the date on which the lockout will begin. The notice required must specify the period of notice, being a period that is no less than 14 days in the case of an essential service including the provision of all necessary services in connection with the arrival, berthing, loading, unloading, and departure of ships at a port.
So, clearly what the Port is doing now (“refusing or failing to engage employees for any work for which the employer usually employs employees”) is a lockout. And it has been done without 14 days’ notice as required for a port.
What’s the punishment? Well, the Employment Court has very broad powers. It can be expected to levy massive fines on the port for this action.
Add those fines to the $12.7 million in lost custom so far during the strikes plus $25 million a year to permanently lost Fonterra and Maersk business plus hundreds of thousands for the Port’s PR campaign and legal costs. All of this in an effort to transfer $6 million a year from the workers’ wages to the Port’s profit line.
The question now is why Auckland Council is paying Pearson $200,000 a year for two days’ work a week and Tony Gibson $590,000 a year to wreck its port and cost it tens of millions in lost custom and fines, not to mention the wider costs to Auckland economy.
Brown can’t stand by and let these two loose units damage his city any longer.