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Port protest gone international

Written By: - Date published: 11:12 pm, March 10th, 2012 - 48 comments
Categories: class war, employment, len brown, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: ,

The labour dispute is turning into a fiasco for Ports of Auckland. Today thousands of people marched through Auckland in protest:

Thousands rally for sacked Ports workers

… ONE News reporter Stephen Smith said around 5000 protesters, including firefighters, meat workers, rest home nurses, even politicians, took to street, yelling slogans such as “workers rights are under attack!” as well as “stand up fight back, workers rights are under attack.”

“It’s (the protest) wide-spread and strong these people are angry and they have every right to be, and we’re angry for them, ” Labour MP David Cunliffe told ONE News.

The march included “At least a hundred overseas unionised workers”. But that isn’t the only international dimension to this conflict:

Port action spreads across Tasman

Australian port workers are refusing to unload a ship which has been worked on by non-union staff in Auckland, as long-standing industrial action reaches the other side of the Tasman. Union members at the Ports of Sydney are refusing to unload the Maersk Brani, which docked at 5am today. The ship left Auckland on Wednesday evening, after being handled by non-union staff.

In a sign of solidarity, union members in Sydney were refusing to unload the ship, and currently had a picket of between 30 to 40 protesters outside the Ports of Sydney, TVNZ reported.

Union members at Wellington and Tauranga last week refused to work on ships which had been loaded by non-union members in Auckland, but a court injunction forced workers at both ports to unload the vessles.

Here’s coverage from Australia:

Aust, US unions back Auckland port workers

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has vowed to support their New Zealand equivalent for “as long as it takes” as protests are held at a Sydney port following nearly 300 Ports of Auckland redundancies.

The MUA were among several thousand people who marched in central Auckland – from Queen Street to Teal Park – on Saturday afternoon in protest of Ports of Auckland making 292 Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) members redundant following a lengthy industrial dispute.

At least 10 unions from around New Zealand, Australia and even the United States turned out in support. …

The United States International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) vice president Ray Familathe said he represented thousands of stevedores along the west coast of the US who support MUNZ. During a speech to crowds Mr Familathe hinted the ILWU may also refuse to unload ships in US ports if the dispute continued. “We’ll stick with them (MUNZ) all the way to the end,” he vowed.

The piece is repeated in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

Support for the port workers is international. Unions in Australia are already taking action, America is likely to join. Note also the phrase – “as long as it takes” – a warning that should be drummed into the heads of Len Brown and every idiot involved in running Ports of Auckland. Even if cargo is moved through the port by non-union labour, it may be delayed or refused at its destination. What customer would want to ship their goods through Auckland? The damage to the business is going to far exceed whatever savings they were hoping to achieve by treating workers like cattle.

There is no business case for the employers’ position any more. If Ports of Auckland stay on their self destructive course it can only be about ego and posturing – not wanting to be seen to “give in”. Get over yourselves boys. Reach agreement with the workers, and get the port working again.

48 comments on “Port protest gone international ”

  1. Blue 1

    Indeed. The idiots in POAL management who thought any cost was worth it if they could break the union may just be realising that it’s going to be a bit more complicated than they thought.

    They can try to break MUNZ but they don’t have any control over the international unions.

    • rosy 1.1

      And now Key will have to provide an explanation to suit his Australian and U.S. counterparts instead of leaving it to Brown.

      • marsman 1.1.1

        It was Auckland City Council ‘Officials’ who demanded an unrealistic 12% return. No doubt these officials were appointed by Rodney Hide when he was part of John Key’s ‘Government’. Chickens home to roost hopefully.

        • TightyRighty

          Really? What a long bow to draw. The officials would have either a) worked for one of the city councils pre merger or b) been appointed post merger by the elected council which is left wing dominated. PR is not a left wing skill is it?

  2. Bruce 2

    I shake my head at the implications for the rest of NZ workers if POAL gets away with this. It’s as simple as that? Make all their loyal workers redundant and then contract others in?

    Employers are very important in this country but this is straight out exploitation and setting a precedent for bad employer behaviour.

    • Jester 2.1

      Australian Trade Practices Act, UK Employment Act 1990 and the US Wagner Act.

      So I guess International pressure will work as well or for as long as the Tauranga and Lyttletons secondary strikes.

    • I shake my head at the implications for the rest of NZ workers if POAL gets away with this.

      Most of the rest of NZ workers have adapted to 21st century employment relations so the implications for them are disruption and potentially stuffing the country trying to win fights of last century.

      • mickysavage 2.2.1

        Petey thinks we should all have McDonalds jobs where we get paid slightly more than the minimum wage and are always at the beck and call of the employer.

        • Tiger Mountain

          POAL and Talleys are the true face of what most employers really think about workers daring to organise in their own interests. Petey really does not have a skerrick of class analysis to offer.

        • Pete George

          No, you’re making things up again.

          MacDonalds does provide employment for many people, most of whom presumably are grateful to earn some money as a stepping stone on their career paths.

          Also like many people I’ve never felt a need to be in a union, negotiation and common good has worked well most of the time. Unions obviously suits some people – most of whom don’t get into major clashes with employers like at POAL.

          How much of your working life have you been in a union Greg? Do all your employees belong to unions?

          • KJT

            Yeah. They  are great?
            “Full time” employees only guaranteed 12 hours of work a week. Despite being expected to be on call 24/7. Having to quit because their hours did not cover their costs of living (Constructively dismissed. Their hours are just kept low so they have to leave) if not available at 12 hours notice.
            Government fully subsidised for kids off the dole. They reduced “permanents” hours to employ them. When the subsidy ran out they got rid of them as above and got another lot fully subsidised.
            Like AWF. Tax payers and their workers are paying for their business model.

            • Pete George

              Port workers were apparently guaranteed 160 hours a month. I’m sure more than a few people working at McDonalds would like that level of certainty – and the pay rates that go with it.

              • Kotahi Tane Huna

                PG sounds just like a little ACT tool, has anyone else noticed that?

              • KJT

                How long do you think that will last, if MUNZ caved in?
                MUNZ offered to meet POAL on a lot of their points.
                At the end of they day though, POAL just wanted to remove the Union. And have private contractors supplying labour.
                Which does not bode well for their future intentions as an employer.

              • bbfloyd

                how does it feel living in that blue bubble petey?…. sounds a lot better than the reality the rest of us inhabit….

                i’ve been noting your myriad comment and monopolising(or attempting to) of debate of late, and i have to say that you would be better to spend the time doing your knitting…

                your “solutions” have nothing to recommend them to those who actually have lives to live, and truly strive to make this a better place for all of us….

                in fact, you seem to wish to do no more than inflict your own avoidance behaviour upon those who could do without the pointless distraction….

                you’ve become as irrelevant and irritating as the likes of burt and gosman et al…..i’m waiting with baited breath to hear you write something that doesn’t come out of a crackpot political manifesto, and actually applies to the real world as we know it….

              • RedLogix

                I’m sure more than a few people working at McDonalds would like that level of certainty

                Translated: “You just lucky to even have a job…quit moaning.”

          • mickysavage


            How much of your working life have you been in a union Greg?

            All of it.  Initially in the Engineers but more recently in the strongest, most organized and professional union in the country.  The one that ensures its members are well rewarded for their effort.  It is called the New Zealand Law Society.

            Do all your employees belong to unions? 

            None of your effing business.  Information about employees is their private business.

      • Olwyn 2.2.2

        No Pete George: most of the workers have not! I am sick to death of that claim. One one hand people like you join in the hand wringing about poverty, and on the other you think that any attempt on the part of workers to gain justice is “so last century.” What you are talking about is man-made institutions. Man made institutions can be changed, and are not actually accepted as a status quo where there is dissent.

        • marty mars

          I agree with you Olwyn – some fakes (hand wringers) like pete and dunne will never get it because they don’t want to, it suits their purposes to pretend.

      • Carol 2.2.3

        When are some of these very powerful employers going to adapt to 21st century economic, environmental and social realities, rather than expecting workers to ‘adapt’ (i.e. take the burden of lowering profits and resources) while such employers/mangement/directors expect to go on getting an income well above what they are worth or can realistically be afforded?

      • rosy 2.2.4

        It’s worth taking a look at the Metro editorial (March 2012) – not a hotbed of left-wing union members by any means.

        The editor talks about the PoA having out-dated thinking, and gives examples of other international ports to support it’s case in terms of port development. It also gives a strong case in support of the union position. For a more integrated story it’s worth a read, I reckon. (It’s not in a format that can easily be copied) http://www.scribd.com/doc/83142963/Metro-March-2012-editorial

        • LynW

          Thanks for that link rosy. An excellent summation. I had heard Mike Williams praise the article on air, but had not read it. I have put it on my facebook page too.

      • KJT 2.2.5

        Bullshit again. 
        Employees are trying to avoid working as contractors on permanent employee rates. If you had brains you would know how unfair it is.
        Companies who want employees to be on call 24/7 but who only want to pay for a small part of that time should be illegal.
        It means that workers and other tax payers are subsidising them. I thought that cross subsidies to business were a RW no-no?

        Memo to Crosby Textor.
        Please employ better trolls and astro turfers. Burt and Gosman get boring, endlessly repeating the same tired and discredited RW memes. PG is just thick.

        • muzza

          This is exactly the situation – PG is showing that being old is in fact a liability in his case!

          Having a PBE, Auckland owned PoAL being run this way, with the blessing of the elected servants, is hardly an example to society of stability, that anyone with half a brain would want to have, or can’t see where this could propagate outwards into other job sectors!

          Pete George is irrelevant, and is the fluffer for a party of one, who now looks like being remembered as the guy who could have stopped asset sales, but didn’t. Dunne has another reading to grow a pair, but I suspect that will not happen..

          Que PG using some spurious political explanation od Dunnes sellout of NZ – The party political fluffer has no self respect!

    • LynW 2.4

      +1 Excellent summary!

    • LynW 2.5

      +1 Excellent summary Bruce

      • LynW 2.5.1

        For some reason the delete function wouldn’t respond hence the three comments. Guess it does make my support comment stand out! Cheers

    • Dylan 2.6

      wrong wrong wron that are not firing them all together what they are doing to them is offereing them new work at the docks were they work less and they have a more flexible roster scheme, they are not just firing them.

  3. Dion 3

    It is fantastic that the unions have received so much support and workers around the world are showing solidarity with their NZ workers. This is what is needed to stand against corporate greed, corporate brutality and a violation of our employment rights.

  4. Jester 4

    Australian T

  5. Scuffer 5

    If the shipping companies paid the same across the wharf rates for containers the charges in Australia are more than double than in N. The Auckland council would not have to hammer the wharfies to make the required profit, this is just the last option to
    make even more money. Indirectly we have a situation where international shippers are controlling our ports and its result is social upheaval and possible shipping disruption worldwide. The inevitable solution will be across the wharf rates will increase because the ports are waging war on prices and cutting all corners to achieve this you can cut your cloth accordingly but eventually you just end up with no hems in a very tight suit.

  6. Peter in Papua New Guinea 6

    Since when is 2 thousand thousands? Reminds me what Radio NZ said hundreds turned out for the Boscowan march in 2007, when it was 5000 odd. That is thousands.

    Piss poor turn out for the rich prick wharfies anyway.

    Basically 6-7 people per sacked wharfie, not a great turnout really as their immediate family would be around 6-7 anyway.

    Alternative headline: ‘Wharfies and their families go for a stroll down Auckland.’

    • Jester 6.1

      Michelle Boag summed it up on Q&A

      On a fine saturday in Auckland you could get 2000 protesting the opening of an envelope!

    • Olwyn 6.2

      Peter in Papua New Guinea: 2,000 is but one estimate, and the lowest of them. The highest was 6,000, and today’s Herald reckons 3,500. It was a hard crowd to estimate in terms of size, since the march from Britomart to Teal Park is long and narrow. On the way back I asked a cop how many he estimated it to be and he said four or five thousand.

    • Vicky32 6.3

      Piss poor turn out for the rich prick wharfies anyway.

      Calling them ‘rich pricks’ shows that you’ve fallen for POAL propaganda. You should be embarrassed.

      Basically 6-7 people per sacked wharfie, not a great turnout really as their immediate family would be around 6-7 anyway.

      What an odd assumption. What’s behind it?

    • eric 6.4

      pete ..when you come back and support the nz ecomony..then you can have an opinion…put your money..( tax free for you..) where your mouth is and by the way..grow a pair…love to meet you sometime…from a nz taxpayer..

  7. Dr Terry 7

    Even had the wealthy employers given themselves the same wage reduction (though still leaving themselves rich!) and accepted exactly the same employment conditions, we might just feel a little for them. What I expect is that they will award themselves bigger salaries and better conditions to compensate for “all the bother” they have been caused! What hell their lives must be (including their new pal poor old Len Brown)! Imagine what the bosses forked out for those full page letters in the Herald to the people of Auckland (pining for pity!)

  8. Get over it – move on (Helen Clark).

  9. Pete 9

    The Union lost. Game over.

    They lost because they had no leverage. They had no leverage because the pay and T&C are in line with the market and there are people lining up to take those jobs under those wages and T&C. Demanding surety of employment is not a condition that exists in most other labour markets – it’s a red herring.

    A prime example of how ideology can blind people to the obvious.

    • IrishBill 9.1

      Calling it a bit soon I think. From what I can tell the port is against the wall legally, industrially, and in terms of its public relations.

      I’ve seen big companies from International Paper to Progressive Enterprises to Air New Zealand take a thumping from the unions. It’s foolish bravado for an outfit like POAL and it’s sycophants such as yourself to think for even a second they’ve got what it takes to go up against the union movement.

      • Pete 9.1.1

        The Union movement is, what, 8% of the workforce?

        Dead in the water.

        You think they’d reinvent themselves as a labour contracting company, and give all their workers shares in the business. They can decide on their own level of job security and working hours within that contract.

        Striking and waving banners about, led by the spitting cloth caps, is tired, cliche and not a solution if the aim is to secure work.

        Get out of the 70’s, lads. Lateral thinking required.

        • Colonial Viper

          You think they’d reinvent themselves as a labour contracting company, and give all their workers shares in the business. They can decide on their own level of job security and working hours within that contract

          Small detail you missed. POAL will blacklist the company and it won’t get a single crumb of work.

    • taxicab 9.2

      I think the red herring here may be in the perceived the long game . Brown desperately wants the train set (of which I aggree with) but to get it (remember our most dangerous pscopath Joyce told him to bugger off unless he could finance it himself) he may be prepared to shut down the commercial part of the wharf to get it . In the wings are a bunch of property developers drooling at the prospects of a warf that sends out a bunch of ships loaded by non union workers that foreign ports are not going to unload , upshot POAL becomes toxic , looses money being forced to shut down council persuaded to offload toxic asset. Enter the developers Aucklands chance to live up to the “City of sails” tag . Hotels to fit with the sky city convention centre image (no dirty unsightly container wharf , no constant flow of B trains entering already congested roading system) Motorway freed up , goods transported from Tauranga by Kiwirail , after all Mearsk have already won the war with that port . The sale of the waterfront by the council free’s up money for the city rail system , perhaps that is why Len announced yesterday the speeding up of the scoping work for the rail .

  10. John72 10

    This week’s “Reading”. JOHN 8: 3-11
    For the benefit of those who cannot read a bible, the punch line is “…let he that is without sin cast the first stone…”
    In this dispute the reading applies to participants and spectators (even I ?). There is more to the reading but some people are so bitter they are incapable of comprhending it ?

  11. KATY 11

    This is an attack on the very basis of why unions were formed, And no way is an internationally affiliated union going to sit back and watch while the employment terms and conditions of its members in a small port by the international scale of things become eroded by managerial cost cutting measures to increase profits and feather their own nests.
    Because of Mr Gibson and his mates eagerness to try to remove union influence from the PoA sleeping lions have awoken and are preparing to protect their cubs. This is no longer a negotiation between the PoA and its employees, it’s moved to a situation that is going to cause serious repercussions not only on a local but also a national and internal basis as far as the Ports of Auckland are concerned.
    Its going to be difficult to make any profit when the goods that are required to make that profit are sitting in a ship or on a wharf somewhere (where a N.Z. Judge has no jurisdiction and can’t order them to be unloaded), due to the fact that PoA become a port of convenience

    So how will this help Gibson & Co increase their profitability let alone increase it by 12% ?

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