Summer service: open mike 14/01/2011

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, January 14th, 2012 - 65 comments
Categories: open mike - Tags:

As usual, it’s reduced service over the summer break, unless anything big happens. We hope you’ll get a good break with those dear to you, and that we’ll have some decent weather to enjoy. And if you still need your politics fix… Open mike is your post. For announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose. Step right up to the mike…

65 comments on “Summer service: open mike 14/01/2011”

  1. Jenny 1

    Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.

    United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23/4

    I was listening to the Morning Report on Radio New Zealand yesterday at about 7:23 am when the manager for the Ports of Auckland admitted that this dispute is linked to privatising the port.

    Unfortunately though I have been able to get onto the RNZ site, frustratingly I have not been able to access the on line play back.

    I did find this transcript of an interview with Helen Kelly:

    Council of Trade Union president Helen Kelly says the main factor holding up the dispute is the port company’s desire to get rid of the union.
    Ms Kelly says Ports of Auckland acknowledged in mediation that the union had put up a proposal which resolved their labour utilisation issues, but still indicated it wanted the union out of the port.

    Radio New Zealand

    Despite what the media are saying, this is not a dispute about wages and conditions, but instead about the company wanting to get rid of the union out of the port.

    The company is even offering to pay the workers 10% more if they leave the union.

    Even if the union agreed to take the 20% wage cut, that Ports of Auckland claim that they could get by hiring contractors, the Ports still want to get rid of the union.

    This struggle, is first and foremost, about stopping the wharf workers from exercising their choice to belong to a union.

    And as such goes directly against the UN Declaration of Human Rights article 23/4.

    The motive for making all the union members redundant and replacing them with non-union contract workers is to make the Ports easier to sell off in a privatisation sale.

    Getting rid of the union would increase the book value of the Ports overnight.

    By my guestimate the difference in the asking price for the Ports without a union – over $100,000,000.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      It’s now crystal clear as you say that it’s nothing to do with pay, or productivity. MUNZ has met the company on those matters and been rejected. It was always about de-unionising and prepping the company for privatisation.

      So where is Len Brown and David Shearer?

      We can only assume from their actions, or lack of so far, that they’ve decided to toss MUNZ to the dogs.

      I know most of them are still on holiday, and political parties really hate getting into labour disputes, but this has clearly gone beyond the usual parameters of negotiating over terms and conditions.

      This is going to be a very early and critical test for Shearer. No doubt a very unwelcome one given that he clearly wanted to keep a low profile for a while (to do some ‘listening’), but unless Labour get off their butt and take back the framing of this dispute back off the right, MUNZ will be destroyed.

      Sooner or later Labour will finish up standing for nothing at all.

      • just saying 1.1.1

        Sooner or later Labour will finish up standing for nothing at all.

        I think that ship has well and truly sailed.

        I’m waiting for the Greens and for Hone. There is a lot resting on their shoulders since Labour left its principles behind on the path to sucking up to the big-boys.

        I’ll be real pissed off if they don’t make a public stand very soon.
        The public desperately needs to hear a different version of the way things are and the way should and could be.

      • Fotran 1.1.2

        Due to the importance of this situation I would have expected Shearer to have made an appearance with a strong view. Brown has wimped on this so Shearer should have the balls to front up. Helen would have had it sorted by now.

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      “And as such goes directly against the UN Declaration of Human Rights article 23/4.”

      No, I don’t think so.

      That UN article says you’re allowed to belong to a union. No one is forcing these people to leave the union, neither is the POAL forced to employ union labour: if they can find non-unionised labour who are capable and want to do the work then they’re free to use them.

      • RedLogix 1.2.1

        Well yes, but if the price of belonging to the union is to lose your job… that isn’t coercion?

        • higherstandard

          If a member of MUNZ accepts a POAL position under a new contract does MUNZ require that they resign their membership ?

          Or alternatively does POAL’s offer require those contracting under a new terms not to be members of MUNZ or any union?

          • The Voice of Reason

            I answered this question a couple of days ago, HS. If there is a CEA on site, then union members are covered by it if they do work that the CEA covers. Therefore, signing the individual agreement requires a resignation from the union in order for the IEA to come into affect. The point of the lockout was to coerce workers into doing just that.
            The CMP meatworks management were very upfront about that aspect of their attack on the meatworkers’ union, but I suspect POAL are hiding the fact from the public.

            • higherstandard

              You mean collective employment agreement ?

              I though this had expired which was why the parties were into all the argy-bargy at present.

              I suppose what I am asking is if one was to contract to the port as a contractor does that preclude membership of the union ?

              • The Voice of Reason

                The CEA stays ‘alive’ beyond its expiry for a period of time (3 years from its original date of negotiation, if memory serves). Then, if it is not renewed, the workers default to IEA’s that mirror the CEA. So, in effect, the CEA is there forever, unless replaced by a separately negotiated IEA.
                A contractor (or manager, for that matter!) can join the union, but unless the work they do is covered by the CEA, nothing changes. The union can still represent them in other areas (personal grievances etc), but whatever contractual arrangement they have remains untouched.

                Edit: just thinking about it, I think this is the service the CTU’s Together union is offering; representation without a CEA in place.

                • logie97

                  What is it all about?

                  I am sure there are some well informed people on this subject.
                  However, for the average JoBlo, there has been very little meaningful information in the media – rather a he said/she said approach.

                  Tonight, TVNZ news devoted considerable time to a story about the Year of the Dragon and the significance to those of child bearing age and then the “Occupy site” becoming the refuge of the homeless. WTF.

                  When is The MSM going do it’s job and inform us by getting the leading voices of this dispute into the studio and give us the nuts and bolts of what the Auckland Waterfront issue is about?

                • Jenny

                  Unless it is specifically written in, a CEA does not cover contractors.

                  The workers at Glenbrook Steel Mill in South Auckland have just such a ‘Contractors Clause’ written in to their CEA.

                  Needless to say this clause was hard fought for by the workers and is bitterly opposed by the mill owners.

                  The Steel Mill Collective agreement “Contractors Clause” says that all contractors that work on the Glenbrook site must be paid the same wages and enjoy the same conditions as the unionised workers.

                  The Glenbrook workers have had this clause in the CEA for many years. Yet every contract round the employers try to get it struck out.

                  Last year in an act of solidarity with more vulnerable contract workers, the Glenbrook Steel workers struck to preserve this clause in their contract in the face of a determined attack from their employers to get the Contractors Clause removed.

                  I might also point out that VOR, that a union can not take a personal grievance on behalf of contract employees victimised by their primary employer.

                  • The Voice of Reason

                    “I might also point out that VOR, that a union can not take a personal grievance on behalf of contract employees victimised by their primary employer.”
                    In the sense that the contract is a business arrangement, rather than an employment agreement? A contract for service, rather than a contract of service? That was what Bryson v Three Foot Six was about and that lead directly to a law change and a large wedge of taxpayer cash winging its way to Warner Bros.
                    I suspect you already know this stuff Jenny, but other readers might get a good overview of NZ employment law here.

          • Frank Macskasy

            Or alternatively does POAL’s offer require those contracting under a new terms not to be members of MUNZ or any union?

            I think you know the answer to that already, HS.

            It’s called coercion. Or blackmail. Take your pick.

    • Jenny 1.3

      The debate over whether the workers who are hired by the contractor to replace the unionised port workers can join a union, is laughable.

      They can’t.

      Contracting, out-sourcing, casualisation – call it what you will, in practice means non-union.


      Because contract workers can be dismissed at a moments notice. Whether they belong to a union or not. In fact belonging to a union usually results in dismissal. (unless you are a confidential member and the boss doesn’t know).

      In employment law contractors and their clients are known as primary and secondary employers.

      In the case in hand, the Ports of Auckland, would be the primary employer, and any contractor they get to supply them with labour is described as the secondary employer.

      In a legal fiction, the primary employer is said to have no relationship with the workers who do the work if they are hired through a second party.

      Yet the primary employer can, supervise, appoint, promote, vette new hires and call for the secondary contractor to remove any worker they don’t like from their job at any time, for any reason, or no reason.

      Despite having this power over the contractor employees, the primary employer is considered beyond the reach of the employment legislation and courts. This gives the primary employer absolute power over their employees, the secondary employer /contractor has to comply or lose his contract.

      How this works in practice:

      The Port of Auckland hire a contractor to supply them with labour, at some time it comes to the attention of the Port of Auckland that one of the employees working for the contractor has joined the union. The Port ask the contractor to remove the union member from site. All perfectly legal.

      Here is the clever part. 1/ The worker hasn’t been sacked, they have just been removed from site.

      2/ The contractor having no other work for that worker makes him/her redundant. (usually on the same day)

      3/ Legally, this is a redundancy due to lack of work and therefore not subject to wrongful dismissal.

      4/ Even if this worker is in a union, his union is powerless to challenge his dismissal in the labour court.

      Lo and behold! the miracle of contracting out:

      Workers can be dismissed for joining unions.

      Workers can be dismissed for complaining about health and safety, (and have been).

      Workers can be hired by the day and fired by the day.

      Workers can be made to sit on the phone waiting for a call, if the primary and secondary employer see fit,.

      Contract workers know this. This is why contract workers don’t join unions, it will get them sacked.

      They don’t complain about safety, it will get them sacked.

      They put up with more dangerous conditions and die on the job in greater numbers.

      Contract workers are vulnerable and don’t complain.

      Contract workers are not even considered employees. This is why at Pike River disaster the families of contractors killed in that disaster couldn’t even get the money owed them, and were treated in an inferior way to the families of the permanent workforce.

      The management of the Ports of Auckland (and many other employers) would rather deal with fawning contract managers afraid of losing their contract, than bolshy union officials paid to look after the interests of their members.

      • RedLogix 1.3.1

        Better still there are no legislative requirements around redundancy either. In other words the secondary employer isn’t even legally obliged to offer a redundancy payout.

        • Colonial Viper

          Labour had 9 years to close this ather glaring ‘loophole’ and didn’t.

          • The Voice of Reason

            It’s not a ‘loophole’ CV, it’s standard practise worldwide. All NZ’s temp labour hire companies operate on this basis, too. If you work in a NZ factory for, say, Allied, and you piss off the supervisor, out you go. Allied will probably find you some other work so that they can keep making a profit off you, but in many cases, the phone stops ringing for a few days to teach you a lesson.
            I must say, it’s a bit weird seeing you using the right’s ‘Labour had 9 years’ bullshit, but each to his own, I suppose.

            • Colonial Viper

              It’s not a ‘loophole’ CV, it’s become standard practise worldwide due to neoliberal globalisation.

              I think its important that statements of reality are made which recognise how that reality came about.

              Simply saying that this labour practice has become standardised in a global free market for labour doesn’t mean that it was always or is currently acceptable to the welfare of workers.

              I do not see why Labour could not have modified this “standard” by including a test for whether or not a work position fulfilled basic characgteristics associated with ‘permanent’ employment, and then legally giving a subcontractor working in such a role employment law protections to suit.

              • The Voice of Reason

                Er, it’s nothing to do with neo liberalism, CV. This is not a recent argument and the ‘test’ you think is needed has been with us for a century or more. In fact, there is a series of tests to determine the nature of the employment (who pays the tax, who directs the work, the degree of independence etc.).
                The whole Hobbit affair is related to this. A few years ago, a ‘contractor’ named Bryson went to court, in part, to get a ruling as to whether he was really an employee. He won, Jackson’s company Three Foot Six lost. A few years later, Jackson got his revenge by having the law changed and a multi million dollar bung given to his LA mates as compensation.

                • Colonial Viper

                  So you believe that this use of contracting and sub contracting labour to avoid employment protections was used in NZ ports in the 1960’s and 1970’s, before neoliberalism?

                  • The Voice of Reason

                    You’ve missed the point, CV. Employers have been trying to blur the line between employee and contractor since forever. There is a ton of case law featuring disputes about the fundamental nature of the relationship; a contract of service (employee) or a contract for service (contractor). The use of labour hire agencies goes back a century or more and the legal fiction of the self employed worker has been around for a similar time as well.
                    I certainly agree that capital has got more sophisticated in its atomisation of the workforce in recent years, but its no new thing. In terms of neo-liberalism, I’d date the rise of the owner/operator version of indentured labour to 1987, if all the newly created courier franchises that popped up around then is any indicator.

            • Lanthanide

              Labour didn’t need to stop the practice, just put in minimum terms for redundancies. That would make it a lot less desirable to ‘fire’ people on the same day if they had to pay a redundancy. Wouldn’t stop the practice, but would treat those in this position a bit more fairly.

              • Colonial Viper

                If those minimum terms for redundancy applied to all contractors, that would be a step in the right direction.

      • Vicky32 1.3.2

        Contract workers are not even considered employees

        I assume, too, that they’d much rather not be contract employees, but permanent ones… 🙁

        • Jenny

          I assume, too, that they’d much rather not be contract employees, but permanent ones…


          Absolutely Vicky

  2. It’s all Barbies fault. Everything:

    And if anybody has a bit of spare time to write some social or political Vogon poetry , email me with it.

  3. John Dalley 3

    Know might be the appropriate time to shrink the size of the Auckland Ports both in terms of land mass and then correspondingly personel. Let’s take the opportunity to move the port East? back to Marsden Wharf and reclaim Queens Wharf etc for the people of Auckland. Fore the PO, profitabiliy can be gained by shrinking the overall operations (land, buyildings and staff) and more efficiently use the remaining assets,

    • higherstandard 3.1

      Certainly worth considering – it’s s large space and after what is being achieved over at the old tank farm environs might not be a bad thing.

      The more I think about the current debacle it looks like the potential amalgamation of POT and POAL sometime ago may have been a lost opportunity for NZ.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        Agreed. It’s a perfect example of an industry over-capitalising in a competitive growth boom. KJT more or less said exactly the same thing a few days ago.

        • Colonial Viper

          And who is it who over capitalised? Oh yeah…that would be the overly ambitious and optimistic directors and executive management of the various ports.

  4. What do the directors get again?

    • Zetetic 4.1

      $80,000 a year for 10 to dozen meetings.

      Most of them have 4-5 other similar jobs too.

    • RedLogix 4.2

      Well after some confusion, it is established that there are six directors who between them receive a total of about $490,000. (Give or take something, I can’t recall the exact figure.) Usually the Chairman gets a premium of some sort.

      Total executive management renumeration appears to be in the order of $3m. I don’t know how many individuals that covers.

      PoAL’s Annual Report is deficient and evasive when it comes to reporting on pay levels. Compared to say Water Care Services who report on the number of individuals in salary bands of $10k for all incomes above $100k. That should be standard practise for all public companies at the very least.

      • Colonial Viper 4.2.1

        $80K pa for say 30 hours work a month. Not a bad hourly rate eh.

      • phil 4.2.2

        PoAL’s Annual Report is deficient and evasive when it comes to reporting on pay levels

        Per s211(1)(f) and (g) of the Companies Act the details you are after must be in the annual report, unless (per subsection 3) all shareholders agree this is not necessary.

        Evidently the Council has decided we don’t need to know such things.

  5. james 111 5

    Doesnt add up to 17 million profit erosion on a annual basis compared with 2003 so what is your point we are talking a problem here in the 10s of millions. Cant be all the Directors fault can it. I guess the only fault that can really be directed at them. Is that they didnt reign in Labor force costs and improve productivity much earlier

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Of course its the directors fault. They are paid to ensure a top performing executive management team and top performing strategy in place.

      Basically the directors and executive management are incompetent and should be on the minimum wage.

    • Jenny 5.2

      James 111, just like your namesake you are completely out of touch.

      Yes there are some differences in productivity levels between the ports, but they are insignificant compared to the massive increase in productivity that has occurred, overall.

      Pointing to the relatively minor differences in productivity, allows the employers to deny the massive increases in productivity that have occurred overall on the New Zealand waterfront, including Auckland, in recent years. The overall increase in productivity dwarves any differences.

      Trying to blame the drop in the profitability of the wharves, on the workers is just simply “scape goating”, If you haven’t noticed, James, we are in the midst of a global economic recession.

      Trying to lay blame the wharfies for the drop in profitability of the Ports. Is like trying to blame the Jews for the Depression.

      The facts:

      When the global down turn hit, almost overnight general cargo, i.e. non containerised cargo, crossing the Auckland wharves dropped by a massive 80%.

      Container traffic dropped by 9%.

      There has been some recovery, but overall the Ports are still suffering from the international down turn in trade.

      The pie is shrinking, rather than trim their returns and their bloated salaries, management being in a position of power, will make certain that the workers and their families suffer first.

      Simply put, this attack on the wharfies is part of the general attack by employers to put the cost of the recession onto working people and their families.

      As such this attack is not in isolation, but part of the rise in “employer militancy” that has seen, lockouts, mass layoffs, wage cuts.

      In the words of David Shearer, there is a struggle going on over the redivision of the shrinking pie.

      So far, there has not been a coordinated fight-back by organised workers, yet. But necessity means, as these attacks grow, it will come to that, sooner or later.

      This dispute, could become the start of that wider fight back.

      If the wharfies, rather than accept the redundancies, decide instead to fight them, and put out the call to all other trade unionists and workers to support them, and their call is answered, then yes, this dispute could be the start of that wider organised fight-back.

      It is all a matter of who blinks first.

      Time will tell.

  6. james 111 6

    So they are trying to get it right by reigning in labor ,and productivity costs now which are blowing out compared with their compeitor POT. On that basis you should then be supporting them for trying to help the 1.4 million rate payers of Auckland

    • Hey James what would you say if I told you that Tauranga Port spends MORE on its labour force than Auckland?

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      james 111 breaking down worker organisations is completely against the interests of the 99%. And therefore against the interest of most Aucklanders.

      If you really wanted to save Auckland ratepayers hundreds of millions, you wouldn’t have put an incompetent blind Rodney Hide in charge of the city.

  7. RedBaron 7

    Can anyone out there enlighten me? I had a vague notion that in shipping terms it’s harder to get a ship into Auckland than into Tauranga, something to do with having to come down the Hauraki gulf which is lengthy and shallow? As ship time is money, if it is easier and quicker to drive and park in Tauranga, then I imagine that over the longer term cargo may tend towards Tauranga depending on the quality and speed of the inland transfer network and the source of the cargo. If this is so, then the increased shipping to Tauranga, is a trend which has nothing whatsoever to do with the wages and productivity of POA staff and the management should not be blaming them for it.

    If there is this sort of externality or any other is going to lessen Auckland’s cargo growth, then the management and board should be acknowledging this and planning around as this is what they are paid for. If they have not ackowledging external factors then they are even more clearly overpaid and incompetent.

    • The Voice of Reason 7.1

      I think you may well be right, Baron. The gulf is narrow, shallow and very busy. The open ocean approach to TGA is only speed governed in the last few km’s (about the point where the Rena met the reef, if I’m not mistaken!). Plus, I would have thought there would be a few extra km’s going to Ak for ships on the pacific route (though a few km’s less for trans Tasman shipping).

  8. Its certainly time to nationalize all ports and docks.The present system of
    competition is counter productive . Bring them all under one authority elected by the dock workers .

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      must include airports

      • millsy 8.1.1

        And railways, and roads, air traffic control, as wells as MNZ’s lighthouses + telecommunications.

        An all encompassing infrastructure authority sounds good to me.

        • Colonial Viper

          Maintained and enhanced by a reformed Ministry of Works.

        • RedLogix

          An all encompassing infrastructure authority sounds good to me.

          ummm… yes a great idea! We could call it ‘government’.

  9. Salsy 9

    POAL now have Importer’s Institute secretary Daniel Silva wading into the battle, saying importers are now moving to Tauranga. Amusingly, on further investigation turns out its a handful i.e 4 or 5. What an idiot. Christ they are clearly getting depserate. Perhaps I should contact 3 news – Im also an importer and would like to say, if POAL push the union out, Ill never use that port again… front page please.

  10. John Dalley 10

    The question that is not being asked is from the the freight industry in and around Auckland. Take Maersk and Fonterra out of the equation, and then find out what the rest actually think. I beleive it is generally acknowledged that thae freight industry is not totaly happy with the lack of compitition qwith in shipping and beleive Maersk is causing higher freight costs due to the monopolistic hold over shippping. I aloso understand that a lot of the freight industrry are none to happy with the extra costs and time in having freight sent in and out of Tauranga.

  11. Colonial Viper 11

    Libya attacked to get rid of Gaddaffi’s independent state central bank’s “Gold Dinar” plans

    According to more than a few observers, Gadhafi’s plan to quit selling Libyan oil in U.S. dollars — demanding payment instead in gold-backed “dinars” (a single African currency made from gold) — was the real cause. The regime, sitting on massive amounts of gold, estimated at close to 150 tons, was also pushing other African and Middle Eastern governments to follow suit.

    And it literally had the potential to bring down the dollar and the world monetary system by extension, according to analysts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly went so far as to call Libya a “threat” to the financial security of the world. The “Insiders” were apparently panicking over Gadhafi’s plan.

    “Any move such as that would certainly not be welcomed by the power elite today, who are responsible for controlling the world’s central banks,” noted financial analyst Anthony Wile, editor of the free market-oriented Daily Bell, in an interview with RT.

  12. millsy 12

    Send your messages of support to the MUNZ:

    Or your hate mail, if thats how you roll 🙂

  13. Jackal 13

    Tony Gibson – Asshole of the Week

    Despite an effective propaganda campaign being run by POAL management, the mainstream media and a number of reprehensible right wing blogger’s, a recently leaked document (PDF) shines a light on who is responsible for the ongoing industrial dispute…

  14. While we’re in Open Mike, I’ll just register that I am in fact Ari, as observers of avatars will have noticed. I’m just using my real name now.

    • On ya Ari.  Very brave.  Why did you do this?  I thought your named comments were very succinct.

      • I always wanted to blog as myself, (and commenting is a natural extension of that) because I think it adds credence to your posts that people can essentially “look into” who you are if absolutely necessary, and removes the spectre of possible hypocrisy that clouds the anonymity of the internet.

        I didn’t do it before because there was a specific family member who might possibly have been inconvenienced in the event that some overly politically sensitive person tried to cause me or people I know grief. That’s no longer the case, and I have time to write online again, so I’ve got a new blog and I’m switching over to my real name everywhere I comment. 🙂

        • mickysavage

          This is becoming a bit of a trend.  A number of lefties have wanted to debate the issues but have done this anonymously for a variety of reasons but they get to the stage where they think “bugger it I will post as me”.

          Well done.

    • r0b 14.2

      Pleased to meet you Matthew, I’ve always enjoyed your comments.

      Anthony / r0b

    • Good on you Matthew. I hope one day I can be as bold.

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