07 March 2012

Importers Support Port Decision

The Importers Institute supports the decision of Ports of Auckland to outsource stevedoring services. This decision means that about 300 Maritime Union members will be made redundant. Some of them will get jobs with the new contractors, others will move their heavy machinery driving skills to Australian mines and a few will have lots of time to reflect on the consequences of mindless militancy.

This dispute was never about terms and conditions. When the workers demand 2% and the bosses counter by offering 10%, to which the workers respond by going on strike, you could be excused for thinking this was a scene from The Life of Brian. No, the dispute was always about who runs the port. Was it to be management acting for the owners (the City) or the Union?

Importers have already had to bear enormous costs trying to cope with the effects of the strikes. They have had to, at their cost, move containers discharged at other ports around the country. Shipments have been diverted to airfreight. Consumers will ultimately pay for these significant costs, in the form of higher prices.

There will be a period of disruption for several more weeks, until the new contractors are up and running. We expect the Union to try to be as disruptive as possible. Expect to see the 'Occupy Auckland' hippies morph into 'Occupy the Port' protestors. The Maritime Union has not hesitated to deliberately engage in illegal sympathy strikes in Tauranga and Wellington. They cynically forced those ports to go to Court to obtain injunctions before going back to work. All this was taking place as the Union was announcing yet another illegal strike in Christchurch.

This dispute has been prolonged by the absurd requirements for lengthy periods of formal consultations. These requirements are part of the 'good faith' fiction enacted by Margaret Wilson of the last Labour Government. We say it is a fiction, because the Union has never displayed even a trace of good faith. They have lied about the average salaries (over $90,000) and made untrue claims about casualization. They responded to every proposal with a further notice of strike.

The current government does not see the need to amend the industrial legislation that it has inherited from Labour. Except when the victims are Wellington creative types, it seems. In fact, the only Labour excess that they have rectified in the last four years was to reintroduce Sirs and Dames (but not the Privy Council). Not good enough, Mr Key.

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