10 Jan 2012

Workers strike as port pushes on with contractor plan

2:28 pm on 10 January 2012

Striking Ports of Auckland workers are pledging not to back down despite the prospect of being made redundant and replaced with contractors.

About 300 members of the Maritime Union began a 48-hour strike at the Ports of Auckland at 11pm on Monday, the fifth strike since November.

The union rejected Port of Auckland's latest offer in the long-running dispute over a collective contract, and the company says it has rejected a counter-offer from the union.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson says the company will create contracts for several new stevedoring companies.

He says the move has come about after the union rejected what he calls the port's best and final offer.

"That offer is generous, it's fair - 10% increase, productivity bonuses, retaining existing terms and conditions in return for a roster which provides us with more flexibility and productivity."

But the striking workers say they will gladly forego the 10% pay rise if it means avoiding a shift to flexible rosters.

Stevedore and union delegate Grant Williams says he does not want more uncertainty about his hours and to make it any harsher would be too much.

On the contractor plan, Mr Williams says the port will struggle to find 300 good workers and train them adequately.

About 30 workers were at a picket line at the port on Tuesday morning. The next round of mediation takes place on Thursday.

Mayor urges settlement

Auckland mayor Len Brown insists the industrial dispute disrupting operations at the country's biggest port can be resolved soon.

Mr Brown told Radio New Zealand's Summer Report programme on Tuesday he believes there are points the two parties have in common.

"There are options here for resolution with a new collective and I continue to urge the parties on behalf of our council and the people of Auckland to find that resolution before the dispute intensifies."

The port has said that while it will continue with collective bargaining, it is proceeding with a proposal to contract out its labour force.

Mr Gibson said he was less optimistic than the mayor that the dispute can be settled, given there had been nine months of informal and formal talks and the two sides were further apart than ever.