Abuse claims on port picket line

By Hayden Donnell

Protesters march at the weekend in support of Ports of Auckland workers.  Photo / Jason Dorday
Protesters march at the weekend in support of Ports of Auckland workers. Photo / Jason Dorday

Striking wharfies have been accused of intimidating and abusing people trying to get through a picket line into Ports of Auckland this morning.

Pickets were in place from 4am this morning as striking workers tried to stop marine crews arriving to work.

Police were called at 7:15am after about 100 picketers confronted truck drivers and non-union workers at the entrances to Fergusson Terminal, Tinley Street, Captain Cook, Princes Wharf and Wynyard Wharf.

Port management said police were at the waterfront to protect staff, truckies and visitors to the port.

They accused workers of forcing cars to stop, demanding information about why people were entering the port, verbally abusing occupants, photographing licence plates and - in one case - hitting the car of a female staff member.

"Ports of Auckland is urging union leadership to take control of its members on the picket line to ensure that conduct on the picket line is lawful, to protect the safety of those who have a right to access the Port and to work."

TVNZ Breakfast weather presenter Tamati Coffey said he encountered about 30 "quite hostile" people on his way to meet the Auckland harbour master at Mechanic's Bay.

"It was in the middle of darkness which made it a little bit scarier, but once I wound down the window and said what we were here for they let us through.

"They said at the moment they are trying to block out one of the ships that is apparently coming into Auckland harbour, they're trying to lock out all the tug boat operators and pilots as well," TVNZ reported.

The strike action impacted on a cruise ship and the NYK container ship set to dock at Fergusson Terminal.

Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe said the striking workers were stopping trying to stop non-union members from unloading the NYK ship, which he claimed was part of the spreading "cancer" of the employment dispute.

The port had told the union the ship would not be unloaded in exchange for a guarantee striking workers did not stop the cruise ship from docking, he said.

"It's all fixed at this time. We're only taking action against the ships that are taking action against us.

"We just don't want these ships in there and have non union workers doing our jobs while we're on strike. It's reprehensible."

Police warned motorists of heavy congestion around the area where workers were picketing.

Inspector Cornel Kluessien said a contingent of officers would remain at the port all day.

Mr Parsloe said the disruptive action was "particularly important" as the union was set to meet with Mayor Len Brown today.

He hit out Ports of Auckland board chairman Richard Pearson for refusing to attend the mediation.

"If your boss called you into a meeting and you flat out refused to go you'd expect to be fired. We'll be asking why he's not there. We'll be asking the mayor what he's doing about it."

Mr Brown, a member of the Labour Party, who received a $2000 donation from the Maritime Union towards his 2010 election campaign.

On Friday, he was the target of a lamington attack at Auckland University by an angry supporter of wharf workers, who smeared pieces of cake on the mayor's face and shirt.

Yesterday, Mr Brown said Aucklanders simply wanted their port back to full capacity and he would try everything to bring about a solution, including an offer of mediation if both parties agreed.

Mr Brown said it would be wrong to interfere before last week when the two sides were still talking, but given the importance of the port to the Auckland economy he owed it to Aucklanders to explore all options.

He reiterated the need for the port, which is 100 per cent owned by the council, to double its dividend from 6 per cent to 12 per cent within five years.

PORT DISPUTE - A RECAP

* Ports of Auckland has been seeking greater flexibility and productivity on the wharves.
* Maritime Union wants a continuation of eight-hour shifts and job security.
* After months of talks, mediation, strike action and lockouts, the company sacked 292 workers, mainly stevedores, last week.
* Auckland Mayor Len Brown, whose council owns 100 per cent of the port company, has refused to take sides in the dispute.


© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 22 Sep 2014 10:15:32 Processing Time: 1080ms