Stop bullying port staff: Pearson

By Hayden Donnell

Willie Jackson. Photo / Chris Loufte
Willie Jackson. Photo / Chris Loufte

Ports of Auckland boss Richard Pearson has rejected a radio host's call for "militant action" from striking wharfies, saying it was up to union leaders and others to ensure angry port workers acted "within the law".

The response came afterRadio Live host Willie Jackson this afternoon called on striking wharfies to mount "militant action" in their ongoing battle with "right wing fundamentalist" Ports of Auckland bosses.

Mr Jackson, a former trade union organiser and Alliance Party MP, supported the striking port workers' calls for eight hour shifts and job security on his Radio Live slot.

He called Ports of Auckland bosses "greedy" and "filthy" and said they were led by a "gutless wonder" mayor.

Intimidation was needed to stop non-union workers being called in to do the striking workers' jobs, he said.

"If you really want something you've got to act... You don't go stop and then the scabs come in and they take your jobs.

Go and bust your picket or your placard on theirs cars. I support that action."

Striking wharfies should also hit out against the "slick" Ports of Auckland board chairman Richard Pearson, Mr Jackson said.

"I'm into militant action. Go and occupy. If I was them I'd go and sit on that Pearson's car, right. I'd sit on his car, occupy his car. Occupy his office. Occupy everywhere. Do what you have to do."

But this evening Jackson sought to clarify his remarks. In a statement, Radio Live said Jackson "wishes to make it clear that he does not advocate violence of any kind.

"Jackson says his comments on Radio Live today were made in the context of a heated debate with co-host John Tamihere on the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute, an issue he feels passionately about, and they should not be taken as a call for violent action."

The statement quotes Jackson as saying: "I want to make it clear that when I say 'milliant action', I'm talking about taking a stance on an issue in a strong but non-violent manner, in the way that Lucy Lawless took a stance recently with Greenpeace. As I said very clearly in today's broadcast, I do NOT advocate violence."

Intimidation, abuse

This evening Mr Pearson said staff had faced intimidation and abuse as they came to work this morning and were forced by union members to stop at the picket line.

"Many staff are upset and several have made complaints," he said in a statement.

"This is a dispute between the Port and the Union, and I reiterate that Union leaders and others need to ensure their members are behaving within the law and are respecting the right of others to come to work."

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.

Earlier today, Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett also called on union bosses to prevent violent or intimidating behaviour.

He said the tactics were the "worst possible way" to win over the support of New Zealanders.

"The union is sending the worst possible message to the rest of New Zealand and the world by taking actions that prevent cruise and container ships from berthing and going about their lawful business. It is the worst possible look for Auckland."

Ports of Auckland sacked 292 workers, mainly stevedores, last week in an escalation of its four-month industrial dispute with workers.

An offer of mediation from Auckland Mayor Len Brown, whose council is 100 per cent owner of the port, was rebuffed by port bosses.

Mr Pearson said the dispute has now reached "the point of no return".

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.

- NZ Herald

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