Ports dispute reaches new heights

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Ports of Auckland issued a two-week notice on Thursday of an indefinite lockout. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ports of Auckland issued a two-week notice on Thursday of an indefinite lockout. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union will return to mediation on Monday, as the long-running contract dispute continues to reach new heights.

Ports of Auckland issued a two-week notice on Thursday of an indefinite lockout, just a day after scrapping plans to sack 292 workers and replace them with non-unionised contract workers.

The lockout comes after the Maritime Union yesterday lifted its strike notice and sought an immediate return to work.

The Ports of Auckland yesterday met with the union to decide on when union members could return to work.

But Maritime Union national president Garry Parsloe said the union was told there would be no work for the next week, and then shift allocators would be looking out for work for the union workers for the second week before the lockout started.

"Aucklanders should be angry that Ports management has no clear plan in place to get the Ports up and running as quickly as possible again,'' Mr Parsloe said.

The Ports of Auckland said the union's expectations that the workers could return immediately was unrealistic because rosters had been allocated in advance.

"The company has an obligation to those staff already allocated work for the next seven days and to ensure that staff are rostered at appropriate levels to service the limited number of ships scheduled to call in the next few weeks,'' it said in a statement.

The Maritime Union yesterday filed an injunction saying the lockout was unlawful.

The company and the union have agreed to go into mediation talks on Monday afternoon, Mr Parsloe said.

But if the talks were not successful the injunction would be heard before a judge on Tuesday.

Overnight the global wharfies union, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), condemned the lockout as "unbelievable, unlawful and practically suicidal''.

It has formed an international crisis mission that it says would investigate "the management-engineered crisis'' and plans to meet with Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

It would also further investigate the use of labour supply companies to break strikes and drive down conditions in the ports industry, both in New Zealand and internationally.

Mr Brown yesterday said he had appointed lawyer Alan Galbraith QC to track the legal moves in the crisis.

"The two sides need to get into mediation and get this sorted out,'' he said.

"The court has put forward a process and I expect both sides to abide by that process.''

The Council of Trade Unions is calling on Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee to tell Aucklanders what information he is withholding on the Ports of Auckland dispute.

Meanwhile, Council of Trade Union (CTU) president Helen Kelly said Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee was refusing to release any information on the port dispute.

Last month the CTU wrote to Mr Brownlee under the Official Information Act requesting any briefings he had had on the dispute, but he wrote back saying he did not consider there were "any other considerations which rendered it desirable, in the public interest, to make the information available''.

Ms Kelly said Mr Brownlee needed to explain to Aucklanders what he was withholding.

- APNZ

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