Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Ports blow a sad sign of times

Ports of Auckland protest in downtown Auckland yesterday. Photo / Jason Dorday
Ports of Auckland protest in downtown Auckland yesterday. Photo / Jason Dorday

And so, inevitably, it's happened. The striking maritime union workers have been made redundant by the Ports of Auckland in a move that is as sad as it was unavoidable.

The striking workers are harking back to yesteryear with their passion and intransigence but the union's also cleverly using modern media to get its message across.

Gary Parsloe, the union rep, has been making emotive pleas on the radio for the people of Auckland to support the workers and their families, resulting in Michael Barnett from the Chamber of Commerce taking to the airwaves to offer a counter viewpoint.

I had a phone call from a well-mannered, articulate Ports driver on Wednesday night who said he'd always enjoyed my radio show but was concerned I was starting to believe the propaganda from the Ports management.

I nearly choked on my chips.

The union puts out a black-and-white video, all beautifully shot and lit, featuring the families of Ports workers speaking over cloying, sentimental background music and he tells me the Ports of Auckland is producing propaganda?!

Dear me.

The three-minute clip, where wives and children talk about the dispute being about family, not about money, and how all they want is for things to stay the same, would belong right up there with the best in terms of emotive filming. The message throughout the video is that no guaranteed hours means no guaranteed income and yet anyone who listens to the news will know that the workers have been offered a guarantee of 160 hours a month.

Now, there may be conditions to that, but it does put paid to the union's simplistic message.

I sympathise with the workers - all along they were the ones who were going to get hurt. Not Gary Parsloe. Not the Ports management.

And maybe they're the ones who are right and all of us working all hours on contracts are wrong. Maybe we should have all taken the stand that the union is taking now when we were moved off staff and on to flexible contracts.

But we didn't and those flexible contracts seem to be the way most companies do business. The union's pleas for things to stay the same seemed somewhat redundant in the modern world - and now the workers are redundant too.

- Herald on Sunday

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