Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'Secret' breakthrough at port

Garry Parsloe.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Garry Parsloe. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Jobs could be secure as company makes new offer.

There appears to have been a breakthrough in the torrid Ports of Auckland industrial dispute that is expected to secure the watersiders' jobs.

Maritime Union of New Zealand president Garry Parsloe emailed supporters this week, saying Ports management had agreed during talks to drop plans to contract out work to casual staff. "Good news," he wrote. "The Port Company has agreed to pull out of their Contracting Out proposal."

Parsloe recalled the email soon after, telling recipients its contents were confidential.

The plan to contract out work to private companies sparked a bitter dispute when negotiations broke down between the port and the union over the expiry of the existing collective contracts. In March the port announced about 300 striking dock workers would be made redundant, but that was put on hold when facilitation was requested by both sides.

Now, there are calls for heads to roll on the Ports board and executive.

Parsloe refused to comment on the email when contacted by the Herald on Sunday yesterday. "I told you I'm not allowed to talk about the facilitation," he said.

But he did acknowledge the union was "very happy" with its progress and direction.

Neither chief executive Tony Gibson, chairman Richard Pearson nor anyone else from the Ports of Auckland was willing to answer questions while facilitation was taking place, according to a spokeswoman.

However, Unite union leader Matt McCarten said the Auckland Council, whose investment company owns the ports, should fire the board of the Ports company for their abysmal handling of the dispute.

"If that was a private company and the CEO lost me millions of dollars and my clients millions of dollars and my workers thousands of dollars each in lost wages, all on a crusade which they then gave up, I'd sack them."

The only thing now delaying the announcement of the dispute's resolution was the port taking time to get their spin ready "so they can pretend that it isn't any more than a complete capitulation and to keep their jobs".

Auckland mayor Len Brown declined to comment. "I can't comment on the specifics as both sides are still in facilitation."

But Green Party MP Denise Roche, a former Auckland City councillor, tweeted her congratulations to the Maritime Union before being told the tweet should be removed.

Others had also taken to social media to spread the news, before also being told to take their comments down, Roche said. It was clear there had been a change of heart from the port's management and she did not think they should lose their jobs.

- Herald on Sunday

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