Striking workers gain reprieve from dismissal notices until Monday.
The brief reprieve for the workers - who this morning begin their third week on strike amid plans by the council-owned company to contract out their jobs - came late yesterday from the Employment Court.
But the order of Judge Barrie Travis is only until the conclusion of a "judicial settlement conference" to be held in private before him on Monday, to discuss legal action by the Maritime Union scheduled for a substantive public hearing the following week.
In a minute issued after a telephone conference with company and union lawyers, the judge banned the dismissal of the striking workers in the meantime.
They are among 292 port staff for whom the company last week began a six-week redundancy process, while appointing new stevedoring operators to hire a replacement workforce.
Although the judge has banned the company from employing two new operators in the meantime, he is allowing labour recruitment advertisements it booked for tomorrow to be published, unless the union agrees to pay cancellation fees.
Neither party would comment on the development, after Judge Travis said he shared their lawyers' concern about the effect "adverse or speculative publicity" would have on their attempts to resolve at least some of the matters in dispute.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown earlier yesterday cited the legal action as a reason for refusing to intervene further in the dispute, or to appoint independent intermediaries on his behalf, as sought by the Council of Trade Unions.
He also led opposition by his council's governing body to a call by the chairman of its accountability and performance committee, Richard Northey, for the port company to retain "a directly employed and fully engaged workforce".
Mr Northey, a former Labour MP, sided with right-wing councillors in December in backing the company in the industrial dispute.
But after strong protests from unionists and their supporters, he issued a statement last month saying that although he backed the company's desire for more flexible work practices, he saw keeping its own skilled workforce as preferable.
A bid yesterday to seek council support for that statement was defeated by 10 votes to six.
A call by councillor Cathy Casey for Mr Northey's committee to review a demand by the council for the port company to double its return on equity to 12 per cent by 2016 - which she and others blame for the industrial dispute - was defeated by 11 votes to five.
Mr Brown said that although he was elected in 2010 on a firm commitment not to sell the council's 100 per cent shareholding in the port, he had also made clear a belief that it was not performing strongly enough.
Although he had been under considerable pressure to intervene in the port dispute, his style of leadership was about delegating responsibility as opposed to the "divide and rule" of previous Auckland governance.
The Super City model also gave strong delegation in the corporate sector to the region's seven council-controlled organisations, and "by and large they need to be able to do the work they are delegated to do".
City lawyers told the council that the port company was even further removed from their influence than the CCOs, required by separate legislation to operate as a "successful business".
Legal services manager Jazz Singh confirmed to councillor Mike Lee that contracting out 292 waterfront jobs was an "operational matter", but was unable to say that about the port's harbour reclamation plans.