Labour leader David Shearer says he has taken a consistent position on the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute, even though he marched with the workers on Saturday and earlier described the issue as "not about taking sides".

And he has taken a subtle jab at Auckland Mayor Len Brown, saying he believes the Auckland Council should have done more to promote mediation.

Two weeks ago Mr Shearer said he wanted to see the port workers back at work. "We'd like to see the port working. It's not about taking sides," he said at the time.

But on Saturday he marched alongside several Labour MPs and 3500 workers in support of the 300 Ports of Auckland staff who were sacked last Wednesday.


Mr Shearer said he had spent the last few weeks trying to bring the parties together to find a solution.

"But on Saturday, I was on the rally, and I spoke at the rally, because when you actually lay off 300 workers in the middle of mediation, that's, in my view, a point at which that mediation, that good faith ends," Mr Shearer told TVNZ's Q+A programme.

"So I went out there and I stood with the people who have been laid off. But up to that point, I believed the most important thing I could do was actually try and get those parties around the table.

"I've said all along I oppose casualisation, I oppose the contracting out of labour. I've always said that right throughout this dispute."

He said the workers deserved a chance to return to work.