Old-fashioned industrial bargaining always involved a great deal of posturing. The likely outcome was usually evident long before their ritual war dance was done. The Auckland port dispute is in that tradition.

In the end, the port company will have competing stevedoring contractors in the container wharf as the Port of Tauranga has had for years. Almost certainly, members of the Maritime Union will get lump sum redundancy payments, then, despite current denials, they will accept jobs with the contractors as the union's members in Tauranga do.

Their terms of employment might not be quite as favourable as they have enjoyed, but the terms will be reasonable and quite probably more rewarding for those who work when and where their labour is most needed.

The union has now brought the Employment Court into the port dispute. The court operates under a law requiring "good faith bargaining" even by parties at cross-purposes.


It has been obvious from the outset that Ports of Auckland Ltd wanted to contract out the watersiders' jobs. That is a decision a business normally has the right to make, but for months the port company went through the ritual of bargaining on the union's terms.

The war dance has lasted long enough. The port has lost enough business, the workers and their families have lost enough pay. Sensible competitive practice needs to prevail.