More than 250 front line workers at Port Otago have issued strike notice including an overtime ban which will take effect from next Saturday.
It is set to be the first industrial action at the port in more than a decade.
The notice was issued following the failure of management and workers represented by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) to agree to wage and worker safety concerns today.
Accordingly, the unions - who represent virtually all terminal staff at the port - have issued a 14-day notice of an overtime ban from Saturday September 7.
A port insider said the next step would be mediation but if the strike goes ahead, it would have "serious implications" across operations, as container ships simply couldn't be turned around in a standard eight-hour shift.
Combined unions spokesperson John Kerr said there were essentially two sticking points, a claim for a 4 per cent pay rise across the board backdated to July and the issue of fatigue management. In response the port has offered a 2 per cent wage increase.
A brief statement from Port Otago GM operations Kevin Kearney said the company would continue to negotiate. "People safety is a key focus for Port Otago and we will continue to work towards an outcome that is satisfactory for all parties."
However, Kerr said the port's management team seemed to be taking some time to come to terms with the negotiation.
"We've been asking to engage with them on the collective agreement since the beginning of the year.
"When they did come to the table they started with 170 claims, which in my experience is unprecedented.
"Since then they haven't offered anything new."
He confirmed that Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders had not been involved in negotiations to date.
"That in itself isn't unusual, but we want to deal with someone who can make a fast decision because we want to resolve this.
"We remain hopeful of reaching a mutually agreeable outcome to bargaining but our members are rock solid on the need to deal with the workplace hazard of fatigue.
"We regret any inconvenience to port users or customers but we can no longer tolerate this real and meaningful health and safety risk to workers."