Ports of Auckland to re-open tonight

Protest racks up $300 million price tag

SARAH HARVEY AND NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 16:00 05/12/2011
Peter Meecham

Ports of Auckland workers perform a haka as firefighters arrive to support them.

Ports of Auckland strike
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax Media
ON THE MOVE: Firefighters march down Tamaki Dr to the picket line where Ports of Auckland workers are on strike.

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LATEST: Ports of Auckland operations will resume at 11pm today after four days shut down due to an industrial dispute.

Two vessels will arrive at the port tonight. The port said in a media statement this afternoon that other ships  arriving over the next three days will be worked on as quickly as possible before a second bout of industrial action is due later in the week.

About 330 Maritime Union members started a 24-hour strike at 10.30pm on Thursday and were then locked out of the port for the weekend. The workers resumed their strike this morning.

The union is striking over the collective agreement it has been offered, but the port says in the current climate its offer to roll over the existing agreement with a 2.5 per cent pay rise and a signing bonus in lieu of backpay is fair.

The strike and lockout effectively means the Bledisloe and Fergusson container terminals have been shut down for four days.

The Ports of Auckland has put a $300 million price tag on the disruption to trade wih about 4700 containers affected, and retailers fearing Christmas stock will be stuck on the wharves.

The revenue impact for POAL alone for the last stoppage is expected to be approximately $1.2m. Estimations on the financial impact of the second strike are that it will affect about 5500 and a direct cost of $1.5m in lost revenue to the port.

The effect of the most weekend stoppage meant four vessels bypassed Auckland entirely for the Port of Tauranga and Centreport in Wellington. Delivery of this cargo from these ports to Auckland is expected to take several days by road and rail. 

The port anticipated pressure on road and rail systems in and out of the Auckland seaport over the next few days as cargo owners prioritise pick up of imports and delivery of exports to meet vessels ahead of the next strike.

''POAL's ability to service all the road and rail demand as well as manage the timely ship operations will be carefully controlled but nonetheless will cause some congestion and over demand for the next few days,'' the company said.

FIREFIGHTERS BACK PORT STRIKE

Auckland firefighters marched in support of the Ports of Auckland strike and were greeted by a rousing haka on the picket line today.

Auckland president of the firefighters union Mike McEnaney says firefighters want to show their support and solidarity for port workers as firefighters throughout the city are also struggling to come to an agreement over collective contracts.

"Clearly if employers are unwilling to settle fair and reasonable contracts then it is evident that there is a need for other workers to get in behind and show their support and that is the intention of the Auckland firefighters," he said.

Firefighters arrived at the picket line at the Ports of Auckland around 9am.

It is the first lockout on the waterfront since 1951. A second strike and lock-out is planned for next weekend.

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- Auckland Now

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