Further strikes threatened by Maritime Union

JENNY KEOWN
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2011

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The Maritime Union is threatening the Ports of Auckland with more crippling strike action even though the port has lifted its lockout notice and mediation talks begin this morning.

The latest action, slated for two 24-hour periods in the days leading up to Christmas, could hurt retailers wanting to re-stock shelves for the Boxing Day and New Year's sales.

Union president Garry Parsloe said yesterday morning that if there was good-will shown by both sides at the mediation then it wouldn't strike.

However a short time late the union provocatively issued the port with another strike notice.
Parsloe said they did so after feeling the port wasn't prepared to engage with them.

''Last week we were in mediation, and on Tuesday we put an offer to the company to get some movement. They didn't return to mediation last Wednesday, and they didn't turn up to mediation on Tuesday this week. We took the decision to step up the campaign.''

When asked if he thought the union were being too miltiant, Parsloe said: ''We want this fixed. We just want an honest, transparent agreement sorted, and for bargaining to happen in good faith."

POAL chief executive Tony Gibson described the third strike notice as counterproductive.

The move comes after Maersk pulled a major shipping service from the port on Tuesday, citing possible future industrial unrest as one of the reasons. The service will go to the Port of Tauranga instead, at a loss of $20m in annual revenue for the Ports of Auckland.

''This industrial action has already cost Ports of Auckland one major shipping service.  Further disruption will put even more jobs at risk without advancing talks between the parties," Gibson said.
Ports of Auckland would continue to work with the Port of Tauranga and KiwiRail to minimise the impact of the strikes on the supply chain, Gibson said.

The port lifted its lockout notice yesterday morning and challenged the union to lift its strike notice for this Thursday and Monday.

The port and the union have been at loggerheads over a collective agreement.

Parsloe said the union has issued court action against the port for bad faith bargaining and the case will be heard in the District Court at Auckland on December 12. The union was seeking discovery of the port's individual agreements.

The main issues for the union was that the port were trying to lure union members on to an individual contract on salaray rates 10 percent higher but with similar conditions to the collective.

Also, under the previous agreement the port used contracted workers to do work that the collective should have done, said Parsloe.

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The strikes are set to occur from 10.30pm on Thursday December 22 until 10.30pm on Friday December 23, and at 10.30pm on Saturday, December 24 until 10.30pm Sunday, December 25.

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell  said it was concerned about the effect of the strike action on New Zealand's branding overseas.

"We encourage people to resolve it. The security of supply of goods from New Zealand to export markets is very important.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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