Wellington wharfies ordered to unload ship

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 16:52 06/03/2012
joe fleetwood
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
DECISION TIME: Maritime Union general secretary Joe Fleetwood speaks at Centreport.

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The Employment Court has ordered Centreport's striking workers to unload a ship that has been sitting idle for days.

The Wellington wharfies refused to unload the Maersk Aberdeen on its arrival on Friday after it was worked by non-unionised members at the Port of Auckland.

About 300 wharfies are on a three-week strike in Auckland over proposed roster changes.

In a decision released this afternoon, Judge Anthony Ford said he was satisfied that both the Maritime Union and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union had engaged in an unlawful strike.

He said Centreport had taken reasonable steps to avert strike action by allowing four hours for a stop work meeting prior to the arrival of the Aberdeen, despite requiring 14 days notice.

"...the events in question have had a significant potential impact on Centreport and on Centreport's reputation as a 'can-do' port that gave the plaintiff an important competitive advantage."

Claims by the unions that Centreport had taken the unnecessary step of court action rather than mediation were dismissed because of the immediate need to unload the ship, Judge Ford said.

The injunction was granted ordering the unions to refrain from being party to or directing or encouraging their members to refrain from working the Aberdeen or any other vessel on grounds related to the dispute at the Ports of Auckland.

FLOW-ON EFFECT

Centreport had been expecting a flow-on effect from the Ports of Auckland dispute and had announced that it was expecting an extra 3000 containers.

A similar scene occurred in Tauranga during the weekend when members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union refused to unload another blacked ship. The ship was delayed for two days.

This morning, Maritime Union Wellington secretary Mike Clark said workers would comply with any court ruling.
"You can't disobey a court order."

The protest was peaceful and was the first time there had been union action at at the Wellington port in a long time.

CentrePort has 200 staff, most of them members of unions, with 72 members of the Maritime Union.

A Maersk spokesman was reluctant to comment earlier today and said the company would also wait and see what happened before deciding what action to take.

"Really it's an issue for the port to resolve. At this stage it's not something that's got beyond that. If it does, we'll have to communicate with our customers."

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The action could spill over into other ports, with the Aberdeen due to visit Lyttelton and Nelson before leaving for Australia.

The port industry is not the only one affected by industrial action, with meat processor Affco locking out more than 700 of its North Island workers after collective bargaining broke down.

Yesterday, 1500 Oceania rest home workers announced further strikes to take place tomorrow after mediation failed.

WHAT IS BLACKLISTING?

It is a form of industrial action that is also known as secondary picketing, and used to be a common union tactic before the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991.

The action was usually taken against an employer not involved in the initial dispute but which could be seen as having an influence against the striking union's interest.

Past examples included banning the shipping of cement to building sites during disputes in the construction industry, and drivers being told not to deliver products to hotels that had disputes with their workers.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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