Mass workers' rights protest may erupt

MICHAEL FOX AND ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2012

Sacked Ports of Auckland workers

Ports of Auckland Strike
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Striking Ports of Auckland wokers make their way down Tamaki Dr.
Ports of Auckland strike
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Auckland Maritime Union workers picket on Tamaki Drive after hearing hundreds have been sacked by the Ports of Auckland.

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Firefighters could join forces with other embattled workers as the protest movement over workers' rights in New Zealand escalates.

Fed up over lengthy negotiations, the Union of Professional Fire Fighters says its next step could be to join port workers, bureaucrats and other industries fed up with current workplace conditions.

The move comes as almost 300 Ports of Auckland workers were sacked yesterday following months of industrial action and as public servants prepare to make their uncertainty felt.

The unionised port workers will be forced to reapply for their jobs and have said they won't work for Ports of Auckland's new contractors.

The fire service has also announced plans to ramp up industrial action by placing additional restrictions on administration duties for staff previously tasked with putting rosters together.

"The responsibilities go back on management. That’s what they’re paid to do in any event," National Secretary Derek Best said.

"Now if you're a manager, you might actually have to manage."

A public rally is planned for Saturday.

During the strike so far, firefighters have responded to emergency calls, but have not carried out training, equipment maintenance, home fire safety checks, community smoke alarm installations and data recording.

Best said their main gripe was over flexibility demanded by the fire service when they wanted certainty.

The fire service also wants a pool of people available at short notice, but won't pay them overtime - a right workers don't want removed.

Rallies, pickets and protests outside fire stations are also on the cards as is joining forces with unhappy workers from other industries.

"We all seem to be pretty much in the same boat one way or the other and I would think there's every possibility that somewhere down the line, that workers will coordinate and get together and organise a protest as to what's happening at the moment."

The details of the various disputes were different but there were enough similarities to join forces, Best said.

He said they were yet to make contact with other protesting workforces but "I'm sure someone will suggest it - it may even be us".

Firefighters could not just walk off the job, he said.

"That's why we're locked into taking this sort of action."

Best's comments come as bureaucrats prepare to march against further state sector cuts.

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- Fairfax Media

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