New Port union deal 'inferior' says MU

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 15:58 05/10/2012

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The Maritime Union is undaunted by a newly formed union signing a deal with the Ports of Auckland, dismissing the agreement as an "inferior document".

While the bitter port dispute recently marked its one year anniversary, new union PortPro has hashed out a collective agreement in the space of two weeks.

PortPro, which represents 33 watersiders, initiated collective bargaining on September 19.

Formal negotiations began last Tuesday, and the deal was signed off yesterday.

The new union was set up a month ago by chairman Grant Lane, who was a Maritime Union (MUNZ) member for 13 years before being expelled for refusing to pay a steep hike in union fees.

MUNZ has about 300 members. President Garry Parsloe did not see the new union on the block as a challenge.

"They call themself pro-port, and that speaks volumes," he said. "I don't see a rush of people going from our union to theirs. We're not seeing that at all."

The PortPro workers have accepted conditions of employment similar to the flexible shift and roster system at the heart of the bitter MUNZ dispute.

The industrial action began in September last year and has involved rolling strikes, lockouts, mass protests and public rancour between the parties.

Parsloe spoke to BusinessDay from a demonstration in Teal Park this afternoon, which he said was designed "to remind Aucklanders the port dispute is not over".

He was unconcerned by the fact that the PortPro collective agreement will become the default for new port workers until the main dispute is settled.

"When our contract is finally agreed then ours will be the substantive one that they go into, so I suppose it's just a matter of time," he said.

"I suppose if some people want to be on an inferior document, well good on them."

Parsloe said he was very keen to get a collective formed soon, citing the millions of dollars wasted on the dispute so far.

"I think some of the problem is the port company just don't know how to settle," he said.

"Most of what they want is there for them -it worries me that maybe they just don't want to settle, maybe they just like kicking their employees around."

Veteran wharfie Grant Lane said he had set up the new union to support the remaining workers through the unrest.

"We were IEAs [independent employment agreements] for quite a while, and when all this contracting out started we had 33 of us there with really no-one to look after us," he said.

"We had a bit of a discussion about it, and three of us said 'let's do it'."

He said the PortPro negotiations had not been entirely painless, but he was happy with the outcome.

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"I can assure you, there were some very heated moments."

The collective agreement runs for two-and-a-half years, and includes an incentive scheme for rewarding productivity.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson thanked PortPro for the "positive and constructive way they approached bargaining".

"The new deal is a partnership which rewards both sides: it delivers a productive and cost-effective outcome for the port, and well-paid jobs for PortPro members," he said.

Ports of Auckland said the deal that had been struck was similar to what had been in place at the Port of Tauranga for over 20 years.

"If we can get a deal like this across all the port we will be able to compete with Tauranga on level footing," it said.

MUNZ and the Ports of Auckland will re-enter facilitation from October 15.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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