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Port dispute may be near end

Last updated 12:17 20/02/2013

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Hopes are high at the Ports of Auckland that a bitter 18-month dispute with union staff over a collective employment contract will be resolved tonight.

Maritime Union New Zealand (MUNZ) officials and port staff met this morning to discuss a package of recommendations put forward by the Employment Relations Authority.

MUNZ president Garry Parsloe said the union had not had a chance to discuss the recommendations with the facilitator since they had come out, and some areas were "a bit grey".

The union would seek some clarification at a meeting with the facilitator and the port tonight.

Ports of Auckland said it would accept the authority's recommendations, with chief executive Tony Gibson expressing hope that today's meeting would put an end to the lengthy dispute.

"No-one could have anticipated that when the negotiations started on 5 August 2011, they would still be going in February 2013, but hopefully we're in the final strait. Enough is enough," he said.

Gibson said neither party would be entirely happy with the recommendations but he was optimistic the union would do a deal.

The dispute headed into facilitation nine months ago after nine months of negotiation, which came to a head with a crippling strike at the port last February and March.

About 300 wharfies are fighting the casualisation of permanent staff. A third of the port's stevedoring workforce are not union members.

In August, the Ports of Auckland posted a $12 million loss for the year to June, blaming the strike for a 10 per cent drop in container volumes.

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