KiwiRail not expected to back down

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 08:00 23/11/2012

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A union official has a "dark outlook" going into mediation with Interislander management today as the Cook Strait ferry company faces strike action.

KiwiRail representatives will meet with union delegates today from both the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild for compulsory mediation after the company issued lockout notices to members of both unions a week ago.

The notices were given in response to the unions issuing strike notices, which could see ferries remain in port from December 1 to 8.

The two unions, representing 54 deck officers and 70 engineers, have been negotiating collective employment contracts with KiwiRail since March.

Aviation and Marine Engineers Association national industrial organiser Stan Renwick said he would keep an open mind going into the discussion but was doubtful there would be a positive outcome.

"If it lasts 10 minutes, I'd be surprised - I've got a dark outlook over these things.

"My view is we've got a problem in regard to making or settling this without there being any give from the employer. We're not going to move and we're only looking for small gains."

KiwiRail was unwilling to relent on its plan to significantly cut staff service pay and this was unacceptable to the union, he said. "Unless there's some movement from the employer, nothing will change."

NZ Merchant Service Guild general secretary Helen McAra was unavailable for comment.

KiwiRail senior communications advisor Sophie Lee said though the company had made itself open to mediation earlier in the week, today was the earliest date the unions had proposed.

When asked if the mediation was a positive step towards reconciliation before the strike, she replied: "It's a necessary step. Every party is obliged to be involved in the process."

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- The Marlborough Express

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