Hopes for settlement

Hopes of averting a pre-Christmas ferry strike appear to have risen after mediation talks in Wellington yesterday.

Representatives from the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and the Merchant Service Guild met KiwiRail in the hope of nutting out a deal, with the strike threat already hitting Interislander ferry bookings.

Merchant Service Guild general secretary Helen McAra said last night the union had agreed to put a settlement proposal before its members tomorrow.

"If the proposals are accepted by the members on the ferries, it will resolve the current dispute. But the members will decide."

The unions have threatened to strike for a week from Saturday if a deal cannot be reached. They represent 70 engineering officers and 54 deck officers.

If they were to strike, Interislander sailings between Wellington and Picton would be suspended.

KiwiRail predicts about 14,000 passengers, 4000 cars, 20,000 rail wagons and a similar number of trucks would be disrupted.

Fairfax NZ

The Marlborough Express