Pay deal averts ferry strike

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 08:05 30/11/2012

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Interislander ferry services will run as normal in early December after union members and KiwiRail reached an agreement over pay conditions which ended the threat of a lockout.

Representatives from the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and the NZ Merchant Services Guild told KiwiRail they accepted the company's revised pay deal at 5.30pm yesterday.

The unions withdrew their strike notices and KiwiRail lifted its lockout notice which would have shut down sailings from December 1 to 8 following proposed cuts to staff service pay which may have seen some long-term workers lose about 20 per cent of their income.

Picton Business Group chairman Graham Gosling said the end of the lockout threat was good news for Picton businesses which could have suffered a loss of income from the disruption.

"Stoppages don't do any good for the travelling public or the businesses."

Though Strait Shipping would have continued to operate, it was the best outcome to have both services running for visitors, he said.

NZ Merchant Services Guild secretary Helen McAra said the guild's members would now need to vote on the proposal to officially ratify it, hopefully within the next two weeks. She declined to provide details of the offer.

"The members gave us direction [on Wednesday] and they know what to expect - they'll be relieved.

"We've reached agreement on one of the options that was put forward [on Wednesday]."

Aviation and Marine Engineers Association national industrial organiser Stan Renwick could not be contacted last night.

Union representatives took the concerns of 54 deck officers and 70 engineers to KiwiRail during mediation talks which began last Friday and resumed on Monday and Tuesday this week. The company made a revised pay offer on Wednesday.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn last night confirmed a settlement was reached between Interislander and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and the NZ Merchant Services Guild.

"The unions have withdrawn their strike notices and our lock-out notices have been lifted.

"We realise it's been a frustrating and uncertain time for our customers and we would like to thank them for their patience while the dispute was being resolved.

"We also acknowledge the work undertaken by both Interislander and the unions in making progress on these issues."

KiwiRail, which owns Interislander, estimated the action would have affected about 14,000 passengers and 4000 cars. About 1200 rail wagons and a similar number of trucks would also have been delayed.

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- The Marlborough Express

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