International union organisation issues “red alert” about ports dispute

News release from International Trade Union Confederation
The powerful group of global unions – which between them represent tens of millions of unionised workers – today said they are now on ‘red alert’ over the treatment of workers in New Zealand that is being dramatically illustrated by disputes at the Ports of Auckland, Affco and the Oceania care company.

The warning was sounded today by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), Public Services International (PSI), and the Council of Global Unions.

They demanded an end to the union-busting measures that New Zealand’s workers have endured over recent months, and highlighted the amended Employment Relations Act 2000, which has reduced workers’ rights and encouraged poor employers to attempt to crush worker and union resistance. (The statement appears in full below).

The ITF has mobilised its 690 member trade unions – which include 221 dockworker unions with 400,000 docker members worldwide – in support of the workers who the Port of Auckland is trying to throw out of their jobs. Paddy Crumlin, who chairs the ITF dockers’ section and is ITF president and MUA national secretary, explained:

“What’s happening in Auckland is a naked attack on the workers and their union, the MUNZ, and it’s creating worldwide repercussions. Messages of solidarity from ITF members have flooded in, and those same unions are contacting New Zealand embassies in their own countries. The ITF has today been told by the country’s High Commission in London that it ‘would not be appropriate’ to meet to discuss how a settlement in POAL can be reached – a sad abrogation of responsibility that shows how the government in Wellington is hoping that this attack on workers can be covered up and tidied away.”

ITF general secretary David Cockroft stated: “I am glad to report that the ITF’s worldwide force of ship inspectors are right now visiting vessels and explaining to their officers and crews what is being attempted by POAL’s management. We have also ensured that it is at the forefront of the minds of the shipping community, who value good and efficient port relations. As we speak, members of the Philippines’ PALEA union are rallying outside the New Zealand Embassy in Makati City in the Philippines – a foretaste of the lawful protests and unavoidable disruption that the New Zealand ruling party and the management of POAL seem hellbent on attracting, even though the offer of a negotiated settlement remains the ideal and still available solution.”

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Council of Global Unions joint statement, 14/3/12
The powerful group of global unions that brings together organised workers internationally across the world’s continents is calling for an immediate end to concerted attacks on workers in New Zealand.

Global union federations representing food workers, transport workers and public sector workers have joined the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in demanding an end to the union-busting measures that New Zealand’s workers have endured over recent months.

Within the last two years the Government has reduced worker and union rights under the Employment Relations Act including access rights and is now promising to implement further changes which will undermine collective bargaining.

Now, the ITF, IUF and PSI together with other global union bodies are condemning employer behaviour and are stressing that best practice industrial relations result in healthier growth. They believe that the route to improved industrial competitiveness is via good industrial relations – not via attacks on workers. However, recent months have seen:

A four-month dispute at New Zealand’s port of Auckland after the port management used a threat of dismissal of all workers unless the management claims in collective bargaining were all accepted. This has threatened the jobs of almost 300 members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand, their families and communities – and the loss of public sector jobs.

A lock-out of some 1,000 meat workers at Affco, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Talley’s Group, a leading New Zealand processor of seafood, vegetables, dairy products and meat. The New Zealand Meat Workers Union has been in negotiations for a new collective agreement with Affco, whose aim it is to get more workers on individual agreements (IEAs) and reduce pay at will.

A nine-month dispute between the care home company Oceania and members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the Service and Food Workers Union, Ngā Ringa Tota (SFWU). At stake is whether Oceania accepts that it cannot hold onto public money intended for staff pay, and thus the safety and care of residents.

“These targeted attacks are part of a political drive to union-bust and privatise – and it’s more of what’s coming for organised workers everywhere” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC. “Public employment is under threat and private employers are using the excuse of financial restraint to get rid of unions whom they think threaten their profitability. Ordinary families should not have to pay with their rights, their job security and working conditions”

The global unions are asking for:

An immediate end to public and private sector attacks on workers and good faith negotiations in all ongoing disputes

A government commitment to quality public services, quality public sector jobs and decent work in the private sector

A commitment by government and employers to trade union rights and positive industrial relations, in the interests of New Zealand’s economic stability, its working communities and its international reputation

International Trade Union Confederation
International Transport Workers’ Federation
International Union of Foodworkers
Public Services International
Council of Global Unions


1 comment:

  1. Marjorie, 17. March 2012, 22:50

    I guess a global market also means that workers throughout the world talk to one another and campaign together.

    NZ workers need to be treated with respect and should not be expected to relinquish hard won terms and conditions which sole intention is to make wealthy bosses even wealthier.

    Workers make the profits so profits should be shared more equally.