Ports still need fundamental reform, says CofC

Press Release – Auckland Chamber of Commerce
Today’s change of approach by the parties to return to the bargaining table, and use the facilitation process set out in the Employment Relations Act, doesn’t alter the need for a certain and sustainable solution to the dispute, said Auckland Chamber head Michael Barnett.

• It doesn’t change the need for the Port to get its performance levels up to those of Tauranga;

• Doesn’t change the fact that work practices and restrictions that are out of touch with today’s reality need to be reformed.

• Doesn’t change the fact that over the last 10 years POAL has lost significant market share.

The Port says this equates to around $73 million in revenue. If that trend continued over the next 10 years it would equate to a further loss in the order of $260 million.

Paying on average 40 hours for 26 hours worked costs POAL over $8 million per annum. “This cannot continue,” said Mr Barnett.

Work practices at the Container Port must be customer focused, flexible and modern.

“There is no dispute from business that new thinking is needed and needs to translate into new, flexible work practices that are customer-focused and give Auckland a competitive edge.”

“I note that the 16 May booking with Employment Court remains and is a back stop if parties can’t settle – Let’s work to ensure it is not needed”, concluded Mr Barnett

Press Release – Auckland Chamber of Commerce
The Auckland Chamber of Commerce wants consideration given to bringing forward the 16 May Employment Court hearing on the Auckland Port dispute to an earlier date.

“It has to be more than coincidence that when it was confirmed this week that a full hearing of the dispute by the Court would not take place until 16 May, some of the affected Port customers announced price rises to cover the extra costs the dispute is causing,” said Auckland Chamber head Michael Barnett.

As well as shipping and freight companies, importers are indicating that the price of some goods are likely to rise, and concern has been made about the potential of the dispute to impact on inflation.

“With settlement now unlikely until at least late May, the dispute is no longer just about the Port and the Maritime Union. It is becoming an issue affecting the health of many thousands of businesses directly and of the New Zealand economy as a whole.”

Between now and mid-May there is a likelihood of further cost and price increases associated with the dispute that will run into many millions of dollars. “If we can take steps to avoid further damage to our economy we should, and if that requires the business community or perhaps Government reminding the disputing parties and the Employment Court of the greater good and what makes good sense, then we should do so,” said Mr Barnett. “As an issue with nationwide implications, consideration of an early Court hearing would be most helpful,” he concluded.