Te Waha Nui report by Hannah Morris
Strikes, lock-outs, months of fighting and some very public bad blood – and still the Ports of Auckland (POA) dispute is far from over, according to Maritime Union New Zealand’s (MUNZ) President Gary Parsloe.
Parsloe says union members are in the same position they were earlier this year – wanting to reach an agreement with Ports of Auckland to give port workers job security and stability.
Details on discussions are confidential at present, and a POA spokesperson says it is impossible to estimate how long facilitation will last. However they are focussed on achieving a collective agreement with MUNZ.
The dispute, which saw workers picketing on the roadside in March, moved out of the media spotlight when the case was taken to court. The judge ordered POA to take their workers back and enter into facilitation.
Since then Parsloe says there has been a lull in progress – due in part to the facilitator taking annual leave mid-proceedings.
“There was nothing sinister about it, he let us know he was leaving and was obviously entitled to leave, it’s just held up the facilitation process at present.”
He says the process to reach a collective agreement is due to re-commence later this week.
Parsloe has been a key figure in the dispute to date, and attributes his passion to stick by the port workers to what he sees as the sheer injustice of it all.
“It’s just not fair what the employer is trying to impose on these people. He’s taken away all their hours, conditions of employment, rights to know when they are going to work – turned them into flexible workers and it’s really over the top.”
He says the bargaining process has been a major problem, and it’s time to move on and reach a resolution for all parties.
“What we need now is a bit of common sense. We’ve had the months and months of fighting. We’ve had the strikes, we’ve had the lockouts. It’s about time we signed off on a collective, put everyone to rest and let the port kick on again.”
Full-time stevedore Carl Findlay says he’s surprised at how the dispute is now perceived.
“I keep seeing these reports, people are suggesting the dispute is over, but it’s not. We’re all in no man’s land really, waiting to see what will happen.”
Findlay says it has been a tough few months, and the atmosphere at the ports has become difficult for the union members.
“It’s been really hard on all of us that have been involved, it’s just been really unsettling. There’s added pressure on us all the time as there are so many disciplinaries down there now. It’s not a comfortable place to be.”
Findlay says the dispute needs to be resolved quickly.
“I think it’s absolutely scandalous that they are using Auckland ratepayer’s money to keep this alive and going. This should have been dealt with months and months ago. Ultimately the ratepayers are suffering – they’re the ones that will have to fit the bill for all of this nonsense.”
Findlay says 14 stevedores have left and one or two leave every week for Australia.
“It’s only because of my stubborness I’m still there.” he said.