Rebel union signs deal with port – “a partnership which rewards both sides”

BusinessDesk report by Jonathan Underhill
PortPro is an officially registered union for Ports of Auckland workers, but don’t expected the Council of Trade Unions to support them. PortPro just signed a ‘collective’ agreement with the Auckland Council-owned company but the Maritime Union of New Zealand, which has the largest share of workers at the port, is still in bitter dispute over the conditions for their members.

CTU president Helen Kelly says PortPro “simply agreed to all of the port’s bargaining points” – no weekend loading, no standard shifts. The contract “removes all security of employment.”

PortPro chairman Grant Lane retorts that the CTU uses ”typical bully-boy tactics.”

PortPro’s members were mostly casual or contract labourers. Lane himself is a disgruntled ex-member of MUNZ. He says he objected to the fees charged by the union.

Port spokesman Matt Ball insists the sudden arrival of a new union in the middle of a long, bitter industrial dispute isn’t a situation created by the company. The port “had nothing to do with it,” says Ball. Kelly was “being a bit mean.”

PortPro signed its collective contract yesterday, allowing the port to trumpet the deal today.

“Ports of Auckland wishes to thank PortPro for the positive and constructive way they approached bargaining, which has been completed efficiently and without disruption” chief executive Tony Gibson said in a statement.

“The new deal is a partnership which rewards both sides: It delivers a productive and cost-effective outcome for the port, and well-paid jobs for PortPro members,” he said.

The PortPro members could yet be threatened by the port even though their contract is for 2 ½ years. The port could still hire new contractors.

Ports of Auckland is trying to catch up with Port of Tauranga, whose relative nimbleness makes the Auckland company look uncompetitive.

“It’s very, very convenient for the port to have a new union spring up,” the CTU’s Kelly says. “It’s very disappointing to see a group of workers break away and accept an agreement we believe is unsafe.”

News release from Ports of Auckland
Ports of Auckland has this week signed a collective agreement with the PortPro union. PortPro initiated collective bargaining on 19 September, formal negotiations began on 25 September and we reached a settlement shortly afterwards. The deal was formally signed on 4 October.

“Ports of Auckland wishes to thank PortPro for the positive and constructive way they approached bargaining, which has been completed efficiently and without disruption” said Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson.

“The new deal is a partnership which rewards both sides: it delivers a productive and cost-effective outcome for the port, and well-paid jobs for PortPro members,” he added.

The collective agreement runs for two-and-a-half years, providing a solid foundation for an ongoing partnership which will deliver benefits for both parties. Underpinning it is a good incentive scheme for rewarding productivity and overall it offers a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

The flexible shift and roster system in the deal is similar to what has been in place successfully at Port of Tauranga for over 20 years. If we can get a deal like this across all the port we will be able to compete with Tauranga on level footing.

Ports of Auckland is currently in facilitation with the Maritime Union, a process which is not affected by this deal. Ports of Auckland is fully focussed on settling a modern, flexible collective agreement with the Maritime Union that will provide us with the improvements in productivity that we need and job security for our staff. Negotiations with the Maritime Union started in August 2011.