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Ports Of Auckland Union On Mediation And Board Ructions

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 25 NZPA - Ports of Auckland Ltd will hold mediation talks tomorrow with the union that served it with a strike notice last Friday.

Maritime Union Local 13 gave notice of a stop work meeting for 4.5 hours from midday on June 5 as news emerged that the port's chairman Gary Judd had been ousted.

Union president Denis Carlisle said today the union had been concerned at Mr Judd's commitment to public ownership of the port.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper in March reported that Mr Judd acknowledged that a capital review being carried out by the port could recommend selling to private owners.

But in commenting on ructions between the board and owner Mr Carlisle also acknowledged ructions within his own union.

He said the union was willing to implement a number of the changes the port wanted to make. Some changes were better for the port and therefore for the membership.

"Reluctantly we had some people who did not want to come along," Mr Carlisle said.

"They are making life difficult for me," he said.

This group of members were inward looking and hard to please.

"The deal they had was a blimmen good deal," he said.

Industry insiders believe the port needs to sort out labour as well as capital issues.

It employs labour for its container wharves directly. Some competitors have outsourced stevedoring to a range of companies whose workers are members of different unions. Work stopped at Auckland's container terminals when the union met for eight hours to discuss what was on the table for its collective agreement.

The offer was complex, with pay rises in stages and changes to work conditions, including making part time workers permanent, Mr Carlisle said.

The port also wants to concentrate container services and its workforce at its Fergusson terminal and use the adjacent Bledisloe terminal for overflow, reducing staff numbers.

Mr Carlisle said the union doubted that the port would be able to reduce container ship calls at Bledisloe as expected.

The port was also trying to get staff on individual agreements and on different rosters.

Under current arrangements a lot of overtime was worked at the port, Mr Carlisle said.

Ports of Auckland handles more containers than any other port in the country, but container volumes are down as the economy slows.

Mr Judd was ousted by 100 percent shareholder Auckland Regional Holdings, the commercial arm of Auckland Regional Council.

The future of ARH has also not been spelt out in the debate on the merging of eight councils into one in Auckland.

The port is ARH's biggest asset and its dividends are an important source of income.

Private sector companies have been cutting dividends and asking shareholders for new capital, sparking speculation that port companies will do the same to council owners.

Port of Tauranga has promoted its structure of partial ownership by council and a listing on the sharemarket as a model for port ownership.

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