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AIAL will see Customs Officers Strike Action

July 4th, 2002

Auckland International Airport will be affected by a 3-hour strike of Customs Officers on 17th July. The strike was announced today by the Customs Officers Association Incorporated - the union representing the majority of New Zealand Customs Service's nation-wide customs staff.

The strike is over failed negotiations in an employment contract re-negotiation for the customs officers who have not received any effective pay increases or cost of living adjustments since 1991.

The long running dispute affects the majority of the 814 NZ Customs Service staff who protect the community from international risks, while facilitating the movement of goods and people across our ports and airports. They screen and protect people and goods, use risk assessment and intelligence to check containers, vessels and travellers, conduct audits and prosecute offenders.

"The last effective pay rise most of our people have had was in 1991. Since then we have had two adjustments (see attached timeline) in which we traded allowances and conditions for payments in pay-neutral arrangements. There have been no cost of living increases," said Kirsten McKenzie, Chairperson of the Association.

"The Primary Processing Officers, who the public see at arrival and departure in New Zealand, are among the worst off. Their pay rates are only $12 to $12-50 per hour despite their important responsibilities and their role as the first "face" of New Zealand. They work split shifts, under considerable pressure, and it is no wonder that the current turnover rate is running at 36% nationally, but the figure is much higher at Auckland where last year it was 100%." Ms McKenzie said.

"These people are paid less than the baggage handlers and cleaners employed at Auckland International Airport. Additionally Australian Customs Officers are paid in the mid $60,000s whilst the average salary for a full time New Zealand Customs Officer is $37,500.

"The history of our pay claims is fraught with inaction, failed negotiation and basic disrespect for us and our work," Ms McKenzie said. "Without consultation, the Customs Service commissioned Hay Consultants to "size" our roles in May 2000 and reported that we were being paid what we should be paid. When we went to Hay jointly with the Service, that year, with role descriptions agreed by the Association, Hay reported that we were vastly underpaid - 23% below the public service median."

"The Acting Minister, Mr Anderton, told the Service a year ago that they should prepare a business case, and that he would support it. Our calculations told the Customs Service their business case for funds should be $6.2 million to reach the median, plus additional funds to replace relevant allowances," Ms McKenzie said. "They refused to allow us to work with them on the business case for budget funding".

"In documents finally released this week under the OIA, the Association find out the Customs Service only asked their Minister for $5.4 million - $800,000 less than needed to meet Hay. Now they are crying poor, and saying they cannot pay us what we claim," she said.

"Whilst the package offered does have some significant upside, for people employed on low rate Individual Employment Contracts over the last eight to ten years, the Service is still expecting long-serving officers to agree to provide 24x7 coverage, on rosters totally at the whim of management. And to take a significant pay cut for the pleasure. The service negotiators have steadfastly refused to make any deal with does not disadvantage this significant group of long-serving officers."

"We are not confident we can negotiate with the nominated negotiators for the Customs Service. We are seeking an independent mediator, the involvement of the Comptroller of Customs and a fair and equitable resolution of a pay claim for these people who have been going backwards since 1991", she said.

Issued by the Customs Officers Association Incorporated

Timeline of Customs Officers Association and New Zealand Customs' Service Negotiations

Issued by the Customs Officers' Association

1991 Last genuine pay increase

1995 Association members gave away many conditions in return for fiscally neutral increase of 4%. The COA accepted an 11% reduction in redundancy conditions, we sold penal payments, we sold shift leave at Auckland International Airport, we accepted a new roster at Auckland International Airport and the introduction of PPO’s at Auckland International Airport, we also accepted that staff joining the Service post 1/7/92 would be employed on much lesser conditions (eg overtime, travel allowance, redundancy).

1996 Annual review promised under 1995 contract did not occur (and has not occurred since)

1998 Association asked the customs Service to negotiate. Customs Service refused.

1999 COA surveyed members - 40% reported they had had no increase for more than four years.

(Nov) Labour/Alliance Government elected
Employment Relations Act introduction imminent
(Feb) Negotiations for the new agreement commenced

(14 Dec) Customs Service ask to negotiate - one meeting held

(May) Second meeting. Customs Service table secretly commissioned Hay Consultants "sizing" of jobs - says all were being paid what they should be paid.
Customs Service has saved $1 million and wish to buy-out 2 years shift allowances and 2 years travel allowances. They also ask for technical redundancy clause to be included.
Association members accept one-off payment of 2% (in lieu of buyout of allowances)

(June) Customs Service and Association jointly agree on brief for Hay Consultants and commission them to "size" role descriptions. Work continues on remuneration and changes to hours of work.

(April) Hay Consultants report that Customs Officers are paid 23% below public service median. Costing done by Hay shows that $6.2 million is required to move Customs Officers to the public service median. However the $6.2m does not include compensation for the expected loss of shift allowances, travel allowances, and other conditions as desired by the Customs Service.

(May) Customs Service refuses to go to Government for money
Refuse to go jointly with the Association
Customs Service attempt to dissuade Association from going to Government

June 2001 Association visits Acting Customs Minister Anderton in electorate. He says "prepare a business case and I will support you".

(June-Dec) Association asks Customs Service to jointly work on business case. Service refuses and prepares case without Association input.

May 2002 Negotiations continue, without the Association knowing how much money the Service has asked for.

(July 1st) Customs Service "business case" asking for only $5.4 million released under OIA.

(July 3rd) Strike Notice issued for 17th July.

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