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Picket Aims To Shut Down Centreport

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,
Rail & Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and the Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ)

SATURDAY 26 JULY 2003

“Picket Aims To Shut Down Centreport”

Union’s say work at Centreport (Port of Wellington) is likely to come to a standstill this week as workers picket in support of a 48-hour stoppage.

The strike will start at midnight on Sunday (July 27) and end at midnight on Tuesday.

The action is being taken by members of the Rail & Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and the Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ). The Unions have a commitment from the Engineering Printing & Manufacturing Union and the Merchant Service Guild that their members, also employed at the port, will respect the picket lines.

RMTU and MUNZ members from throughout the lower North Island are expected in Wellington to strengthen the picket.

“Rail workers based in Wellington are also likely to man the picket lines,” said RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson. “So there’ll be no way trains will make it through on to the wharf.”

Wayne Butson says that the strike became inevitable when the port company embarked on a Union busting campaign and claimed for condition claw backs in the collective bargaining round. This strategy saw the company create a wholly owned stevedoring subsidiary “Central Stevedoring Ltd” (CSL) and sponsored the formation of a “company” Union. This Union is open to employees of Central Stevedores Ltd. Our members who have been working on the waterfront for years and who are highly skilled in waterfront work have been spectacularly unsuccessful in obtaining employment with CSL. One member with over 20 years experience on the waterfront received a decline letter that stated he “lacked the necessary skills”. This is outrageous!

“The company says it needs these cuts in the conditions of our members to meet the market and yet by establishing CSL they are creating the competition and the market forces,” he said. “The current conditions on the Wellington waterfront are in line with conditions prevailing in most other ports in NZ”.

The collective agreement, which covers almost all the full-time, part time and casual workers in the port, expired 31 December 2002, and the combined unions have been in negotiations since then almost continuously. The parties are not a long way apart in terms of money but the issues of hours of work and job security remain unresolved.

The combined unions have been to mediation a number of times but no real progress was achieved and talks have broken down.

“The combined union’s members will not give up until they secure the right to remain working on the waterfront and retain their freedom of association right to remain members of a union of their choosing, not the bosses!” Wayne Butson said.

“This dispute illustrates the urgent need for the review of the transfer of business and sale provisions of the Employment Relations Act to ensure that workers are treated fairly when work is sold to a new owner who is not willing to honour the existing terms and conditions of employment” said Wayne Butson.

ENDS

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