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Strike at the Port of Auckland

Strike at the Port of Auckland

Strike period A four-day strike by members of the Maritime Union of NZ will begin at 7am tomorrow (Wednesday 8 September) and will run to 6.59am Sunday 12 September.

The previous two-year agreement with the union expired on 31 January 2004. Negotiations have been under way since March 2004. The company and union have been in mediation for 5 weeks.

The strike involves about 250 staff, mostly stevedores at the company’s two container terminals. This is just under half of Ports of Auckland’s total 540 staff. The terminals handle about 85% of the company’s container volumes.

During the strike, ships can come into and out of port because pilots, tug crew and other marine services’ staff are not involved.

The conventional wharves will still be working because they are stevedored by other companies.

The Port of Onehunga is not affected.

Major issues for Ports of Auckland

Loss of business (ships and cargo)

The company has been working with shipping companies to minimise the effect.

Ships have changed their schedules to avoid the four-day period. The port will lose four ship calls. 2 vessels will divert to Wellington. 1 vessel will bypass Auckland. 1 vessel – one of the large, new-generation 4100-teu containerships – will divert to Tauranga.

The loss of cargoes equates to about 3,500 containers.

Flexibility of staffing

The company needs to maintain flexibility of staffing to cover peaks and troughs in ship and cargo flows.

Peaks and troughs at the container terminals are increasing in line with global shipping trends. Containerships are making fewer calls so the downtime troughs are longer. But the ships are bringing bigger container exchanges, which is creating the higher peaks.

Ports of Auckland is not looking to increase casualisation. The company’s use of casuals is quite limited. Over the past 12 months casuals have represented about 10% of the total operational cargo workforce. The current collective employment agreement allows for up to 25%.

A number of casual stevedoring staff have chosen to stay with the company for several years and their contribution is valued.

The offer The company is offering a wage rise of just over 2.5%. This would cost the company about half a million dollars a year. MUNZ have presented a long list of claims that together would cost the company almost $2 million dollars a year. This level of cost is not feasible.

The importance of the port Economic activity related directly or indirectly to trade through the port supports a third of the regional economy and over 173,000 jobs in the Auckland region.

Getting back around the table The company believes that solutions will be found round the mediation table rather than through strikes. The company is keen to resume mediation.

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