Threat of refinery strike averted by further facilitated talks
By Fiona Rotherham
Sept. 29 (BusinessDesk) - Threatened strike action at New Zealand Refining, the country's only oil refinery, has been averted.
The NZ Refining Company said that the First Union and NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing unions had today agreed to withdraw the notice of a proposed two-day strike next month and will seek a vote from members to agree to not issue any further such notice during the next five weeks.
The two sides will instead go before the Employment Relations Authority for facilitative bargaining under the Employment Relations Act. Talks before a mediator last Friday failed to resolve the outstanding issues and facilitative bargaining involves both sides submitting what they've agreed on and what they are still in dispute over. No date has yet been set to go before the ERA but both sides said they wanted to resolve the matter within the next four weeks.
The company had said the proposed strike on Oct. 7 and 8 would require it to shut down processing units at the Marsden Point refinery, and given restart times, could have resulted in 11 days of disruption. Oil companies had forged ahead with a contingency plan last week to import more fuels into the country to minimise disruption as they couldn't risk waiting to see if the industrial action went ahead or not. The main problem would have been jet fuel as the Northland refinery produces all the country's jet fuel and Auckland Airport holds only three days worth of stock.
The union action centred around company plans to contract out more work and the number of consecutive days workers were required to be on the job. There had been no industrial action at the refinery since the mid 1980s though notice has been served many times over the years. The unions are required to give 14 days notice of strike act under the Essential Services Act.
Shares of NZ Refining rose 1.3 percent to $1.62.