Lyttleton Port and unions in talks to avoid strike tomorrow
By Nikki Mandow
March 7 (BusinessDesk) - Negotiators for Lyttleton Port Company and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union are meeting this morning to try to stave off a strike set to begin tomorrow and last up to 14 days.
The two parties are in dispute about the port's decision to change the hours of work for cargo handlers so the port can operate 24 hours a day. The unions argue the company hasn't put in enough safeguards around fatigue and safety. It is also asking for payments to compensate staff for a roster change it says will cost some workers up to $6000 a year.
RMTU workers started an overtime ban on March 3.
Lyttleton Port calls the union's demands "unreasonable". Chief executive Peter Davie said what RMTU staff are looking for amounts to wage increases of 4 to 15 percent, depending on their work area. He said workers who are members of the other major union at the port, the Maritime Union of New Zealand, have been working the new rosters for a year.
Union organiser John Kerr said the RMTU is simply asking for a fair deal.
"Workers shouldn't lose money, especially when the port is profitable... the chief executive was paid more than $18,000 a week last year."
Kerr said he will be making a statement on progress at midday, but negotiations are set to continue during the afternoon.
Lyttleton Port is the third-largest container port in the country, and the largest in the South Island. It handles almost $5 billion of exports a year.
Two workers have died at the port over the last 10 years.