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Lyttleton Port workers accuse owners of illegal lockout

UPDATE2: Lyttleton Port workers accuse owners of illegal lockout

(Recasts and adds detail)

By Nikki Mandow

March 7 (BusinessDesk) - The Rail and Maritime Transport Union says Lyttleton Port Co’s decision not to pay workers over the weekend is an illegal lockout.

The two sides were in mediation today to try to resolve a dispute over late-night rosters. Although they didn’t come to an agreement, progress was made, union organiser John Kerr says, and the union called off planned strike action ahead of more talks on Monday.

However, Kerr said Lyttleton Port is refusing to pay some of the RMTU workers for their scheduled shifts, saying it has diverted ships away from Lyttleton because of the strike threat, and now there isn’t any work for them to do.

Kerr said he has taken legal advice and has been told the company’s actions amount to an illegal lockout.

“By law they have to give 14 days notice of a lockout. By saying they aren’t going to pay the workers, it's an illegal lockout. It’s not that they can’t pay them because they told us if we had reached an agreement today they would have paid them.”

Kerr said he doesn’t accept Lyttleton Port needs seven days' notice to divert ships back to the port.

“Shipping changes all the time.”

He’s told union members to turn up for work tomorrow and will meet with them at 10am.

While not commenting on the issue of an illegal lockout, Lyttleton Port spokesman Paul Monk said the company had warned the RMTU if it didn’t give seven days' notice of withdrawing strike action it was likely there would be no work for them.

Monk said he believed the new offer on the table for unions today was “very generous” and he was disappointed it hadn’t been accepted.

“We offered RMTU members a 3 percent salary increase for three years with no changes to their terms and conditions of work. This means we are no longer asking for the roster changes that would allow the port to offer customers more flexibility in servicing vessels.

“Because our new offer asks for no changes to their roster there can be no concerns about any roster associated fatigue or safety issues.”

Lyttleton Port is owned 100 percent by the Christchurch City Council. In 2017 the company generated a net profit of $14.4 million on revenue of $114.4 million. It paid the council a dividend of $8 million.

(BusinessDesk)

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