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Deal close at Lyttleton Port, union says

Deal close at Lyttleton Port, union says

By Nikki Mandow

March 8 (BusinessDesk) - Lyttleton Port Company and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union are within “a fag paper” width of reaching an agreement and averting a strike, the union says.

LPC has offered a 3 percent pay increase each year for the next three years, but the union is looking for 4 percent for the first year - the deal that was accepted by another union on the site last year.

RMTU organiser John Kerr said the difference is less than $150,000 and he’s hopeful the two sides will come to an agreement when they meet again on Monday.

During mediation yesterday the company yesterday agreed not to introduce flexible overnight rosters, which the RMPU said might be unsafe.

The main potential spanner in the works to a decision on Monday now appears to be a new stoush over whether the LPC should pay workers who should have been working over the next few days, but who aren’t needed. The union withdrew strike action for the next four days “as a gesture of goodwill” ahead of the talks, but the company said ships have been diverted away from Lyttleton in anticipation of a strike, so there isn’t enough work for all the rostered staff - and they won’t be paying them.

The company said only 25 workers were affected today; the RMTU estimated it to be 70. It is calling the non-payment of the workers an illegal lockout.

Union members demonstrated outside the Christchurch city council offices this morning, and handed over a letter asking the council (which is the 100 percent owner of the port) to use its influence with port management to help resolve the dispute.

A Christchurch City Holdings Ltd spokesperson said the council wouldn’t be getting involved.

“It would be inappropriate for the shareholder to intervene in the employment negotiations between the Lyttleton port company and its employees."

Lyttleton Port said it was keen to get everyone back to work and is frustrated at the union stance.

“LPC remains committed to resolving the industrial situation but RMTU’s inflexibility, excessive salary demands and deliberately misleading statements are inflaming what is already a difficult situation,” operations manager Paul Monk said.

(BusinessDesk)

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