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Port rejects union claims as strike planned for next week

Lyttelton Port rejects union claims as strike planned for next week

By Sophie Boot

March 16 (BusinessDesk) - Lyttelton Port Company says it's offering equal terms to members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, after talks yesterday broke down and the union said it intends to strike beginning next week.

Port company management and the union have been unable to resolve disputes around pay and weekend rosters, and the union has called and suspended strike action twice since March 7. Yesterday, RMTU said it plans to strike for at least five days from next Tuesday, March 20.

While the port yesterday declined to comment to media about the planned strike, citing a confidentiality deal, today operations manager Paul Monk said much of the union's comments yesterday "did not fairly or accurately reflect our position and we therefore feel it is important our position be clarified by this statement."

Monk says the port agrees that staff who do the same work should receive the same pay, and it offered RMTU the same salary increases received by members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand, meaning 4 percent for the first year and 3 percent each for the following two years. However, RMTU rejected the roster changes as the other union accepted, meaning the port reduced its offer to 3 percent per year for three years, Monk said.

"RMTU claims to want pay parity with their MUNZ Union colleagues when they are really demanding an unfair advantage over them," he said. "The RMTU won’t budge even though they are fully aware shipping lines, exporters and importers are bearing the cost of the huge disruption resulting from their industrial action.

“The RMTU has maximised disruption with its short notice withdrawal of previous strike notices. This action ensured it would be too late for shipping lines to change plans and divert back to the Port," he said. "We are reiterating our advice to the union that if they withdraw the strike notices for next week there will be no work for many of their members and therefore no pay for them on those days."

Yesterday, RMTU organiser John Kerr said the union had put forward eight scenarios to the port company but the company "has not amended its position one jot".

"It appears to us that LPC is unwavering in its determination to attempt to break the will of our members and to inflict unnecessary pain upon the Canterbury economy," Kerr said.



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