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Picket aims to shut down port of bluff

Picket aims to shut down port of bluff

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union says work at the port of Bluff is likely to come to a standstill this week as workers picket in support of a 48-hour stoppage.

The strike will start at midday on Thursday (July 17) and end at noon on Saturday.

The RMTU has just 19 members employed by the port company, Southport, but has a commitment from the Maritime Union of New Zealand members also employed at the port, that they will respect the picket lines.

RMTU members from ports around the South Island are expected in Bluff to strengthen the picket.

“Rail workers based in Invercargill are also likely to man the picket lines,” said RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson. “So there’ll be no way trains will make it through on to the wharf.”

Wayne Butson says over half of its members at the Bluff port are employed under a casual contract. They are paid $9.92 an hour and haven’t had a pay rise for 11 years.

“These guys are trying to raise families,” he said. “The company refuses to give a commitment to improving this rate.

“Pay and conditions in Bluff are the lowest of any operating port in New Zealand,” Wayne Butson said. “There’s no doubt that Southport is the worst port employer in the country.”

The collective contract, which covers six full-time workers, expired at the end of March, 2002, and the RMTU is asking for a wage rise equalling the CPI.

“Southport is consistently performing well and making a profit, which our members contribute to, and is not struggling to pay,” he said

The union says no progress was achieved through mediation, and talks have broken down.

“There’s been no strike action at the port for more than a decade,” Wayne Butson said. “The level of frustration among workers is also at the company still being locked into the Employment Contracts Act mentality of the 1990s.”

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