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Port Redundancies Symptom of ‘Chaos’ on NZ Waterfront

Port Redundancies Symptom of ‘Chaos’ on New Zealand Waterfront, Says Port Union

Today’s announcement that sixteen jobs will be on the chopping block as Prime Port Timaru restructures its operations for the third time in four years is another example of the failure of the free market in New Zealand’s port sector, says the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU).

‘At last year’s Prime Port AGM CEO Jeremy Boyes was talking up the acquisition of half of Prime Port by Port of Tauranga as well as boasting he had the “most flexible” workforce on the New Zealand waterfront. Now he’s proposing to make those workers redundant and “offer them an interview” with other stevedores, presumably in order to make them even more “flexible”,’ said RMTU General Secretary Wayne Butson.

‘Under this scheme Prime Port will become little more than a landlord, clipping the ticket for every container, tonne of break bulk cargo and log that crosses the wharf, and our members face uncertainty and unknown job security’ he said.

‘Having two new entities owned by Port of Tauranga taking over this South Canterbury workforce can only be aimed at driving down wages and make workers more fearful of their future job security this toxic cocktail of fear culture will do nothing for health and safety in this port,’ he said.

‘In recent years it’s become increasingly likely that any manufactured product bought in New Zealand has crossed a wharf to get to the shops; and export commodities like dairy products and logs are all handled by port workers. This is a round the clock job in all weathers and the risks are well known, yet instead of rewarding these workers with security of employment and conditions, Prime Port seems bent on racing to the bottom of the market’ he said.

‘In our experience, changing employers on a competitive model is all about cutting wages, reducing job security and lining the pockets of people in boardrooms,’ he said.

‘Last time jobs were slashed at Timaru port it was because foreign owned shipping companies pulled out of the container trade, this time we’re doing it to ourselves. The ports sector in New Zealand is becoming like the wild west, deregulation has created a free for all where ordinary Kiwi workers trying to provide for their families face a constant battle to hang on to their wages and conditions and to try and ensure decent standards of health and safety’ whilst their bosses are only interested in earning bigger bonuses, he said.

‘The industry is in chaos, locally owned ports competing with one another in a country our size doesn’t make sense, and the situation in Timaru is just another symptom of that wider problem. It requires a comprehensive rethink at central government level to come up with a National Ports strategy that will meet the needs of Kiwi workers, tax and ratepayers, and the business community ’ he said.

‘That will require political courage and it won’t happen without a change of government this year,’ he said.


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