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Productivity Commission Report flawed as well as biased

12 January 2012

Productivity Commission Report flawed as well as biased

The CTU says that the Productivity Commission's International Freight Transport Draft Report is seriously flawed as well as obviously biased.

Peter Conway, CTU Secretary, says “we had hoped that the Productivity Commission would not go down the same track as the 2025 Task Force but it looks like that was a forlorn hope.”

“The Productivity Commission is required by statute to consider the ‘wellbeing’ of New Zealanders, rather than a narrow view of economic efficiency. But in this report, issues like workers' wellbeing, distribution of income, and national economic development aspects have been ignored or put aside.”

Peter Conway said “while we welcome analysis showing New Zealand ports are, in general, up to international standards of productivity, we are concerned that the Commission fails to grapple with problems caused by dominant international shipping companies and deregulated coastal shipping.”

Curiously, the Commission finds no lack of competition among international shipping lines. Its only recommendation is to make shipping conferences subject to notification (and justification) to the Commerce Commission. It therefore drops the ball on the big issue of national coordination of ports and ensuring they provide the necessary facilities while resisting being played off by shipping companies and over investing in underused facilities.

This means that the Commission has focused on "governance" and employment relations.

“The obvious bias is shown by a series of criticisms about working practices at ports with no effort to seek an alternative view except for one meeting with the CTU. Many employers have been consulted and quoted widely but to our knowledge none of the unions were included.”

“The flaw in the analysis is that while the Commission says that effective employer-employee relationships are key to good productivity results, they then opt for systemic institutional change to legislation on the registration of unions, union collective bargaining, the role of the Employment Court, and also clearly support casualisation of the workforce and at least partial privatisation of ports.”

While some employers claimed they had experienced problems in their dealings with unions, other employers reported very effective and productive relationships with the same unions.

“This shows it is not a systemic problem,” said Peter Conway.

The Commission has also challenged the government on its spending on rail.

Peter Conway said that the report is very disappointing. “None of the recommendations are for positive changes to management of ports in a cooperative relationship with their workers and unions. And the Commission clearly has not considered the principles of high performance work – rather it has focused on the same old deregulation and privatisation agenda.”

Peter Conway said that he hopes the Government approach to competitiveness does not amount to attacks on decent jobs.


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