Ports of Auckland faces yet another strike – for 48 hours from this morning ((Friday)) – in an increasingly bitter dispute which has already disrupted shipping three times this month.
The strike from 7am by more than 300 dockers covered by the Maritime Union will carry the row over unsettled collective employment negotiations through the first dawn of 2012.
There has been no attempt by either side to break the impasse since the workers at the port’s two container terminals held two 24-hour strikes last weekend, including on Christmas Day, and issued notice of a fifth round of stoppages early next month.
The Port has now offered a 10% pay increase, which in this economic climate is very generous. The Union responded by giving notice of yet another strike, which is now in effect. It is still not clear what the Union actually wants, except to ensure that it retains a total monopoly of stevedoring at the Ports of Auckland.
It is now time to break the strike and break the union at the same time.
One option would be to do what President Reagan did to striking air traffic controllers in the US thirty years ago. Sack the lot of them and employ new people. Unfortunately, John Key is no Reagan and New Zealand doesn’t really have the laws to enable the government to do this in any case.
John Key could promote a law change to have union officials, who act in bad faith, held personally liable for the damage that they cause to others. Bad faith provisions were brought in by Helen Clark’s government but there is currently no real liability associated with bad faith actions.
Perhaps the best route, however, would be for the Ports of Auckland to follow the same path as Qantas did recently. They should simply make all members of the Union redundant and, like Tauranga, and put its stevedoring out for competitive tender by private operators. The Labour politicians in the Auckland Council won’t like it a bit, but will not ultimately have the political courage to stand in the way of management. There will be a period of disruption, no doubt, but as Qantas discovered, that is far preferable to a slow economic death at the hands of self-serving unionists.
The formation of an alternate union also has merit. It seems the Maritime Union is hell bent on destroying the Port and the jobs that go with it. Give them their wish.
The government should also move forthwith to repeal section 55 and section 65A of the Employment Relations Act 2000 that provides for employers to deduct union dues from salary on behalf of unions. This is a very simple adjustment and could very easily be part of an Omnibus Bill.
The hold of the Maritime Union over the Ports of Auckland and the many businesses reliant on trade through the port must be broken.