Time to break the Maritime Union

The Maritime Union is striking again:

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.


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  • ConwayCaptain

    One thing about the reporting of thjis dispute is we seem to hear a lot about what the empoyers are offering and nothing from the Maritime Union.

    I assumed that this dispute would be up for arbitration.  Why hasnt it been settled.

  • Gazzaw

    WO there is a big fly in the ointment. I have mentioned previously that with the advent of new generation cargo ships NZ can justify only one port to handle these beasts. The remainder of the ports will continue to be used by conventional freighters or to feed cargo to the main port. The logical choice is either Auckland or Tauranga & Auckland is rapidly writing itself out of the equation. Kiwirail in conjunction with major players such as Fonterra & Mainfreight will orchestrate their operations accordingly.

    The worst scenario is that the Maritime Union spreads its poison to Tauranga in which case the major port facility is likely to move to Brisbane with NZ’s exports being handled by feeder services to Brisbane. The downside to that of course is additional freight costs and that not only are NZ producers at the mercy of the NZ Maritime Union but also the militant Aussie unions.
    Make no mistake the Aussies are investing billions in port development and are aggressively pursuing NZ business.

    This is a delicate issue and needs careful negotiation.  

  • Sweetd

    Just like the occupy protesters at aotea square, Lenny Brown is AWOL on this one as well.  I guess asking for leadership from Lenny Brown is a bridge too far.

    • Gazzaw

      I rather suspect that Len has had a hand in this & therein lies one the problems. It’s time now for the government to take this matter over before it becomes a major national issue.

      Maersk has already voted with its feet and moved to Tauranga – what happens if Tauranga ‘coincidentally’ develops some industrial issues? The answer is probably Brisbane.

      • Politically Unstable

        MUNZ is already in Tauranga but do not have the same spread across the stevedore companies there. Tauranga was a success with the waterfront reform and I find it unlikely that MUNZ could achieve the same result there. Having been involved in both places – they are like chalk and cheese with the MUNZ influence and staff attitude.

      • Gazzaw

        Let’s hope that it stays that way PU. I have the feeling that there is an agenda here.

  • Bob

    Interesting that Tauranga has just got approval for dredging to cater for ships 40% larger.
    starts in the new year, Auckland is stuffed as the major port.

    • Anonymous

      Yep for sure Bob… Thank the shit bag maritime union for that….

      Time the government got involved & involved quick smart

  • Anonymous

    Move all port facilities to Tauranga, boot out the union and shut down Auckland. Reclaim the land for city development. More investment in rail freight to make some use of Kiwifail and revamp the Auckland end as well.

    • trucker

      Tauranga isn’t big enough.

      • Politically Unstable

        Maybe it will become Tauranga and Marsden point??

      • Bunswalla

        Tauranga is easily big enough, and with the approved dredging can take 40% bigger ships. PoT already handles the highest volumes in and out of the country and is extremely well-led with stable industrial relations. Bring it on.

  • Anonymous

    Jeeeeeeeee-sus – a 10% pay rise is f**king HUGE!
    Self-serving greedy union pricks. 

    • Sweetd

      Yep, but what is 10% of nothing when PoA moves to Tauranga? Dumb arse unions.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the “put the stevedoring out to tender” suggestion. Exactly why PoA haven’t done this yet is a mystery.

  • ConwayCaptain

    Brisbane is now privately owned.  Merge POA, Tga and Marsden in one suoer port and get in DECENT management.

    People always blame the unions and there are two sides to every story.

    After dealing with NZ Marine Management as well as the old NZSU I can assufre you they are as bad as each other.

    Wait and see if AP Moller (Maersk) or Dubai who now own P&O Ports put in a bid to run akl.

    Now that would put the cat amongst the pigeons and rats and mice

    • Anonymous

      There is one long-term solution to this stoush.
      Heck, we **already** have “quadrotors that can self-organise and build a simple structure by themselves – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W18Z3UnnS_0
      **How hard can it be** to build a fully-automatic container unloader for a ship? 

      • MrV

        Well that will be the inevitable result of trying to push wages up too high, it makes it more attractive for capital (ie automation) to take over.
        For example drivers of Iron ore trains in the Pilbara started complaining about wages (which were already 6 figures) , big miners are responding by automating the ore trains so they drive themselves.


    • EX Navy Greg

      That’s what I’m thinking Captain. I would imagine Maersk are crunching the numbers already.

      • Anonymous

        I think it’d be *great* if Maersk ran the AKL port!
        As long as things like navigation safety are taken care of (so that there are no Rena-style cock-ups), I can’t see any downside. It’d be a real upside getting those union bastards onto the dole.

      • Guest

        Arguably Maersk already did run POAL. When they won the Maersk contract around 6-7 years ago, Jens Madsen, a Maersk executive became POAL CEO. Madsen left around 1-2 years ago, and with it, Maersk would have been inclined to leave since they had Madsen tell them how stuff the industrial relations were, and how the political owners (then the ARC) had taken excessive dividends from the company.

    • Catweasel321

      I’m betting on Maersk as the deteriorating industrial relations dates from when Tony Gibbson from Maersk took over in Dec 2010 and they are definitely anti-union.
      They are also evaluating next year whether to continue the run to NZ anyway and no doubt will require an inducement to stay. Enter JK with an obsequious 3′ 6″ solution (please take our port and some tax credits to boot, perhaps you’d like a bit of legislation as a side order) and you have the culmination of a decade of rationalisation of port calls by Maresk and de facto monopoly. They could just as fecklessly exit altogether and leave in their wake (excuse the pun) a string of closed regional ports and deleterious working conditions.

  • OTGO

    I’ve seen this in action from the command centre. Very cool. No pesky union employees in sight.

    • Anonymous

      Very nice. That’s definitely the way of the future (and the sooner, the better).

    • Paul Rain

      Heck yeah- although it is a bit worrying that they use GPS as well as inertial nav. The Chicoms are perfectly happy to sell GPS blocking to the Iranians, who knows where it’ll go to next?

  • The more completive POA is the better for NZ. But the reason they may not have done what you recommend is that they are council owned.

    In any case using the nuclear option must be used with great care, you have to be able to win, as defeat may cost even more. Still we own Kiwirail so all of those extra containers will be going by rail to Tauranga (or quite a few of them anyway). Thank god we are not in the good old days when Unions ruled the nation with eternal picket lines.

  • Ploughman

    I don’t know why Auckland was the major port for Fonterra anyway – it is too far away from Taranaki and Canterbury.  I suspect subsidies were built into charges to attract business to Auckland and away from more economic ports, such as Tauranga , New Plymouth and Lyttelton.     
    Our ports and shipping arrangements need a complete overhaul.  Private ports have been a great success overseas, but asking ratepayers to give up ownership is probably too big an ask.  

    So, a possible solution is to dump the existing boards of inexperienced local politicians and tender the management rights for the operation of the port.  The people would still own the facility, which would keep the socialists happy, and we would have efficient management of a vital industry.

    It really gets me annoyed that the boards of directors of our ports are so incompetent and are used as a perk by local body politicians.   

  • Catweasel321

    NZ should be more like China were unions are run by the state and anybody that seeks to organise independent labour unions is imprisoned for poltical crimes and as economic traitors.
    If workers at Foxcom think they have it bad then they should think themselves lucky their not working in labour camps where they would learn the true value of fair days work.
     Damn catching up with socialist Australia, we need to catch up with China where unions, dissent and political parties are outlawed because of their negative effects on commerce.