Hide on Unions

Rodney Hide has another good column in the Herald on Sunday. He is whacking the Maritime union and their stand-over and bully boy tactics. But first he explains why he dislikes unions…his experiences are not dissimilar to mine:

I have to admit that we used to hope the old drunk would fall climbing up the ladder.

Somehow, against all odds, he’d make it up. Once in his crane cab, he was safe. It was us down below who then had to suffer as he smashed trucks and put our lives at risk.

The crane driver spent half his shift at the pub. That’s how it was at Lyttelton Port in the 1970s.

He finally got the “Don’t Come Monday” when he just missed a wharfie with a pallet of oranges. The wharfies determined he had to go. It hadn’t mattered that for years he had been endangering truck drivers.

The railway depot was just as bad. The workers there would be thieving off my truck before I had even come to a stop.

I later worked as a fitter’s mate in British construction. My workmates would lie, cheat, steal and engage in industrial sabotage. The crew I was part of stole an entire Landrover. That was no mean feat: we were on an island in the North Sea.

We were building a gas stripping plant at Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands.

I regularly saw metal scraps tossed into one-metre gas pipes as they were welded up. That was to ensure maintenance work once construction was finished.

Both Lyttelton Port and Sullom Voe were union-controlled. The control was maintained through bullying and violence. I was threatened that a spanner could fall on my head; an English welder had both legs and both arms broken for not following union dictates.

There is little doubt that in the meat works around the country and on union dominated ports that this sort of carry one still happens.

The way I saw it, the bosses got us to do what they wanted by paying us. That suited me. But union bosses got us to do what they wanted through thuggery and violence. I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like them.

I am not surprised that Council of Trade Unions boss Helen Kelly says, given a choice, she would be back in the 1970s. Union bosses then ruled the roost. They did well out of it. Everyone else had to suffer.

Only the union bosses don’t suffer…on their 6 figure salaries they get no matter what action is taking place they can look smug and in charge while the workers they purport to represent can never recover ten lost wages by being pawns on the front-lines in the union bosses political games.

Which brings us to the Ports of Auckland.

We see the union nonsense at Auckland Port. Their wage and conditions negotiations have dragged on for a year. One year! In the normal world you make a job offer and it’s a yes or a no. There might be a bit of argy-bargy but not a year’s worth. These guys are crane and straddle drivers, not superstars.

The port wants wharfies to turn up when the boats turn up – that is, when there’s work to do. That’s how it is for everyone else. You work to suit your customers, not yourself.

But down at the port the workers turn up at set times whether there’s a boat to unload or not. They sit about when there’s no boat. And there aren’t enough of them when there is.

The shift start times are fixed, the maximum shift is eight hours (plus half an hour “briefing time”), and the shifts have breaks of up to three hours. The port pays for 42.5 hours’ of work but union workers only deliver 26.

The union is refusing the port’s proposal to modernise work practices. That proposal would mean, for workers, a guaranteed 160 hours over four weeks, up to 12-hour shifts, and an end to the lengthy breaks.

No one will have to wait for the call to work. The boats are booked ahead of time so the roster can be scheduled four weeks in advance.

The pay is good. An Ernst & Young audit shows the average package last year was worth $91,000 (including pension and health insurance). The highest paid wharfie’s package was $122,000. And they get five weeks’ holiday.

Auckland has a beating heart. It’s the port. And it’s in trouble.

And trouble there is, we have already seen union stooge and mouthpiece Matt McCarten kick off the coming agitation.

It lost Maersk’s Southern Star services to the Port of Tauranga last December. Fonterra followed in January. That’s $25 million in revenue gone. That’s 15 per cent of the port’s total revenue.

Ten years ago, Auckland handled double the containers that Tauranga did. Now they’re on par. Tauranga is set to pass Auckland.

Tauranga has the flexibility and efficiency that Auckland lacks.

Auckland Port’s dividend to Auckland Council is $20 million. A proper roster would double it. That’s equivalent to a 1.5 per cent rate cut. But the real gain would be to Auckland businesses, jobs and wages.

Boosting the port would boost Auckland. Right now it’s dragging Auckland down.

The Maritime Union have proved the port bosses’ point through the negotiations several times over. They have gone on strike 12 times. And the port says productivity went up. Every time.

A few short months ago the Maritime Union was proclaiming emphatic victory. I said at the time that they had won the battle but would ultimately lose the war. They were playing checkers and the POAL board is playing chess. Now it looks like it is checkmate and in just a couple of weeks we will see.


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  • Sideshow Bob

    Rodney is a wonderfully articulate and interesting columnist. It is obviously his true calling.

    • Patrick

      Certainly Politics was not – & nor was “creating” a super city. All we got was a super mess

  • captain Kidd

    Unions are an unnessary blight on all of humanity,they are lying cheating nasty scum.Thats why most workers will have nothing to do with them.years ago I worked as a engineer at Kinlieth pulp mill and saw first hand what they were capable of.The going on in POA is a disgrace ,these thugs give not a damn about anyone but their own selfish gains at the expense of the rest of the productive workforce.Funny thing is I own a classic car built in England in the 70s,a friend recently asked me was its so badly built,I told him it was the unions that didnt give a shit but i get great satisfaction in knowing that they are all now out of work as they killed the industry,fools and idiots.

  • Bruce

    Pity he didnt concentrate on such issues while an MP instead of concentrating on taking his young bride on a taxpayer funded trip. How come he has suddenly found some principles when it is too late to put them into effect. All talk and no action like most politicians. Ironic he is writing for a leftist paper when he did so little to progress the agenda of the political right. Maybe he was a political mole from the get go. After all his greatest legacy is Lying Len.

    • captain kidd

      Bruce.Hide rorted the system because he could,I bet i would try the same if I could get free money,you proberly would too.However that doesnt make it right and thats why I have little respect for any politician.in fact the best politician is a drunk who cares for the bottle more than getting anything done.There is not a truer statement than how do you tell if a politicians lying,his lips move.The very nature of it ensures they have to tell porkies.

      • viking

        Why don’t you tell all the story including the bit where he was actually allowed to do what he did according to Parliamentary Services and that he repented by repaying what was actually his own earning back to P.S.

      • RightOfGenghis

        This man can move more than his lips. He’s a legend on the dance floor!

      • 2ndAmendment

        Voting Winston then I see!

    • viking

      Had you been noticing or listening you would have found he did. But your head wasn’t in the right space.Most people have holidays and I’m sure you manage a few without working half as hard as Rodney did. Why don’t you put your hand up and get elected.

  • 2ndAmendment

    Fuck it. Close the port down, the ships can go to Tauranga and legalise road trains to bring the traffic into Auckland.

    Destroying MUNZ, destroying unionism, and destroying Labour is far more important than an benefits Auckland or NZ would get from keeping a small inefficient port in the middle of the waterfront.

    That’s what Maggie – finally – understood, and what Ruth knew all along: it’s not ultimately about profit, or efficiently or boosting the city or whatever: it’s about smashing the unions