30 Mar 2012

Wharf workers paid as dispute goes back to court

7:53 am on 30 March 2012

Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union will go back to the Employment Court on Friday morning to hear whether wharfies can be legally locked out while contract negotiations continue.

The port company says an indefinite lockout notice scheduled to start next month was issued to ensure its non-union staff are kept safe from union employees.

The company says it intends to present evidence of the threats in court.

However, the Maritime Union says its members have never threatened their colleagues.

Contract negotiations between the parties have been put on the back burner until the court makes a ruling on the lockout notice.

In the meantime, 230 permanent union workers have received their first pay from Ports of Auckland in more than five weeks.

The company agreed to pay the backpay covering the past week, despite not allowing them back to work.

Grant Williams, who has worked on the wharves for 13 years, says he's thrilled to receive the money, although he says it's not the same as being at work.

The port company has been ordered by the court to halt its plans to contract out wharf workers jobs until a hearing in the middle of May.

Judge Travis released his reasons late on Thursday, saying Ports of Auckland has arguably undermined contract bargaining, potentially breaching the Employment Relations Act which requires good faith bargaining.