23 Oct 2022

Tauranga stevedore paves way for port workers to get better conditions

12:03 pm on 23 October 2022
George Lye (right) receives his solidarity award from MUNZ National Secretary Craig Harrison (left) at a Maritime Union of New Zealand event in Auckland on 20 October 2022.

George Lye (right) receives his solidarity award from MUNZ National Secretary Craig Harrison (left) at a Maritime Union of New Zealand event in Auckland on Thursday. Photo: Maritime Union of New Zealand

A digger-driving stevedore from Tauranga has paved the way for port workers to get better conditions, after years of legal battles.

George Lye persevered through three Employment Court judgements and multiple Employment Relations Authority decisions and recently won a personal grievance against the port logistics company ISO, which required him to be available 24-7 with little certainty about what shifts he works.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered ISO to pay Lye thousands in compensation - $22,500 for failing to compensate him for requiring him to be permanently available for work and $15,000 for loss of dignity suffered as a result of his inability to plan any aspect of his life with certainty.

Lye has a young son from a previous relationship, and in her June decision, ERA member Nicola Craig said his work situation prevented him from making a commitment to see him on a regular basis because "he is never able to confidently say whether or not he will be at work".

"Mr Lye frequently feels he is letting his son down because he cannot commit to arrangements with him. There is a frustrating sense of not having control over his own life."

Craig said Lye had suffered from a lack of agreed hours as well as the lack of reasonable compensation for his availability.

Maritime Union national secretary Craig Harrison said Lye's case would be instrumental in changing waterfront workers' conditions.

On the back of the ERA decision, he said the union had negotiated a new collective employment agreement with ISO that compensated workers for time they were expected to be available for work.

Harrison said the agreement improved rostering, availability, and included solid increases in wage rates.

The agreement was "ground breaking", and set a new standard in the stevedoring industry, he said.

"Put simply, these innovative improvements will mean waterfront workers have the opportunity for work life balance, dignity, and the ability to plan their personal and family life."

Harrison said there had been a massive problem getting workers into the industry, as unsocial conditions, lack of a career path, and a high risk environment had made it unattractive.

The union planned to use the new collective agreement as the basis for a Fair Pay Agreement in the ports sector and recently appointed a national organiser who will be visiting all ports in New Zealand in the coming months.

The Maritime Union has presented Lye with a Solidarity Award.

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