25 Feb 2012

Auckland port strike 'irresponsible and reckless'

5:43 am on 25 February 2012

The Ports of Auckland says the Maritime Union's decision to keep its members off work for three weeks is irresponsible and reckless.

About 300 workers began a strike at 7am on Friday, following a meeting at which they unanimously endorsed extending the strike notice from two to three weeks.

Nearly half of the container terminal has been shut as workers strike after talks on a new collective contract broke down.


Ports of Auckland says the strike will cost it $3 million in revenue.

Chief executive Tony Gibson says the company is very concerned about the impact the strikes are having on workers' families and they are missing out on about $1.3 million in wages.

Mr Gibson says the union's actions are destructive and its officials clearly have no regard for the consequences for businesses and their members' families.

He told Morning Report on Friday the port will never relinquish the right to contract out work, which it has under the current collective agreement.

However, he said the company is pursuing more fulltime employment and also rejected calls for him to stand aside and let someone else take over the negotiations.

The company plans to re-route five ships to other ports this week and more may have to be diverted during the three-week period. There is concern that other ports may not be able to handle the volume of extra work.

The Importers Institute believes the strikers should be sacked and the Maritime Union officials held liable for costs. Secretary Daniel Silva says union leaders must be financially accountable if it is found they have not negotiated in good faith.

No alternative, says union

Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe says the union has no alternative but to strike.

He told Morning Report the strike can be stopped if Ports of Auckland stops contracting out work.

Mr Parsloe says members will keep a watching brief on what is going on with the strike and there is no need for a picket line.

More than $50,000 has been received from other branches of the Maritime Union and other unions in New Zealand to assist workers on strike, he says.