28 Feb 2012

Port considers legal action over 'blacklist threat'

9:04 am on 28 February 2012

The chief executive of Ports of Auckland says New Zealanders should be appalled that the Maritime Union is calling on international union assistance in blacklisting ships.

The company is investigating legal options against the union after a ship was diverted from the port to Tauranga.

The row has erupted days after about about 300 port workers began a three-week strike, in the latest industrial action in a long-running dispute over their collective contract.


Pacific International Lines (PIL) said one of its ships due to dock at Ports of Auckland on Sunday night was diverted to Tauranga after the blacklisting threat was made.

The company's New Zealand manager, Arun Joshi, says it was warned its ships would be blacklisted around New Zealand and Australia - meaning union workers would refuse to unload them - if the Kota Permasan docked in Auckland and was serviced by non-unionised stevedores.

"They were quite threatening in that respect. For us, it's commercially too much of a risk to take, to get a blacklisted ship."

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson told Morning Report that the company can sue for commercial loss.

"There has been and will be commercial loss both around the PIL service moving and extra costs for the Ports of Auckland in providing labour and services which we didn't use."

Mr Gibson said the people of New Zealand should be appalled that a union with international links is calling upon assistance in blacklisting ships and impacting on the supply chain.

Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe said he did not contact the shipping line but an overseas union may have given the company a caution.

"What I mean by that (is) they've explained the slow discharge in loading as the skilled workers were all on strike in Auckland.

"The ship would be there an excessive length of time. At the end of the day the shipping company had that choice, and they chose not to go in there."

Mr Parsloe does not agree with the Ports of Auckland's assertion that such action is illegal.

"What are they saying, that the international unions can't talk to the international shipping companies, and that they shouldn't be getting caught up in this argument?"

Mr Gibson also said union members have damaged company property and urinated on barbecues before starting their three-week strike.

Mr Parsloe said these were unproven allegations and accused Mr Gibson of trying to distract people from the real issues such as the contracting out of workers.

Further mediation between the port and the union is scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Prime Minister John Key says the industrial dispute is a concern, but the Government will not intervene and the issue has to be resolved by the parties involved.