Sunday, February 3, 2013

Container Shipping Dispute Continues but Both Sides Seem Ready to Accept Arbitration

Facilitator's Recommendations May Resolve Long Running Conflict
Shipping News Feature

NEW ZEALAND – Well over a year ago we were writing of industrial relations breaking down between management and unions at the Port of Auckland (POAL) and commenting on a lock out at two of the container handling terminals there following notice of threatened strike action. By March 2012 there was talk of union busting with some shipping diverted to other ports and accusations of inefficiency prompting layoffs, pickets etc. At the end of that month we took the view that the newly announced peace had a temporary feel about it and unfortunately that proved correct.

Since that time things have dragged on until last week the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) reacted with guarded optimism to a POAL statement which indicated that after considering the recommendations received from Facilitator Alastair Dumbleton last week, it is willing to accept his package of recommendations, details of which remain confidential. Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson indicated that, while the port is not happy with aspects of the package, he was willing to compromise in order to do a deal, saying:

“Accepting the recommendations means compromise on both sides, but it also offers significant benefits for the port, port staff, their families, and Auckland as a whole. Last year Garry Parsloe gave the Mayor an assurance that the union would consider and respond in a positive way to the recommendations of the Facilitator, so I am hopeful that the Maritime Union will also accept the recommendations without further delay.”

MUNZ national president Garry Parsloe said the union considers the recommendations as a whole to be a useful basis to enter into what it hopes will be a successful round of negotiations with POAL, as is recommended by the Facilitator, to reach a settlement that is fair to all the parties. Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) which is monitoring the situation, used a slightly more negative tone commenting:

“We hope this is a sign that our comrades in New Zealand will soon achieve a just and fair agreement with an employer that has used lock-outs and anti-union tactics. While we welcome the initial signs of progress, we want to make clear that we will not pull back one bit in our global support for the MUNZ workers and we will monitor the developments closely.”