Wednesday, 18 April 2012 20:11
Andy Letman reports that New Zealand dockers have won international backing in their fight for jobs.
A long running dispute between Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) and the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) has won local support and international solidarity. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), Public Services International (PSI), and the Council of Global Unions – which between them represent tens of millions of workers – have demanded an end to the union-busting measures that New Zealand’s workers have endured over recent months.
The ITF has mobilised its 690 member trade unions – which include 221 dockworker unions with 400,000 docker members worldwide – in support of the workers, whom the Port of Auckland is trying to throw out of their jobs. Paddy Crumlin, who chairs the ITF dockers’ section and is ITF president and MUA national secretary, explained: “What’s happening in Auckland is a naked attack on the workers and their union, the MUNZ, and it’s creating worldwide repercussions. Messages of solidarity from ITF members have flooded in, and those same unions are contacting New Zealand embassies in their own countries”.
There have been short strikes and now all union members have been declared redundant and invited to reapply for the new contract jobs. Sympathy action took place in Wellington and Lyttelton (Christchurch) but the courts ordered the dockers there back to work.
POAL is owned by Auckland Council but is officially run at arms length from the politicians. The board has been pushing for months for “flexibility” in negotiations with the MUNZ but the two sides were nowhere near agreement. The union offered a reduced pay claim in return for fixed rosters but the board said this did not provide the flexibility they needed. POAL started recruiting casual staff who are not union members and then tried sacking nearly 300 workers.
Len Brown, the mayor of Auckland, a New Zealand Labour Party member elected as an independent, has argued the council has no jurisdiction over POAL and councillors voted down a motion to support the dockers. Under the combined local and international pressure the New Zealand Employment Court told POAL not to proceed with its plans to sack the workers and a hearing will take place on 26th March.