There are significant labour struggles going on with firefighters and port workers. Firefighters have been taking industrial action since August 5th. “They are still carrying out emergency response work, firefighter safety work and public safety work but not general duties.” Auckland union president Mike McEnaney told Stuff.co.nz. The professional fire service is strongly unionised- with 99% of New Zealands paid firefighters.
While no ones saftey is put at risk by the industrial action being taken, it has had an impact. The Herald reported a “media black out on emergency news” as reports from the control room are not being sent to media organisaions. Reports are also not being supplied to insurance companies and bills related to fires are not being sent out.
At the time of writing, the Maritime Union had issued its fourth strike notice, a 48 hour work stoppage timed to coincide with KiwiRail shutting down its rail network for electrification works. Union president Garry Parsloe described strikes as “the only weapon a worker has is to take industrial action in pursuit of a collective”
While the company has ageed to a payrise the workers are still waiting for progress on other issues such as transparency around redundancies and the re-hiring of non-union labour. Industrial action so far has disrupted pre-Christmas trade worth $630 million, and cost Ports of Auckland a $20m shipping line service.
The workers have recived intimidating letters from the CEO, one of the letters stated “POAL also intends to review the desirability of contracting out some or all of its container terminal operations and support services to third party contractors. Again, this could result in redundancies from the container terminal workforce.”
“You can imagine the effect on a young family struggling to pay a mortgage when their employer says that he is considering total outsourcing of their families main income earner’s job.” said Maritime Union National President Garry Parsloe. “Behind all the corporate gloss about caring for their employees, the mask is beginning to fall away and revealing the ruthlessness and the dictatorial attitude.”
The company also leaked letters relating to negotiations to right wing political blogger Cameron Slater of Whale Oil , who uploaded the letters and used them as the basis for vituperative attacks on Ports of Auckland workers.
In repsonse the union issued a challenge to CEO Tony Gibson “to immediately release all documentation regarding his salary and perks, and that of all senior management at Ports of Auckland, into the public domain for open discussion.”
“Let the public decide whether he is worth his wages and special benefits. Considering the unfolding disaster he has created at his workplace, they may be surprised at his generous remuneration.”