A powerful group of global unions which between them represent tens of millions of unionised workers, are now on ‘red alert’ over the treatment of workers in New Zealand that is being dramatically illustrated by disputes at the Ports of Auckland, Affco and the Oceania care company.
The warning was sounded last month by 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.
They demanded an end to the union-busting measures that New Zealand’s workers have endured over recent months, and highlighted the amended Employment Relations Act 2000, which has reduced workers’ rights and encouraged poor employers to attempt to crush worker and union resistance.
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 who 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. The ITF has today been told by the country’s High Commission in London that it ‘would not be appropriate’ to meet to discuss how a settlement in POAL can be reached – a sad abrogation of responsibility that shows how the government in Wellington is hoping that this attack on workers can be covered up and tidied away.”
ITF general secretary David Cockroft stated: “I am glad to report that the ITF’s worldwide force of ship inspectors are right now visiting vessels and explaining to their officers and crews what is being attempted by POAL’s management. We have also ensured that it is at the forefront of the minds of the shipping community, who value good and efficient port relations. As we speak, members of the Philippines’ PALEA union are rallying outside the New Zealand Embassy in Makati City in the Philippines – a foretaste of the lawful protests and unavoidable disruption that the New Zealand ruling party and the management of POAL seem hellbent on attracting, even though the offer of a negotiated settlement remains the ideal and still available solution.”