Is this why Len won’t back his board?

January 8th, 2012 at 12:18 pm by David Farrar

You’re the Mayor of Auckland and one of your largest commercial facilities in paralysed with industrial action. Even worse, it is a facility owned by your Council.

Over several weeks you have seen Auckland’s economy get battered after first Maersk and now Fonterra announce they are abandoning Auckland for Tauranga and Napier, due to the militant industrial action taken by the .

So it should be a no-brainer to come out publicly and lean on the Maritime Union to stop driving businesses away from Auckland. I mean ever Wellington’s Celia Wade-Brown stood up for the wellington creative industries when a militant union looked set to destroy them.

So why has Len been so silent and non-commital? It didn’t make sense.

Well it didn’t, until I read at Whale Oil that the Maritime Union was one of Len’s donors. They also donated to .

I guess that was one of their better investments.

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52 Responses to “Is this why Len won’t back his board?”

  1. Manolo (12,644 comments) says:

    There is honour among thieves …and comrades.

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  2. Keeping Stock (9,791 comments) says:

    Yep; the best four grand that MUNZ ever spent…

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  3. ben (2,386 comments) says:

    If $2000 really can buy this much influence then we’re f*cked. Brown has control over billions of dollars of assets. If such a paltry sum can buy as much influence as Whale says then the NZ political establishment is entirely corrupted.

    Which is to say I don’t think $2000 can possibly make this much difference and we should look elsewhere for an explanation for Brown’s silence.

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  4. Johnboy (13,439 comments) says:

    Shit they say everyone has their price but two grand?

    Can’t believe that’s all it cost for Len and Mike.

    Still pinko foot soldiers are expendable and come rather cheap.

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  5. Nick K (919 comments) says:

    In defence of Len Brown and Mike Lee: http://www.nominister.blogspot.com/2012/01/in-defence-of-len-brown.html

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  6. Moderation Blog (3 comments) says:

    Only read Whale’s post about the donations? I wrote one of privatizing the ports to give Len incentive to do something with the port http://www.moderationblog.com/2012/01/ports-of-auckland-drama.html

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  7. Mobile Michael (367 comments) says:

    It’s about now that the left will bleat about big business donations to National. But if those donations corrupt, why do the left accept them as well.

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  8. Fox (182 comments) says:

    I guess this post is an attempt by DPF to lean on Len.

    Fact is though, that there is not much point in Len getting involved in the matter as the entire port company is run at arm’s length from the council.

    It’s not the Mayor’s job to interfere in employment matters pertaining to Ports of Auckland.

    Having said that, I certainly agree that the Union is behaving in a very militant fashion, and thus am both astounded and disappointed that the one person who IS in a position to take a more assertive, hands-on approach has thus far failed to do so.
    The person I’m referring to is of course the CEO, Tony Gibson.

    If he isn’t able to sort this out, they should give him the sack, and find a CEO who DOES have a backbone.

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  9. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    $4k is what they got when they ran. How much is a incumbent Mayor worth?

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  10. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    It’s not the Mayor’s job to interfere in employment matters pertaining to Ports of Auckland.

    Except it IS the Mayors job to look out for the wider Auckland economy, which is undoubtedly being hurt by the Unions selfish actions.

    If he isn’t able to sort this out, they should give him the sack, and find a CEO who DOES have a backbone.

    A CEO with the backbone to give the Union what they want? Or one to fire the entire lot of them, effectively shutting down the port indefinitely?

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  11. Other_Andy (2,079 comments) says:

    Good post Nick K at 12:33 pm
    And…
    I don’t think the $2000,00 makes any difference.
    Everybody knows what Len stands for and who he supports.

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  12. mikenmild (8,921 comments) says:

    So I guess the answer to DPF’s question is “No”.

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  13. burt (7,096 comments) says:

    Serious question:

    Has anyone got any examples from the last 30 years where unions have achieved more for workers than they have for leftard politicians and political parties ?

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  14. Johnboy (13,439 comments) says:

    Burt.

    Con Devitt and the boilermakers union won a glorious victory for reinforced concrete construction over the use of steel skeleton for highrise buildings.

    While effectively fucking all his highly skilled union members he created much work for unskilled hammer hands in the construction industry.

    He was a fuckwit. :)

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  15. mikenmild (8,921 comments) says:

    Good question burt. Paid parental leave and the settlement for IHC overnight carers spring to mind immediately, but there’s bound to be many more.

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  16. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    I find it hard to believe the donation changed Len’s position. I think you’re mixing cause and effect. He got the donation because he was a crazy lefty, he didn’t become a crazy lefty because of the donation. I think you’re losing your objectivity DPF – you used to be good at not assuming poor motivations from your opponents.

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  17. Keeping Stock (9,791 comments) says:

    It’s not the sum of the donation, nor the influence which may or may not have been acquired. But the very fact that a candidate for local body office receives donations from trade unions opens up perceptions of influence being purchased; and perceptions are a very dangerous thing.

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  18. Yvette (2,591 comments) says:

    So are today’s NZ Herald comments [ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10777330 ] by Matt McCarten, that “These directors aren’t there to run a port. They’re there to sell it.” just a smoke-screen to cover donations amounting to a piddling $4000, as Whale Oil records: “The Maritime Union gave $2000 each to Mr Brown and Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee, who listed no other donations in his election returns.”?

    Or is McCarten just confusing things, as does my previous sentence?

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  19. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    Not sure why anyone would be surprised that Len has stayed quiet on this – avoiding interviews and only responding via text from Waiheke Island.

    Just follow the money… any normal caretaker / owner / manager of a ratepayer owned asset that’s having its value rapidly devalued courtesy of the militant Maritime Union, would be hands on – in this case (at the very least) Len should be voicing concern that a ratepayer owned Company is suffering under his watch. But no – he sits on his hands and its a fair question to ponder whether this is due to a conflict of interest.

    It will be interesting to see Len’s reaction (he will be back in front of the media soon as he craves attention) when the Ports of Auckland announces redundancies due to business being lost to Tauranga and Napier. And the reaction of Matt McCartens partner on the Auckland Council.

    No doubt they’ll try to shift blame elsewhere. Anywhere but the real cause of the problem – the Maritime Union.

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  20. adze (1,695 comments) says:

    Kimble

    “Except it IS the Mayors job to look out for the wider Auckland economy, which is undoubtedly being hurt by the Unions selfish actions.”

    Doesn’t this notion deviate away from the usual position that government should stay out of the affairs of business?

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  21. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    Doesn’t this notion deviate away from the usual position that government should stay out of the affairs of business?

    Are these the affairs of business? Or is it an impediment to business?

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  22. adze (1,695 comments) says:

    “Are these the affairs of business? Or is it an impediment to business?”

    Both, from what I can see… the workers (via the union) are withholding their labour on what appears to be vexatious grounds. This is undoubtably an impediment to business, but nothwithstanding wider effects on customers (and the wider economy) is it not still an internal matter between the employer and its employees?

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  23. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    The wider effects dont disappear simply because there is an internal component.

    The Mayor should be speaking out for those externals affected by this dispute.

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  24. adze (1,695 comments) says:

    “The wider effects dont disappear simply because there is an internal component.”

    Also true, but my point is that sometimes businesses themselves make decisions that have deleterious effects on local economies (outsourcing, for example). Yet these decisions do not call for government intervention… so if some situations call for government intervention in the affairs of business, this strikes me as significant.

    “The Mayor should be speaking out for those externals affected by this dispute.”

    I agree, he has been a little too silent.

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  25. Kimble (4,095 comments) says:

    adze, you would have to define intervention.

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  26. burt (7,096 comments) says:

    Given the relationship between the Len and the Maritime Union one has to consider the possibility of a hidden agenda in decimating the port.

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  27. Nostalgia-NZ (4,699 comments) says:

    The only agenda visible to me is the outsourcing of work and which the stevedores are resisting, probably for the valid reason that oursourcing is generally used to force wages down and create uncertainty within the workforce. There may also be evidence that this is also an effort to privatise the port authority. The worst part of it all is that both sides appear to be adopting an all or nothing attitude, rather than agreeing on what they can and putting an agreement in place to work through what they can’t agree on over a period of time. A hardened attitude on that issue by the authority should be looked at or reviewed by the council, or at least some recommendation made using the available protocols.

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  28. kiwi in america (2,336 comments) says:

    Nostalgia NZ
    The issue is very simple. The Port of Tauranga can charge its customers less because it has more flexible employment contacts in force. You might not like those contracts but the reality for Ports of Auckland is that unless they can compete on price with Tauranga (or Napier) then their customer base will leak away to lower cost providers.

    The primary contributor to the cost and thus price differential between POA and POT is the cost of labour. In my opinion the Maritime Union members at POA are going to have to eventually live with similar wages and conditions to port workers in Tauranga because either the POA will prevail in this conflict or it will see more and more of its customers flee to Tauranga where costs are definable, predictable and reasonable and lack of workplace militancy means a far higher likelihood of timely delivery of imports or dispatch of exports. Its really not rocket science. The MU are used to throwing their weight around and bullying management into submission. The POA board and management have 2 clear choices – act decisively to break the power of the MU or suffer a slow and agonising corporate death the cost of which will be borne by Auckland’s ratepayers.Oh and of course such an outcome will cost most of the striking unionists their jobs!

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  29. Nostalgia-NZ (4,699 comments) says:

    Yes, Kiwi in america, sabre rattling and predictions of doom that justifies an inflexible attitude, the rate payers own the Port as I understand it. Absolutes are nonsense, the city needs the port working not some agonizing tale of what will happen if the confrontation doesn’t deepen. You paint only one side of the picture but pay no regard to the other. However, ratepayers have a vested interest in their port working – not an all or nothing inflexibility. Council as the owners by proxy should be representing the rate payers by getting the Port working without disruption along with a timetable and procedure for settling the absolutes.
    One feature overlooked here, but appreciated by both sides on the waterfront, is the road freight required because Tauranga in Auckland is not.
    It gets so pathetic that people suggest the Mayor, who I’m not a fan of, is compromised by a minor (amount) party donation.

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  30. burt (7,096 comments) says:

    Nostalgia-NZ

    One feature overlooked here, but appreciated by both sides on the waterfront, is the road freight

    I’m sure it’s not overlooked by the ports customers… remember them – the ones who pay for it all to happen.

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  31. themono (129 comments) says:

    Just to clarify, what would you expect him to do if he backed the union independent of any financial incentive? Surely as the mayor he can’t come out against his board’s actions, so he’d be expected to be silent.

    The uproar if he’d come out against his own board would have been immense.

    It’s harsh to allege corruption, which is what you’ve done, David.

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  32. reid (15,624 comments) says:

    ratepayers have a vested interest in their port working – not an all or nothing inflexibility

    Yes they do Nostalgia but does the equation apply also to the rest of NZ?

    The town planning contortions required to design Auckland CBD infrastructure so as to easily accommodate POA access and egress is a significant contributor to the traffic congestion. If Auckland didn’t need to accommodate heavy lorries and rail in that way, lots of vistas appear.

    So clearly Akld is a logical import port of call since it’s 25% of the retail consumers in one spot without transportation needs so you need to have A port, but does it need the, or even a, major export port? If one extended the Hamilton-Auckland highway to Tauranga you have a viable alternative for servicing Auckland import requirements from TGA as well.

    As I said on Whale the other day, I understand POA’s dredging program has struck Rangitoto so if they want to dredge for super-container-ships it’s possible but expensive since they’ll need to use explosives.

    Hope you don’t have too many POA shares Nostalgia.

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  33. tvb (3,952 comments) says:

    Just what are ill informed politicians supposed to do in a situation like this?? I am with Len on this.

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  34. David Farrar (1,812 comments) says:

    I’m not alleging corruption, just influence.

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  35. mikenmild (8,921 comments) says:

    Yes DPF, and as a number of the comments have pointed out, that suggestion doesn’t really stack up.

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  36. Nostalgia-NZ (4,699 comments) says:

    I’m not forgetting the Port customers Bert, that’s why I’m not in favour on an entrenched war. Auckland, Tauranga freight is a cog in all of this, as are rate payers and a public expectation of good management of the asset. Whatever the issues and underlying issues are surely the pressing importance is to continue business. I remember when it was announced by POA that they’d lost Maesrk as a customer because of the strike, Maesrk responded that the strike was only one issue. That response, and the out sourcing of work doesn’t give a lot of confidence in the management, remembering in particular that the rate payers, as owners, shouldn’t be being misled.

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  37. Nostalgia-NZ (4,699 comments) says:

    I have an recreational interest in the fishery Reid, and the Mad Captain I fish with isn’t complimentary about the results of the dredging on the fishery.

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  38. wat dabney (3,472 comments) says:

    $2000 is clearly not enough to influence Len. However, he will be clearly aware of what more might be available if he plays his cards right. There’s the problem.

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  39. nasska (9,576 comments) says:

    Someone (I wish I could remember who) recently suggested that if the POA was to cease business & its land & assets sold that could be the down payment on Loopy Len’s train set.

    Reid

    Doesn’t Port of Tauranga already have an “inland port” south of Auckland where containers are railed to the Mount? If, as I suspect, there is excess capacity on the rail link there would be little new capital expense to cover.

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  40. Pauleastbay (5,030 comments) says:

    Nasska

    Yes the inland port in in manuaku City, Wiri Station Road

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  41. Steve (4,332 comments) says:

    MUNZ will be backing Uncle Len in the next Council Elections to much more than $2000 IMO.

    There is the bribe, and the reason Uncle Len is MIA. Then again I could be wrong

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  42. mikenmild (8,921 comments) says:

    I think the Wiri facility is POA’s. Tauranga also have a facility in South Auckland though.

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  43. mikenmild (8,921 comments) says:

    Classic Steve. If a $2,000 contribution wouldn’t be enough, obviously there has to be a bigger pay-off later.

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  44. Steve (4,332 comments) says:

    You know how it works Mike, scratching backs and all that. Now you get back to sorting out Wellington rail stuff ok. Leave Auckland for the Aucklanders and clean up your own place

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  45. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    For the record: MetroPort is based at Neilsen St, Onehunga.

    http://www.port-tauranga.co.nz/MetroPort-Auckland

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  46. kiwi in america (2,336 comments) says:

    Nostalgia NZ
    You are clearly ignorant about how the Maritime Union operates – and has operated for decades. They will keep striking until they get what they want which is to cling on to old and costly manning practices. POA was losing competitiveness over their pricing before these strikes and indeed sufficient to likely be the main cause for the likes of Maersk and Fonterra to have long contemplated moving their business – the strikes have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. The MU think they have history on their side and for decades they did – they could pretty much get what they wanted. Modern labour laws, even with Labour’s Employment Relations Act pullback from the ECA, are a far cry from the nostalgic (pun intended) days of compulsory unionism and the norm of collective contracts and centralised bargaining. My post merely reflects the brutal reality which is that accelerating problems with POA’s ongoing profitability is the reason why there are few palatable options from a union perspective not because I have any particular union bashing/busting ideological predeliction.

    You are right – the Auckland City Councillors, to whom Auckland’s asset owning entities are ultimately answerable to, have a very strong vested interest in industrial peace at the port. David and others rightly point out that the mayor’s silence has been deafening – Cameron Slater postulates (accurately IMO) at Whaleoil as to why. Whilst the campaign donations from the MU are not the bedrock on which Len Brown built his campaign, pro-union councillors like Mike Lee not only need union money but instinctively see the world through the same left wing lens of the MU hence to them there is no issue with these on going strikes. Passive acquiesence however has a price.

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  47. reid (15,624 comments) says:

    I have an recreational interest in the fishery Reid, and the Mad Captain I fish with isn’t complimentary about the results of the dredging on the fishery.

    Imagine what he thinks when they start blowing up the fishery Nostalgia. Perhaps you’d best not tell him.

    They will keep striking until they get what they want which is to cling on to old and costly manning practices.

    Yes but this issue is much wider than unions as they are in the POA. This is what this strike has triggered but it’s not about that. This is now about what NZ’s optimal port config is.

    POA and TGA had an opportunity to merge in 2006 and the CEO’s of both ports were in favour but guess what: the politicians of the day nixed it and guess why? Because TGA required a 50/50 split. And the politicians didn’t think this was saleable even though the professionals in the game were telling them it made sense to them, but the politicians ignored that because they didn’t think it was sellable and so despite the right thing being obvious they went with their “political instincts” instead because they didn’t want to lose Auckland votes.

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  48. Nostalgia-NZ (4,699 comments) says:

    Yes, more puff and wind from Kiwi in america, evoking old prejudices in order to deepen the disputes. POA haven’t been truthful to this point and their’s is not to mislead the rate-payers, nor to engage in the obstinate history to which you carefully relay only that which suits you. There is no major crisis apart from the POA engaging at a level which you obviously admire but which is not in the interests of the public. You single out Mike Lee as somehow instrumental in what’s happening but ignore the obligations of POA management to the public and the region. ‘Good faith’ bargaining is not attended by an attitude of what your bs… did 50 or 60 years ago. The country doesn’t need it.

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  49. Manolo (12,644 comments) says:

    Well said, Kiwi in America.

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  50. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    Good to hear the other side of the story as well:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10777330

    I’m cautious to take a position on this matter as I don’t know the details and neither do most of the people making attacks on one side or the other.

    If what McCarten says about the $27 an hour (which is a pretty damned good rate for an semi-skilled job) and the switch to 2-12 hour casual (which is something I don’t think many full time employees would be cool with) is true then I can understand why the fulltimers are striking. If things got quiet and my employer had the ability to drop me down to 2 hours work a day I’d be pretty pissed off too. At $27 an hour they’d be getting $216 a week before tax, add to that the fact that you need to get too and from central Auckland 5 days a week you’d be worse off than somebody at home collecting a benefit. Obviously that’s just when business is slow, when things are busy you get to work 12 hours a day and never see your kids awake.

    The initial position taken by POA seems totally unreasonable, I’m sure the unions initial position was equally unreasonable – such is the nature of these things. Hopefully they’ve got some good mediators in there to come to a mutually agreeable solution. In the grand scheme of things moving jobs from the waterfront to Tauranga and Metroport Auckland isn’t the end of the world. As Reid points out above – the longer term question is around the most efficient configuration of the traffic to both ports – if the merger had gone ahead and it was a single company moving jobs and goods from one branch to another this wouldn’t even be news.

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  51. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    Oh and I think the donation is a bit of a sideshow.

    It’s a smallish amount and well preceded the current dispute. It was almost certainly about port ownership. Len has always been clearly in support of council ownership, his C&R opponents are openly talking about partial privatisation. I can’t think of an example of a privatisation that has dramatically improved the pay and conditions of the rank and file workers so the union made a small investment in backing the mayoral candidate who’s publicly stated position they feel most benefits the long term interests of their workers, that’s understandable.

    NB: I had to add ‘rank and file’ in the paragraph above – some employees benefit massively from privatisation – just look at the pay gap between Contact Energy directors and execs and the SOE’s. The state sector SOE directors and execs are in for a windfall in the coming years – no doubt justified by promises that they will raise performance from their current paltry levels (outperforming 75% of comparable companies) to something much better (110%?) via the magical power of the free market.

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  52. Manolo (12,644 comments) says:

    Comrade Len speaks: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10777533

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