In April last year, after eight months of bitter industrial action, the parties applied to the Employment Relations Authority for “facilitation.”
Instead of engaging in banter through the media, they were required to sit down and logically explain their arguments in a structured way and in legal terms.
Away from the previous dramatic and underhanded tactics, the port was able to state its need to lift productivity to compete commercially so it could lift returns to its ultimate owner, Auckland Council, which demanded it lifts returns on its investment.
The union, meanwhile, relied on health and safety concerns over the rosters.
It’s clear Ports of Auckland won that battle.
Although ERA head Alastair Dumbleton’s recommendations to the parties were confidential, the port company said it would immediately accept them.
The union, meanwhile, issued a statement saying they were “a useful basis to enter into what it hopes will be a successful round of negotiations.”
Without saying which way he was leaning, Mr Dumbleton had previously said he found “instructive” a report by the ERA’s fatigue-related risk expert, Associate Professor Sally Ferguson.
Earlier this week, union national president Garry Parsloe said, somewhat bitterly, that facilitation was a “whole wasted year.”
What this means is that experts found their claims to be scare-mongering and without merit.
Since negotiations for a new collective agreement started in August 2011, has the union lost members?
And have some of those jumped ship to PortPro, the rival union at Ports of Auckland?
Alongside his comments about facilitation, Mr Parsloe says the dispute has cost his union more than $1 million – a figure which is yet to be publicly verified because the union is yet to file its 2012 and 2013 accounts.
They should be deregistered for not filing. If you are a company and do not file your annual return by the due date, then after a certain grace period you are automatically deregistered. The same rules should apply for incorporated societies and unions.
Yet, what does the union have to show for this costly battle? And will the union’s new collective agreement be materially different from what was offered in September 2011?
We’ll have to wait and see on that last point, but it looks as if the union’s line about flexible rosters being a health and safety risk is losing steam and the body itself seems weakened and fractured.
Mr Parsloe is retiring and PortPro is taking on his union’s former members.
In May, the union confirmed some of its members are working under the new, 12-hour flexible rosters, despite its apparent concerns over health and safety.
As previously stated, some of its members have been sacked, and those dismissals have been endorsed by the Employment Court as proper.
And those sacked have been union officials – not because they are union officials, but because their behaviour was so bad they were justifiably dismissed.
With the port company abandoning its unpopular stance on contracting out, it is unlikely the flags and banners will be waved again, in huge numbers, any time soon.
The port is taking on more staff, lending credence to arguments that a more efficient port is positive for workers, the port company and, through its council ownership, all of Auckland.
Look at Port of Tauranga, where most of the staff are shareholders. Productivity is high and industrial action very rare.