Maritime Union slowly losing

December 16th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NBR reports that the is slowly losing its death grip on the .

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.

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25 Responses to “Maritime Union slowly losing”

  1. Manolo (13,518 comments) says:

    The sooner this union dies and disappears, the better for New Zealand.

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  2. MT_Tinman (3,105 comments) says:

    Hell no Manolo, NZ needs someone to point at and laugh. ;-)

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  3. tvb (4,327 comments) says:

    I wish the damn Port would close and give Aucklanders their waterfront. The shipping can go to Tauranga and Whangarei. The land must be worth a bomb and the shareholders would recover a nice tidy sum of money.

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  4. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    “With the port company abandoning its unpopular stance on contracting out… ”
    Darn. I’m sorry to hear that. It would have been great if PoA had got that going.

    “They should be deregistered for not filing.”
    Agreed. What the heck is going on? Why can unions get away with bloody murder in our legal system?

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  5. Psycho Milt (2,406 comments) says:

    …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.

    So, the port company’s representatives stated that it “needs” to wreck its workers’ pay and conditions because its shareholders are demanding a higher return on investment, and the ERA didn’t laugh at them and tell them to fuck off? Either this is being reported inaccurately, or the only thing being “facilitated” here is PoAL’s agenda.

    And have some of those jumped ship to PortPro, the rival union at Ports of Auckland?

    Scab “unions” set up by employers to try and knacker the actual union are about as deserving of the term “union” as the ones set up by communist governments in the old Warsaw Pact countries were.

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  6. mandk (956 comments) says:

    @ Psycho Milt

    Are you hearing voices?

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  7. queenstfarmer (764 comments) says:

    So, the port company’s representatives stated that it “needs” to wreck its workers’ pay and conditions because its shareholders are demanding a higher return on investment

    No. If you read the bit you quoted you will see that the need for action was not due to the higher return demanded by Len Brown’s council, but in order “to compete commercially”.

    The port was at risk of becoming uncommercial due to union greed & obstruction. If you want an example of what that does in the long run, perhaps you should take a look at how the unions have just destroyed another limb of the car industry in Australia.

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  8. hj (6,866 comments) says:

    We need to lift our game (lower wages) so we can cpmpete with our trading partners (China).
    Under globalisation “all ships rise” (Malpress – NZ Initistive) .
    The best “progressive traditions reject small minded nationalism….” John Moore, guest blogger Bryce Edwards.

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  9. All_on_Red (1,559 comments) says:

    Yeah sure Milt, the Ports “need” to follow that great example of Union run business like ,say, Holden, in Oz. That’s working out really well for them isn’t it.
    Why should special interest groups like unions be allowed to get away with naked greed and using blackmail to get what they want. Typical of the selfish left, you just don’t care about the people. Just like unions too, the only workers they care about are their own . No one else.
    It’s great to see that since this union has given in that the Port has been able to create more jobs. Surely that is better for the country than some scum union getting special protection.

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  10. Manolo (13,518 comments) says:

    Psycho only hears Karl Marx’s voice.

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  11. Psycho Milt (2,406 comments) says:

    No. If you read the bit you quoted you will see that the need for action was not due to the higher return demanded by Len Brown’s council, but in order “to compete commercially”.

    The quote states quite explicitly that the basis for its claim is the demand by its owner for increased return on investment. And if you want an example of what this race to the bottom in worker exploitation does in the long run, perhaps you should look at NZ’s manufacturing – there’s always a cheaper and more desperate worker somewhere else. It’s indicative of how far along that race to the bottom we’ve come, that fighting an attempt to turn you from employees into contracters gets characterised as “greed and obstruction.”

    Psycho only hears Karl Marx’s voice.
    It’s kind of ironic that the people who write stuff like this are always eager supporters of making capitalism as much as possible the way Marx described it.

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  12. Samuel Smith (276 comments) says:

    Worker bashing – Must be Christmas time on a Right wing blog.

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  13. RRM (9,785 comments) says:

    Samuel Smith –

    For $93k for working 23 hrs / week driving a giant forklift, I’d line up for a bashing! I’d even down trou and present for you. (Well, maybe not for you… )

    But if you’d bothered to actually read …anything, you’d have noticed it’s the union gang scum getting bashed, not the workers ;-)

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  14. mandk (956 comments) says:

    @ Sam Smith

    No, it’s Stalinist union bashing.

    Merry Christmas, comrade!

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  15. Elaycee (4,356 comments) says:

    This Xmas I’ll deliver a carton of nice red to my mate who told me in no uncertain terms I should invest in Port of Tauranga shares when the shit hit the fan between the Unions and the Ports of Auckland, in 2011.

    It was great advice – IIRC the shares were hovering around $9.60 at the time. Today they’re trading at $13.31. :)

    So a special ‘thank you’ from LAC to Garry Parsloe and his union mates: Love your work (sic)! Keep it up!

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  16. PaulL (5,948 comments) says:

    @Psycho Milt: The thing about markets is that they find their level. The left seem to believe that wages will inexorably reduce without unions. All the way down to zero, or down to whatever you can currently pay someone in Somalia. But the thing is, they don’t. They reduce to the point where the productivity, skills and work ethic of the person in NZ, along with their closeness to the work I want done, outweighs the saving I make in getting someone in Somalia to do it. That level is actually quite high, it’s just not as high as the unions would like.

    The reality is that you can force a company to use union workers, but you can’t stop someone else from starting up a company in competition. So whilst the unions could hold up wages and conditions at Holden, they couldn’t hide the fact that you could import Honda Accords from Thailand cheaper. If the employer is in a competitive market, then wages cannot be artificially inflated by unions.

    Then of course we come to ports. These are a local monopoly, so we can’t just get someone in Thailand to load ships (if we could import Thai labour that’d be a different story, but we can’t). But it turns out that it’s only a local monopoly, and the unions no longer control every port. Tauranga is giving POA a hammering. The reality is that the pay and conditions at Auckland cannot continue in that environment.

    Of course, all those people are free to go elsewhere to get a job. Presumably if they’re worth that much money another employer will pay them that much. In fact, they could start their own companies if they wish, and pocket all the income from their awesome productivity. Funny how they don’t though. The bludgers, as always, getting in the way of those who’d rather just do a decent days work.

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  17. mandk (956 comments) says:

    @ PaulL
    Unions also put a ceiling on earnings in some cases.
    Try arguing that maths and physics teachers should get paid more than other teachers because it is difficult to attract the right quality, and then listen to the uproar from PPTA.

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  18. Psycho Milt (2,406 comments) says:

    The thing about markets is that they find their level. The left seem to believe that wages will inexorably reduce without unions. All the way down to zero, or down to whatever you can currently pay someone in Somalia. But the thing is, they don’t.

    Hilarious. Consider for a moment how western societies got from the point at which workers were in about the same situation Bangladeshi workers are in now (ie, around 200+ years ago), to the point we’re at now, at which western workers are astonishingly more expensive and better protected than their Bangladeshi counterparts. Unions had a lot to do with it, the magical ability of the market to find its own level not so much. Yes, it would be impossible these days to reduce western workers back down to the level of Bangladeshis regardless of the existence of unions (much as the ruling classes of those countries might wish they could), but that’s nothing to do with the market, it’s to do with the fact that we have universal adult suffrage.

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  19. Harriet (4,795 comments) says:

    I wrote up about this last year.

    A professor of ‘industrial relations’ in Australia was quoted as saying to the media last year on company/union disputes:

    “…..Unionists are not under the same legislation as the employers are, the employers are under the Companies Act while the Unions are under Incorporated Socities ect.

    What this does is create an enviroment where the unions can lie and mislead the company, media, and their own union members. Incorporated Societies Acts don’t have the ‘teeth’ that the companies Act does with regards to ‘misleading people’.

    The employers can’t mislead the media ect, because if they do, they can be fined, jailed, and de-registered under the Companies Act. Unionists can’t be jailed.

    When industrial action is taking place, the unions have an unfair advantage as they can make the most outragous claims against anything that the company is proposing -and then some- at the first opportunity, so as to place the employers on the ‘back foot’.

    To defend those ‘allegations’ properly under company law, the company executives have to ‘re-treat’ into privacy to gather the facts and evidence ect before they reply.

    The public then perceive this ‘re-treat’ into privacy as dishonest behaviour. It is not dishonest but the way executives have to legaly operate. They have to be ‘fully truthful’ with regards to facts and their ‘own actions’.

    Yet if on the other hand the executives reply at the first opportunity, and it is wrong, they can then be charged with misleading or lying to the media ect and be jailed for doing so.

    Due to the time it takes ‘in re-treat’ to reply to the ‘allegations’ – the union then uses this time to get the media and general public on side with cases of ‘hardship’ ‘poverty’ ect about the company’s proposed ‘unreasonable demands of union members’.

    It is nothing more than time wasting, unproductive, and expensive to the company, industry and wider community. Union members and company executives need negotiations that are truthful, real, timely, productive and of general goodfaith.

    Union officers need to be placed under the same laws as executives are for this to happen, as it creates a level ‘playing field’…”

    [ that is how I remember the professor putting it - it was a year or so ago]

    It is true – Unions abuse the protocols of negotiation – and in a ‘modern economy’. Pathetic really.

    And John Key is too weak to do anything about it! :cool:

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  20. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    ‘And John Key is too weak to do anything about it!’

    He’s ust waiting for the TPP. It’s going to stuff the whole economy

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  21. Viking2 (11,368 comments) says:

    We watch with interest. Way back I pointed out that the Union had very large resources in the terms of assets and cash.
    With Parsloe retiring and what seems to be a running down of union membership it be interesting to see WGO finishes up with all those assets. One would presume that once the membership reaches the few the assets will be sold off and funds redistributed to the few.

    Can one of the legal beagles tell us what is the process for closing a Union. where do the funds go?

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  22. big bruv (13,687 comments) says:

    “Can one of the legal beagles tell us what is the process for closing a Union. where do the funds go?”

    What are the odds that the funds done go back to the stupid sods who pay their union dues and end up in the pocket of some union thug or find their way to the corrupt Labour party?

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  23. big bruv (13,687 comments) says:

    I must admit that in 2013 I find it amazing that anybody would want to join a union. I can think of no reason on earth why I would ever join one.

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  24. burt (8,206 comments) says:

    OMG – Is this saying that port workers might be more concerned about their own life struggle than some manufactured notion of fighting the man designed to extract money from low paid workers to support the lifestyle of the union elite ?

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  25. heathcote (104 comments) says:

    More banal nonsense from Wiki (by the way, what’s with the ‘s’ on the end of your name? Did you forget the apostrophe?)

    Would you care to give us all a dissertation on the TPP, and explain how it’s going to ‘stuff the economy’?

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