The truth on Port of Tauranga

The CTU and MUNZ have been holding up the Port of Tauranga as a bad unsafe port, with low wages. Whale Oil did something which I haven’t seen anyone in the media do – ask them if it is true. He has blogged the CEO’s response, which I extract below:

We have been really disappointed with the factual inaccuracies and unprofessional misrepresentation of the safety record of our port by the CTU President, Helen Kelly.  Unfortunately, we have had to waste shareholders’ money (which ironically includes >90% of our staff who hold shares in the Company) to instruct our solicitors to warn Ms Kelly against recklessly continuing in this regard.  Her statements about the safety record of this port are factually incorrect and we believe deliberately misleading.

We are aware that the CTU have made an Official Information Request to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), seeking our port’s claims history.  We are aware of this because ACC asked for our consent to release this information as they are bound to do under the Privacy Act.  We of course agreed to this information being released as we are proud of the improvement in safety performance at the port.

The actual ACC claims history shows Port of Tauranga to have one of the best safety records of all New Zealand ports – less than half the NZ ports’ average.  Ms Kelly is in possession of this information, but chooses to ignore it, as it clearly does not fit her argument.

The graph shows PoT to be half the average. Only two other ports seem to be at the same low level. Of course not all accidents are of equal harm, but nevertheless to have half the ACC claims of other ports is commendable.

Safety is our number 1 priority at the Port and in fact we have a goal of achieving a zero harm work environment and considerable management effort is focused on striving to achieve this goal.  Our Board set a target this financial year to try and achieve a 30% improvement in Total Injury Frequency Rate – we are proud to have just achieved this improvement last month.

I imagine a port where 90% of employees are also shareholders would be motivated to have as safe a workplace as possible.

Ms Kelly also goes on to suggest there is a race to the bottom between the two ports with respect to pay and working conditions.  I would dispute this: many of our skilled workers actually earn more than the Ernst & Young figures for Ports of Auckland’s average stevedoring income.  I am very comfortable with this – our employees and contractors are highly skilled and work very hard to consistently deliver upper decile productivity. I guess the main difference though is that they expect to be working, when they are paid to be working!

This is at the heart of the dispute. MUNZ resisted any changes in the current structure that sees someone paid for 40 hours work only 26 on average.

Maybe this explains why our Port of Tauranga has net crane productivity rates 38% greater than Ports of Auckland’s (Ministry of Transport data) or on a gross measure (not allowing for netting out smoko breaks and any industrial action), the difference in gross crane rate between Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga is some 60% (shipping line data).

I’ve got an idea. Why not sell Ports of Auckland to the Port of Tauranga – then you’d have employees able to become shareholders of their employer – something which works so well at PoT.

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