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UPDATE - 5.45pm Mediation between Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union today failed to reach agreement on a return to work by Maritime Union members following the lifting of strike action last week, the union said in a statement.
“Ports of Auckland continues to raise ‘ghost’ health and safety concerns in the media as the basis for what the union considers to be an unlawful breach of these workers’ employment agreements. This will be a matter for the court to consider tomorrow,” union president Gary Parsloe said.
Mr Parsloe said the union presented PoAL with four demands on Monday:
1. There will be an immediate return to work with all collective employment agreement obligations being met.
2. Compensation for lost wages arising from a refusal to allow return to work last week.
3. Meeting at 7 am tomorrow with all workers available to be addressed by Tony Gibson and Garry Parsloe setting out expected behaviour, arrangements etc.
4. Acknowledgement by way of joint statement that some parties on both sides may perceive health and safety risks but parties are actively cooperating to manage these perceptions.
The proposals were rejected by Ports, Mr Parsloe said.
The two sides will be back in the Employment Court for another hearing on Tuesday.
Transporters and retailers, heavily affected by protracted industrial action at Auckland Port, are anxiously hoping this afternoon’s mediation between parties is successful.
The Maritime Union (MUNZ) and the Ports of Auckland (PoAL) began talking at 1pm..
“The strike is hurting our industry pretty bad, there has been significant productivity loss,” national road carriers association chairman Chris Carr told NBR online.
Mr Carr said there had been a significant loss of productivity since December, with an overall drop to be estimated at about 40%.
“That is biting and of course not just that, but there are some incredibly long times we are spending trying to pick up containers. One of our members said he spent seven hours waiting for a container to be loaded on his truck and our company spent six hours waiting for a container. Of course there is no money in that for anybody,” he says, adding that logistics companies are feeling the strain.
New Zealand retailers association chief executive John Albertson says that while most retailers were “getting by” at the moment, there are growing fears that the shelves will start drying up soon.
“We are obviously getting stock from other ports, but that takes added time and obviously added cost. In terms of a sufficient supply chain, at the moment we are far from it and there is just too much product having to be shifted too far. Inevitably those costs need to be recovered,” he says.
He said the longer the disruption continues the more of a knock-on effect it will have on business along the supply chain.
“I don’t know how long the other ports can keep up the level they are at the moment, I presume they are now into the pattern, which will obviously make it difficult for Auckland when they come back on stream again,” he says.
“Stock is shorter than it normally would be and there is that added cost. Hopefully we will see a resolution as soon as possible”.
After a judicial settlement conference at the Employment Court last week, PoAL halted its contracting-out process and both parties agreed to return to mediation today.
Last week PoAL issued union workers with notices of a lockout beginning on April 6. An injunction filed by the union challenging the lockout is due to be heard tomorrow morning.
No new date has been set for an adjourned hearing, due to begin today, of the union's substantive challenge to the Ports contracting out policy.