No need to force arbitration on Auckland port dispute - experts

Leading employment lawyer Peter Cullen has no idea how he would solve Auckland’s ongoing waterfront dispute, which has no end in sight.

But he and fellow employment law expert Professor Bill Hodge say the powers of courts and government to force arbitration do not need to be reintroduced.

The founding partner of Cullen-The Employment Law Firm, told NBR Online he does not know how he would solve the dispute between the Ports of Auckland (PoAL) and the Maritime Union but it would not be the "end of the world" if they continued under the old collective agreement.

Mr Cullen says both parties still had options under the Employment Relations Act but says ultimately "politics" would be the deciding factor.

“Ultimately, the Ports of Auckland will be influenced by politics, its owned by the citizens of Auckland.

“Pressure should be brought to bear on everyone, but at the end of the day if they don’t reach agreement the old agreement just continues on and they can pay the groceries under that for a while to come,” Mr Cullen says.

Auckland University associate law professor Hodge says the union needs to take a more intelligence approach if the parties are going to reach a resolution.

A founding member of the Institute of Employment Arbitrators and Mediators and a member of the Employment Relations Tribunal scuttled by then labour minister Margaret Wilson in 2000, Professor Hodge said it is imperative for the union to get on board the port company's 28-day roster, "if that’s what it is."

"A 160-hour roster over 28 days is quite acceptable to me and what p***es me off is that the union keeps referring to that as casualisation. It is the opposite of casualisation,” he says.

"If the union approached the situation with more intelligence they could end up making it work for them."

Unless the union accepted the need for 24/7 availability and the need for a roster, it was unlikely a negotiated settlement would be reached, he says.

Both men agreed that in employment relations disputes the best outcome was for both parties to negotiate a settlement - something which at Ports of Auckland still appears a long way off.

The parties agreed today to make an application to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) early next week for an urgent startn to a facilitation process.

Facilitation is a more formal process, convened by the ERA, at which an ERA member can make a non-binding recommendation about what the terms of the collectve agreement shuld be, or what the parties should do to reach agreement.

The parties do not have to accept any recommendation.

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1 Comment & Question

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

This is a classical Industrial Dispute. Neither party is without fault, neither will admit fault. Is either side educated? In this exercise no one can justify a large income on the grounds of intelligence. All day, every day, we are served by people working to rosters. People providing Water, Sewerage, Electricity, Radio, Food, Health care, Transport,etc. Get real. No one here is being persecuted. Management can not justify their large income on the grounds of a job well done and the warfies can not claim hardship. This whole thing has taken the heat off Govt. Asset Sales. It is a farce. Debating the grammar of a post will not win a "Piggy stamp". Do you understand the message being conveyed? Debating grammar changes the subject. Again and again, communication is where the dispute has failed. It must be embarrassing for some to look back at what "I have done".

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