NZ POLITICS DAILY: Unions could be sued for damages

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples: relationship with National "first class"

Just how high the stakes are in the Ports of Auckland dispute is evidenced by the secondary action taking place in other New Zealand ports and, potentially, in other countries.

Not only have Maritime Union members refused to unload the Maersk Aberdeen in Wellington after it was handled by non-union labour in Auckland, members of the separate Rail and Maritime Union have also protested and refused to handle ships in Tauranga and Wellington.

Such secondary action, or blacklisting, was banned under National’s 1991 Employment Contracts Act and also in 2000 under Labour’s Employment Relations Act.

That means these actions expose the unions to legal action and potentially even being sued for damages.

[UPDATE: Late Tuesday, the Employment Court ordered Wellington wharfies to unload the Maersk Aberdeen - Editor.]

Matthew Dearnaley, in Port strike backed in NZ and beyond, reports that there is also international interest and support from unions around the world. He quotes Ray Familathe, a Vice Chairperson in the International Transport Federation which has 42,000 members in the US and Canada. Familathe says ‘this is really a battle about the working class in New Zealand – you can see the same attack taking place in ports throughout the world’. So striking workers will do without pay, and the port company will struggle to find shipping companies willing to run the gauntlet, and this is where the dispute will be won or lost. Public relations will be important, but secondary to this very traditional class struggle.

The two other major industrial disputes continue to escalate with 200 more meatworkers locked out at Affco’s Rangiuru plant in the Bay of Plenty and with up to 1500 caregivers, nurses and service workers due to strike against Oceania Group tomorrow – see Paloma Migone’s Care workers to strike again. TVNZ quotes Dr Stephen Blumenfeld from Victoria University saying that it’s the number of people involved in the strikes, rather than the number of strikes that has attracted media attention. He notes that the disputes are not really about straight pay rates, but mainly involve attempts by employers to claw back conditions achieved over many years of collective bargaining – see TVNZ’s Affco workers face lock out today.
 
In revealing the legislation required for the partial sale of assets, the Government has not dampened any of the criticism of the process from the opposition parties. It has, however, appeared to placate its coalition partner, the Maori Party, despite the exclusion of private shareholders from Treaty obligations. The party says it is satisfied with the outcome despite its threat to walk if Treaty protections were not included.
 
On TV3’s Firstline this morning Pita Sharples went so far as to describe the coalition as a ‘first class relationship. It’s a relationship with integrity’ – see: National, Maori Party relationship 'first class' – Sharples. Tariana Turia has admitted that although they initially wanted Section 9 to apply to private investors and that this was the message from the consultation hui, the party was not aware that these investors could never be bound by the Treaty. Mana Leader Hone Harawira has, of course, called for the Maori Party to honour their pledge to walk from Government because of the private shareholder exclusion. He is backed up by iwi leader Haami Piripi of Te Rarawa, who says ‘There's nothing here for Maori. It's a sleight of hand. It cuts us out of the 49 per cent’ – see Adam Bennett’s Push for referendum on asset sales
 
Morgan Godfery agrees and sees it as one of the final nails in the Maori Party’s coffin. It’s a 51 per cent win for the Maori Party according to John Armstrong, but he says that the threat to walk will open them up to accusations of crying wolf the next time they use it. He also wonders how exactly one group of shareholders can be ‘immune from the effects of decisions impacting on other shareholders’ and says the process has a feeling of déjà vu – the Fourth Labour Government was also ‘flying blind’ when it established SOEs in the first place.
 
There are two rearguard actions being fought against the asset sales. The New Zealand Maori Council want an urgent hearing with the Waitangi Tribunal to stop the process – see Yvonne Tahana’s Crown asks tribunal to dismiss SOE sale claim. And an alliance of groups including opposition parties are looking to force a Citizens Initiated Referendum on the sales, although it is likely that many will be sold before a referendum is actually held.
 
The next big issue will undoubtedly be who will get to buy the shares (see: John Hartevelt’s Law won't give Kiwis first rights to shares), with the Government having promised small kiwi investors will be prioritised but the legislation itself having no mechanism to guarantee this. John Key has said that officials are still working on how this will be done in practice. The Government will be keen to avoid a repeat of the last time National sold off a public energy company. Contact Energy Shares were initially bought by hundreds of thousands of small investors, but within a few years the spread of shareholding had dramatically reduced and the company is now largely overseas owned and run. 
 
The question of the SOE sale price is discussed today by Gordon Campbell in his column On the mixed-ownership model for state assets. He argues that foreign ownership is a distraction from the real issue, namely that the Government’s attempts to make the policy politically palatable will substantially reduce the sale price taxpayers will receive for these assets, already under pressure in a depressed international economy.
 
In other recommended articles for today, Guyon Espiner has an interesting interview with Grant Robertson where Labour’s Deputy Leader tries to shake off his reputation as a ‘cautious politician’, Derek Cheng looks at the savings the Government is looking to make in the broader justice system (Public service cuts: Big changes to win savings in justice), Colin James says that the state sector reforms are about more than cuts but that the Government has yet to get that message across to voters (Think national, act local – change is coming), and Chris Trotter explains the public’s desire for reactionary welfare reform (Living In One Dimension). 
 
Bryce Edwards: NZPD Editor (bryce.edwards@nzpoliticsdaily.co.nz

Today’s content:

 
Industrial disputes
Shane Cowlishaw and Catherine Harris (Stuff): Wellington's wharfies 'black' cargo
Matthew Dearnaley (Herald): Port strike backed in NZ and beyond
Paloma Migone (Stuff): Care workers to strike again
Don Franks (Redline): Decision time at the docks
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Ports update
 
Asset sales
Adam Bennett (Herald): Push for referendum on asset sales
John Armstrong (Herald): Maori Party has a 51 per cent win
Dan Satherley and Lloyd Burr (TV3): Govt reveals asset sales legislation
Adam Bennett (Herald): SOE sales: Treaty provisions survive
Adam Bennett (Herald): Asset sales: Maori section replicated
Tracy Watkins and Danya Levy (Stuff): Key: No referendum on asset sales
Morgan Godfery (Maui Street): Maori Party complicit in attack on Maori rights
The Standard: Villian or hero
Russell Brown (Public Address): Unwarranted risk
 
State sector reform
David Clendon (Frogblog): The best policing money can buy?
Dan Satherley (TV3): Doctors reject Ryall's claims
 
Welfare reform
Chris Trotter (Press): Living In One Dimension
Coley Tangerina (Idealog): What’s wrong with welfare reform
 
Parliament
Guyon Espiner (Listener): Grant Robertson interview
Tova O’Brien (TV3) Helen Clark returns to Parliament
Grant Miller (Manawatu Standard): Peters has shot at Key's wheels
 
Immigration
Eric Crampton (Offsetting behaviour): Grow for it!
 
Fishing industry
 
Mfat
Stephen Franks: The Economist wrong
 
Economics
Matt Nippert (Stuff): Govt to take over toxic assets
 
McCully flights
Vernon Small (Stuff): $26k for 3-day McCully fly-by
 
Other
Ian Steward (Stuff): Lawyers fight cuts to legal aid
Emma Goodwin (Stuff): Turia claims milk put in river
Chris Barton (Herald): Choking ourselves to death
Don Kavanagh (Herald): Let us have a say, too
Andrew Gawith (Herald): Many happy returns as KiwiSaver turns 5
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Surveillance bill to target privilege
Vaimoana Tapaleao (Herald): Scathing report for decile 10 school
Russel Norman (Frogblog): The Green Growth Advisory Group report
Joel Cayford (Herald): Port debate mayor's got it wrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments & Questions

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YES - Sue the Unions! Start with MUNZ and then CTU.

And I hope the SFO and any other authority with any jurisdiction file charges of State treason, theft as an employer and also for inciting international commercial terrorism by bringing in a Yanky trouble maker to add some form of "credibility" to MUNZ - since Garry shot himself numerous times in the foot wiht all the deliberate lies and half truths spouted.

These thugs have deliberately and maliciously caused well over $25 Million dollars of lost revenue to our rate payer owned Ports - and I for one are sick and tired of these thugs attempting to hold Auckland to ransom whilst they insist the tail wags the dog.

Please press charges soonest...

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‘There's nothing here for Maori. It's a sleight of hand. It cuts us out of the 49 per cent’ ?????

How's that? Stump up and buy the whole 49%, then have effective control through govt coalition.

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Not so much sue the Unions - the power should be to sue the Union organisers.

You can bet the average Joe Blow union member is nowhere near as keen to down tools as it Helen Kelly/McCarten and Co to direct them to do so.

And as for the Maori wanting a stake in the SOEs - instead of expecting it on a plate let the Iwi apply for shares if they want some - that's what the rest of us have to do. God knows they have had enough of our money lavished on them in the last thirty years - surely they must have some of it left?

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