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Port strike hits exports

Auckland's waterfront industrial confrontation is hitting the country's overseas trade.

February merchandise trade data, out today, show a small monthly trade surplus of $161 million, slightly above the average market forecast of a $153 million surplus.

The annual balance is a surplus of $621 million, down from the previous 12 months' surplus of $765 million.

Experts fell $267 million, a fall Statistics New Zealand says is likely to be caused by the stand-off between the Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union of New Zealand.

"Anecdotal evidence...suggests that industrial disputes may have had an impact, due to delays in the loading of some goods," says industry and labour statistics manager Neil Kelly.

"It is not possible to quantity these effects, but they may become more apparent when the March 2012 data become available."

The trend for the value of exports, however, remains high - excluding one-off capital items, it is up 23% since the low-point in September 2009, but is still 7.7% below the peak in September 2008.

Exports of the always-volatile category of crude oil fell the furtherest, down $107 million (53%). Other falls were aluminum articles, down $79 million (74%) and milk powder, butter and cheese, down $59 million (6.1%).

Imports were also down, again partly due to the dispute, but also because no-one appears to have bought a boat or a plane in the last month. The February import figures spiked unusually highly because of the importation of aircraft.

Imports of capital goods are down, largely due to the aircraft import last month, but imports of plant and machinery are up, by 15%, mostly due to the importation of borers and drilling equipment for offshore oil exploration.

Intermediate goods imports fell $125 million ( 7.2%) mostly due to drops in fuel imports, and consumption goods also fell, by $42 million (4.7%), mostly due to drops in imports of medicine and clothing.

More by Rob Hosking

Comments and questions
11

fire the board before they damage our country further!

Ae!

Any nations will think twice about relying on any trade(s) through the uncertain POAL service caused by the neverending union strikes...With the present deteriorating world economy, this will further depress Auckland trading result!
Who is actually winning...

Because of the slothful and wasteful work habits at our ports, all NZ has been the loser, the "recession" has at least forced our port management to try and do something about it.
If they lose, all NZ loses.

Remember this board locked out the workers. The workers are ready and willing to go back to work. The board is to blame and everyone must accept that the board is now responsible for any delays, cost increases. Fire the entire board an appoint a board with vision and leadership.

If they were willing to go to work several months back and do an honest days work this silly saga would not have been.

Correct, if they had accepted the offer in September which was a complete roll-over of their 40-hour-paid-for-26-hour week contract, with no changes, and a 2.5% payrise every year for THREE YEARS they would not be in this place. Why reject this? For FOUR jobs that were contracted out 2 years ago because they couldn't do the job effectively anyway. Now they have lost 200+ and affected the jobs of others who aren't even a party to that contract.

Yes the Ports have turned the tables on the Union. They'd still be on strike if the Judge hadn't wanted to be a hero to I don't know who and request that the parties go back to mediation. Firstly there are no ships for the union members to work on this week, as the roster has been planned for this week - we can't have them sitting at home waiting for a phone call to come in to work now can we? And second, it's a heath and safety issue to let them back. Will the insurance companies pay out any claims for damage to expensive plant from the Ports letting these guys back in with all the evidence they have, and not only them, talk to Coastguard, Maritime Police and other businesses who had to cross that picket line. The lockout is the Companies way of forcing the Union to a quicker decision in mediation. When they strike, everybody pities the workers, but when the tables are turned the union cries foul

All exaggerated nonsense.

The actual monthly trade surplus was ABOVE forecasts.

The drop in the annual balance surplus is LESS than the drop in exports of crude oil and alumium articles (neither of which are exported through the Port of Auckland),and even then is reduced by the increased imports of offshore oil; exploration equipment.

As far as I'm concerned, both sides are causing New Zealand unneeded hardship in a time where we need co-operation to weather this recession. The dock workers feel persecuted? Boo hoo. What about everyone else in the country who are going out of business and losing much needed jobs and income because they won't work? And the Ports are exacerbating the problem by dragging it out.

The point is yes the workers don't want to have to sit at home and wait for a call to work BUT shipping schedules are planned well in advance so they can roster on as many hours as they want per week. The more ships we have in the more hours available and they can pick and choose their hours to suit. They don't simply look over the horizon and see a ship coming in and call workers in to off load. The port is currently paying 40 hours for roughly half the hours worked, wouldn't you be more satisified for working and getting paid for hours worked rather than the port having to pay for hours when they are just sitting around between schedules having BBQ's and playing pool.
Get real Unions, in order for NZ to be competitive, we need to be more flexible....these guys are being paid well and cannot be compared to other workers in other industies who are not paid well.