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Union stevedoring company runs aground

Pacifica Shipping, owned by the Rich Lister Skeggs family, is disputing the Maritime Union's claim about why its stevedoring company went under.

Auckland Stevedoring Company (Asco), jointly owned by the union and port services company C3, went into voluntary liquidation just days before Christmas, resulting in more than 25 staff – including about a dozen casual workers – being laid off.

Maritime Union national president Garry Parsloe says in today's print edition of the National Business Review the company was a victim of a Pacifica bungle.

He says Pacifica – Asco's only customer at the Onehunga port – let its Spirit of Resolution charter lapse, allowing a rival company to swoop in and take the charter over.

"We had no more work for our stevedoring company in Onehunga because nothing went in there."

However, Pacifica chief executive Steve Chapman says the charter was not renewed because it wanted a bigger capacity ship which, unfortunately, could not use Onehunga.

Asco's demise was a byproduct of Pacifica's desire to grow and "de-risk" the business, he says.

Other industry sources suggest it is bad management for a company to be reliant on a single customer calling at a small port.

The Maritime Union is locked in a bitter dispute with the Ports of Auckland, which wants to improve productivity and introduce more flexible working hours to more effectively compete with Port of Tauranga.

A government-appointed facilitator, Alastair Dumbleton, has issued recommendations in an attempt to break the deadlock, which the council-owned port company says it will accept.

The union, however, says the recommendations are a "useful basis" for further negotiations, even though the dispute has already dragged out for 18 months, including a series of strikes and lockouts.

Mr Dumbleton's recommendations are confidential but the union's reaction seems to suggest they favour the port company's argument. The reaction also speaks volumes about the union's willingness to compromise.

Elsewhere in today's National Business Review print edition, business editor Duncan Bridgeman details the curious and colourful case of a Texan named Vanessa Black White and a Singaporean dogsledder embroiled in a legal spat over a valuable Taranaki basin petroleum permit.

Also, concerns over the discovery of dicyandiamide residue in Fonterra's milk expose a potentially bigger problem for the country's farmers, which makes the balance between lofty production targets and environmental sustainability even harder.

More by NBR Online staff

Comments and questions

For 18 months the PoAL have resisted MUNZ attempted "legalised extortion" while they attempt to hold one of Auckland's greatest strategic assets to ransom.

Can anyone else see the huge drain on productivity for NZ Inc with these renta-thugs legally being able to extort the hand that feeds them?

All PoAL wants is to realign workforce availability with the arrivals of shipping but MUNZ can legally insist on 1940s work practices ... and be legally able to get away with it for 18 months, no less, while causing deliberate commercial sabotage. How is that just?

Yes, about time National completely sorted our employment laws so the fleas don't get to wag the tail that wags the dog.

This scenario is something we would laugh at happening in Zimbabwe with all the bullsh*t happening there, certainly not here in NZ. But they are affiliated to the Labour Party, so what else could NZ Inc expect really?

Typical of dinosour Parsloe to blame his customer rather than his business model.

Spot on Dangermouse. Parsloe couldn't run a business if it fell out of his backside. I believe MUNZ, which he runs, can't even file its annual accounts on time.