Govt moves to break Auckland port deadlock

The Employment Relations Authority will soon deliver recommendations to try and break a deadlock in the Auckland port dispute.

Auckland Council-controlled Ports of Auckland (POAL) and the Maritime Union (MUNZ) sought government help in April, after collective agreement bargaining begun in August 2011 led to a series of strikes and lockouts.

Last week they were bickering again, this time over the port company's public release of negotiation documents.

In a report to the parties, released to NBR ONLINE by the port company, government-appointed "facilitator" Alastair Dumbleton says several key issues remain unresolved after six months of negotiation.

"Considerable differences remain between MUNZ and POAL as to the features they each seek for an acceptable roster design and system allocating hours of work.

"Those features and the differences between the parties about them are now likely to be the subject of recommendations the authority is able to give."

Mr Dumbleton says the parties will meet shortly to discuss recommendations.

The port company wants improved productivity and staff utilisation to compete with Port of Tauranga and proved better financial returns.

The union wants protection for union members from contracting out – previously threatened by the port company and the subject of an unresolved union application to the Employment Court.

The Dumbleton report says the port company announced in June it had rescinded its earlier decision to appoint contractors.

While the union wants a trial period for new rosters, the port says trials are not practicable or feasible.

The union's other key concern is the health and safety implications of roster changes to the stevedoring operation.

Three expert reports have been prepared on the issue and Mr Dumbleton says the report by the authority's expert – Associate Professor Sally Ferguson – is "instructive".

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