New port union could spell trouble – lawyer

Ports of Auckland could find itself in breach of its good faith obligations to the Maritime Union.

Ports of Auckland could find itself in breach of its good faith obligations to the Maritime Union by signing a collective agreement with a rival new union, an employment lawyer says.

The Auckland Council-owned port company today announced it has signed a collective agreement with PortPro, a union representing about 30 non-striking stevedores.

The agreement does not affect the Maritime Union's ongoing bargaining.

Bell Gully employment lawyer Liz Coats says the port's move could be seen as undermining the Maritime Union's bargaining position, which is illegal under the Employment Relations Act.

"If Maritime Union members decide they want to join PortPro, that undermines the leverage that the Maritime Union has in its collective bargaining because it doesn't have as much pressure on the port any more.

"The port is not going to be as desperate to accept whatever terms the Maritime Union is putting on the table because it's got a workforce that is not striking."

However, because PortPro only has about 30 members it is unlikely to undermine the Maritime Union's position.

Ms Coats says the port is entitled to enter into a collective agreement with a PortPro, even if that union has similar coverage to the Maritime Union.

"Whether or nor this undermine the Maritime Union's bargaining will depend largely on the solidarity of its members."

NBR ONLINE understands PortPro's collective agreement is similar to the one the Maritime Union rejected.

Ms Coats says because of this it probably will not be enough to cause many people to jump ship from the Maritime Union to PortPro.

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