There’s been some chatter around about Labour’s position on the Ports of Auckland dispute.
At our core Labour believes that all Kiwis deserve decent jobs with fair pay, that they should have certainty around their work hours and conditions and their families need to know that they will come home safe and sound at the end of the day.
And while I’m at it, Labour will strongly oppose any suggestion that the Ports of Auckland be privatised. It is a public asset belonging to the people of Auckland, and needs to be kept for the benefit of future generations.
Sure, employers can seek reasonable efficiencies, effective labour utilisation and a fair return on investment. The Ports are an important part of our transport infrastructure and they need to be operating as productively and efficiently as possible.
But good faith bargaining and working together to find common ground is the way to achieve this, not wholesale redundancies and contracting out.
Labour is concerned about the increasing casualisation of the workforce in New Zealand. What this does is create uncertainty and stress for workers and their families – and, as we have seen, can cost lives.
Surely, we’ve learned something from the Pike River Mine tragedy about the folly of recruiting inexperienced workers and contractors into highly dangerous jobs and cutting corners on health and safety?
I’m worried that the pursuit of greater returns at the Ports of Auckland through contracting out will mean we could all be learning another tough lesson in a couple of years.
Stevedoring is difficult and sometimes dangerous work, and that should be recognised.
Three deaths at the Ports of Tauranga in the last 15 months should make us all question the safety of contracted out stevedoring firms who compete with each other for business.
No worker has died at the Ports of Auckland for 18 years.
Contracting out and competitive tendering is often used as a means to lower labour costs, through cuts to wages, reduced staff numbers, casualising work hours and cutting “red tape” such as health and safety.
Deregulation, short cuts and disregard for safety has already taken a terrible toll in some of our workplaces.
Let’s learn the lessons.