Auckland needs its Port to be working at full capacity again and yesterday I thought we might be getting there.
After Employment Court Judge Barrie Travis issued his minute late yesterday, it seemed like the damaging dispute could be settled, through a return to good faith bargaining and mediation processes under our employment law.
Today we have the strange situation where the Ports workers want to go back to work, but apparently PoAL won’t let them.
PoAL has issued notices of indefinite lockout which came less than 24 hours after they agreed with the Employment Court to resume good faith negotiations.
But that notice doesn’t take effect until 14 days after the notice was issued. The workers are lawfully able to return to work in the meantime and I understand this was their intention. If the Ports management prevent them, it will be an unlawful lockout.
Perhaps it was coincidence, but last night we debated the final committee stages of Tau Henare’s Secret Ballot for Strikes bill. The Bill would require unions to conduct secret ballots wherever strike action was being considered. Most unions already do this, but there are real problems with this bill, which I won’t go into too much here.
Tau’s argument was that this was democratic. OK. But why should only one party to the employment relationship have to be democratic? I proposed an amendment that would have provided more balance to the bill, which would have required shareholders to conduct a secret ballot before a lockout.
So, in the case of the Ports of Auckland Ltd, the shareholders would have had to hold a ballot before the lockout notices were issued. That would have been interesting indeed.
But of course the National Party and its cronies voted the amendment down, along with others that would have made the bill more workable.
Like so many things in the employment relationship, National believes that things should only go one way – and that’s definitely not in favour of workers.