Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Casualisation’ Category

You could see it coming

Posted by on March 7th, 2012

The Ports of Auckland has decided to contract out its stevedoring jobs on the Container Wharf by firing its existing staff and hocking off the work to three competing contracting firms.

The decision is devastating for the wharfies and their families, but you could see it coming.

Firstly, there was the charade from PoAL that they were bargaining in good faith for a collective agreement, while at the same time they were seeking tenders from contractors to take over the work.

The second charade was that they were going through a “consultation” process, when in reality, the decision was already made.

The third and latest charade is that the workers can apply for jobs with the contractors. That’s nice of them.

But of course the contractors have no obligation to employ any of the existing workers and any who do get jobs will be required to accept pay and conditions decided by the contractors. Previous pay and conditions fought for over years will disappear.  The only guarantees are minimum wage, annual leave and statutory holidays.

Contracting out is an effective way to casualise a workforce and drive down their wages and conditions.

Yes,  you could see it coming.

We’re seeing unprecedented industrial disharmony in New Zealand and you could see that coming too when National was reelected.

The Ports dispute isn’t over. I will be at the rally in Saturday. I hope you come too.


The mayor, the port, and the wharfies

Posted by on February 29th, 2012

Len Brown was elected the people’s mayor on a wave of support across west and south Auckland. People opted decisively for his plan for public transport, and a modern inclusive vision for the city that embraced the young, the brown and working people.

Which makes it puzzling that he is choosing to stand by and watch while his port subsidiary tries to contract out 300 jobs.

Len Brown is one of the few people with a lever to pull in this situation. He is the shareholder. He and the Council bear a large part of the responsibility for the dispute because their demand for a 12% return on capital from the ports handed the Ports board the justification to embark on this drive to casualise its workforce. The 12% demand is ridiculous. No other port in Australasia achieves this. Few if any companies in the transport and logistics sector achieve it. The current return is 6% and the ports of Tauranga, poster child for port productivity, only gets 6.3%.

It is all the more puzzling given the Mayor’s commitment to reducing social inequality, reflected in the excellent Auckland Plan. It is hard to see how we are going to build a more prosperous and inclusive city by stripping the city’s employees of their work rights and job security.

With the port company intent on contracting out, the wharfies now have nothing to lose. The current strike is due to continue for two more weeks. Disruption will likely go on for months. The financial cost to the ports, and the economic disruption to Auckland’s economy will be significant.

It is time for Len Brown and his Council to rethink their demand for a 12% return, and replace it with something reasonable and not excessive. He should tell the port company casualisation is not an acceptable approach to employment relations in a port owned by the people of Auckland.

The union has already agreed to almost all the company’s demands for greater labour flexibility designed to increase the labour utilisation rate and improve productivity. The company and union should get back to the table and settle so everyone can get back to work.

Len Brown is a good man. His Auckland Plan and advocacy for the City Rail Link is the kind of leadership the city has been crying out for. But if the port company’s crude union busting succeeds in casualising its workforce on his watch it will be a stain on his legacy.


Port dispute not about eggs

Posted by on February 24th, 2012

The start of an extended strike today by Waterfront workers over the Port of Auckland’s determination to casualise or contract out the jobs of its workforce means everyone loses.

Port workers and their families will lose incomes, businesses will be disrupted, other workers will be affected and the Auckland economy will take a hit at a time when we least need it.

Last week, there was a call from a group of influential Auckland business interests and the CTU for a modern approach to employment relations which maintains an efficient and productive Port, retains decent jobs and is not part of the race to the bottom. This was refreshing and gave hope of a solution.

But I wasn’t that impressed with Council CEO Doug McKay’s comments at the recent Council meeting where he said :

But I keep reminding Len, and I have been in a commercial environment in this sort of situation a few times over the years, that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and the people have to feel like they can almost go to the brink and look over it before they come back.

This isn’t about making omelettes or brinkmanship, although Doug McKay‘s done plenty of it in his time.

Resolution of this dispute needs good will, determination and good faith bargaining. And it will require compromise.

Auckland Council should reconsider its unrealistic demand for a 12% return on capital, Ports management should withdraw their take it or leave it plans to contract out or casualise jobs and the union has repeated its offer to make changes to work practices and its collective agreement that will improve labour utilisation rates.

Broken eggs won’t do it.