Denise Roche

All’s not well in Auckland

by Denise Roche

Poor Auckland! I hate it when the Government meddles in our city.  It was bad enough that we had a forced amalgamation of our local councils to create the supercity. Now we have the Prime Minister selling our law to increase the number of pokies at SkyCity casino in exchange for a mega convention centre.

John Key’s doing this, even though he knows that pokie machines target low-income people. While he witters on about hoping for a Kiwiana theme (and I don’t think interior design is really his thing), he’s ignoring and disputing the research from Government agencies such as the Health Sponsorship Council that says casinos are more likely to attract problem gamblers or people likely to become problem gamblers.  Mr Key reckons casinos are safe places. Safer places to neglect your children if you’re a problem gambler, I guess!

On top of that, we had the announcement last week by then Local Government Minister  Nick Smith about the Government’s plan to overhaul local government – basically hindering their ability to meet the four ‘wellbeings’ outlined in the Local Government Act: social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing.  My colleague Eugenie Sage has described last week how the Government has manufactured a rates crisis to support their plan, and has detailed the potential impact.

From an Auckland perspective, I’d say the local government shake-up proposed by the Government is a further assault on us while we’re still dealing with the bruises from the supercity amalgamation.

The supercity has not resulted in better or cheaper governance of our city.  And it certainly hasn’t resulted in better local decision making – ask any Local Board member.  And we just have to look at the Ports of Auckland dispute to see the ghost of Rodney Hide and his mates who hand-picked the directors of the CCOs that have responsibility for the city’s major infrastructure, like Auckland Council Investment Limited, that is responsible for the Port and other Council profit making investments, still at play.

When I look closely at the POAL dispute with the Maritime Union I become increasingly worried. The Ports have been a highly profitable council asset, but the sheer mismanagement of the entire dispute and the hard-nosed approach the Port bosses and board are taking with the workers makes me seriously wonder about whether they are deliberately running down the reputation and productivity of the port in order to flog it off to their mates.  It’s either that, or their management and Board are incompetent or mad.  Just to re-cap, since December the Ports management and Board have:

  • negotated in bad faith during the collective agreement negotiations
  • shown an unwillingness to settle even when all their demands for more flexibility  ̶  but not complete casualisation  ̶  were met
  • displayed a reluctance to enter mediation
  • decided to contract out the jobs to private companies while negotiating the collective agreement (and a leaked document dated months before outlined this strategy)
  • allowed workers leave details to be leaked to a right wing blogger
  • made a mockery of a facilitated agreement they’d reached last Thursday with the Employment Court to go back into negotiate in good faith
  • illegally locked out the workers  based on the Port bosses unfounded and unproven beliefs that the union members would harm the other staff
  • issued a lockout notice for an indefinite lockout following next week.

From that list, you have to conclude that the management practice is seriously flawed at the Ports.  If ever there was a case for the Mayor to exercise his executive powers it’s now.  I mean, how can a Council allow an organisation they own to act illegally?

This issue will be discussed at the Auckland Council meeting on Thursday.  I sincerely hope common sense prevails and the Council steps in.  Because, quite frankly, there’s been very little sense shown from the CEO and the Board of Ports of Auckland Limited.

Published in Economy, Work, & Welfare | Justice & Democracy by Denise Roche on Wed, March 28th, 2012   

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