by Denise Roche
Although there’s been no industrial action by the Maritime Workers of New Zealand (MUNZ) wharfie members at the Ports of Auckland since early April the dispute is not yet settled – and it looks like it may well ignite again.
The latest in this messy and frequently dirty dispute is the creation of a new ‘union’ which wants to enter the bargaining arena with the Ports management. The new organisation, Port Pro Inc, represents 30 or so stevedores on the wharf and is led by a former MUNZ member. There is some doubt about whether it is a proper union – which means that it operates at arms-length from the employer – because in a newsletter from the company workers were told to contact one of the managers for details on how to join up.
Port Pro Inc offers a new threat to settling the dispute. MUNZ has been negotiating with the Ports of Auckland management since last year over the wharfies collective employment agreement and have been fending off the Port’s desire to casualise the work force and contract out the jobs. Since April they have been undergoing ‘facilitated bargaining,’ in an attempt to reach an agreement.
With a new union on the site that wanting to negotiate their own collective employment agreement the Ports of Auckland management may well settle with Port Pro Inc before the MUNZ collective is finalised. Not only does this mean that there’s the risk of the Port Pro Inc undercutting and settling for less than MUNZ there’s also the fact that the MUNZ collective agreement expires at the end of September. If there’s a new Port Pro Inc agreement in place the company is legally obliged to offer that agreement to new workers. The net result is that the bargaining power of the MUNZ union is seriously undermined.
It’s worrying that Port Pro Inc has entered the fray. But when you consider all the other dodgy dealings that the Ports management have displayed during this dispute – some of which I outlined earlier this year in this blog – perhaps it’s not so surprising to see the arrival of a scab union on the scene.
We saw this type of union-busting techniques in the 1990’s under the last National Government.