Port Unions say Port of Lyttelton should be held in local ownership

The two Unions representing port workers in New Zealand have come out against a proposed deal that would see the Port of Lyttelton pass into effective control of multinational corporate Hutchison.

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) are working together to promote local control of the port.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson says the sell-off means a vital piece of New Zealand infrastructure will be effectively going into overseas control, with serious repercussions for the New Zealand economy.

“The potential is there for the port to be completely privatised some time down the track.”

He says the deal is short-sighted, and will further place New Zealand’s export trade outside New Zealand control.

“The consolidation of ports and shippers into a few overseas operators could see importers and exporters faced with price hikes.”

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the takeover by multinational Hutchison has the potential to destabilize the maritime industry in New Zealand.

“Hutchison could use their international clout to provide business advantages for Lyttelton that other ports don’t have.”

He says this could mean the closure of other South Island ports, with a devastating effect on jobs and the revenues that currently benefit local communities through local ownership of ports.

Mr Hanson says there is the threat of casual, short-term overseas labour being introduced to the port once New Zealand signs up to the free trade deal with China.

“We are extremely concerned that a global operator like this, based in Hong Kong, will find a way to introduce overseas labour through the free trade agreements.”

The Unions say their concerns are widespread in the wider maritime industry.

The two Unions are proposing that the Christchurch City Council through its business arm CCHL purchase the Port of Lyttelton outright.

This would keep ownership, control and revenue with the local community and the people of New Zealand.

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