Employment Court throws out Port of Napier injunction

The Employment Court in Wellington today declined to put an injunction on possible pickets by workers at the Port of Napier as pickets loom over the summer.

Moves by the Port of Napier to contract out stevedoring work threaten 25 permanent and 60 casual jobs, with workers to be thrown on the scrap heap just before Christmas.

The case was heard yesterday under urgency, and the Employment Court today ordered parties back to mediation.

The two waterfront unions, the Maritime Union of New Zealand and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, both appeared at the hearing, and were pleased by the result.

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the issues at stake are far wider than one Port and the situation had already gone international.

“The issue here is whether employers can use contracting out to dismantle secure jobs, to attack wages and conditions, to casualize jobs – and workers are going to take it to the wire.”

The workers whose jobs are threatened are Maritime Union members.

Mr Hanson says Port of Napier CEO Garth Cowie was badly mistaken if he thought the issue was going to fizzle out.

“This situation is going international, and the damage to the reputation of his port is already being done. This is line in the sand stuff for workers and we won’t be backing down.”

The Union had high level support from the Council of Trade Unions, the Maritime Union of Australia, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which represents 4 500 000 affiliated transport workers globally.

Mr Hanson says the ITF are considering declaring the Port of Napier a “port of convenience” ? a first for New Zealand.

“This means the Port of Napier will come under a major international spotlight as part of an ongoing ITF global campaign to protect secure jobs, which will have a major impact on their ability to successfully function as an international port.”

The port company was already the target of an international email campaign based in London  (www.labourstart.org/munz) with messages pouring in from around the world.

Mr Hanson says that substantial solidarity delegations of workers will be arriving in Napier shortly to support their fellow workers, including a group from Australia.

RMTU Organiser Todd Valster says his members are standing strong on critical issues of health and safety.

“This is a Port with a very poor safety record, and contracting out to under trained workers puts everyone at risk”.

“We are not going to train up a underskilled workforce to take the jobs of people who already do a great job.”

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