Maritime Union puts forward 2008 election goals

The Maritime Union has announced its priorities for the 2008 election.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the Union wants to see the return of a Labour-led Government to continue what he describes as incremental but positive moves to develop the maritime and transport industries.

Mr Hanson says the Maritime Union is strongly endorsing the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) election policy document, especially regarding key issues such as wages, employment relations, health and safety, ACC, and transport.

He says the CTU has identified specific maritime issues such as amending section 198 of the Maritime Transport Act to ensure that domestic coastal shipping is not disadvantaged in relation to foreign ships, and opposing commitments on Mode 4 in bilateral and regional free trade agreements relating to the movement of cross-border labour.

“We want to see the return of a Labour-led Government which has the support of pro-worker minor parties in an MMP environment.”

Mr Hanson says it is a time of great challenges in a trade-driven industry.

He says it is a mixed outlook for the industry with potential threats to jobs coming from an international downturn in trade caused by the current financial crisis, but potential for expansion in the offshore oil and gas industry.

“A move back to a National Government at a time of international recession would create a repeat of the 1990s in our industry which saw the decimation of job security, a lack of planning and mindless deregulation that has caused a lot of downstream problems.”

Specific goals for the Maritime Union:

• New Zealand shipping. The Maritime Union endorses the Sea Change document but believes that rapidly evolving circumstances require a more ambitious approach. Cabotage for New Zealand shipping is not off the table. The commitment to New Zealand shipping in the Sea Change plan is seen as a good first step. It is back on the agenda for Australia and the option for a trans-Tasman cabotage arrangement could be considered. (NB Cabotage is where domestic shipping is given priority on coastal shipping routes.)

• Casualization needs to be addressed. The casualization review initiated by the Labour Government and New Zealand First has started the ball rolling. The long term solution can only lie in a regulated labour market. Workers are not commodities. The flow on effect of a casualized workforce is an unskilled, demoralized workforce with low productivity. The social problems caused by casualization are profound. A national register of trained, bona fide maritime workers is one option to ensure national standards and quality jobs are a priority.

• Free trade. The Maritime Union has criticized free trade arrangements on a number of levels. The ownership and control of New Zealand’s maritime and transport infrastructure is in danger of being transferred to overseas conglomerates and free trade will undermine investment regulations. The use of short-term casual labour being imported across borders to drive down wages and conditions is a major international issue that is not yet fully appreciated in New Zealand. The role of free trade agreements in undermining local control and secure work is a serious concern. The Maritime Union notes the relevant criticisms of free trade from the Green Party and Alliance Party.

• Port rationalization. The Maritime Union views the current system of ports engaged in mutually destructive competition as unsustainable. However the Union rejects privatization or corporate monopolies promoted by vested interests as the answer. A national ports policy needs to drive the modernization process, to get past the parochial approach of ports, and which retains New Zealand ownership and control of ports.

• Training. The lack of new entrants into the industry especially in growth areas such as offshore oil and gas is a serious concern. The young people of New Zealand have the right to training and careers in their own industry. The Maritime Union supports industry suggestions around the establishment of a training facility for this area. A career path for young workers is vital for both the industry and for New Zealand’s future.

• Health and safety. Phase out of Methyl Bromide.

• Public ownership. Support the buyback of rail and ferries. Support public ownership of ports.

• Kiwisaver. Support current Kiwisaver system while ensuring national superannuation is not downgraded.

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