Port Otago workers reject company restructuring proposal

Port Chalmers stopwork meeting, 12 August 2009

A combined union meeting at Port Otago today voted to reject new restructuring proposals from Port Otago management.

Around 200 union members attended a stopwork meeting at 1pm which halted work around the port and packed the Union hall in one of the largest meetings of recent years.

The workers are members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, who have a collective employment agreement with the port company. The port is one of the most highly unionized workforces in the south.

Maritime Union National President Phil Adams says workers at the port rejected a proposal to set up new divisions in the workforce.

“The proposals we have seen will either reduce our conditions of employment and health and safety, or lead to redundancies, and our members will not accept these outcomes.”

He says the workers are asking the company to adhere to the agreement which does not expire to July 2010.

Mr Adams says Port Otago is a major local public enterprise that is owned by the people of Otago through the Otago Regional Council.

“This is a company that has made consistently good returns to the shareholder, but there appears to be a new aggressive attitude amongst management which has nearly destroyed a previously good working relationship.”

Mr Adams says the port has had virtually no industrial action over the last decade with management accepting the Union’s role in the port, but this was now changing and could lead into a era of conflict.

He says that he believes there are other agendas behind the restructuring as the workforce at Port Chalmers had exceeded productivity targets and was very efficient.

Port Chalmers is a major port for exports of dairy and other primary products.

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