The Maritime Union says regional ports have been hit hard because of a decision by Fonterra to rail goods to distant ports.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the moves have already led to notices of major redundancies in the port of Timaru, greater casualization of the workforce, and was threatening the viability of some ports.
“This issue cannot be dealt with by ports continuing to compete each other into the ground. It must be addressed by national co-ordination of our transport system, not the wasteful, insecure and chaotic mess we have at the moment.”
He says that Fonterra is running for cover on the issue and their explanations have not satisfied people in the regional ports affected by their recent decisions.
Mr Hanson says there are industry concerns that Fonterra may be getting extremely low rates to transport goods by rail.
He says while such a situation might suit Fonterra, regional ports and coastal shipping were being disadvantaged.
As rail was publicly owned, this could mean people and businesses in those communities would be effectively paying for work to be taken away from them.
Mr Hanson says it’s not a case of rail versus sea.
“The Maritime Union is a big supporter of rail being in public ownership, and public investment in rail, but it has to be part of an integrated transport system, not just another way for the big operators to play off ports and transport modes against each other.”
He says the Maritime Union supports the use of coastal shipping and rail working together, rather than the Government’s emphasis on “unsustainable, polluting and inefficient” heavy trucking.