The Maritime Union is questioning the reasons provided for ongoing delays at the Ports of Auckland.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says there is a need for an honest conversation about what has gone wrong at the port.
He says COVID-19 certainly had an impact on port operations, but that was only half the picture.
‘The pandemic brought pressure to bear on port operations, and revealed pre-existing weaknesses in management planning.’
Mr Harrison says three unresolved issues are the failure of the automation project and related labour supply issues, the port’s failures with health and safety, and failure of senior management and Board to get a handle on these two problems.
He says POAL management cut back on staff due to misplaced over-confidence in automation, and they had been so desperate to reduce their workforce they had been left short handed.
‘Together with the reliance on workers doing excessive hours, this has been a recipe for disaster.’
Mr Harrison says it was ridiculous the port is now advertising for staff overseas with the enormous cost, delays and difficulties involved with quarantine, and the associated risks to the population of New Zealand.
He says there had previously been transfer of skilled workers from other New Zealand ports into Auckland during labour shortages and he questioned whether this option had been fully explored.
In previous years, the Maritime Union helped facilitate this and alleviate the issues facing the Port at the time, he says.
Mr Harrison says the Ports of Auckland was too important to Auckland and New Zealand to continue to wait for management to deliver.
He says the recent resignation of the POAL Board Chair Liz Coutts was not unexpected.
In late 2020, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff had ordered a health and safety inquiry into the Council-owned Port company and had declined to express confidence in Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson.
Mr Harrison says the result of this this inquiry was due in early February.
He says that the new Board chair had to show an ability to get New Zealand’s import hub back online and prove this was not just a case of rearranging the deck chairs.
The Maritime Union of New Zealand represents the majority of port workers at Ports of Auckland.