Major changes coming to New Zealand waterfront employment

The New Zealand waterfront industry is on the brink of a new era, thanks to years of organizing work and the dedication of one waterfront worker in particular.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the Union has negotiated a new collective employment agreement with ISO, a major New Zealand stevedoring company owned by Australian corporate Qube.

Mr Harrison says some of the key components of the agreement were around improved rostering, availability, and solid increases in wage rates.

He says the agreement is “ground breaking”, and sets a new standard in the stevedoring industry.

“Put simply, these innovative improvements will mean waterfront workers have the opportunity for work life balance, dignity, and the ability to plan their personal and family life.”

Mr Harrison says the ‘availability’ clause is a major step forward, which compensates workers for time they are expected to be available for work.

This is a major issue on the waterfront, where shipping delays can play havoc with work schedules and the lives of workers.

The newly negotiated agreement comes after years of legal battles.

Mr Harrison credits two MUNZ members in Tauranga, George Lye and Mana Tamatea, for sticking with the Union during some tough years.

ISO employee and MUNZ member George Lye went to the Employment Court with the backing of the Union over his previous ISO employment agreement breaching the zero-hours law (section 67D of the Employment Relations Act). The Court found in his favour.

In June 2022, the Employment Relations Authority upheld a personal grievance case brought by Mr Lye against ISO.

ISO was ordered to pay $22,500 in compensation for failing to compensate him for requiring him to be permanently available for work, and $15,000 for humiliation and loss of dignity suffered as a result of his inability to plan any aspect of his life with certainty.

Mr Lye was presented with a special Solidarity Award at a Maritime Union dinner in Auckland last week for his role.

Mr Harrison says the new ISO Collective Agreement will deal with major issues in the port industry all around New Zealand, but especially in Tauranga.

“The Port of Tauranga has built an outsourced labour business model on the exploitative treatment of workers, and this situation is now going to start to change.”

Mr Harrison says there has been a massive problem getting workers into the industry, as unsocial conditions, lack of a career path, and a high risk environment have made it unattractive.

He says MUNZ will use the new collective agreement as the basis for an Fair Pay Agreement in the ports sector.

The Union has recently appointed a national organizer who will be visiting all ports in New Zealand in the coming months.

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