Report from the picket line

Mike Kay

Morale on the picket line remained strong on 20 March, despite the wet and wild weather. “We work out in this weather 24/7, so it’s no problem for us,” explained one wharfie. Another striker described how important the public support has been for them: “We had runners doing Round the Bays come past our picket line this weekend, and there were thousands of them clapping and cheering us. We also had players from the Bulldogs coming down to support us, although they weren’t allowed to wear any of their gears!”

Some politicians have been forced to get off the fence during the dispute: “We had Pita Sharples here the other day, giving everyone high fives. But [Auckland Mayor] Len Brown has been a big disappointment. He sat in on the last mediation we had with Ports of Auckland, but he said nothing.”

“Last Monday we put on a ‘hard picket’ which was effective. We kept it on just long enough to have the trucks backing up all down the road, just to send a message of the kind of disruption that is possible.”

Another high point was public demonstration on 10 March, with at least 5,000 people marching in support of the wharfies. The rally at the waterfront threatened to be a damp squib, with keynote speaker David Shearer delivering an underwhelming, stumbling speech that no doubt reflected his discomfort at addressing a group of staunch striking workers. Fortunately, the Maritime Union of Australia saved the day, with deputy national secretary Mick Doleman pledging: “We’ll be with you no matter how long it takes”.

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