Solidarity around the country

Lyttelton picket

Kelly Pope

Support for the striking Ports of Auckland workers has been evident in Christchurch and across the country this last month. On the 7th of March port workers in Lyttelton refused to unload the ship the Lisa Schulte which had been worked on by non-union workers in Auckland, following similar action by Wellington and Tauranga port workers. Around a hundred and fifty workers planned to boycott the ship in solidarity with Auckland workers and did so until that night.

In response to the action by staff, Lyttelton Port Company filed for an injunction to prevent workers from continuing to boycott the ship and the case was heard on the day. As solidarity strikes remain illegal, the court ordered workers on the picket line to resume work unloading the ship or face penalties which could include fines and imprisonment.

Workers remained on the picket line while the court case was attended by union organisers. In the evening a group of around thirty people marched down Lyttelton’s main street to the wharves in a display of support for the port workers challenging the anti-strike laws and drawing attention to the struggles of Auckland workers.

While the group, including representatives from a number of unions and political activists, were at the wharves, Libby Carr, secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union arrived from the court hearing. Though bringing the news of the ruling, she told those present that the workers would be heartened to hear of the support from the community and invited people to continue supporting the workers by attending the stopwork meeting for RMT and MUNZ union members the following day.

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”.

Global union movement backs the Ports of Auckland workers

A powerful group of global unions which between them represent tens of millions of unionised workers, are now on ‘red alert’ over the treatment of workers in New Zealand that is being dramatically illustrated by disputes at the Ports of Auckland, Affco and the Oceania care company.

The warning was sounded last month by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), Public Services International (PSI), and the Council of Global Unions. [Read more…]